Workplace Forcing People Back to Office

I work in a large government agency. Staff have been working from home since May. It was recently decreed that everyone is expected to work from the office at least 60% of the time next year.

Management have ignored all the benefits that have become apparent from WFH, such as improved mental and physical wellbeing, saving time and money on public transport, increased flexibility, etc., all the while maintaining (if not improving) productivity and staying safe.

Practical matters such as staff needing to take crowded public transport back to work or caring for family members more vulnerable to Covid have been ignored.

Anyone else work for an organisation that likes to claim it's modern and progressive while being the exact opposite?


  • +160

    Not sure Id ever use 'organisation that likes to claim it's modern and progressive ' with any Gov agency.

    • +19

      Progressive only in the sense that the more you achieve in life, they progressively take more tax off you.

      • +2

        Also progressive in the sense that those who pay bribes by donating to ruling parties, get the laws that they want.

        ScoMo's ex-employers, the Property Council of Australia, are worried that their CBD properties are now worth less. So they're asking for everyone to return to the CBD:

        "The Property Council wants National Cabinet to implement a roadmap to revitalise CBD economies, including:*
        * a direction to return to workplaces with the public service leading a return to normal workplaces."

    • +7

      If the gov admitted they were ass backwards, I still wouldn't trust them.

    • +9

      To be fair, I have some knowledge about some work the Vic Gov is doing to establish "work hubs" in the suburbs to make things easier for people. They are looking at setting up 4 or 5 suburban hubs which will allow people from any Govt department to work in a decentralised environment. There are multiple benefits to this as already in the thread but I think its fair to say that governments are now changing their mentality about the whole WFH taboo.

      • +1

        I've heard talk of federal government agencies doing similar but it seems to just be talk with them at the moment.

      • Makes you think though - whats the point of a 'work hub'? Better to just work from home.

        • +1

          Also useful if something happens in the CBD or if public transport have any issues. Good as a business continuity plan. Also saves people some time (30mins instead of hour on the public)

        • +2

          Work place insurance. Equipment. Internet. Proper chairs and desks. Printers etc etc. Work from home is great until you get you first workers compensation claim because their chair is shit and it causes back pain/etc etc

    • -1

      nor any private

    • 'Progressive' in the politically correct sense…

  • +69
    • Express concerns to your HR. Speak about your particular situation.
    • Ask your colleagues to also speak up.
    • Talk to your union if there's one.

    If nothing works, either put up or move jobs.

    • +48

      Reading the whole thread. A lot of people are saying speak to HR; one guy even said 'get HR to fight your battle.'

      People little bit oblivious if they don't realise HR priorities are:

      1. The company.
      2. Investors
      3. Stakeholders
      4. ..
        x. ..
      5. You

      No company would ever have a HR department that's not putting the company first.

      As a WFH enthusiast I've already been back at the office for 2 months now and not enjoying that part. WFH had so many perks; fitness (I've already started to weight back on), $$ (both both parties), higher work efficiency, etc..Management doesn't really see it this way. They've thrown out a weak blanket excuses like we get better results when we collaborate in person. The kicker is my role really doesn't have any collaboration but then the discussion of '1-for-all, all-for-1' bravado. Leadership may have 0 merit in any counter points, but at the end of the day the company pays the bills and you got to play by their rules. It sucks but there's nothing you can do about it unless you move.

      • +3

        People like to shit on HR and I sometimes agree it can turn out like that but it's in very few cases. In the vast majority of cases they're either incompetent or helpful. Worst case outcome, OP's got concerns recorded on file and nothing changes. Best case outcome, HR works with them to reach an agreement. I feel there's no harm in reaching out to HR.

        • +5

          At my previous place HR was basically teacher's pet

          But yeah worth a shot, worst case they'll just sack you for some vague/financial reason

        • +1

          Very few people walk into a role, and are happy with the training they received.

          Because HR role directly impacts on fellow employees, their lack of knowledge/incompetence is much more noticeable

          I screw up in my job I send a correction and apologies

          HR screws up, its people jobs on the line

      • +1

        Meanwhile my work arent pushing it at all, we probably will end up a couple of days a week in feb onwards next year

      • +1

        This, Where i have worked, the HR is for management and the Union is for the employees / workers. THE HR DONT care about employees and will always help management get around the rules and not break them… I used to believe HR was about employees when i started working, i learnt after a few years that they are not. The only time they support employees is if a middle manager is completely breaking the law and the company can get into trouble and really at that point they arent still helping employees, they are protecting upper management by going after the middle manager. Has anyone ever seen HR go after upper management / top level management (without his boss asking them to)??

  • +189

    working 60% of the time in an office is still quite decent. That's 2 days a week WFH. I think we've gotten spoilt on the full time WFH that COVID has given us. There's still a lot of benefits for working in an office like easier networking, training and collaboration. My company is looking to bring everyone in to the office 100% of the time next year. Count yourself lucky.

    • +17

      Also economic benefits. Think about the cafes, shopping districts etc. located near and around working offices.

      • +16

        IMO this is offset by people spending more at cafes & restaurants in the burbs.

        • +11

          Yes. Why shouldn't suburban cafes, shopping centers, etc. benefit from people working from home instead?

          • +8

            @randombrick: Partly because if you work from home, you're more likely to eat something from the fridge for lunch, or get that quick coffee from the machine. This as opposed to someone grabbing a coffee and toast when they get off the train, a coffee and muffin on their tea break, sushi for lunch, an afternoon coffee, and something to last you the way home. Sure it helps the local Colesworth, but I don't think it has a huge effect on the local cafe.

            My last workplace in the city, most of the staff would get three/four coffees (+ lunch and snacks) a day. Do you go out for that when you're WFH?

            • +2

              @dizzle: What about the health benefits by not having that calorie laden muffin, and eating something fresh and healthy at home?

              • @darkmattersunB6c0MV: Not saying it's good, just saying WFH won't stimulate suburban businesses like working from the CBD helps CBD businesses.

          • +4

            @randombrick: Easy - I am one of many examples. I am way more likely to go to cafes etc with colleagues, clients being met in person, in transit etc than if I am at home. I have a coffee machine at home with the beans I like etc, food, - why would I go out by myself in the middle of a work day to seek out a resource I have in front of me. I am happily working at home without even had to put decent clothes on.

        • +24

          Exactly, plus it's ridiculous to make everyone spend days of their life on public transport just to prop up businesses in the city. Hopefully with people spending money locally people will get jobs in the 'burbs and not have to travel into the city themselves.

          • -5

            @Miss B: What about the public transport drivers? Theyll have 40% less passengers, so less work and less income. Many will perish.

      • +1

        It's an ancillary benifit sure, but not the main one. I would like to see as a society we move to WFH being more accepted. There will be lots of victims due to that and although regrettable society does need to make the transition.
        To me the argument is like stop the automobile to keep stable hands in the job.

    • +32

      I agree. I personally wouldn’t want to WFH more than 3 days. It makes collaboration really hard. I don’t care what people say, doing a zoom/teams call isn’t the same as face to face.

      Have you tried speaking with your manager to discuss your individual needs? Eg if you have young kids maybe you can do 3 days a week.

      all the benefits that have become apparent from WFH, such as improved mental and physical wellbeing

      I personally disagree with this but I understand why some people might like it.

      • +41

        Improved mental and physical wellbeing by doing nothing at home.

        • +16

          full time ozb

        • +17

          Improved mental and physical wellbeing by having no face to face social interaction

          we have computers and phones to avoid face2face social interaction, now we can avoid face2face work as well. Our transition to robots is almost complete

        • especially these Government agency. They do jack shit anyways.

        • +3

          Some people have lives outside of work.

          • +1

            @Miss B: Believe it or not work is for working, not managing your life (paying bills, texting friends, posting on twitter, taking long boozy lunches with friends from the other office, etc)

            A hybrid WFH would be the best scenario.

            • +13

              @DisabledUser239475: Exactly, work is for work, not social interaction. I can do that easily at home. I can now do other stuff on my breaks and with the time I would have spent on public transport. I don't go to work for the social aspect because I get that outside of work. In fact the social aspect at work is a bit overwhelming at times when I'm trying to work. This is where the improvement in mental and physical wellbeing comes in for some people.

              I get more work done from home than in the office. Not that it really matters, I endlessly get told how amazing the work I do is, from home or in the office. The quality and quantity.

              The company I work for has been impressed by the significant increase in productivity
              across the board and are working out the flexible working arrangements. Despite all this it's up to the area managers to decide and we've got a bit of a dinosaur who likes to watch people work. We had a successful work from home trial before and the report based on the numbers and surveying people working from home and in the office showed this. He said he didn't want to do it anymore and made them come back into the office full time. It's not the first time he's disregarded data in favour of his personal views. I have to hope the push from the company for flexible working arrangements is enough to override this.

              2 days per week in the office just because is reasonable. 3 days is pushing it, any more than that without a genuine reason is unnecessary. If people want to work in the office they should be able to whenever. Where there is a genuine business requirement, I'm happy to go in any time.

              • @Miss B: 110% benefits on both sides. I agree a 2/3 day at work and 2/3 day at home is a good balance.

                It does put more onus on managers to manage the teams productivity so people arnt just bludging around taking the piss of a WFH arrangement.

        • +1

          I loved doing my job at home, was happier, and more productive.

          The one thing my boss cant say about me WFH is that I dont work.

          The atmosphere matters. The location matters. Just ask those who cpuldnt wait to get back into the office.

          Lets discuss the pros and cons but the 'wfh is no work watching netflix' argument is a pitiful anachronism.

      • +15

        It should be called permanent flexibility. Not one rule for all, that's been the problem of the working life. If you want to go in, go in, no one is stopping you. That rule shouldn't force others to. Not only does it destroy productivity, but also has an effect on their wellbeing. We're all professional adults, why is the way we work being controlled for? It's like high school!

      • +2

        If you need to focus on your work, like I do, because I dont need much interaction with other people, and have 3 concurrent discussions around you in the office, then you might appreciate the silence at home.
        But of course if your job requires strong communication, then I can understand that zoom meetings are stressful.

        Zoom has something that some see as advantage ( me ) and some as disadvantage: Only 1 can talk.

      • +2

        I've found that collaboration can be better of worse remotely. It's worse if you're trying to replicate a face to face discussion - because a digital meeting is not the same with current tech. It's actually better if you're trying to do collaborative screen work - because looking over someone's shoulder isn't a good solutiong IME.

    • +5

      I do not think it's being spoilt. I think people are realising that enough is enough of controlling the employee. Let them decide how they want to work that best suits their working situation. If that means coming into the office, wearing a mask and being away from their team, then so be it. But if anyone thinks going back to the office like it was before, is delusional. What's the point if everyone is going to be away from each other wearing masks?

      • It should be a discussion, but ultimately the employer has been and will continue to exercise the most control in the relationship.

        Employers must compete for good employees, so if you don't like the environment… leave or start your own business.

        If businesses want to attract good people, they will have to compete on workplace flexibility just as they do in all other aspects of employment.

    • My office is saying 100% as well, but if "we want" we can commence an official Flexible Work Arrangement with HR if we have sufficient justification as to why we shouldnt be in the office. :(

    • It inadvertently gets people to leave their house, which is a + to mental health for most people

      Some of us have gotten too cosy WFH

      Theres the obvious get the slackers to do some work as well…

  • +8

    Corona wasnt strong enough

    • +5

      … to change our habits. I agree.

      I believe, that even after COV19, we will see people coming into the office sick ( and "soldier on" ) and infect other people.

      Has been like that for years, and Corona is not going to change that.

      And in case you are talking about the Corona beer …. I agree with that too. Corona beer is for girlies

      • +1

        also the Solar Corona doesn't burn people's eyes. not strong enough.

        • It’s because Solar minimum just started and we will have some fun with flares in few years when Sun ramps up the spot party.

      • I'll soldier on working from home.

      • +2

        I have been naming and shaming people who “soldier on” at work and even openly say I won’t be in the same room as whoever that is. It works if everyone does that to change culture.

  • +54

    become apparent from WFH, such as improved mental and physical wellbeing

    Interesting, I've heard a lot of people say otherwise.

    • +14

      If you're an introvert (which I assume op is), then yeah wfh would be good id think. But for the opposite, it'd be hell

      • +81

        Not just introverts like working from home, people with families have really benefitted from this. I'd hardly see my kids when working in the office 5 days a week, since working from home I see them in the morning, help them get ready for school, make breakfasts etc then at 5pm I take them to the local park and throw a ball, push them on the swings etc. Why would I now want to give that up to go and do something in an office that I can easily do at home?

        Overall I think employers need to be flexible and let people who want to come back to the office 5 days a week do so and also let people who like to work from home do that 2-4 days a week.

        • +10

          The problem here is, people think one rule should apply for all. It's a weird way of thinking and an obsession with controlling the employee. Let the employee decide what's best for them. Such a simple, democratic rule that's somehow been overlooked for some stupid reason.

          • +2

            @RocketSwitch: That is management by Objective. Ideal for Self sufficient employees, but a nightmare for Micro Managers.

          • +5

            @RocketSwitch: I've worked with many employees that shouldn't get to decide what works best for them. In many cases (I'm not saying every case) people will push boundaries and do the bare minimum. Even on Zoom meetings you often see when someone is distracted and most likely browsing facebook while not listening. Yes you can still manage their performance, but it is often harder to do that remotely because you can't witness their performance as easily.

            I've known staff that are responsible enough to decide for themselves, but they have to earn that right by being responsible and I certainly wouldn't make a blanket rule like "you decide how often you WFH".

          • +1


            Such a simple, democratic rule that's somehow been overlooked for some stupid reason.

            Workplaces aren't democratic. Your typical business or organization is structured the complete opposite.

        • +12

          "people with families have really benefitted from this"

          And that's part of the issue, it's always handed out in a very unfair and unequal way.
          Workplaces I've been at have always without question favoured parents or those with children for flexibility but have disregarded those without.
          This has been even more apparent during WFH where those with kids are never available, never online and have been expecting others to work around their new home schedule with very early mornings or late nights as the regular working day no longer suits them.
          Why should I be on 5am or 11pm meetings or replying to emails marked "urgent" at those hours because you suddenly don't want to work like the rest of the world had been working?

          • -5

            @91rs: A lot of people think this way, why should I pay more tax so that the government can use that towards childcare subsidies, it's a "lifestyle" choice for people who have kids.

            I thought like that too and never blame anyone like you who thinks the same now. But now that I'm a parent, I'm grateful the society and system works to helping us. Because at the end of the day it's really only temporary timeframe that parents need that extra flexibility and help, max say 4-5 years, until they are in school and they start becoming more independent as each year goes by, then they come out and work and pay taxes and contribute back to society.

            • +5

              @squaredonut: I didn't even bring up anything related to tax or handouts for parents.
              While something like half of the parents getting those payments are tax neutral its another discussion entirely.

              This was more specific to things I've seen in several work places which had been exacerbated during COVID with people with children who do even less work, are available much less and have gained quite some extra entitlement & seem to think that they can do as they please as they have children after COVID lockdowns and WFH.
              Very much along the lines of, oh we're not coming back to the office at all, while others (childless) are having to return to the office without choice.
              People with children who are 10-12 years old, not up until they start school, entitlement and favouritism that started before COVID for flexibility that has now been increased was we exit from this years events.

              • -2

                @91rs: Could it be that parents could be the ones asking for it because they more to lose i.e. quality time with their child?

                There are a lot of people that prefer WFH, are they entitled if they also ask for the same as parents are asking for?

                It sounds like some parents have abused the good will of their employer but it also sounds like you are making some big generalisations about parents.

              • +1

                @91rs: If you look at the national employment standards, flexible working arrangements have been available to parents of school aged children way before COVID came about. The law didn’t suddenly change due to COVID (in that respect.

                COVID made it more open for discussion because parents could no longer take kids to school and had to do a full time job whilst also doing homeschooling which was a big struggle for a lot of people. And obviously very unexpected and sudden.

                Your job seems to be the exception and not the rule. I’ve encountered (as a parent) a lot of discrimination in the work place. Having children doesn’t give perks as much as creates this stigma that your mind is not in the role of that you’re getting more benefits than you actually get. My boss is currently questioning whether I should take up more responsibilities because I “have family commitments”. This is because I requested to work from home one day per week because I’m way more productive at home (without interruptions) than I am in the office and want to save energy on travel time and social interactions. I’ve previously been made to feel that I’m getting special treatment for arriving in the office 30 min late to drop the kids off at school, without anyone noticing that I leave an hour late or skip on lunch 90% of the time.

                The solution is not to suddenly stop being understanding of parents and restrict their flexibility but open flexibility to all. As someone above said, we’re adults. Not children or teenagers. We get paid to do a job. If the role is getting done to the satisfaction or above then whether someone works from home or in the office or what hours they work shouldn’t come into play.

                Office hours are there for a reason. Regardless of the worker’s flexibility they should be available for meetings during business hours. This is the first time I’ve ever heard of anyone scheduling a meeting out of office hours to accommodate a parents schedule. Ever. In all my working career. It seems absolutely insane.

            • +1

              @squaredonut: It's not a "lifestyle choice" lmao. If various aspects of having children weren't subsidised, no one would do it (not no one… But very few).

              Can you foresee any potential issues with a dramatically decreasing population, that might warrant government intervention?

            • +5

              @squaredonut: Taxes and so on I an understand, but having to continually work a late shift because someone else has to do a school run and finishes every day at 3, or having to work more weekends because someone likes spends it with the kids, is stupid.

              That's the sort of flexibility I disagree with. If you can't do the same job as others, then you should find another job. If you need the weekends off, don't work a retail job that opens 7 days a week.

          • +9

            @91rs: I don't think anyone expects you to be on at 5am or 11pm if your standard hours are 9am - 5pm, if they do then I would look for a new job if I were you.

            • +1

              @onetwothreefour: Why would you send invites for meetings where you are not "optional" at those hours if you didnt expect people to turn up?
              Meetings that in the past week during normal business hours but now due to these parents new take on work / life balance are doing what works for them not others.
              Not sure I'd be looking to ditch jobs right now given the state of things in VIC, but will keep that in mind.

              • +3

                @91rs: Sounds like you have issues at your company, most companies are not like that.

                Never ditch a job unless you have a new one to go to, but yeah, maybe time to look around?

              • +2

                @91rs: Why wouldn't your reply that you are not available at 5am in the morning, but are happy to work standard work hours.
                If they dispute this, tell them waking up at 5am makes you tired for the rest of the day and hence less productive, but you are happy to have meetings during your work hours or up until a reasonable time at night.

            • +1
          • +10

            @91rs: Lots of people with kids at my workplace, many have had them home at least some of the time during lockdown. Occasionally they work different hours like they'll finish a couple of hours early or take a longer break and work at night, but meetings have always been during the work day. I've never been asked to work different hours because of it. They're happy for everyone else to do the same, like occasionally I'll start late if I want to do something before work, or take a longer lunch because I want to go and do something, then make up the hours later.

            The main impact has been kids popping up in the background during meetings, which hasn't been a problem and at times has been funny.

          • +2

            @91rs: That’s your misguided opinion. I have young kids and we don’t get any handouts. I’m more productive at home yet still spend some quality time with the kids. If I spend too much time with them I’ll make up the time. If I have a meeting on or something urgent I’ll politely tell them I’ll spend time with them afterwards. Clearly there are performance issues at your organisation that management need to deal with that sounds like they were there before COVID.

            Plus if you’re getting urgent emails at those times that isn’t normal at most organisations. If that’s the nature of your business to get them at that time then that’s fine but WFH would make it even easier to handle, if you set it up right and management deal with performance issues.

            • -2

              @billybob1978: "That’s your misguided opinion"
              Of course. My real life experiences are just an opinion and a misguided one at that apparently, those of friends who also are childless dealing with parents who have taken a very similar approach to their work / life in other companies this year are also just as misguided I expect.
              Parents can never do any wrong and can only tell the rest of us that we are /s

              I never started the tax or handouts conversation, however I can back it with info that shows that was the case.
              Yep its 2014, I had seen something dated 2016 but don't see how these numbers would have significantly dropped in 4-6 years.

              Don't believe me or tell me I'm misguided, I dont really give a sh!t. Clearly you're not part of that 48% or 85% group.

              • +3

                @91rs: Half of childless couples pay no tax and a quarter of families with children also pay no tax.

                So childless couples pay less tax than families with children.
                Is that your point?
                Perhaps we should be taxing childless couples?

                Your misguided because you are trying to tie in the tax system with a rant about working conditions.

                The two are separate things.

              • +2

                @91rs: He was clearly saying that you’re misguided in thinking that your experiences are the norm. Because, as per all the responses to you, they’re not.

                You know your experiences and you’re entitled to have an opinion. But we’re also entitled to tell you that our experiences differ and we think your opinion is wrong.

                A similar situation is smoking breaks. I remember in my first job, a lot of coworkers complaining that smokers got special treatment because they got to leave the office to have smoke breaks x times per day. Again. The solution isn’t to get rid of smoking breaks. It has been proven that taking breaks increases productivity. The solution is to stop the outdated biased thinking that good work performance means having your ass sitting in the office chair for exactly 7.6hrs per day.

                No employee should inconvenience others to suit themselves, if they’re doing that then they’re being shit. And if you’re employer supports that then he/she is also being shit.

          • +1

            @91rs: Actually in my case it was the opposite. Pre COVID and pre-baby I worked from home regularly without any questions. Post baby I’ve been questioned several times about how having a kid might interfere with my work at home. I have it all worked out so my kid is always cared for during the hours I do at home. I find people without kids are far worse for emails at odd hours - I would know I used to be that person (never urgent, just so happened to be when I was working) Bosses or colleagues who don’t have kids in my experience often email in the evening when those with kids are often wrapped up in family time or chill time. Either way, for non-urgent emails I’ve learned to draft them if I happen to be working out of hours then send during normal hours to set a good example for junior staff and promote a positive work culture.

      • +11

        I'm no means introverted and I have loved working from home full time.
        I have spent the best part of my baby's first year at home.
        Not many new dads get that opportunity.
        Same as onetwothreefour, we go to the park in the morning, and I just have to be back by 07:55 to make a coffee and get to work

        • +6

          How sad is it? All those parents who never go to spend that first year and a bit with their baby. I realise what I would have missed if it wasn't for COVID. Now that I know, it's truly tragic.

        • Paternity leave?

        • +4

          Not many kids get that opportunity either. It's been incredible for mine. Really eye opening to what fatherhood really could (and probably should) be.

      • +12

        Extroverts = People roaming the office and chatting all day. ==> Zero work done, Extrovert WFH, at least some work is done ( one might hope )

        • +3

          This is sooooooo true our PM talks so much we have less time to actually do our jobs.

        • -1

          Not really. I (at least think I) am an extrovert, but currently live alone.

          I work more hours at home but am more productive in the office. I like talking with people face to face and collaborating with solutions.
          I also enjoy the more varied food options near the office.

          Simply being in an environment where I am around others seems to suit me better, and so makes me productive. I still do enjoy my time alone, but trust me, most people clamoring for WFH are not enjoying "time alone".

      • Yes it’s absolute hell for me. My role has a lot of business development and pre COVID I would be travelling to all points of the city meeting clients. Zoom calls is just not the same and cannot wait the day I can go back to the office and see clients.

    • +7

      For some it's been good (my GF loves it and is more productive, better mental & physical health)

      Personally, I've gained 5kg not walking to/from station. WFH has also triggered some mental health issues.

      Despite this, I'm not interested in returning to the office either.

      • +8

        Walk to and from the station every day 😂

      • +1

        I've gained 5kg not walking to/from station.

        Same here.

        • Walk to and from the station every day 😂

    • +15

      Ended up working more while WFH than being in the office but the trade-off for the flexibility like dropping/picking kids up or go mow the lawn/clean up the pool right in the middle of the day is awesome.