My colleagues are reluctant to come back to office, and I think work suffers…

Can your employer force you to come back to office? Jane gets a letter from a frustrated worker who wants his employer to overstep federal guidelines and ask people to return to office.

Dear Jane, 

I work at a small startup in New York and feel pretty frustrated at how most of my colleagues are reluctant to join back office even though they have been offered a hybrid option. They can choose the days they want to work in the office in a week.

What is frustrating is that most of them are just walking in any day they feel like without a schedule. I started office before the vaccination drive, and I come in three days and work from home for two, as do a few others.

Despite vaccination and all Covid-19 related precautions in place, colleagues are reluctant to come in to work. As a result, all work is held up, and nothing gets done on schedule.

The boss has just had a baby; hence, she is not interested in enforcing any strict rules.

While the days of being in the office full-time are over, it’s still a valuable place for networking, team-building, and maintaining a strong company culture. It seems people have got used to the idea of staying at home and see it as a viable option. Career advancement seems to have taken a back seat. Additionally, there is no direction from above. What should I do about all this?

Frustrated Porcupine

return to office

It seems for the time being; the workplace policy is to allow whoever wants to work from home.

As you yourself admitted, the days of regular office are over. People have realized that most of the work can be done offsite and trekking to the office every day is not required.

You need to remember that not everyone faces the same situation. With schools closed, childcare has become a necessity. Both partners need to be around to share the burden of work, household chores and childcare. You being a single millennial, works to your advantage.

Moreover, COVID-19 has not been totally eradicated. Come winters, it is believed there might be a resurgence. People with unvaccinated kids are reluctant to expose them by travelling to work and maybe bringing the bug home.

Hence, the reluctance seems to be justified. It is not that people do not value their careers, but people are prioritizing life choices.

Don’t you think coming back to the office before vaccines was a hasty decision and risky too?

Moreover, many people find working from home can be more productive and fulfilling. Also, they feel more relaxed as they are home with their family. 

Agreed that being in the office makes collaboration, networking and scheduling work easier, but at the moment, the advantages of working from home far outweigh that of on-site working.

Your objections seem to be more personal than about the hurdles to work, which seems to be getting done albeit at a slower pace.

It seems for the time being; the workplace policy is to allow whoever wants to work from home. If you feel that some rescheduling of days at the office needs to be done, then co-ordinate your days with the people you need to see in the office. Ask them to come on the day that you are in the office.

Beyond that, as a manager, you’ve got a professional obligation to consider other perspectives than yours. If it works for you, it might not work for others. A good manager learns to accommodate, delegate and take feedback. 

The pandemic has shown us empathy and patience are important in tough times.

The brutal and straightforward answers to HR-related queries and concerns. Send in your queries with the subject line ‘Ask JANE HARPER’ at

Jane Harper
Writer. Human resources expert and consultant. Follow @thehrdigest on Twitter

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