14

I came back after maternity leave and requested a flexible working arrangement: work 2-3 days in the office and a few at home. As a software developer this is a very reasonable schedule. The only reason I requested this is because it gives me a few hours of extra sleep and avoids my commute. My husband is a stay-home dad right now.

I am a private person and do not wish to reveal this information to my workmates. All I told my employer is that it would be difficult but not impossible to come in every day with my commute etc. They granted the request and I returned to work.

My team mates were really supportive of me before I went on leave and gave me a card and a gift certificate so I felt very comfortable.

However, when I got back to work things really changed. They hired about 5 people and the work culture changed a lot. The project manager was much more involved with things than before and I found the changes to be very overwhelming.

I have had to deal with questions from the project manager and coworkers that make me uncomfortable, questions that pry into the details of my child-care arrangements and finances like "who's taking care of the baby while you're at work?" and "is your baby in day care?". The HR person didn't want me to return to full-time because she doesn't think I can handle work plus a baby, which I don't feel is her place to judge. I feel very stressed and uncomfortable at work now because of these conversations.

It was never established which days I had to come in to the office. This week I stayed home because of the stress but kept working remotely/answered emails. The project manager reacted badly, I complained to HR about his behavior, and he didn't like that, so now things are a little awkward between us.

How do I restore the good working relationships we had before my leave?

  • 1
    I've made an edit to your question to try to focus it more. If I've misunderstood your intent please feel free to edit further. Thanks. – Monica Cellio Jan 11 '15 at 5:20
  • 1
    @MonicaCellio i don't know about this edit. There appear to be cultural issues at play here too - asking whether the baby is in day-care is (to me here in the UK) not an unnatural thing to enquire about to a new mother. Part of the issue here is definitely a cultural clash, and possibly even related to the OP being stressed with the financial situation. This edit has lost that side to the question. – bharal Jan 11 '15 at 10:20
  • @bharal thanks for the feedback. Do you think the original was better, then? I can roll it back (or anyone else can). And do you think the original should stay open? Each of our comments has one upvote right now, so others please weigh in. – Monica Cellio Jan 11 '15 at 17:42
  • 1
    @monica hey,i am no expert on these things, but it certainly now captures (for me, anyway) more of the original original and subtle details – bharal Jan 12 '15 at 13:05
  • 1
    I just rolled back an edit from user1261710 which I believe deviated too much from the original post. It is not clear if that user is the same person as the OP. If you are the same person, please see our Help Center on how to merge your accounts before making an edit. – David K Feb 5 '16 at 13:19
11

I really can't tell whether you're working full time at the moment or not. Working some days from home and some at the office should be full time. I suggest:

  • Working with your project manager to make your schedule more visible. This might be that you're in the office MWF one week and TR the next, letting you sleep in every other day, or it might be that you and the PM will work it out as meetings or milestones are set. Either way the PM should always know whether to expect you.

  • Get used to nosy and inappropriate questions and learn how to handle them. Asking about child care arrangements is very common. You can smile (since the topic of your child is a happy one) and say "it's all under control, thanks!" or "I have amazing arrangements that really work for me" or the like. Telling people the baby is being cared for at home (no matter by your husband, your mother, or a nanny) opens the door to them thinking the baby distracts you when you work from home

  • Be amazingly productive when you work from home. Work more than eight hours if you must. You want people thinking "I hope she works on my report from home tomorrow because it will get done since no-one will interrupt her." Never interrupt a call to deal with the baby or suggest a meeting be moved to a different time, for example.

  • Find a way to get along better with your coworkers, your managers, HR and so on. Relax. These people aren't judging you. It's not their concern who's looking after the baby, you're right. You don't need to meet some test from them. Tell them private things or don't, but stop believing that when you reveal anything about yourself they judge you.

Coming back to work after a leave is hard. Some people will think you're not pulling your weight. Most will be impressed that you're doing something difficult and will be cheering for you. Using that as the context for these intrusive conversations may help your stress level. No matter what you think, just buckling down and doing a great job will show everyone that you have it under control. Communicate intensively and well, be predictable and reliable, and the nosy parkering should fade to a memory, along with HR's doubts and your conflict with the PM. (And if it doesn't, you'll be in a much better emotional state to go looking for a new job.)

  • 6
    +1 for a predictable schedule -- having a flexible working arrangement should not mean people don't know when you'll be in the office. I'd actually recommend one that is consistent rather than alternating from week to week, or at least one that involves less alternation -- for example, MW in the office, and alternate Fridays. That way people won't have to necessarily remember which week you're on -- they'll know they can count on finding you in your office on a Monday or Wednesday for sure. – PurpleVermont Jan 12 '15 at 19:08
  • 1
    Your answer is good, but I do not agree with the second part of the second bullet, "Never...suggest a meeting to be moved" Companies and their cultures really need to start being more accommodating to families, since now in America it takes two wage earners to get by/stay in the middle class. Moving a meeting if possible should be fine. Also, it should be ok if a person isn't pulling their weight for the very acute time period where young children cause extreme sleep deprivation, especially since so many workers go through this. – daaxix Jan 15 '15 at 0:14
  • People need to be more tolerant and understanding of this temporary cognitive deficit that occurs to all of us (but disproportionately affects women), and that it isn't a reflection on our ability under normal mental capacity. – daaxix Jan 15 '15 at 0:17
  • 1
    @daaxix I agree in general, but for the OP who is in a conflict now over "can you handle the workload?" accepting some unfair restrictions will be part of the price of getting things back on an even keel. – Kate Gregory Jan 15 '15 at 1:21
6

I have had to deal with questions from the project manager and coworkers that make me uncomfortable, questions that pry into the details of my child-care arrangements and finances. The HR person didn't want me to return to full-time because she doesn't think I can handle work plus a baby, which I don't feel is her place to judge.

Sounds like they have concerns about your ability to be working from home whilst baby is there as well. Have you made any mention of baby-related events whilst working (having to calm baby etc), or have they heard baby in the background in calls? You need to establish dad is there and is in sole charge whilst you work, ideally in a closed off room without noise and interuptions.

It was never established which days I had to come in to the office. This week I stayed home because of the stress but kept working remotely/answered emails. The project manager reacted badly.

Being nomadic doesn't always work. You may have been able to do it before, but given they have issue with your working from home (and maybe issues around new team members as well?), I think you need to stop the coming in/working from home as you please, and establish a routine that allows them to know when you'll be in and focused on work (routine is better for baby as well).

This doesn't mean you can't still arrange a day(s) if needed, but try and be proactive and arrange them BEFORE if you can.

As a father I can understand where you are, but as a development manager I can see you look like an unknown enitity, I can't plan work around your schedule as you don't seem to have one, and that risks the team and the delivery, so never good.

I can imagine a scenario with you on a three day task, two days in office - on track, next day I get an email - you're at home, and my worry is the third day will take you the rest of the week as I don't think you get much done due to the crying I heard in the last conference call. This means I'm now anticpating a 40% overrun in your tasks, if you're the critical path my delivery is now in jeopardy.

You'd be surprised what managers can cope with as long as they have time or can anticipate what's happening, and that will then take pressure off you.

  • 2
    yes, i completely missed the implication in the question that the OP was not telegraphing the time off. This absolutely needs to be done. – bharal Jan 11 '15 at 10:26
  • I'm guessing if they had concerns about that then they should have addressed them BEFORE I came back. Why bring me in then let me do what I like then complain about it? Makes no sense. – user1261710 Feb 5 '16 at 0:40
  • "The project manager was much more involved with things than before and I found the changes to be very overwhelming" - maybe they weren't aware of it before and didn't have concerns at that time? – The Wandering Dev Manager Feb 5 '16 at 9:56
4

The other answers have some useful, actionable suggestions but I hesitate to up-vote them because they mostly seem to take the stance that you have been, or will be, less productive at home than in the office. From what you've written I don't believe there's any evidence to suggest this has happened yet. Given that you've had the wherewithal to post about your situation and ask for advice to remedy it, I'd imagine you wouldn't let that happen.

A lot of how you can resolve this (if it can be resolved at all) depends on your company culture, particularly in relation to their work from home policy. My company (a software development shop) employs a "we don't care where you are as long as you are contactable and are getting your work done" policy. On the other hand my fiancée's company (also a software development shop) prefer its staff are in the office so she and I would have to resolve this in very different ways (if I had anything to resolve at all).

My advice would be

  1. Speak with your team lead/project manager and explain the working arrangement you agreed (presumably with HR). If they weren't part of this decision they may feel aggrieved so be prepared for that. Explain why it's beneficial to you and agree that if your performance is affected by it then you will review the arrangement with them.

  2. Be open with your colleagues and explain the arrangement. It does sound like they're also making the assumption you will be slacking off/less productive when you work from home but we do only have your phrasing to go on! If that's really the case (do try re-assessing this after you've explained it to them) then the only way to ease their worries is to prove that you aren't going to be any less productive.

  3. Make sure you are contactable when you work from home. Whatever communication tool your company uses make sure you're signed in and super responsive. There's very few things that annoy office workers more than when someone is working from home and not responding. I'd keep your team informed of your status as well. If your baby starts crying and you need to take him/her for a walk, tell your team - that way when you don't respond they know why. And make sure you make up the time so you stay productive!

Good luck and hopefully it works out (and if it doesn't there are plenty of software developer jobs out there that allow remote working!).

  • Good catch @AmyBlankenship - fixed! – Stuart Leyland-Cole Feb 8 '16 at 17:24
  • I don't think the point of most other answers was that OP would be less productive, but that she is less predictive. If she comes into office on different days every week without a clearly in advance communicated pattern, how should OP's superiors manage schedules? – DarkDust May 11 at 14:40
3

I recommend you prioritize some things from this point forward. And change some things to "remove uncertainty". Because uncertainty leaves room for miscommunication, misalignment, etc.

After that, request a one-on-one meeting. Start by saying "Thanks for this short meetup. I do want things to work in this team, this dept, this company. It firstly needs me and you to work so I want to share some priorities I can commit to, we can fine-tune these of course, and we can start anew from there."

Suggested priorities to share in the meeting:

  1. List down your deliverables and how you plan to meet them. Are any of them sacrificed due to flexible working? Show your concern for making these items work and how you can contribute still (despite your circumstances).
  2. If anything is unclear or undefined, then define them eg the days you come to office. Make suggestions for gray or undefined items. (Remove uncertainty)
  3. List the things you are not comfortable and don't feel right talking about in the open that have little and nothing to do with your work or deliverables and seek your manager's cooperation to agree that these things are left out of day-to-day work discussions. "Can we agree on this as being a fair way to move forward? And focus on work items?" (There is a time where your work arrangement can be discussed and that is when the company is reviewing the arrangement itself - but this does't happen day-to-day).

When you say your employer approved your flexible working, did the project manager had any say on it? This could be a sticking point if the answer is "No".

The flexible arrangement is a permanent change to your employment contract? Double-check that. If not, your HR is not in any position to deny return to full-time work.

Sidetrack a little bit, do recognize that not everything bad going on right now is your fault. Something might have blown up during your maternity leave and they're flipping because of that. And if they have any room to assign the blame to you they'll probably do it out of panic and wanting to keep their own jobs. Some things you control and some things you can't. So focus on the stuff you can control. Take positive steps. Show positive effort. Stay professional (ie don't flip like the rest of them).

3

The first thing you have to understand is that working from home is a burden on the company, it makes it harder for the team to work together and it is up to you as the person working there to relieve their anxieties. Working from home involves much more communication daily than you apparently give.

First thing is to get your schedule out into the open and firmed up. If no one knows what days that you are working from home, then they will wonder what you are doing. Working from home without telling them in advance becasue you are too tired to come in is especially bad. Remember that dirty trays on the the airplane make passengers wonder how well the airplane engine is maintained and you are exhibiting dirty pull-down trays right now.

Next you need need to work with the project manager and your team mates to improve communication. First, they need to know that you are contactable when you are home. In my office we have plenty of remote workers, but chosing to be out of touch daily is a good way to get fired. You need to talk to the PM about exactly what communication he expects from you daily. It does feel more micromanaged becasue it by necessity has to be more micromanaged. He can't see what you are doing, so he has to hear from you often.

In particular, make sure that people on your team know where your work is being stored on the network if it is in a different location that where they put theirs. Make sure everything is accessible to them if they can't get a hold of you. Make sure to track progress in daily emails. Make sure to include your PM on all email communcations so he can answer questions if you are not there.

Developers like to have long stretches of uninterrupted time and can get away with that at the office through the use of headphones. You have no way to signal that uninterrupted time and not responding to emails, IMs and phone calls fairly quickly is the kiss of death when you are working remotely. So these two things are at odds. You need to be more interruptible when you work from home. You need to make sure that you are not the delay in someone else's workflow.

If you are working on something particularly tricky, tell the PM that you need to have from 3-6 uninterrupted to work on x and let the other team members know. And let them know a couple hours ahead of time, so if they need you for something that day, they can contact you before you go out of touch. And then when you get back on line (and you should even if the uninterrupted work stretch is at the end of the day), make sure they see you and that you tell the PM what you accomplished while out of touch.

You also apparently have new colleagues. You need to make friends with them. You need to IM them when you are home and chat some. You need to make sure to hang out in the office with them when you are in. The more they like you, the less likely they are to try to sabotage you as the person who isn't there. You need to learn to fit into the changed work culture if you want to stay there. If these new colleagues are all unmarried guys then they are most likely not going to want to hear about your baby except to knoe how you are going to keep it from being an issue.

Next you need to look at this workplace and see if it is still right for you. It seems that they are not very understanding of the challenges of parenthood. Those challenges aren't going to go away and you aren't ever going to fit into a frat boy atmosphere. You don't say how the culture has changed, but if this is the direction it has gone, you need to think about this.

If your office does not often use remote workers, you will have to work harder to convince them that it is working. That may not seem fair, but life is never fair. Further, there may be resentment if you can work from home and they cannot. This is especially true of you are different from them in some way such as being the only woman.

Not only are you holding your future on your ability to convince them that remote working is working out, you are going to be the test case for whether they let anyone else do it if this is not a common practice. On the other hand, if you can convince your other colleagues that if it works out well for you, they may be in a better position to get the same privilege for them, then you might gain them as allies not opponents.

Next, you need to be hard-headed about your work ethic. It is easy to slack off at home and not realize it. We have had employees like this who are twice as productive when working in the office as at home. of course there were also others who are more productive at home and others who are about the same where ever they are. What you don't want to be is in the first category, either really in the first category or perceived to be that way. The best way to fight the persception that you are slacking by working from home is to fall nto teh second category and visibly be more productuve at home. Remember, this all about perception. It isn't enough to be more productive, you have to be seen as being more productive.

Perception is really important and the need to make sure your actions are perceived properly increases exponentially when you work at home. At the office if someone sees you on Facebook, they think, well she is taking a break. Same if they see you headed to the bathrooms or in the kitchen. When working from home, if they try to contact you and you are not there, the immediate perception is that you are not really working.

So it is up to you to make sure you are available during the actual work hours ( not two hours in the morning, a three hour nap, then six more hours of work) and that you let people know when your lunch break is etc. Even when you are putting in the hours, if they are not during the times when other people are working, you will be thought of as a slacker. Now some of this can be relaxed once you have the reputation for delivering when you are home, but the first 6 months at least, you need to be be absolutely available during normal work hours or you need to have told the PM where you will be and when you are making up the hours (I presume you will have some followup doctor visits etc to attend to).

Working from home is privilege not a right. You need to start treating it as such. That means that your work performance needs to be better when working from home than it was when working in the office. You need to make sure to attend meetings by phone, you need to communicate frequently by email, phone and IM and you especially need to immediately communicate any roadblocks or reasons why a task may be delayed. You can't just communicate a roadblock either, you need to followup at a minimum of daily on that roadblock. YOu need to make sure that no request for information from you lies unanswered for every long and only rarely for as much as an hour.

Communicating with your boss about child care arrangements is not prying into your personal life. Get over that too. This person has a valid right to know that information as it affects the work. Co-workers don't need to know and you can deflect those questions although it often is a bad idea to do so. Refusal to answer these questions makes it look as if you have something to hide. It gives people the perception that you are trying to care for the baby and work and that means they will think you will be doing more baby caring and less work. Many people have worked with others who abused a similar situation and so are far less confident than you are that it isn't affecting your output when they hear the baby crying in the background for instance. The burden is on you to tell them what they need to know to be confident you can do the work assigned.

  • TL;DR You obviously feel quite passionately about this, but it's a great big wall of text. I think it could be improved by condensing a lot of this and maybe some formatting. – Amy Blankenship Feb 5 '16 at 16:28
  • I don't do TLDR. Most things don't fit into one or two paragraphs. Oversimplification is a very bad thing. – HLGEM Feb 5 '16 at 16:32
  • I think it is perfectly reasonable that a company wants to know when you can work. It sounds like the OP's work schedule is related around her having a child and to me, that would be okay to ask questions related to scheduling around that. Such as "What times the child is at day care?" is perfectly reasonable and not out of the blue. – Dan Feb 5 '16 at 17:44
1

Decide what you want. Do you want to work full-time again? If yes, then determine what you have to do to get back to working full time.

  1. One thing is certain: if you allow yourself to be uncomfortable and then stressed because you are uncomfortable every time someone says something to you, then you are NOT getting back to full time any time soon.

  2. You may not like what they are saying to you but they definitely don't like the way you are reacting to what they are saying to you, and that alone is sufficient for them not to want to let you get back to work full time.

  3. Don't say that you are feeling uncomfortable and stressed, that gets you nowhere except possibly out the door, which will get you even more uncomfortable and stressed because of your financial condition.

The HR girl doesn't want you back to full time. Do you know what her objection is, and what have you said to meet her objection? Sulking and muttering to yourself "THAT'S NONE OF HER CONCERN" is NOT a response that gets you anywhere. Work out a response to her that gets you somewhere instead!

What have you said to your co-workers to tell them that you have the situation well in hand at home? Muttering to yourself "THAT'S NONE OF THEIR CONCERN" is NOT communication. That's sulking. They may be flabbergasted at your home arrangement but if you drive home that it IS an effective arrangement and that arrangement is why you are not worried, then they're more likely to accept it. Which incidentally opens the door to you getting back full time.

At this point, you managed to get into conflict with the HR girl, your co-workers and the project manager because you reacted on your feelings. Give ONE reason why you think that they should welcome you back to full time after this performance. You can't afford the luxury of reacting on your feelings when your reaction is bringing out your worst side for all to see. In fact, this luxury may very well cost you your job since they don't know you, all they've seen in the worst of you, and it's all too easy for them to conflate the worst side of you with the rest of you. Once you introduce the element of personal dislike into the mix through your own reaction, all bets are off as far as your continued presence at your organization is concerned. Here is a hint: people who let their feelings get the better of them are pretty hard to manage. You DON'T want to be perceived as being hard to manage. And you DON'T want to be perceived as being hard to work with.

Your poor response to stress is NOT going to convince anyone to let you back full time. A key step to getting back full time is to physically show up every day that you are supposed to show up and act like you are ready, able and willing to work instead of acting like you are ready, able and willing to sulk at the drop of a hat.

That multi-day absence of yours when you telecommuted did nothing to convince your project manager to let you back to full time, by the way. If anything, it gave him ammunition for his belief that he should not let you back full time because you are not emotionally ready for it. Reacting in the way you do is only going to result in you digging yourself into a bigger hole.

At this point, you have to decide which is more important to you: your feelings or getting back to full time and doing whatever it takes to get back to full time let alone keeping your job.

For whatever it's worth, the world does not revolve around you and does not care about your feelings. If you want something from people, you work with them to get what you want. You don't get into a sulk with them.

As for your rebuilding your relationship with your co-workers: until you make a conscious decision to stop reacting to your feelings, you start to listen to the objections of your co-workers and management and meet those objections, and you start working with them to get your full time position back instead of getting into passive-aggressive tugs of war with them, you are not going to rebuild anything. And if this state of affairs continues, you may be issued your walking papers and you will not get a chance to rebuild anything.

  • 1
    yes, the OP needs to consider being more open with her colleagues. i think the OP being a bit more open with her colleagues about her personal side would help with the situation dramatically. it isn't about justifying her choices, it is about expressing her obstacles. worthwhile people respect others who are battling through a hard time, they don't look down on them for it. – bharal Jan 11 '15 at 10:33
  • 6
    This reads a bit like a lecture--that the OP shouldn't be reacting to feelings she has and that it's her fault. – DA. Jan 12 '15 at 4:20
  • 8
    This does not even attempt to answer the question of how to rebuild the relationship... – IDrinkandIKnowThings Jan 12 '15 at 18:15
  • Parts of this answer have merit (so I'm voting to leave open), other parts don't. Notably A) You jump to conclusions: 1) "they definitely don't like the way [] them not to want to let you get back to work full time" There is no them, only that one HR person. 2) You assume that the OP has not replied to inquiries etc. It may be true, it may not. And B) You exaggerate 1. "all they've seen in the worst of you" – user8036 Jan 12 '15 at 22:11
  • I was open with them and they openly expressed dislike at my family structure and composition then continued to badger me about being a 'working mom'. I believe it is illegal to do so. No wonder I don't want to tell them if the answer results in badgering. – user1261710 Feb 5 '16 at 0:42

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.