Question:

My employer shut down our worksite during the pandemic. My wife and I decided to move to a different state where living costs were cheaper, and we could live in a smaller community and enjoy a better quality of life.

Some months ago, my employer insisted all employees return to the company worksite. I didn’t want to turn into a long-distance commuter, so I pitched why I should be allowed to work remotely.

I’ve just received a letter from my company’s HR. They insist I return to our company offices by May 1, 2022. If I don’t, my employer will consider that I’ve resigned. This torques me, and there aren’t any viable jobs in the rural area in which we now live.

Given everything I’ve heard about the great resignation and the talent war, I don’t understand why my company is playing hardball. The problem may be my supervisor, who’s weak and a micromanager.

Answer:  

Reasons for hardball

Your employer likely has two reasons for playing hardball.

You don’t have to play ball with your current employer. You may, however, need to look at how you play the game of work.

Why employers choose to bring remote employees back onsite

Some employers want their entire workforce on-site, feeling its easier to manage them and that it creates better collaboration.

If the problem is your micro-managing supervisor, you’re not alone in facing that problem. Employers that employ remote employees absolutely need to train managers and supervisors how to manage by results. Micro-managers have to change their ways, or they drive employees away or themselves crater under the stress.

If your employer, however, values your supervisor, and more importantly considers you the problem, you may lose your job.

Additionally, when employers employ workers that live in a different state, they need to deal with a different set of employment and tax laws and reports, or travel and lodging costs when they want to hold all staff events. This becomes even more challenging when their employees move out of the country.

Employer solutions

When employers call me complaining about out-of-state employees, I suggest they balance the time it takes to make and update an excel spreadsheet that identifies another state’s employment and tax laws and reports against the cost of losing and having to replace a talented employee.  

I’ve recommended to my client employers that they define where remote employees can work and notify them and get advance permission before they move out of state.

Employee truth

Finally, your question creates a question in my mind. You describe your supervisor as weak. Are you hard to supervise because you engage in battles with supervisors? If so, you handicap your case for convincing your employer to allow you to continue working remotely.

If weak means inept, and you and your family love where you live, and your employer continues playing hardball, find a new employer that values remote employees.    If you found this post valuable and you’re an employer, you may find “Making Hybrid Work” valuable https://workplacecoachblog.com/2021/10/making-hybrid-work-charting-a-new-playbook-for-a-future-ready-workplace/.

If you’re an employee that wants to work remotely, you may find clues for making your case in “Making the Case for Teleworking,”https://workplacecoachblog.com/2021/06/teleworking-benefits-for-employers-employees/.

(c) Lynne Curry 2022

5 thoughts on “Employer Plays Hardball, Insists All Employees Return On-site

  1. Certainly anyone who made as drastic a move as to move ‘out of the area’ due to the ‘temporary’ changes brought about by COVID reactions did not think out the possible fallout.
    And to presume that their self-imposed status/change is going to be some compelling and driving force to alter business’ changes as things shift closer to what was is to assume something pretty arrogantly.
    Yes, a whole lot has been learned about onsite vs. remote work, in potential, ability, willingness, opportunity, performance, compatibility with the work product and results and more. Individuals and companies have made HUGE investments and changes to work around this situation – some great, some good, some poor, and some atrocious. But many, if not most, reactive to a very dynamic and extraordinary situation.
    But to think that one person (each/individual) can believe that ‘the company’ should completely embrace their attitude and adaptions to the situation is arbitrary and presumptive. And wrong.
    Along these lines, I wonder, also, how many of the ‘drop-outs’ from the workforce are/were/will be those who were members of the Baby Boomer generation who were going to be dropping out some time within five or so years of now anyway? Yes, COVID, and job/workrule/situation changes have had an effect on that but COVID’s not the only reason many stopped working or ‘didn’t go with the flow to the new way’ – I’m one who kept working but just now finally dropped out (at 72). Though not due to COVID, it is coincidental to the COVID period.

  2. When I was a kid, I remember an adult telling a pretentious teenager, “If you were bought for what you’re worth and sold for what You think You’re worth, someone would make a lot of money”.

    I was born and raised in a rural area and enjoyed the amenities. That said, at the time, most good jobs were 30 to 60 miles away. During college breaks, I lived at home and drove almost 70 miles one way to work 6 days a week.

    While the internet does provide some remote work, lack of nearby opportunities, and if the individual has children, quality of schools in rural areas, may be factors to consider before burning bridges.

    IMHO this individual is drastically reducing his/her options at a time when inflation is rapidly eroding incomes.

    1. An old comment I’ve used before can be altered and applied here. It’s a bit oblique in this situation, but very pertinent.
      You cannot have:
      The best (good job, with great pay and working from ‘home’), and
      The cheapest (living in low-cost rural instead of expensive town), and
      The most convenient (working from home versus commuting to the office)

      They do not reside in the same place.
      Pick any two and deal with not having the third one.

  3. Another new trend following lockdowns and remote work. It seems there are so many ways your employment could be at risk after you’ve worked a decade or more. But yes, this employee could be a complainer, chronic challenger, and more, too. May a good solution come of this.

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