It’s official: Vaccinated summer is off to a strong start, which means offices are slowly but surely opening back up for business. Last summer, companies like Google and Facebook pledged that many employees would be able to work remotely forever rather than return to an in-person gig, and many smaller companies followed suit. In some cases, companies promised “hybrid” working models, where employees could alternate days (or weeks, depending on the organization) spent either in-office, or working from home. But are companies really holding up their end of the deal?
This question was top of mind for me last week when my boyfriend and I planned a much-needed beach vacation for mid-July. His company is returning to a “hybrid” model starting July 6, so we’d planned to work remotely for part of our time away, and take vacation days for the rest. But when he went to confirm his days of remote work with his manager, he was met with unexpected pushback — he was told that his request to work remotely would need to get an official approval from the higher-ups. This was certainly a surprise for us, since he had been working remotely with no questions asked for the last 16 months. The situation left us wondering, what does a “hybrid” model really mean, if all remote work comes down to a request that must be scrutinized?
At HerMoney Media, we’ve fully embraced a remote work life. Since March of 2020, our small-but-mighty team has been living the WFH-life, and we’ll continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Honestly, we love it, and our team is stronger than ever — but what’s right for one company or set of bosses isn’t always right for another. All of this got me thinking about the reality of America’s “return to work” and what a hybrid model looks like in the majority of workplaces. I turned to our indomitable private HerMoney Facebook Group to see what many women’s return-to-office experiences have looked like these last few weeks. Here’s what they had to say.
“I think that it depends on your boss and senior management,” says Irena K. And she’s right. In her case, her employer sold two of the three buildings they worked from to make WFH the obvious choice for most employees. She says that the expectation is to be in-office one to two times per week, but her boss understands that things may evolve to a more need-based model, meaning that you come in on days when it’s necessary or would be beneficial for teamwork.
Patricia E., who works for her county’s government, can telework up to three days per week, and must be working in-office two days a week. Once she chooses her days, she will be expected to stick with them indefinitely. She says that she’s hoping for more flexibility as her organization works out any kinks with their hybrid model, but since the office has limited space, they’ll probably be more rigid for the foreseeable future.
For Terray B., their hybrid model is tied to their paychecks. “The amount you need to be physically in the office is dependent on your position, but at a minimum, it’s once per pay period (or 2x per month).” Recently, Terray booked a trip to Oregon for a week, and her supervisors let her know it was totally fine to WFH.
Beth P. is in a unique situation — her office is undergoing a major renovation, so their big “return to normal” won’t come until the end of the year. But once they hit that mark, it depends on each team’s manager to set standards for their team.
No hybrid model was offered for Rebecca V., who returned to her government job two weeks ago. “I am disappointed that no hybrid option was offered,” she says, adding that she’s now begun sending out job applications for new positions because of this.
Kat E. works for a non-profit organization, which went back to the office last August. They are truly flexible, and are allowing case managers to work from wherever, assuming they do not need to visit a client, she says. “It really helped employees whose children were doing virtual schooling.”
As a self-employed therapist, Michelle M. is taking cues from her clients when it comes to her flexible work schedule, since telehealth works well for some.
Meanwhile, Kaitlin F. says that she still has remote work flexibility, but is unsure if a 100% remote option will be offered to her in future, as would be her first choice. “Right now, my office is technically open, but going in is optional. I have stayed 100% remote and requested to stay that way. At first, it seemed like my manager might allow it, but increasingly, it’s being made apparent that they’re not going to grant anyone 100% remote status,” she says.
Heather T.’s office actually sent out a survey to see what their employees wanted to do, and, unsurprisingly, no one wanted to be in-person 5 days a week, so they’re working around that — TBD on what will be decided, but hopefully the company will listen to its employees!
Trudi G. is an essential worker and hasn’t had a single day away from the office. She’s looking at the positives of that, though: “I felt very blessed to be working when so many of my friends were trying to get unemployment after being let go from their jobs.” Trudi, thank you! (As much as we may complain about having our WFH privileges revoked, we know that it has been just that — a privilege! We are so grateful to everyone who kept our country going these last 16 months.)
Lastly, Wendy B. says she isn’t heading back in until September, and she truly believes that her company made that choice for the parents who are still facing hybrid-schooling models, and are now dealing with rambunctious kids who are home for the summer and looking to mom and dad to entertain them.
No matter what part of the country you work in, what’s clear is that there are myriad versions of hybrid models that companies are returning to. Talk to your managers and HR department to find out what is expected of you, and if what they’re requiring. If it doesn’t fit your needs, it might be time to get a new job. Companies are hiring right now, so you don’t have to stay stuck in a job you don’t like. As we head back into the office — and the real world — remember to be safe and listen to yourself and what you need. This last year changed everything for all of us. It’s okay to require a different set of rules than you did in the past.
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