Austin, TX — Austin technology worker Deb Fortune received a surprising email ordering her back into the office next week. Ms. Fortune, who’s been working at home since the beginning of the COVID pandemic, assumed she was a permanent remote worker.
“After two years of remote work, exceeding all my goals, I thought this was the new normal,” Fortune said from her suburban Round Rock home. “It’s not like I was more productive in my cubicle. The only person who talked to me was my boss, and he’s located in Seattle.”
Like many on her team, Fortune worked remotely, having started the job in the pandemic. However, she adapted well, multitasking during virtual meetings and using the extra time to process AI data for her job. She also found extra time to spend with her family by not having to commute up to 2 hours daily.
In her CEO’s email, whom she had never met, Genie Hanson-Carols noted that the company’s culture was about inclusivity and teamwork, and achieving those goals would be impossible with remote work.
“We’re a Family”
“It’s not in your best interest to work remotely,” Hanson-Carols noted in her email. “Sitting in your pajamas every day isn’t what ComTech is about. Your work experience is more than a paycheck. It’s a family culture. And it can’t be a family over Zoom meetings.”
“It is about a paycheck, and Zoom meetings work well,” noted Fortune, who also has time to drive her children to school due to remote work.
Chris Yee, who’s been working at ComTech for the last ten years, says working from home has been a godsend. He said the ComTech culture mainly consisted of stolen food from the breakroom refrigerator, meetings with bad breath, and unwanted co-worker visits to his cubicle.
“Genie keeps calling me Randy, even though I keep reminding her my name is Chris. ‘It’s Chris, Genie, not Randy,’ and she’s like, ‘Oh, right. Next time.’ No one calls me Randy but her. She doesn’t even know my name but wants everyone back in the office for culture. Not happening.”
When reached for comment at her Key West “office,” ComTech communications director Bethany Millbright said it listens to and respects the needs of its employees. Still, it’s a company that thrives on direct human contact.