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Am I a Jerk for Wanting to Work at Home?

Your 4-step guide to skipping the commute even when your company wants you back

Man in pajamas with a computer screen superimposed over his head and torso revealing that he is wearing a suit
Paul Spella/Getty Images(3)

The era of wall-to-wall work from home might just be coming to a close. Big tech firms like Google and Microsoft are asking employees to come back to the office in a hybrid model. Apple planned (and then delayed) requiring employees to work in the office three days a week. 

But the change hasn’t come without pushback: Ian Goodfellow, one of Apple’s pre-eminent machine learning experts, resigned in May due to the policy. Of course, it’s easy to walk out when you’re as rich and powerful as Goodfellow. (And he quickly found a new gig at Google.) For the rest of us, the anxiety over whether to return to the office is more loaded. 

Wanting to stay home doesn’t mean you want to work less — the average workday increased by 48.5 minutes during the pandemic, and more than one in three at-home employees report working more than eight hours a day on a regular basis. But what if you don’t want to go back to a long commute and barely seeing your kids after you get home? What if you took a new job during the pandemic that began as a full-time WFH gig and suddenly it’s… not? 

You aren’t alone, and you do have some options (and they aren’t all “I quit!”).

1. Dream out your ideal scenario. 

Take a clean-sheet approach to what your ideal work scenario might look like — one that’s grounded in some sense of reality. 

Maybe you’ve found that the work-from-home experience has gifted you with more focus than you’ve had in years. What is it that has worked for you — a few afternoons of deep, focused work uninterrupted by cattle-call staff meetings? Maybe you can devise a schedule where you cut out of the office a few afternoons a week. 

Likewise, if spending more time with your kids before or after school has made a seismic change in your relationship with them for the better, plan out a schedule where your in-office workday ends earlier or starts a bit later. 

And if spending four-day weekends at the cabin upstate has become essential to your mental health, and you see five days in the office as a deal-breaker, write it down. 

“Do your homework and identify your non-negotiables,” says Liane Davey, author of The Good Fight. “Your employer should be doing the same on their part.”  

2. Approach your co-workers.

If you're in an environment where hard-and-fast back-to-the-office rules haven’t been set yet, you might have some time to build a consensus. “If everyone wants to and has a plan to work from home, things are likely going to tilt in your favor,” says Gorick Ng, author of The Unspoken Rules: Secrets to Starting Your Career Off Right.

Ng says to begin by asking your peers casually, “Hey it looks like working from the office is going to be ‘as business needs arise.’ How are you thinking about the situation?” By taking the temperature of your co-workers, you’ll have a better sense of whether or not they’ve already come up with a plan, or if you could put out a united front to your manager. 

3. Talk to your boss. 

Set up a meeting to have a conversation with your boss. Instead of bringing in an ultimatum — “This is my plan; take it or leave it” — think of this conversation as a two-way street. 

“Ultimatums tend to make people defensive and trigger a reaction you never intended,” says Davey. Outline what a workable scenario for you might include, couched in a way that positions this schedule as a way for you to do the best work possible.

4. Understand that there will be consequences. 

Let’s say you succeed and you’re able to work from home much of the time, even if others on your team go back to the office. Though you may have retained some freedom, you’re likely going to miss out on things from not being where the action is. 

“People are wired for efficiency — they share intel at the water cooler because it's quick and easy,” says Davey. “Don’t expect people to reach out to you if you’re missing it.”