Confessions   //   September 29, 2023

‘The CEO doesn’t trust us’: Employee confessions on how RTO is causing divisions

Employee resentment can bubble up quickly at work. That might happen even faster when a workforce doesn’t have solid policies around who gets to work from home and who has to go into the office. 

In fact, Chekr’s new 2023 State of the Workplace Survey found that 72% of American office workers, agreed that they should be paid more than remote workers and 71% believe they might be more valuable than remote workers. Hybrid models leave workers to recognize the perks, and drawbacks, of being both remote and in-person. 

For our latest Confessions instalment, in which we trade anonymity for candor, we spoke to two individuals on each side of the spectrum. The first is a marketing manager who works remotely just outside of New York City who has to keep working even when she sees the “it’s time for lunch” Slack messages for the in-office workers. The second works in HR for a New York City-based construction company that requires everyone in the office five days a week – except executive management. 

These conversations have been edited and condensed for clarity.

Employee #1: Working from home, missing in-office perks

Your company has a radius rule where people within 50 miles need to go into the office. You’re 60 miles away. Do you think coworkers resent you for not having to go in?

There’s one person who lives maybe 45 miles away from the city, so he still has a far commute and he’s suggested that I could come in if he is. People do feel a way about it. They make comments like “Oh wow, look who is here” on the days that I do come in. 

On the flip side, do you resent their in-office experience?

It depends. I work better at home for sure. I don’t get much done in the office. The things that I do get done are quick things like emails, but not project-based where I block off an hour and a half to get it done. But the in-office workers get perks. They get tickets to special events, go to summits, things like that. They are offered to the people there in person way more. And they get lunch more often than us. When I want to eat out, I pay for that stuff on my own. They just get more attention because they’re physically there. I see them send on Slack “we are going for lunch now,” but I’m over here working through lunch. Maybe I’ll eat at 3 p.m. if I have time. They send that message at 11:30 a.m. and it’s like, the day just started and they’re already breaking. It’s just little things. It would be nice if we got a stipend even for lunch once a week or other perks for remote people who might be working harder. People kind of forget we exist. One of my former colleagues would tell me she got nothing done in the office and would vent about it because of all the random things they’d have to do instead. 

What’s it like when you do go into the office?

It depends on the setup. If I go in, and there’s no desktop for me, then I’m only working on one monitor and my productivity is shot. And then I feel like I’m dragged into more random things since people physically see me. It’s hard to get into flow when I’m there. And when I go in, it’s usually for a specific reason and have that going on. It’s definitely less productive. One time leadership came up to me and said “you speak Spanish, right? OK, can you translate this for tomorrow,” and my whole day was thrown off. They probably wouldn’t have given that to me if I wasn’t in the office. There’s so many more people interrupting to be like “I have a question” and then the actual tasks I have to do get pushed until later on.

Employee #2: Working from the office, longing for flexibility

Do you feel like you need to be in the office?

There is no reason for me to be in the office nine hours a day. I almost have nothing to do after 3 p.m. I’m not saying let my day end at 3 p.m., but give me some flexibility. I don’t need an hour’s lunch at work, 30 minutes is more than enough, and it would allow me to go home 30 minutes earlier. My commute is over an hour and is $100 a week, which they also won’t cover.

What feelings come up when you’re required to be in the office, but the rules don’t apply to everyone?

All of the regular workers are in the office, but executive management are in and out of the office as they please. There is no option for anyone else to work from home ever. So if I have any other obligations, I have to take a sick day or vacation day. It makes me angry because work from home was really important to me to also balance home responsibilities. I had a fever one day, but the only reason I couldn’t work was because of the commute. If they allowed it, I could’ve done the job from my bed and not taken a sick day. I had that at my last job. Now, I see people just work from home when they need to do things with their kids, for example. But if I have to do something at home, it comes out of my PTO. And we only have seven sick days and five vacation days. It feels corrupt. 

Most companies have found hybrid as a solid solution. Have they looked into this?

The head of HR brought up the idea of work from home and flexibility to the CEO in a meeting and he said no. She even gave him a cost breakdown of the money he would be saving. I barely see him in the office. They think having a snack bar is enough to attract us to the office and help our productivity. It’s a nice office, but it’s not necessary. I’d rather be at home. It seems like the CEO doesn’t trust his employees to do their job and I don’t think they value their employees. But I’m burnt out with the commute. I work, go home, sleep and repeat because I’m so exhausted. I’ve been applying for new jobs like I’m unemployed.