The office sucks! Better to live in some mountain or ocean community and smoke weed.
Your Boss Is Over Hybrid Work. Here’s How to Keep Your Flexibility.
Shared calendars, prescheduled email updates and other ways to convince your manager you’re just as productive when you’re not working in the office
By Ray A. Smith, WSJ
Employees are finding it takes extra work to hold on to the flexible habits companies allowed in the thick of the pandemic.
More companies are stepping up in-office work requirements or backtracking on earlier pledges to soften the rigid 9-to-5 schedule. General Motors Co. is requiring salaried employees to be in the office three days a week starting at the end of January, after holding off on a similar plan this fall. Last week, Elon Musk told Twitter Inc. staff he expected most of them to show up at least 40 hours a week, ending the remote-work option that the company’s previous leaders said would continue.
And bosses say they are paying more attention to who is complying: In a new survey of more than 500 managers at companies with at least some in-office requirement, more than two-thirds said they were getting stricter on enforcing attendance. Nearly 75% said they planned to factor office attendance into employee performance reviews, according to online software marketplace Capterra, which conducted the survey. One reason is that business leaders are worried about productivity. In a Microsoft Corp. survey of 20,000 people at companies around the world this summer, just 12% of managers said they were fully confident hybrid employees were productive.
The growing vigilance is putting fresh pressure on many employees who had hoped the return to offices would come with more flexibility on commuting times and regular remote days.
Some workers say they have honed tactics for maintaining some work flexibility while making higher-ups feel they are omnipresent—but they take finesse and organization. The endgame is to establish trust, says Vaishnavi Yellutla, a 26-year-old senior analyst in the biopharmaceutical industry, so that where you are isn’t as top of mind as how much you’re getting done.
When her company moved to a three-days-in-the-office schedule in the summer of 2021, Ms. Yellutla asked for an extension until January because of chronic health issues. She now does come in three days a week but sometimes leaves early to resume work at home. Her boss, on the other hand, is in at least a full three days weekly, she says.
To make sure there are no hiccups, she says she holds weekly one-on-one meetings with her manager to run through all of her tasks and the deadlines she plans to meet.
On the days she goes home early, she says she tells her manager when and why and copies her on every report she completes. Ms. Yellutla says her boss has been fine with her more flexible schedule “because the work is getting done within the deadlines and she’s aware of what’s happening.”
Managers are under pressure, too: Many say they feel the need to show up full time—even if it isn’t explicit policy—in part to set an example for their teams. That, in turn, fuels the expectations that their reports do the same.
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“I find it difficult to be a leader and just not be there or take off early,” says Scott Jackson, a 47-year-old senior director of data architecture at a transportation-logistics company, in Frisco, Texas, who says he tries to reserve any personal errands or appointments for his remote days. The two or three days he’s in the office, it’s for a full day. If others “see me skedaddle,” he says, “that probably doesn’t set a good tone.”
Mary Abbajay, president and co-founder of professional-development company Careerstone Group LLC, says she advises a strategy she honed years earlier while working for a micromanager: Send consistent updates—even if it’s to say you’ll be away from your desk for more than 30 minutes—but figure out how your manager likes to get them.
Technology is your friend, she adds. For the boss who prefers email, for example, set up scheduled email updates to be delivered at a specific time every day or every week. If they prefer, you can also create a shared calendar so your boss knows your schedule.
“It’s a simple and effective way to keep your boss in the loop,” she says.
Another way to keep your manager posted: create a shared document or spreadsheet where you are noting your progress on tasks. Mark it down when a goal is completed, says Vanessa Bohns, a professor of organizational behavior at Cornell University. It’s a way to remind your manager how much you are working on and getting done.
“Managers do not like uncertainty, so they’re, like, ‘This person left, I don’t know when they’re coming back, I don’t know when they’re planning on getting me this thing,’” she says. If they have that information already, “that urge to micromanage can be mitigated a lot.”
—Chip Cutter contributed to this article.