Author Topic: RTO - What if we just don't go?  (Read 1750 times)

jrhampt

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RTO - What if we just don't go?
« on: September 14, 2023, 05:37:26 AM »
My company, like many others, is starting to require that most people start going back to the office a few times a week.  To my surprise, this applies to basically everyone, even those of us who were hired specifically for remote positions well before the pandemic started (I've been working remotely for over 10 years, have never even met most of my team as we all work in different states).  I am not certain whether or not I will be required to go back, as there are two waves of RTO and the first one is in September; mine is not until March, if it happens.  The company says that most people required to go back are within 50 miles of an office and I am just over 50 miles away.  To go in three times a week would mean spending over a full work day in the car just commuting, not to mention the extra gas money and wardrobe for no particular reason in my view, since my team is all dispersed.  And of course to make it even more fun, there isn't enough office space for people to have a dedicated desk anymore, so you have to get desk assignments as you go for any given day. 

Anyway, I don't have any intention of going back to the office and I question how enforceable this policy is...what if people just don't go?  Are they really going to fire everyone?  How does this work for others who are in a similar position?

Metalcat

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Re: RTO - What if we just don't go?
« Reply #1 on: September 14, 2023, 05:51:58 AM »
Does it specify in your contract that your position is remote?

I don't know about your jurisdiction, but where I am, if you were hired remote, your employer wouldn't be able to just meaningfully change your job requirements like that.

I would personally contact a labour lawyer.

jrhampt

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Re: RTO - What if we just don't go?
« Reply #2 on: September 14, 2023, 05:56:22 AM »
Does it specify in your contract that your position is remote?

I don't know about your jurisdiction, but where I am, if you were hired remote, your employer wouldn't be able to just meaningfully change your job requirements like that.

I would personally contact a labour lawyer.

Ha.  We are all "at will" here, so they can pretty much do whatever they want.

2Birds1Stone

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Re: RTO - What if we just don't go?
« Reply #3 on: September 14, 2023, 06:19:18 AM »
How do you "return" to office if you weren't an office employee to begin with?

Doesn't sound like something you should worry about at this point.....

jrhampt

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Re: RTO - What if we just don't go?
« Reply #4 on: September 14, 2023, 06:35:39 AM »
How do you "return" to office if you weren't an office employee to begin with?

Doesn't sound like something you should worry about at this point.....

Well.  I wouldn't even be thinking about it except other people I know who had also always been remote are in fact being required to RTO already this month.

reeshau

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Re: RTO - What if we just don't go?
« Reply #5 on: September 14, 2023, 07:02:54 AM »
I'm not surprised that such a policy change would sweep up cases that used to be the exception.  If HR allowed you, or pre-pandemic remotes, or specially-designated people, or whatever, then a separate class of workers would be created, and it could kick up resentment to the backtracking on remote work in the first place.

Such is the blunt instrument of HR policy.

I had a colleague at a former employer who was in a very unique situation, and was lifelong remote work--even when that was hard, back in dial-up days.  Her management supported her, meaning they went to bat at regular intervals as she was always nominated for the layoff-du-jour, but they said they needed her.

She was the department's key SAP expert, and had been there since the migration from legacy mainframe.  So even outside SAP experts had to learn from her, because she knew all the configuration, customization, and policies around our implementation.

Does your management have your back in this?  Do you have a unique skillset or knowledge which would be difficult and slow to replace?  If not, then this could be a real problem for you.  But you can either sweat it out until March, or bring it up with your supervisor now, and work with facts.  Maybe that means you plan a goodbye, as unjustified as it sounds.  But maybe it means your management intervenes in time, too.

jrhampt

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Re: RTO - What if we just don't go?
« Reply #6 on: September 14, 2023, 07:09:51 AM »
Does your management have your back in this?  Do you have a unique skillset or knowledge which would be difficult and slow to replace?  If not, then this could be a real problem for you.  But you can either sweat it out until March, or bring it up with your supervisor now, and work with facts.  Maybe that means you plan a goodbye, as unjustified as it sounds.  But maybe it means your management intervenes in time, too.

My manager does not want to go into the office either...he would not be in the office with any direct reports (or anyone he reports to, for that matter) and has also been remote for over 10 years.  He says he's not going to worry about it until later this year or early next when we find out more for certain, but idk.  I do have some unique knowledge and skillsets which would make me harder to replace, but they have lately been on me about trying to train a backup, which seems like suspicious timing to me. 

Kris

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Re: RTO - What if we just don't go?
« Reply #7 on: September 14, 2023, 08:11:41 AM »
Does it specify in your contract that your position is remote?

I don't know about your jurisdiction, but where I am, if you were hired remote, your employer wouldn't be able to just meaningfully change your job requirements like that.

I would personally contact a labour lawyer.

Ha.  We are all "at will" here, so they can pretty much do whatever they want.

I mean, that's pretty much your answer, isn't it?

Hopefully you have FU money. I'd call the boss and tell them that you are "just making sure" that the RTO order won't apply to you because you've always been fully remote. If they say nope, you gotta start coming in, you tell them that this isn't the terms you were hired under, and you'll be submitting your resignation effective X date. Hopefully that will change their minds.

Bartlebooth

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Re: RTO - What if we just don't go?
« Reply #8 on: September 14, 2023, 08:18:51 AM »
You are worrying about things you don't even know about yet.

farmecologist

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Re: RTO - What if we just don't go?
« Reply #9 on: September 14, 2023, 08:20:40 AM »
My company, like many others, is starting to require that most people start going back to the office a few times a week.  To my surprise, this applies to basically everyone, even those of us who were hired specifically for remote positions well before the pandemic started (I've been working remotely for over 10 years, have never even met most of my team as we all work in different states).  I am not certain whether or not I will be required to go back, as there are two waves of RTO and the first one is in September; mine is not until March, if it happens.  The company says that most people required to go back are within 50 miles of an office and I am just over 50 miles away.  To go in three times a week would mean spending over a full work day in the car just commuting, not to mention the extra gas money and wardrobe for no particular reason in my view, since my team is all dispersed.  And of course to make it even more fun, there isn't enough office space for people to have a dedicated desk anymore, so you have to get desk assignments as you go for any given day. 

Anyway, I don't have any intention of going back to the office and I question how enforceable this policy is...what if people just don't go?  Are they really going to fire everyone?  How does this work for others who are in a similar position?

I always thought the "50 mile radius" RTO rule that seems to be all the rage these days with companies is extremely short sighted.  It will definitely breed resentment against management and those who are "lucky" enough to be outside the radius.

And there is some discussion of "at will" employment. Remember that yes, "they" can do whatever they want, but so can we ( hint, hint ).


« Last Edit: September 14, 2023, 08:29:59 AM by farmecologist »

jrhampt

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Re: RTO - What if we just don't go?
« Reply #10 on: September 14, 2023, 09:23:17 AM »
My company, like many others, is starting to require that most people start going back to the office a few times a week.  To my surprise, this applies to basically everyone, even those of us who were hired specifically for remote positions well before the pandemic started (I've been working remotely for over 10 years, have never even met most of my team as we all work in different states).  I am not certain whether or not I will be required to go back, as there are two waves of RTO and the first one is in September; mine is not until March, if it happens.  The company says that most people required to go back are within 50 miles of an office and I am just over 50 miles away.  To go in three times a week would mean spending over a full work day in the car just commuting, not to mention the extra gas money and wardrobe for no particular reason in my view, since my team is all dispersed.  And of course to make it even more fun, there isn't enough office space for people to have a dedicated desk anymore, so you have to get desk assignments as you go for any given day. 

Anyway, I don't have any intention of going back to the office and I question how enforceable this policy is...what if people just don't go?  Are they really going to fire everyone?  How does this work for others who are in a similar position?

I always thought the "50 mile radius" RTO rule that seems to be all the rage these days with companies is extremely short sighted.  It will definitely breed resentment against management and those who are "lucky" enough to be outside the radius.

And there is some discussion of "at will" employment. Remember that yes, "they" can do whatever they want, but so can we ( hint, hint ).

Well, yes, thatís my whole point. They can definitely do whatever they want to. Or they can try. But how are they going to enforces this if enough people decide they donít want to?

Villanelle

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Re: RTO - What if we just don't go?
« Reply #11 on: September 14, 2023, 10:00:17 AM »
I'd be starting a job search, and also considering what I was willing to do.  Is one day a week in the office, or one day every other week reasonable to you?  Figure out your bottom line and be prepared to present it, also leaning heavily on the fat that you were hired for a remote position and it was working perfectly well pre-Covid. 

Only you can decide whether you are willing to lose your job over this.  And yes, while you are at-will, the terms of your employment can still determine whether you qualify for unemployment, for example, so it may still matter.   

Also, most people don't have FY money.  Many don't even have "miss one paycheck" money.  So most people are going to be quietly resentful but not willing to do or say much, if anything about it.  So unfortunately, it's unlikely that "enough people will decide they don't want to" to have the company face a mass exodus that causes them to rethink the policy.  All you can do is decide if it is worth it to you, what your line in the sand is (one day a week, twice a month, none at all...) and be prepared to present that, and stand by it. 

Askel

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Re: RTO - What if we just don't go?
« Reply #12 on: September 14, 2023, 10:32:14 AM »
My company did a "OK EVERYBODY, BACK TO THE OFFICE" not very long after the pandemic wound down.  Remote work was never an option here before. 

They had *significant* push back.  There were a couple confusing months where those who really wanted to work remote stood their ground and we weren't sure if firings were going to start or not. 

Eventually, management relented and let some folks work from home full time.

Heck, even my position which can never be 100% remote due to the type of job lets me work from home 50% if I want to. I take advantage of it when the weather turns too crappy for bicycle commuting.   

therethere

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Re: RTO - What if we just don't go?
« Reply #13 on: September 14, 2023, 10:55:38 AM »
I think it depends. How is your company doing? And do you have FU money or other options for work.

My company is having outward budget pressures and hiring freezes. So RTO, is in my opinion, a way to get more people out of the company without having to lay them off.

seattlecyclone

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Re: RTO - What if we just don't go?
« Reply #14 on: September 14, 2023, 12:22:50 PM »
My company is having outward budget pressures and hiring freezes. So RTO, is in my opinion, a way to get more people out of the company without having to lay them off.

This. If you're going to stand your ground on working remotely it helps to either be a key employee for whom exceptions can be made, or part of a critical mass large enough that they can't afford to lose all of you at once. If you're not in the former group, you might need to start organizing for a union.

SmashYourSmartPhone

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Re: RTO - What if we just don't go?
« Reply #15 on: September 14, 2023, 01:12:47 PM »
Wait until March, and ensure you have at least a short supply of FY money - a six-twelve month pad, if this is not something you can already casually cover.

You were remote before, and you are over 50 miles away of commuting.  Simply refuse to go in, and see what happens.  You may not even be told to as the date comes closer.

"I left a company I worked for remotely because after Covid wound down, they required everyone to go into the office, including people hired remotely, and I wasn't about to spend that much time commuting" is entirely reasonable for having left a company.

lucenzo11

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Re: RTO - What if we just don't go?
« Reply #16 on: September 14, 2023, 01:33:17 PM »
If you just do nothing, then either you'll keep working remotely and nothing will happen to you, or you'll get pressure and may end up getting fired.
It's so dependent on the company and what their motivations are. Some companies simply require RTO because they see some performance indicator drop and one person that likes being in the office blames it on people working from home so they RTO. But the actual enforcement of it often falls to managers and some managers just aren't going to care and ignore RTO. But it's very company dependent. With your manager it seems like he doesn't intend to follow RTO either , but there is still some risk now that they use this as a way to trim numbers. Tough to know if this is the case unless you are actually there and understand how your company is doing. My suggestion would be just to let it happen and if you are in a good place financially then oh well if they let you go.

Option 2 is to go on the offensive, which is what I did: My company was teasing RTO since late 2020, but finally dropped the hammer in 2022 with requiring everyone to come back in at least two days per week. I had anticipated this happening since they had been talking about it for so long and corprorate was bragging nonstop about how great it was to be back in the office since the first day they allowed themselves to go back in. So I started looking for other jobs and ended up getting two offers at other companies. They were both hybrid too but they were for more money. I took the offer to my manager and politely blackmailed them into allowing me to work fully remote or I leave. Within a day I had approval for full remote.

The key to this is that I had been there over 10 years, had a great performance record, and we were understaffed especially on my team and we were already having trouble growing the team. Someone else had just left for another company so it was partially just good timing. Earlier in my career or when we didn't have as much work, I could see them just letting me go.

farmecologist

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Re: RTO - What if we just don't go?
« Reply #17 on: September 15, 2023, 09:37:47 AM »
If you just do nothing, then either you'll keep working remotely and nothing will happen to you, or you'll get pressure and may end up getting fired.
It's so dependent on the company and what their motivations are. Some companies simply require RTO because they see some performance indicator drop and one person that likes being in the office blames it on people working from home so they RTO. But the actual enforcement of it often falls to managers and some managers just aren't going to care and ignore RTO. But it's very company dependent. With your manager it seems like he doesn't intend to follow RTO either , but there is still some risk now that they use this as a way to trim numbers. Tough to know if this is the case unless you are actually there and understand how your company is doing. My suggestion would be just to let it happen and if you are in a good place financially then oh well if they let you go.

Option 2 is to go on the offensive, which is what I did: My company was teasing RTO since late 2020, but finally dropped the hammer in 2022 with requiring everyone to come back in at least two days per week. I had anticipated this happening since they had been talking about it for so long and corprorate was bragging nonstop about how great it was to be back in the office since the first day they allowed themselves to go back in. So I started looking for other jobs and ended up getting two offers at other companies. They were both hybrid too but they were for more money. I took the offer to my manager and politely blackmailed them into allowing me to work fully remote or I leave. Within a day I had approval for full remote.

The key to this is that I had been there over 10 years, had a great performance record, and we were understaffed especially on my team and we were already having trouble growing the team. Someone else had just left for another company so it was partially just good timing. Earlier in my career or when we didn't have as much work, I could see them just letting me go.

Yep, playing hardball with your employer is often what has to happen to induce any change in stance whatsoever.

You are correct though...timing is absolutely key.  I have pulled the "do this or I leave" card on more than one occasion.   Up to this point it has been to get them to move me to other areas of the company.  RTO will be the next one.  I will say that our current area has a severe shortage of talent, and many impending retirements coming up, so I think I may have decent odds on the timing.   It also helps to have some "FU money", which I do...

jrhampt

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Re: RTO - What if we just don't go?
« Reply #18 on: September 15, 2023, 10:01:33 AM »
Some great advice here.  I am very tempted to just do nothing and see what happens...I have also been at this company for over 10 years and have always had good performance reviews.  But I do think that I will plan to start interviewing next year around mid/Jan or early Feb as a backup plan.  Would be curious to hear if anyone else has stories to share about how this has played out for them personally.

firemane

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Re: RTO - What if we just don't go?
« Reply #19 on: September 18, 2023, 09:58:55 PM »
I have been working remote for a decade so it is not just some Covid experiment to me. I did, however, switch jobs voluntarily in 2020 because a project caught my interest. Management signed a consent form for me to work remote after I was hired. They acted like I was weird for my decision to work remote full time even after Covid slowed down, but supported it.

Most of my team is remote in various locations, however, the few people who are not remote I feel intentionally try to withhold information from the remote workers as a way to get ahead in their careers. It causes a huge waste of skills as there are expert level engineers who are not inputting their opinions. I am a bit aggressive and maybe a bit rude in some cases so it affects me less as I will force my opinions into the conversations

I could advance my career more easily if I were to work hybrid, but I am not sure it is a a worthwhile trade. I am highly introverted and hate being in the office, so I think that RTO is a dealbreaker for me. If my current company demanded it I may have no choice but to allow them to lay me off

SmashYourSmartPhone

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Re: RTO - What if we just don't go?
« Reply #20 on: September 19, 2023, 09:45:02 AM »
I did, however, switch jobs voluntarily in 2020 because a project caught my interest.

That was an interesting time.  I changed jobs in the middle of 2020 also, right as the lockdowns were getting serious, from one remote position to another.  Normally you show up onsite to turn stuff in and get stuff for the new position, but it was entirely done remotely.