Why don’t more biglaw attorneys refuse RTO? Forum

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Why don’t more biglaw attorneys refuse RTO?

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Oct 18, 2021 9:06 pm

I hate the idea of returning to the office. During the pandemic, we’ve proven that WFH works. Productivity is at an all time high. I’ve been able to live in a beautiful, LCOL place which has been significantly better for my mental health than the city. Being dragged back to the office feels like nothing more than a control/micromanagement issue of the very old partners who lived in their tiny windowless offices for years to make it and think we should have to do the same.

From speaking with others it seems like that is the general consensus among associates in my group and the vast majority of folks would prefer to stay remote.

I’m genuinely wondering why a significant number of us don’t simply refuse to return to the office. With the market the way they are, big firms are not going to fire people. What’s stopping people?

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Re: Why don’t more biglaw attorneys refuse RTO?

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Oct 18, 2021 9:37 pm

I could not agree more. It is insane to me that more attorneys are not pushing back. Most of us don’t want to make partner. What is the worst that could happen?

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Re: Why don’t more biglaw attorneys refuse RTO?

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Oct 18, 2021 9:39 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Mon Oct 18, 2021 9:06 pm
I hate the idea of returning to the office. During the pandemic, we’ve proven that WFH works. Productivity is at an all time high. I’ve been able to live in a beautiful, LCOL place which has been significantly better for my mental health than the city. Being dragged back to the office feels like nothing more than a control/micromanagement issue of the very old partners who lived in their tiny windowless offices for years to make it and think we should have to do the same.

From speaking with others it seems like that is the general consensus among associates in my group and the vast majority of folks would prefer to stay remote.

I’m genuinely wondering why a significant number of us don’t simply refuse to return to the office. With the market the way they are, big firms are not going to fire people. What’s stopping people?
I very strongly suspect RTO isn’t as unpopular as TLS would lead one to believe.

Also generally law firm associates are just rule followers.

Also to the extent people are going into the office, I’d assume people would be worried about being less favored I. relation to their peers who are getting
FaceTime with partners.

Edit: Accidental Anon, this is existential crisis.

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Re: Why don’t more biglaw attorneys refuse RTO?

Post by Anonymous User » Mon Oct 18, 2021 11:31 pm

Why not just not go in, if that’s how you feel? Or email a recruiter and ask for fully remote positions - there are more every day.

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Re: Why don’t more biglaw attorneys refuse RTO?

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Oct 19, 2021 6:40 am

Main thing: people are rule followers, especially people in law. Look at all the other aspects of the "new normal." Nothing has lasted nor will it last, aside from the points that the government is mandating. Anyone who thought we wouldn't be rushing back into the office as soon as it is possible was kidding themselves.

I haven't gone back into the office yet myself, while my entire group has, btw. But because everybody else has gone, I of course feel a good amount of pressure.

It's also important to note, a solid amount of people likes being in the office. There are scores of people who do not have friends, a partner (or a partner they want to be away from), etc. and for them the office is a nice place to socialize. The office lovers won't admit to this (who likes admitting they don't have any social contact outside of work or they're sick of their partner?), but it's what I've noticed.

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Re: Why don’t more biglaw attorneys refuse RTO?

Post by Elvis_Dumervil » Tue Oct 19, 2021 7:26 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Mon Oct 18, 2021 9:39 pm
Anonymous User wrote:
Mon Oct 18, 2021 9:06 pm
I hate the idea of returning to the office. During the pandemic, we’ve proven that WFH works. Productivity is at an all time high. I’ve been able to live in a beautiful, LCOL place which has been significantly better for my mental health than the city. Being dragged back to the office feels like nothing more than a control/micromanagement issue of the very old partners who lived in their tiny windowless offices for years to make it and think we should have to do the same.

From speaking with others it seems like that is the general consensus among associates in my group and the vast majority of folks would prefer to stay remote.

I’m genuinely wondering why a significant number of us don’t simply refuse to return to the office. With the market the way they are, big firms are not going to fire people. What’s stopping people?
I very strongly suspect RTO isn’t as unpopular as TLS would lead one to believe.

Also generally law firm associates are just rule followers.

Also to the extent people are going into the office, I’d assume people would be worried about being less favored I. relation to their peers who are getting
FaceTime with partners.

Edit: Accidental Anon, this is existential crisis.
This, obviously. Most people don't actually share the preference to live in the country. We prefer the city, and that's why cities have not actually emptied out in any meaningful way over the past 18 months (quite the opposite, judging by apartment prices and the quantity of new construction, at least in my city (and no, house prices in Jackson Hole are not an indication of the end of New York)). And, especially if you're in a city, it's often just much nicer to work in an office than your apartment.

Also, WFH has been technologically feasible for at least a decade. It's got to tell you something that essentially every industry has stayed office-centric.

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Re: Why don’t more biglaw attorneys refuse RTO?

Post by nixy » Tue Oct 19, 2021 8:20 am

Anonymous User wrote:
Tue Oct 19, 2021 6:40 am
It's also important to note, a solid amount of people likes being in the office. There are scores of people who do not have friends, a partner (or a partner they want to be away from), etc. and for them the office is a nice place to socialize. The office lovers won't admit to this (who likes admitting they don't have any social contact outside of work or they're sick of their partner?), but it's what I've noticed.
Lol, people can have friends/love their partners and still want to RTO.

Not saying no one meets your description, just that not all advocates for RTO are pathetic losers with no other social outlet.

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Re: Why don’t more biglaw attorneys refuse RTO?

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Oct 19, 2021 8:57 am

My firm has gone to a hybrid model, and I am happy to come back to the office because I don't like WFH. My apartment is small and my set-up/space, while manageable, is not as good as what I have at the office. And I also like being able to physically separate my home life from my work life. I found that work bled into home more than home into work, so in terms of spending time with family, it's actually easier to cut off work and be fully present with them when I am walking in the door as opposed to just closing my laptop and walking over to the couch. That said, if someone didn't want to come back to the office, I think they could probably get away with it for awhile and, given that fall-off in productivity from WFH has been disproven, I think it makes sense for firms to let people make informed choices about where to work based on their own circumstances. They won't do that, but they should.

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Re: Why don’t more biglaw attorneys refuse RTO?

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Oct 19, 2021 9:14 am

I'm fine with the de facto hybrid we have. There's pressure to come in, but no requirement. And most come it 2-3 days a week. If forced to choose between fully (ie 4-5 days, 9-6) in person v fully remote, I'd choose in person. Why? Bc how else am I supposed to develop relationships with partners and coworkers? Plus, home is not that great a place for me to work, bc other people live here too. I manage, but I like having an office that someone else pays the rent for etc.

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Re: Why don’t more biglaw attorneys refuse RTO?

Post by Anonymous User » Tue Oct 19, 2021 9:40 am

I've only been to the office a few days and the small windowless office with poor temperate control is already depressing to me, compared to my apartment with a view.

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Re: Why don’t more biglaw attorneys refuse RTO?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Oct 21, 2021 9:26 am

I've seen a lot of midlevels and seniors only come in for 1-2 days a week, only do 11-4 in the office, etc. Just because there aren't loud and public protests doesn't mean that people aren't resisting / refusing RTO. Their model seems to be "until somebody talks to me about it, I'm going to keep doing what I'm doing" and nobody has talked to them about it - why would they possibly kick up a storm?

I'm also kinda confused by the whole "you have nothing better to do with your time" point re: why some people like RTO. Like, my friends aren't available to hang out if I have a quiet hour between 1 and 2 on a given workday - it's the "working late to finish assignments" that limits my social calendar, and that's been just as true with WFH?

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Re: Why don’t more biglaw attorneys refuse RTO?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Oct 21, 2021 10:47 am

I'm a big WFH proponent and will continue WFH as I see fit (which was what I did pre-pandemic anyway, honestly).

However, the idea that every associate absolutely hates going into the office is just plain wrong.

First, I don't have kids/family distractions. It's extremely easy for me to work in a peaceful environment with the comforts of my home. This is not the case for people with children. This does not mean they don't love their families. You can love your family and recognize that it's a distraction that makes working more difficult for you. Sometimes they just need a few precious hours of quiet and peace that the office provides, and I don't think we should demonize them by saying they "hate their families/wives/personal lives".

Second, there's a bunch of first years going into the office. Some of this is probably fear induced as they're new and trying to make a good impression. There are definitely others that have expressed that they like coming into the office because (i) they don't know anyone in NYC so it's extremely lonely, (ii) they live in a studio apartment, so they feel trapped and lonely and (iii) they want to meet people and make friends. Most of the friends I started out with are gone at this point. But, I remember as a first-year it was fun to go in, hang out with the friends you made during your summer, go to after work happy hours etc. The current group of first-years didn't even have an in-person summer and are meeting their own classmates for the first time often.

Of course, they could just be telling me this because they see me as more senior, but I had already expressed to them that I've barely been coming in, do not plan to and strongly prefer WFH, so I doubt it.

Third, there are several associates at my class year and above without families who still come into the office. Our group has been extremely chill and there is no pressure to come in whatsoever. They just genuinely prefer going in.

I think this is a really really simple issue that people are overthinking. If you prefer to go into an office, go into an office. If you prefer WFH, then WFH. Stop forcing people to make a choice, treat them like adults and let them choose for themselves. Not everything has to be adversarial or one-way or the other.

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Re: Why don’t more biglaw attorneys refuse RTO?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Oct 21, 2021 12:02 pm

I've successfully pushed and gotten full time remote in another state. It's possible though helps to be more senior/trusted.

It would be unlikely for firms as a whole to have a significantly more flexible offering than their clients (which appears to be 3x/day in office).

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Re: Why don’t more biglaw attorneys refuse RTO?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Oct 21, 2021 5:27 pm

I think a lot of attorneys are refusing to return to the office; they're just not shouting it from the rooftops.

My firm is now on a 3 day in/2 days remote schedule, but nobody takes attendance, and I'd say right now folks are averaging only 1-2 days in per week. I know multiple attorneys in my group who have basically already said they're going to continue to work from home, and the partners in our group are completely fine with that. Personally I like coming into the office occasionally and am more productive, but not enough to offset being on the train 2+ hours a day most days.

My advice if you don't want to return is to just talk to the partners you work with. Some will care, but I am willing to bet most won't care all that much, especially in this market, after 18 months of WFM working out just fine.

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Re: Why don’t more biglaw attorneys refuse RTO?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Oct 21, 2021 6:07 pm

I’ve always been a strong advocate of WFH flexibility even pre-pandemic; post-clerkships, I chose my firm in large part because it stressed no facetime (again, prepandemic, when that was far less common) as opposed to my summer firms, which expected office attendance. And I too spent substantial portions of the past 19 months in rural places and at my childhood home, saving many months of rent.

That all being said, I started going in 1-2 times a week after Labor Day and it’s fine. No one pressures or expects any more (yet), and it allows me to focus the days I do go in each week on seeking out certain people to meet and connect with or go out with in the office area after work. I then value the days that I don’t go in—still a majority—because I can use the time saved on the commute/preparing work attire to run/work out/ect. I have an S/O (also WFH) and child at home who I am neither trying to avoid nor required to supervise five days a week. All told, there are a lot of things about biglaw that suck and that will probably drive me out relatively soon, but my WFH/RTO situation isn’t one of them.

I feel like a lot of people are in my situation (or something similar), and that’s why you’re not hearing a huge outcry or mass boycott over return to work policies. We’re just generally okay going in a couple days with the flex models our firms have adopted. Tellingly, of all the many conversations I’ve had with friends and colleagues about returning to the office, not one has cited concern about contracting COVID-19 as a reason for WFH. Nor would that concern be credible even if expressed when those same people hardly seem concerned about coronavirus safety in their personal lives. Instead, the most die-hard WFHers are people who don’t want to live anymore in the location of their office, and for whom any form of return presents a material inconvenience. So, while I’m sympathetic to that feeling—the pandemic has changed all our lives, often in dramatic ways—I’m not sure it’s a particularly good pitch to management. Nor, to be frank, can I say in good faith that management is totally evil in questioning why people who refuse to live in DC or New York should continue working at DC and New York law firms. Again, there are so many critical flaws in the culture of biglaw. The bare minimum concept that you live in a commutable vicinity of where you work is not one of them.

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Re: Why don’t more biglaw attorneys refuse RTO?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Oct 21, 2021 7:52 pm

I am lateraling as a direct result of my firm requiring us to come back five days a week. I am currently getting away with four days but I don’t know how long that will last. I am genuinely miserable going in. I am more productive and efficient at home, and my mental and physical health are so much better.

I would probably stay if I could go in two days a week indefinitely, sometimes three, but my firm refuses.

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Re: Why don’t more biglaw attorneys refuse RTO?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Oct 21, 2021 8:40 pm

I also lateraled because my firm (e.g., DPW/Debevoise/Cleary) had an antiquated 4-5 day in office policy. Doesn't make sense to me--indeed the partner who did my exit interview stated explicitly that she/he was not going to come in at all despite the policy... didn't see why I had to drag my @ss back in if the partner who I did a lot of work for wasn't even going to be in the office. Vote with your feet people.

Oh and to be clear, I lateraled to a place that has allowed me to work fully remote. Thank you old-school firms/dying dinosaurs for forcing my hand and allowing for better balance!

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Re: Why don’t more biglaw attorneys refuse RTO?

Post by LBJ's Hair » Thu Oct 21, 2021 9:08 pm

can one of the primary-WFH-ers explain to the rest of us what you hate about working in-office?

I get saving time on commute. I'd quit before I'd commute 45 min each way.

I also get it if you're open floorplan. makes doing your job absolute shit

but if you're 20 min from work and have some privacy, why do you want to stay home most days
Last edited by LBJ's Hair on Thu Oct 21, 2021 9:20 pm, edited 4 times in total.

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Re: Why don’t more biglaw attorneys refuse RTO?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Oct 21, 2021 9:13 pm

LBJ's Hair wrote:
Thu Oct 21, 2021 9:08 pm
my personal theory is if you hate working in BigLaw you hate RTO, and if you generally like working at a large firm you prefer at least some in-office time to full remote
Anon above who is lateraling due to forced five days a week in the office. I actually really enjoy my job. It has its downsides of course, but I like the work, the fast pace, and most of the people.

I won’t do it forever because I just don’t want to work this much forever, but it’s totally fine for now.

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Re: Why don’t more biglaw attorneys refuse RTO?

Post by LBJ's Hair » Thu Oct 21, 2021 9:16 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Thu Oct 21, 2021 9:13 pm
LBJ's Hair wrote:
Thu Oct 21, 2021 9:08 pm
my personal theory is if you hate working in BigLaw you hate RTO, and if you generally like working at a large firm you prefer at least some in-office time to full remote
Anon above who is lateraling due to forced five days a week in the office. I actually really enjoy my job. It has its downsides of course, but I like the work, the fast pace, and most of the people.

I won’t do it forever because I just don’t want to work this much forever, but it’s totally fine for now.
yah I edited before you posted, thought about it a little more

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Re: Why don’t more biglaw attorneys refuse RTO?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Oct 21, 2021 9:27 pm

LBJ's Hair wrote:
Thu Oct 21, 2021 9:08 pm
can one of the primary-WFH-ers explain to the rest of us what you hate about working in-office?

I get saving time on commute. I'd quit before I'd commute 45 min each way.

I also get it if you're open floorplan. makes doing your job absolute shit

but if you're 20 min from work and have some privacy, why do you want to stay home most days
Why wouldn’t I? I don’t have to waste a precious hour of my day getting ready and commuting both ways. I can wear comfy clothes. I can hang out with my dog, I can grab lunch with my spouse (also wfh) if I have a slower day. And my life is just easier - I don’t have to plan when to come home to take my dog out or worry about a dog walker, I can throw in a load of laundry between calls, I can workout during a slow period. I can actually take advantage of slow days now, and busy days are much easier - everything from using the restroom to getting coffee and snacks takes a minute at home but takes five minutes in the office. I am also more efficient and productive at home.

Why would I want to sit in a cold, depressing office in a dress and heels, eating lunch at my desk when I could be in sweatpants at home cuddling my dog? In a beautiful and comfortable home office?

98% of the time when I go in, no one comes by my office and I don’t go by theirs (I often do a lap just to get some steps in, but people have their doors closed or are on calls, and clearly don’t want to be interrupted). Maybe if your office is more social, going in is more enjoyable. Or if you are in a new city and trying to make friends and meet your colleagues.

But for me, I get zero benefit going into the office. I just waste time and get genuinely depressed sitting there in uncomfortable clothes in a sad office (which I’ve tried decorating!) huddled under a blanket because it’s so cold.

Also, the flexibility allows me to spend more time with my aging parents who live across the country. I can work remotely from their house for two weeks and spend time with them.

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Re: Why don’t more biglaw attorneys refuse RTO?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Oct 21, 2021 9:59 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Thu Oct 21, 2021 9:27 pm
I don’t have to waste a precious hour of my day getting ready and commuting both ways. I can wear comfy clothes and not have to do my hair or wear makeup. I can hang out with my dogcats, I can grab lunch with my spouse (also wfh) if I have a slower day and eat out of my fridge/cook instead of having to pack leftovers or go buy food. And my life is just easier - I don’t have to plan when to come home to take my dog out or worry about a dog walker, I can throw in a load of laundry or prep stuff for dinner between calls, I can workout during a slow period over lunch and either shower in my own bathroom with all my stuff, or stay grungy in my workout clothes and no one will know or care. I can play music I like without wearing headphones.
I edited a few things (and can't even use the commute as a reason because mine is really short) but overall completely agree. This is going to sound dumb, but I never resented the different expectations re: women's appearance vs. men's appearance as much as when I stopped having to do the whole rigamarole every day. It takes my husband 5 minutes to shower, dry off, and put on clothes. It takes me 30-45 minutes depending on how much effort I want to put in and then I have to worry throughout the day about how my hair looks and if my makeup is okay. I get that no one is literally *making* me do these things, but that doesn't mean they don't matter. And yeah, work clothes are less comfortable and my climate control at home is much better than in the office - I went home halfway through the day today because my office was so cold.

I'll admit that there are times I am more efficient in the office, and when I want to run questions by people, it's easier if I can wander by their office and see if they're free than having to pick up the phone. Certain kinds of work is easier for me in the office, there is less fun stuff there to distract me, and I might be getting a teeny bit agoraphobic from staying home so much. So I get a lot of the RTO arguments, too. And I also acknowledge that I can say all this because I have a comfy and spacious home office - if I were trying to work in a corner of a NYC apartment living room I'd probably much prefer the office.

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Re: Why don’t more biglaw attorneys refuse RTO?

Post by Wild Card » Thu Oct 21, 2021 10:22 pm

LBJ's Hair wrote:
Thu Oct 21, 2021 9:08 pm
can one of the primary-WFH-ers explain to the rest of us what you hate about working in-office?

I get saving time on commute. I'd quit before I'd commute 45 min each way.

I also get it if you're open floorplan. makes doing your job absolute shit

but if you're 20 min from work and have some privacy, why do you want to stay home most days
lol I think most ppl commute 45m each way and work open office, and life is absolute dogshit: that's the point.

I used to live a five minute walk from work, which cost me $2,200 per month. But a studio anywhere in MFH will run you around that much.

certainly not looking forward to that again. what a heartbreaking and shameful waste of money.
Last edited by Wild Card on Thu Oct 21, 2021 10:48 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: Why don’t more biglaw attorneys refuse RTO?

Post by JusticeChuckleNutz » Thu Oct 21, 2021 10:37 pm

Anonymous User wrote:
Thu Oct 21, 2021 9:27 pm
LBJ's Hair wrote:
Thu Oct 21, 2021 9:08 pm
can one of the primary-WFH-ers explain to the rest of us what you hate about working in-office?

I get saving time on commute. I'd quit before I'd commute 45 min each way.

I also get it if you're open floorplan. makes doing your job absolute shit

but if you're 20 min from work and have some privacy, why do you want to stay home most days
Why wouldn’t I? I don’t have to waste a precious hour of my day getting ready and commuting both ways. I can wear comfy clothes. I can hang out with my dog, I can grab lunch with my spouse (also wfh) if I have a slower day. And my life is just easier - I don’t have to plan when to come home to take my dog out or worry about a dog walker, I can throw in a load of laundry between calls, I can workout during a slow period. I can actually take advantage of slow days now, and busy days are much easier - everything from using the restroom to getting coffee and snacks takes a minute at home but takes five minutes in the office. I am also more efficient and productive at home.

Why would I want to sit in a cold, depressing office in a dress and heels, eating lunch at my desk when I could be in sweatpants at home cuddling my dog? In a beautiful and comfortable home office?

98% of the time when I go in, no one comes by my office and I don’t go by theirs (I often do a lap just to get some steps in, but people have their doors closed or are on calls, and clearly don’t want to be interrupted). Maybe if your office is more social, going in is more enjoyable. Or if you are in a new city and trying to make friends and meet your colleagues.

But for me, I get zero benefit going into the office. I just waste time and get genuinely depressed sitting there in uncomfortable clothes in a sad office (which I’ve tried decorating!) huddled under a blanket because it’s so cold.

Also, the flexibility allows me to spend more time with my aging parents who live across the country. I can work remotely from their house for two weeks and spend time with them.
You nailed it -- Sums up my feelings exactly. You hit on all the aspects that make WFH optimal for me.

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Re: Why don’t more biglaw attorneys refuse RTO?

Post by Anonymous User » Thu Oct 21, 2021 11:47 pm

There are people refusing to come in at my v10 and the issue has thus far not been forced. Every week more people quit because of how generally unappealing the lifestyle is; there is no leverage to force people in. No one has been talked to about not showing up so far and no indication the issue will be forced in near issue. Plenty of us have been in 0 times in past 6 months. Firm will see immediate departures if forced and this is implicitly obvious.

Generally the most fearful associates have gone in and the associates who, to me, are the most boring and who I don't imagine have a lot going on in their personal lives. Also the true partner gunners eagerly have shown up to kiss ass. Frankly the RTO people are generally losers to me, but that reflects my value set. Like I see a lot of people here talking about 'oh people are going in 1-2 days a week'; that would be more than a lot of me and my peers. You just decide not to go in... and don't. No one is going to fire you in this market.

Anyone going in recognize its purely your choice.

Seriously? What are you waiting for?

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