sharing a hotel room when you snore, coworker heats up fish in the office microwave, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. I have to share a hotel room at a conference, and I snore

I have a question that’s kind of a variation on the “my employer is asking me to share a room” question you often get. My employer (who is otherwise pretty awesome — I know everyone says that, but it’s true!) is requiring that employees share a room for an upcoming conference. I already tried to push back on this by bringing it up with my manager, but without success (he was sympathetic but unable to change the plans, which were made for budgetary reasons). Thankfully, I’m only likely to travel under these circumstances once a year if that, so it’s not a major problem, just a week-long inconvenience.

The problem is this: I snore. Occasionally I don’t snore, sometimes I snore not so badly, but sometimes it’s pretty bad. I mentioned this to my boss when I was discussing the arrangements, and he said that he’d mention that to the people doing the planning but he didn’t have a lot of hope it would change anything, so neither do I.

(Since I imagine it will come up in comments: I am under a doctor’s care for my snoring, but the root cause is not yet known, and even once it is the treatment may not be quick or easy, as it might require surgery; I can’t rely on getting a medical solution to this before the conference. I can mitigate it somewhat with a humidifier and nose strips, and by avoiding alcohol and antihistamines in the evening, but those steps don’t completely eliminate the snoring.)

Assuming that I am still snoring by conference time, and we are still required to share rooms, what should I do? If I was my coworker (I don’t yet know which coworker I’ll be rooming with) I’d be really upset to have my sleep disturbed nightly, especially during something as already-stressful as a work trip, but I can’t do anything about that short of pay for my own room on my own dime, which I’m not willing to do. Should I apologize up front? Provide ear plugs? Bring a white noise machine (do those work to mask snoring)? Buy her coffee and chocolate every day in an attempt to make up for hacksawing through her sleep?

This question is honestly causing more stress than the conference itself, so I’d love to know what you think!

Agggh, this sucks of your employer. They’re saying that they’re willing to risk one of you getting no sleep for an entire week, because they’re not willing to spend a relatively small amount more? That’s horrible.

Once you know who your roommate is assignment is, talk to that persona right away. Explain the situation, say that you’ve tried to push your employer to change the arrangement and gotten nowhere, and suggest that you both talk to them together. Then, when you do that, don’t hold back — say that you’ve been told in the past that it can be impossible to sleep in the same room as you, say that you’re not willing to do that to a coworker on a week-long trip, have your coworker say she’s not okay with being sleep-deprived, and basically dump this back in their lap and insist they do something. The words to use are, “Given that it’s not reasonable to expect someone to go without sleep for days in a row, we’re going to need to put me in a separate room. What’s the best way to arrange that?”

If they still won’t budge, you’re going to have your to reconsider your assessment of your employer as awesome, because this is BS.

2. Coworker heats up smelly fish in the office microwave

How can we handle a coworker who heats up canned tuna or salmon every day in the small break room microwave? This drives everyone else out of the break room. She either doesn’t notice, or doesn’t care (personally I think it’s both).

My coworkers want to do something. I say nothing can be done. My supervisor is very hands-off and he would never get involved.

Is someone willing to say this to her: “Jane, when you heat up fish in the microwave, the smell is very strong. It lingers and makes it unpleasant to be in the break room. Any chance you can eat it without heating it up, or bring it in less frequently?”

And for what it’s worth, lots of offices do ban particularly smelly foods in the microwave, so you’re not asking for anything outrageous.

3. My coworker is giving people bad info when he trains them

I have a new coworker, Sally, who recently started in my remote office after a week of training with Mike at our headquarters. The week of training with Mike is meant to be a baseline procedural and systematic training, and then the nitty gritty everyday stuff is handled locally, in this case by me.

As I’ve been going through things with Sally, several instances have come up where the information or procedures she received from Mike is wrong. In many cases these are clear, written out procedures and policies (i.e., if a person has a certification X, we need to have form Y on file for them) that he told her incorrectly.

Normally I’d chalk it up to her taking notes incorrectly during training, but after I started there were several similar instances where I had bad training. In addition, my department has recently grown quite a bit and we’re hiring several new employees so I’m worried they’re ALL getting bad training.

Mike is senior colleague to me (in title, age, and longevity with the company), and we both report to the same boss. In the past Mike has been pretty unwilling to admit fault or I would just point this out to him. How can I (or should I) bring this up?

If Mike has handled it badly when you’ve talked to him about problems with his work in the past, then Mike has forfeited the right to have you take this to him before talking to your boss. And this is definitely boss-worthy. Talk to your boss and say something like this: “I’ve noticed a pattern of people having errors in their training when they train with Mike. For example, X and Y and Z. If it were just once or twice, I wouldn’t worry about it, but it’s enough of a pattern that I wanted to mention it to you since I think it’s impacting the way multiple people are getting trained.”

Alternately, if you do want to talk to Mike first, you could say it this way: “I’ve noticed some areas where I think people need more training. I’ve seen misunderstandings around X, Y, and Z. When you’re training people, could you make a point of stressing correct procedures in those areas since it’s something people have been struggling with?”

But if you see any more of it after that, talk to your manager.

4. Time off for a kidney donation

I’ve got a sort of odd question. I’m considering donating a kidney (not to a relative or anyone particular) and I’m wondering how much and when I should involve my work in my decision.

My understanding is that the surgery typically involves one to four weeks of recovery. My benefits include two weeks of paid sick leave, so I’d likely use that up and possibly require more time off, which I could either take unpaid or use paid vacation for.

Two consecutive weeks off would have a big impact on my office (we’re a news organization, so missing anyone for a week makes us a bit short). If I needed surgery for medical reasons, this wouldn’t worry me, but since this is an elective decision, it feels different. Should I ask for permission to do the donation? Give my boss input on timing? Or just tell them I’m doing it when it’s scheduled?

They’re not required to let you take unpaid time off, and some places won’t okay that, so you should talk to your boss now to figure out logistics. Explain that you’re planning on doing it, explain how much time off you’ll need, and ask if you can take part of it unpaid if need be.

And if people don’t typically take two weeks in a row off, then yeah, it would probably help to ask if there’s a particularly good or particularly bad time to do it, if you’re able to control the timing.

You’re not asking for permission to do the kidney donation; you’re asking if they’ll be able to accommodate the time off you’ll need.

5. Are mental health days a legitimate use of sick time?

I’d like to get your thoughts on the “legitimate” use of sick time. I am the primary caregiver for my mom, who has dementia, and sometimes I experience extreme caregiver burnout. When this happens, I occasionally take a sick day as a mental health day. This helps me out a lot, but I usually feel guilty afterwards for taking advantage of sick days because I’m not actually sick. I do have PTO in addition to sick time, but I really try to protect that for true vacations for myself, rather than using it because I’m exhausted and having a hard time pulling myself together.

Is mental health a legitimate use of sick time? If so, how do I position this to my boss? I feel obligated to mention high-level what I’m sick with, but taking a “mental health day” is so taboo.

Speaking of taboo, what’s with the sentiment that not taking sick days makes you a better employee? A lot of people will mention something along the lines of, “I’ve only missed X number of days during my tenure,” like it’s a great asset. Am I a bad employee for using my sick time and PTO?

Yep, it’s a perfectly legitimate use of sick time. You’re also not obligated to mention what you’re sick with, even in broad terms. In non-dysfunctional offices, it’s fine to simply say, “I’m under the weather so taking a sick day today.” No details are necessary, nor should they be solicited.

And no, you’re not a bad employee for using your sick time and PTO; that’s what it’s there for. Taking care of yourself mentally is as legit as taking care of yourself physically. Of course, when you have some wiggle room on the exact day you pick, you should pick responsibly — don’t pick a day that’s going to have a big impact on your work or on other people, to the extent that you can avoid it. Presumably you’d do the same thing when you schedule, say, doctor’s appointments too.

People who talk about leaving part of their benefits package unused as if it’s an admirable thing are doing a crappy disservice to everyone, themselves included.

{ 594 comments… read them below or add one }

  1. LadyL

    OP#1: Talking to the potential roommate does seem like the best plan, for all the reasons Allison covered, of course, but also it could be possible she’ll be a heavy sleeper and won’t be bothered by your snoring. Even if your roommate isn’t, would it be possible to trade roommates for one that is (I inferred from the question that more co-workers are attending than just the two)? Unless you’d be uncomfortable sharing a room regardless, a heavy sleeper seems like an easy solution to everything.

    Reply
    1. Willis

      Yeah, I’m a pretty heavy sleeper and, given the situation, would be fine sharing a room with a snorer or swapping to avoid a co-worker not being able to sleep. Snoring is not that uncommon of an issue, so there may be folks at OP’s office who are either snorers themselves, or used to sharing a room with one.

      Reply
    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      Are there people who really can sleep through it, even if they’re normally heavy sleepers or snorers themselves?

      I once shared a hotel room with a friend who snored, and it was hellish. I couldn’t sleep the whole night. Tried sleeping on the bathroom floor at one point and could hear her through the walls. Was exhausted the whole trip.

      I guess it’s possible someone could sleep through heavy snoring, but it sounds like an absolute nightmare to me. I just don’t know why anyone should have to risk it.

      Reply
      1. Jessica

        Yeah, we exist! And Younger Me probably would have doubted the existence of people who couldn’t sleep with someone snoring in the next room, people who need a lengthy and elaborate routine to be able to get to sleep at all, people who wake up at the least little thing, people who can’t get back to sleep if once they’re woken up… but I’ve learned that all those people do exist! Their reality is a lot different than mine, but it is what it is. Humans are a diverse bunch–and that’s part of the reason you shouldn’t make people share hotel rooms on work trips!

        Reply
        1. KP84

          My brother-in-law could sleep through a tornado. Once when my mom was staying at their place, her dog fell down the steps late at night. The dog howled, my sister’s dog howled, my mom and sister freaked out and screamed and it was absolute chaos. My brother-in-law slept through it all.

          My sister is legit worried that if there ever is a fire when she is away from home, he will not wake up to the fire alarm.

          Reply
          1. JustaTech

            As a kid I slept through the smoke detector going off outside my bedroom door. So did my dad (I guess I get the heavy sleeping from him). That said, my dad snores like a freight train and the last I shared a hotel room with him it was a nightmare.

            Reply
      2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        It’s possible, but I often recommend folks in this situation bring earplugs, if they can tolerate them (I can’t—ear plugs all night literally make my ears bleed).

        I cut both ways on this. I’m a deep sleeper, but not usually when I’m traveling. And even if I’m relaxed enough to sleep well, if I can’t get into deep sleep before the person starts snoring, then I won’t be able to sleep at all for the entire night. And being sleep-deprived is hellacious and breeds resentment, even if you know it’s not your coworker’s “fault” that you can’t sleep.

        Reply
        1. Drew

          Earplugs work VERY well for me at blocking outside noises. Unfortunately, I have chronic tinnitus, so earplugs mean that *all* I hear is the tinnitus, and that’s worse than snoring or traffic or even construction zones right outside the window.

          To the OP: I wish you luck. I’ve found a couple of coworkers who don’t seem to object to my snoring, but I’ve had plenty of others who commented fairly sharply on it the next morning, too.

          Reply
          1. Yetanotherjennifer

            I can sleep through heavy snoring as long as I fall asleep first. My husband is a heavy snored and so I sleep with earplugs most nights. Oddly enough, earplugs help me fall asleep with tinnitus. Somehow isolating the sounds down to just my tinnitus turns it into a background noise and makes it easier to ignore.

            Reply
            1. VroomVroom

              Same. I shared a room with my sister until I was 13 and she snored (light snoring, mostly just loud breathing). I found it fairly comforting actually since it was present during my formative years.

              My husband can occasionally be a light snorer if he sleeps in certain positions. It usually doesn’t bother me, but if he’s drunk any alcohol beyond a glass of wine or two it can progress beyond ‘light’ to ‘heavy.’ On those nights he gets a punch and told to rollover. Don’t worry – he never remembers it.

              Reply
            2. Michaela T

              Yup, that’s our system. My SO and I both snore, so if one of us is really needing a good night’s sleep we’ll ask the other for an hour head-start.

              Reply
              1. Working Mom

                I am the same way – I am naturally a very deep sleeper. If I fall asleep first, the snoring would have to be rattling-the-windows loud to wake me up. (Like when my in-laws visit, haha.)

                Reply
          2. the gold digger

            What kind of earplugs are you using? I have some foam earplugs that muffle the sound of Primo’s snoring but do absolutely nothing for the Cat Alarm of 5:00 a.m., 5:05 a.m., 5:10 a.m., etc.

            (They will also muffle the soothing sound of a jet engine while letting in the piercing shriek of a crying baby perfectly well.)

            Reply
            1. Catalin

              Not for everyone, but wax earplugs (little balls of wax you use to cover the inside of your ear) have been the best sound control. It doesn’t COMPLETELY solve the problem, but it’s better than foam.

              Reply
              1. DMD

                I agree. I used to use foam earplugs, but they started to hurt my ears and give me ear infections. I switched to wax earplugs. It took me a few days to get used to them and figure out the best way to mush them around to fit, but they work. There are also ones you can buy that will allow you to custom mold the earplugs to your ears — reasonably priced. I tried it once but somehow managed not to get the fit right before they solidified. Been meaning to try it again.

                Reply
              1. ceiswyn

                I also have the cat alarm. One of three available options, all 18 years old. I’m reluctant to use earplugs to drown them out in case I miss genuine distress…

                Reply
        2. Ramona Flowers

          Serious question: if you wear earplugs how do you wake up? As you presumably won’t hear an alarm? (Not off-topic I don’t think, as I’m just wondering if this is viable solution for most people.)

          Reply
          1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

            Set your alarm on your phone, set your phone to vibrate, and put the phone under your pillow. It’s not the most peaceful way to wake up, but it works!

            But I also wake up if there’s any kind of light, and with the current long days, I’m more likely to wake up because of sunlight than my alarm :(

            Reply
            1. Ramona Flowers

              Nope, I’d sleep through that. I’m not normal, though. (My husband works at Glastonbury festival and I can sleep two feet from the back of a live music tent.)

              Reply
                1. Jean (just Jean)

                  Hey, that’s an impressive level of sleep ability! Hopefully this camel (who is only inserting her nose, not her entire self, into the tent [heh]) will remember to reintroduce this on the weekend open thread as, “Sleep habits! Are you a heavy or light sleeper? Any domestic comedy stories?”

              1. Josh S

                I have, throughout my life, referred to sleep as my “Super Power”. I can sleep anywhere and everywhere, pretty much at will. And no–it’s not narcolepsy. I stay awake when I want/need without issue. It’s just that in the space of about 5-10 minutes, I can probably be asleep no matter where I am.

                Crowning “achievement” – I was very tired one day while studying abroad in Spain (too many late night dance clubs/tapas crawls, followed by an early morning tour bus). We were on a tour of a cathedral in some city or other that looked much like all the other Neo-classical/Gothic cathedrals we had toured in Spain that trip. So I decided to take a snooze, put my chin to my chest, and fell asleep standing up. Unsupported. I was still standing there a few minutes later when the rest of the group had walked on without me. :D

                Reply
                1. Dweali

                  I’m super impressed…the best I have managed is sleeping while sitting straight up in a chair (think the office rolly type) with a book in my hands so it looks like I’m reading…well I guess technically I was reading before I fell asleep that day :-)

                2. VroomVroom

                  ME TOO! If I have enough time to zone out I can get a 5-10 minute catnap in like nobody’s business. If I need to stay alert I certainly do. While studying abroad in college the joke with my friends was I never fell asleep on a moving object (all my friends would pass out immediately on trains/planes etc. and I just found it so unsafe – what if we were robbed – side note another group of our friends WERE robbed because they passed out on a train – so I always stayed awake to keep watch). However, if I’m able to sit back and put my feet up for even just a few minutes, I’ll catch a quick nap like nobody’s business. If there were gold medals in napping, I’d get them.

                  At 38 weeks pregnant though, I only wish this super power extended to sleeping through the night. I’m quite good at catching naps during the day, but I’m still in the office so that doesn’t really help me… and sleeping at night is proving to be quite difficult :(

                3. Amadeo

                  I too, have this superpower. I inherited it from my mother. I have no issues at all staying awake when I need to be awake, but I can lay my head down and pass out just about anywhere. I do struggle when I sleep in the same room with my dad on trips – but that’s not due to the fact that he snores, but the nature of his snoring (sleep apnea, he freaking stops breathing and tends to get whaled on with a pillow sometimes by my mother “Breathe, dammit!” and won’t go get a CPAP machine).

                4. Mona Lisa

                  This is so me!! It sounds awful, but I actually dealt with boredom during some large lecture classes by sleeping for 5-10 minutes and waking up to answer a few of the lecturer’s questions before going back to sleep. My friends also jokingly called me Snorlax through much of college because of said super power.

                5. Jaydee

                  In college, I had rated all the best places on campus for naps between classes – the one building with comfy lounges on each floor, the area of the library with big armchairs and walls of windows so it was always bathed in warm sunlight. My proudest sleep “achievement” was falling asleep in the middle of the day while sitting in a recliner watching tv and holding a cup of coffee. I woke up periodically to drink from it and never did spill it.

                6. Silver Radicand

                  That is impressive.

                  I know once when I was in basic training, I fell asleep while marching in the wee hours of the morning. I woke up only once I’d marched into the ditch on one side of the road. I was glad that it was dark out so I didn’t seem to get noticed much.

                7. Buffy

                  I am so jealous! My sleep problems are so tough even Ambien can’t get me to sleep!

            2. TL -

              Haha. Things on my bed do not stay where they are put. I wouldn’t trust my phone to be under the pillow in the morning.
              But I can hear my alarm through earplugs. I can also fall asleep listening to audiobooks and pull out the earphones and turn off the book in my sleep. Handy talent. :)

              Reply
            3. Laura (Needs a New Name)

              There are enough reported cases of cell phones catching on fire while charging that I would recommend against keeping them under your pillow. Bad enough to have a fiery phone, way worse to have it underneath your head.

              Reply
              1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

                Yeah, but I don’t charge my phone when I do this, and I haven’t seen reports stating it’s unsafe for non-charging, mom-Samsung 7 phones.

                Reply
          2. Someone

            I’ve worn earplugs* while sleeping. Not hearing the alarm is a possibility, but an easy solution is setting my cell phone alarm clock on vibration. Actually, I do that now even if I don’t wear earplugs. I’m one of those who need a running start to fall asleep AND tend to wake up at the slightest disturbance. With a regular alarm I’m up in an instant, desperately trying to turn it off before even the second ring.

            *I use these foam kind of earplugs. Don’t get bleeding ears from those, luckily. But I have to say that at first I had trouble with those, they are really huge and it felt like they were trying to tear apart my ear canal. Cutting off one third helped a lot, though.

            Reply
            1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

              I’ve worn child-sized earplugs, wax earplugs, modified foam… they all make my ears bleed after a few hours. The bar exam was doubly uncomfortable because of it. :(

              Reply
          3. August

            I wear earplugs every night (roommates! Gotta love ’em) and they’re great for getting me to sleep initially, but they usually fall out during the night. So I always end up hearing my alarm.

            Reply
          4. CoveredInBees

            I’ve found that at least one earplug falls out in the night but this doesn’t bother me as I’m already asleep. Also, my hearing is apparently very sensitive so I can hear things (like alarms) with them in but the noise is dulled enough to be less irritating.

            Reply
          5. Artemesia

            Ear plugs are not that sound proofing — I have no trouble hearing my light phone alarm with them in. Of course they won’t entirely muffle heavy snoring either but take the edge off. Now I live near a highway and so have white noise but before that I traveled with and used at home a white noise machine. That does help.

            Reply
          6. Rebecca in Dallas

            Noise-canceling headphones work better for me than earplugs.

            Also, put the snorer in charge of making sure you get up if you’re worried about the alarm!

            Reply
        3. tink

          I’m the same way wrt needing to get into deep sleep before the other person starts snoring. Earplugs or something else for noise blocking can really help though.

          Reply
        4. Nic

          Agreed on earplugs. My roommate snores so I can hear him through a wall and across two rooms, and with earplugs I’ve been able to sleep in the back seat of a car with him in the front.

          Reply
        5. Detective Amy Santiago

          My best friend brings earplugs when we travel together and they work pretty well.

          Reply
        6. Lady Blerd

          I shared a room once with a guy who’s snores could wake the dead. Luckily I had earplugs and it was all fine until I took them out because he went quiet. Then he started again and I was not able to go back to sleep even with the plugs in because what little came though was enough to disturb me.

          Reply
        7. Sara

          I have a friend that snores really badly and she hands out earplugs to everyone when we have to share hotel rooms on trips. Its very thoughtful.

          Reply
        8. GrandBargain

          I *always* have ear plugs with me. If it’s not a snoring roommate, it’s the elevator or the ice machine or the air conditioner or the street outside the window or the people in the next room who play the TV too loud or the couple who keeps banging the headboard against the wall (what are they doing?!?!) or the little baby who wakes up crying.

          Ear plugs are an absolute necessity for me. The only change I have to make is to turn up the alarm really loud. Paybacks.

          Reply
      3. Jeanne

        Nope. I don’t believe it can be done. Maybe if you’re married and got used to snoring that worsened very slowly.

        Reply
        1. Gen

          My husband of 16 years snores so loudly our neighbours complain, I learned to sleep through it during post-baby sleep exhaustion but I can’t sleep through other people’s snoring because the pitch is different. OP might get someone who thinks they can sleep through only to find they can’t once they’re there.

          Reply
          1. bunniferous

            Please have him get a sleep study. My husband was one of these heavy snorers and it turned out it was sleep apnea. Which can eventually KILL YOU.

            The day he got a CPAP machine was the day our marriage was saved, LOL! It was lifechanging for both of us.

            Reply
            1. Gen

              Thanks, excellent advice for anyone living with a snorer! :)

              He’s had a couple of sleep studies and a lot of scans of his head, which ultimately the snoring was caused by malformed tubes in his nasal cavity, his brother and dad have them too. Doesn’t affect his oxygen in the slightest fortunately, just everyone else’s sleep! As far as we know there’s nothing they can do :/

              Reply
            2. Parenthetically

              My brother recently got a CPAP and in addition to being able to share a bed with his wife again, he lost about 40 pounds in 2 months. Turns out constant bodily stress from poor sleep DOES make you gain weight, just like all the science says!

              Reply
              1. Robbenmel

                I slept with a heavy snorer for years. When he got a CPAP and stopped snoring, that’s when I couldn’t sleep! (I kept checking to make sure he was still breathing.)

                Reply
              2. Marillenbaum

                My mom has been dealing with that as well–she has sleep apnea, but doesn’t snore. It feels good to finally know why she’s so tired all the time.

                Reply
                1. AMG

                  OP1, husband thought I had sleep apnea, but I actually have TMJ and the position I hold my head in is causing me to snore. Since you mentioned they can’t figure it out, perhaps an orthodontist experienced in TMJ can help you. The one see did head and neck x-rays to point out my lack of oxygen flow through my windpipe even while awake–I would have never known!

                2. LW1

                  My doctor actually has that angle covered! She’s been pretty thorough about referring me to experts to check into various options.

            3. Statler von Waldorf

              I was one of those snorers who was so loud I actually rattled walls. I was recently diagnosed with severe sleep apnea, and CPAP changed my life completely for the better. Now I feel like a vegan or a crossfit guy, because whenever snoring comes up, I feel this strong urge to preach about the miracles of CPAP. My blood pressure went down, and now I’m off blood pressure drugs. My energy increased 1000% fold. My narcolepsy disappeared. And much to the delight of my family members, I barely snore at all now.

              So I’m seconding the sleep study idea.

              Reply
      4. Ramona Flowers

        If you wait until I’m asleep, I’ll sleep through any noise. Including fire alarms. There are medical reasons… I’d basically strike a deal where I don’t kill you for snoring and you don’t kill me for needing a very loud alarm to wake up. (I have a form of narcolepsy.)

        However, this is unusual, it would be reasonable for someone to object and the fact the LW’s employer thinks this is okay for a whole week does not make them sound awesome.

        Reply
        1. LadyL

          Hey , me too! Mine is sleep paralysis, which is really really unfun, but I think of my ability to sleep like my own superpower.

          Reply
          1. Ramona Flowers

            I slept through an actual fire evacuation once. Nobody believed I could’ve been in the room sleeping through it so they gave up knocking on my door. (At uni.)

            I am that deep a sleeper.

            Reply
            1. pugsnbourbon

              One of my college roommates had narcolepsy and we lived on the fourth floor of the dorm. We had a plan of how to get her out in case of an evacuation (the old “make a chair with your hands”) and a couple guys on the next floor down knew to come check on us.

              Reply
          2. VroomVroom

            I have sleep paralysis too. Quite scary when you ‘wake up’ and can’t move.

            Apparently it’s more common in back sleepers? But literally my bed doesn’t get ruffled at all. My husband is gone half the week, and the most the bed is ever undone when I sleep in it alone is to fold the covers down to get in/out. (Lately I toss/turn a little more on account of being pregnant and unable to sleep on my back, but normal me not so much… I still don’t mess up the sheets).

            I don’t understand how just one night of him in the bed the bed is absolutely destroyed. It irks me so much that I have to actually take the time to remake it every morning. His version of making the bed is not up to my standards – don’t get me wrong, he DOES make it, just not to my perfecting standards, so I go behind him and fix his job :-P

            Reply
        2. Gazebo Slayer

          I also slept through a fire alarm! Possibly due to a medication that can cause drowsiness, but possibly just because I’m weird. It was when I was doing a college visit in high school, and the two students I roomed with didn’t bother to wake me up before evacuating. Not the best impression once I found out later.

          Reply
        3. CheeryO

          Me too – not narcolepsy, but I’m a very deep sleeper and partially deaf in one ear. I do need quiet to fall asleep (and I use earplugs when I need them), but once asleep, I can sleep through just about anything (including a fire alarm and a frantic roommate who got locked out and was knocking so hard that multiple neighbors went to check on her).

          Reply
        4. Rookie Manager

          I used to sleep through anything, fire alarms, babies, parties… I didn’t understand people not being able to sleep. Now I am a seasoned insomniac with a partner who snores, to be fair his snoring won’t wake me up BUT it will stop me getting to sleep and rubs in the fact that I am not asleep!

          I can cope with a couple of bad nights no problem but if I had to sleep in a room with a really heavy snorer and they prevented me sleeping I would be physically sick by the end of the week.

          Weirdly, I am still awesome at sleeping on public transport. As soon as I get on a plane or train I can nod off. Sometimes I get the train to work just to try and get some quality sleep after a bad night!

          Reply
        5. NW Mossy

          My husband, brother-in-law, and father-in-law all have narcolepsy, and they’re a bit all over the place on sleeping through stuff. My husband will generally wake normally after his first sleep cycle (about 2-3 hours) in a night, my father-in-law wakes early/moves to the recliner/falls asleep again, and my brother-in-law can barely be shifted from sleep if a marching band is in his bedroom. It’s amazing how little we really understand about sleep!

          Reply
      5. LadyCop

        I am a heavy sleeper…but my mother snores like a train is passing through the room. It’s brutal torture! I don’t think the OP implied they are as bad off, but dismissing it as requiring a heavy sleeper is presumptuous.

        Reply
        1. Tuckerman

          Right. It’s possible a heavy sleeper would sleep through it, but also possible he/she won’t and it’s hard to predict what will happen. If I was an employer, I would not want to take the chance that one of my employees might be dead on his/her feet from sleep deprivation while representing the company.

          Reply
      6. LadyL

        I have my own medical issue that effects my sleep. Basically once I decide to be asleep I typically am out in under 10 minutes. In college my roommate hated me because I routinely would sleep through the alarm, even when the alarm went off for long times. Once in high school there was a small explosion outside my room that I slept through. I would def bring headphones, just in case, but I bet if I wanted it badly enough I could sleep through.

        But yeah, no one should have to if they’re not willing (or, if OP is feeling anxious enough about it that they wouldn’t be comfortable sharing ever), the office should accommodate.

        Reply
      7. Cambridge Comma

        Yes, my other half, an incredibly talented sleeper, could sleep through my snoring from the beginning. Most other people, not so much. I don’t share rooms with others for this reason.

        Reply
        1. Panda

          I’m a buddy for people who snore. On our annual company retreat, I am to go-to snorer room sharer. I sleep great (and through everything).

          Can I borrow the talented sleeper label? It’s awesome!

          Reply
      8. The RO-Cat

        I’m a bad snorer. Like wild-boars-killing-jihadists bad. I usually have a room for myself, but there were projects where I had to share. Always with the same colleague, because the first time we were paired I warned him and offered to schedule my sleep around an 8-hours block at night for him (luckily I can do with 2 4-hours blocks and some dozing here and there – thank you, Army!) and it turned out he could sleep through a cat F tornado and then wonder what all this fuss was about. So, these unicorns of good roommates for snorers do exist!

        On a side note, in another instance I sent another roommate to the meeting room for sleep (also warned, he braved, not a good outcome). And I’m the type all doctors threw their collective hands in the air and recommended I sleep alone.

        Reply
        1. DarthVelma

          I’m going to have to remember “wild-boars-killing-jihadists”. Heeeeeee. I generally refer to my partner’s snoring as “asthmatic water buffalo”. It’s really that bad.

          It was getting to the point where I was considering smothering him in his sleep recently. I picked up something that has done the trick. It’s an adjustable cloth band with flat round headphones in it. Works as a sleep mask and lets me play white noise or music to block him out. Plus, since it’s attached to my phone, I can hear my alarm when it goes off. I’m a side sleeper and so far the head phones are flat enough that they don’t bother me.

          Reply
          1. SimonTheGreyWarden

            I have to ask where you got this; I don’t want to derail everything but my sleep is really bad right now with pregnancy (I was always a touchy sleeper anyway, some days I can sleep through a train and other days the cat breathing in the room can wake me up). My spouse comes to bed hours after I do and inevitably wakes me up, then falls asleep snoring/heavy breathing fairly quietly, but it seems so much louder because of the stress.

            Reply
        2. Salamander

          That was super-considerate of you to offer to break up your sleep like that. I hope the OP will do this if she gets stuck rooming with someone else.

          I say this as someone who occasionally travels with my mother, who is a champion snorer. She insists on getting a full nine hours. Which is great for her. Not so great for me. When she gets out of bed at six, I manage to get a couple of hours of sleep in, but it’s not much. When I can sneak back to the room for an afternoon nap, I do.

          I can do this for a couple of days without much problem, but if I had to do it for a week, the police would need to be called.

          Reply
      9. Dinosaur

        I take several medications at bedtime that knock me out cold. I’ve slept through fire alarms and one earthquake. I’d been fine with a snorer, even one who makes the walls shake.

        Reply
      10. Casuan

        OP1: If you give your prospective roommate a heads up, then you can rest by knowing that you’ve done due diligence.
        If your company won’t budge, is it feasible to tell them you’re both willing to try things out for one night & can decide from there?
        The barometer is whether or not your colleague had a good night’s sleep.

        I’m a heavy sleeper & I’m told snore. Tolerance varies: one friend sleeps well through the night [surprisingly, she’s a light snorer & doesn’t sleep too heavily or lightly] & the other friend- tho warned- regretted not bringing earplugs & vowed we could never share a room again.

        Sidebar re snoring: Why do those who snore disbelieve reports of snoring? Often it isn’t just disbelief, it’s total denial!

        Reply
        1. M-C

          Let me just point out that the boss should not just hear about the roommate not sleeping for a week – they should hear about BOTH not sleeping for a week. I can huff gently, I can be an asthmatic water buffalo (I’m asthmatic, I love water buffaloes :-)). There are people who’re just fine with it. But when I sleep with someone new -I- cannot sleep because I really want them to be asleep first, and then I wake up at everything because I think I’m the one doing the noise. So it’s not just the one being snored at who loses sleep..

          Reply
      11. JKP

        I can sleep through any sound. I’ve slept through fire alarms when it was part of my job to track the residents and connect with the firemen. I didn’t even know there was a fire alarm until my boss mentioned it the next day at work like “Where were you?” I can talk in my sleep and have answered the phone and had (completely bizarre conversations) which people have recounted in a very confused manor the next day. I shared a hotel room with a friend and her newborn baby and never heard the baby cry once all night long. I need an alarm that uses either light or vibration/touch to wake up, because I don’t even hear the regular kind.

        Reply
        1. Ramona Flowers

          I could have written this before I was diagnosed. The talking on the phone thing is called sleep drunkenness.

          Reply
          1. JKP

            Did you also sleep with your eyes open? I used to sleepwalk too, but I outgrew that sometime in high school. Now I mostly stay still all night, except some nights my partner will tell me that I raise my arms up to the ceiling and hold them there, even when he tries to push them back down, which explained why my arms were so sore in the morning. Was your diagnosis related to your sleep issues? Can you share what it is? I always just dismissed my sleep quirks as genetic, since a bunch of other people on my mom’s side also sleep with their eyes open, sleep talk, and sleep through noise.

            Reply
            1. AMPG

              Have you seen Mike Birbiglia’s “Sleepwalk with Me”? It’s about his sleep disorder issues, which came to a head when he jumped through a hotel room window while on tour. It’s really fascinating.

              Reply
      12. It's-a-me

        Once shared a hotel room with my best friend, she snored like a chainsaw and I slept through it – well, after I got used to the few times where she would make a choking noise and go silent; she was sick at the time and the first few times it happened I thought she’d died!
        The last night of the hotel stay, she woke me up because I was snoring. I was very amused.

        Then again, I once fell asleep at a concert whilst leaning against the speaker so…

        Reply
        1. bunniferous

          I mentioned this to one responder but I want to make a public service announcement about snoring: If you or someone you love snores LOUDLY, snorts in the middle of the night, has problems staying awake during the day….it might be sleep apnea. Which can eventually kill you (stroke, heart disease, et cetera.) Some of the folks I am reading about on this thread probably need to get screened.

          My husband has it, and his cpap machine is literally a lifesaver. Because I might have killed him if I had had to listen to that buzz saw much longer!

          Reply
          1. It's-a-me

            In my friend’s case, it was very likely because she was ill (we were holidaying in a big city with more pollution than she was used to, and she already had a cold.)

            In my case… I don’t know. I have had comments about being loud from my friend and mother, neither mentioned snorting, choking, etc. Snoring runs in my family, this I know.
            I doubt I would be able to use a CPAP machine – it covers your mouth, right? Like a hospital breathing mask thingy? Not only would that freak me out, but I sleep almost face down in my pillow and roll around a fair bit so I’m pretty sure the tubes would choke me in my sleep.

            Reply
            1. Vizzini

              No, most CPAP masks are not “full face” mask (those that cover the nose and mouth). There are also nasal masks that cover the nose only and “nasal pillows” that just seal around the nostrils.

              I used to roll around a lot when I slept, but with the CPAP, I sleep more soundly with less moving around.

              Reply
      13. MK

        I wouldn’t say it’s snoring-specific, there are people who are insensitive to noise in general. I studied for my university exams while the building next door was being demolished, when I concentrate on my work I have been known to ignore actual smoke alarms, and, yes, I have shared rooms with snorers with no problems.

        Reply
        1. TL -

          I cannot fall asleep with rhythmic noises. No ticking clocks, no snoring, no chopping vegetables, no fan chains hitting together.
          I can fall asleep with a quiet hum of people talking in the background or the shower running or other such noises, as long as the volume doesn’t vary too much.

          Reply
          1. Elizabeth West

            Same here–I use a fan to sleep, but it can’t clack, hum, or make any sound other than the whooshing of air, or it drives me CRAZY.

            Earplugs are a no. The only time that’s ever worked was on a plane–I used earplugs, put noise-reduction headphones over them, and also took a Unisom fast-melt. And my seat was relatively comfy and I could stretch out a bit. Snoring is also a no. Storms–no. People talking outside the room–HELL no. TV on–same. It has to be dark, and it has to be quiet but with white noise. If it’s too quiet, I can’t fall asleep either!! Any time I’ve shared a hotel room with anyone other than a person I slept with regularly, I got little to no sleep.

            I would have to pay for my own room or not go.

            Reply
      14. NCKat

        I could. I have a cochlear implsnt, and once I take the speech processor off, I can’t hear a thing. So someone like me would be a perfect roommate.

        Reply
        1. A Canadian

          Me too! It would be great if an employee at that company had a hearing loss, but I’m sure the OP would have mentioned it if so. Oh well.

          Reply
          1. Michaela T

            Me three! And OP1 may not know that they have coworkers with hearing loss, I know people with profound hearing loss that don’t wear hearing aides or have cochlear implants and get by without telling anyone. I think just generally asking whoever is coming if they’re bothered by snoring would cover that, though.

            Reply
      15. Lablizard

        I can sleep pretty much anytime, anywhere, under any circumstances, including a fire alarm going off in my room. Probably not the best survival trait, although helpful in most occasions

        Reply
        1. LavaLamp

          I once slept thru a Nascar race. Now I wake up multiple times at night to go poke my mother until she stops snoring because it wakes me up and makes me very irritated. I could not sleep with someone who snores like that. Please please speak to someone and make them see reason. I’d probably set up something to record my snoring and be like ‘dude do you really want to subject another human to this’. You could also let the potential roommate listen and decide for themselves from a recording of it.

          Reply
          1. Amadeo

            I…wut? You were attending the race and slept through it? Although now that I think about it though the noise of the car engines is very loud, it’s also sort of a rhythmic and/or steady drone…I could possibly see it.

            Reply
            1. Elizabeth West

              NASCAR on TV will knock me out for that reason. I also used to fall asleep watching American football with my dad because of the crowd noise. Not that I care for either, really.

              Reply
          2. Kikishua

            Fab idea to record the snoring and play it back to check the proposed room mate can stand it.

            I snore. I also grunt, hold my breath, and even have animated but unintelligible arguments in my sleep.

            Reply
      16. The Cosmic Avenger

        I could probably room with the OP. I have mild to moderate hearing loss in one ear (I probably stood right up front at one too many concerts). The only good thing about that is that if I sleep on the opposite side and pull the covers up over my ear, it’s very much like wearing earplugs! I might still hear things, but it sounds like they’re a few rooms away, very, very muted.

        Reply
      17. mreasy

        Many people may have partners they share a bed with who snore, so they know how to cope (earplugs etc)?

        Reply
      18. Surrogate Tongue Pop

        I couple years back, I actually slept in the bathtub when sharing a room with a couple folks post-(non-work) event. Which surprised the hell outta my roommate when she had to use the facilities! I poked and prodded the snorer, to no avail. I finally recorded it on my phone (I was bored). The snorer profusely apologized…and we now have a running joke. However! When I asked my roomie how SHE slept through it…she had 2 words: Wax Earplugs. She was dead to the world, and I slept in the bathtub. So….they work!

        Reply
        1. If only they worked for me

          They don’t work for everyone, sadly. I’m a horribly light sleeper, so it’s always the bathroom for me if I travel with a snorer. I have trouble both falling and staying asleep, so even the lightest snoring gets to me.

          Reply
      19. Doping to Dream

        When my husband has a cold he snores pretty badly. I mitigate it by 1) going to bed first, falling asleep is the hard part for me so I give myself a head start and 2) taking a dose of Nyquil (or zquil if you prefer). That way I’m in a deeper sleep before the snoring starts and less likely to wake up when it does.

        Reply
      20. Gandalf the Nude

        Yeah, sounding off here. I can fall asleep anywhere. I once got three glorious hours on an old school bus seat bumping and bouncing its way through the mountains of Honduras while my fellow pilgrims chattered around me. And when the four of us shared a room for the bachelorette weekend, I got a fair bit of stink eye from the bride-to-be and second bridesmaid for sleeping well through the matron of honor’s best imitation of a jet engine. So, we exist, and we’ll volunteer as tribute!

        Reply
      21. Liifi

        My husband used to snore terribly. If I fell asleep before him, I could sleep through it. I once slept through a car hitting a telephone pole 20 feet outside my bedroom window, and the subsequent sirens that came after.

        Reply
      22. Dweali

        As long as a fall asleep first I wouldn’t hear anything. As a kid I could sleep through everything (including my great grandmas snoring–although 8 yr old me was convinced someone only made those sounds at that volume when they were dying) and as an adult I still sleep through tornado sirens (plus the emergency alerts on my phone), exploding transformers (they do sound hella cool when they blow :-) ), trains (my mom lives about .5 mile from the tracks so I get that noise plus them blowing the horn), thunderstorms, etc. And I’m a combo of heavy sleeper + difficulty waking up so I have 3 alarms at varying intervals of time, sound, and volume…the latter two get changed every few months.

        Reply
        1. Elizabeth West

          Ha, I’m like a mum with kids about tornado sirens. You know how your kid can just barely cough or start to cry at night and you’ll hear it in your sleep, because you’re attuned to it? The second the siren starts, I’m like O_O The only time that doesn’t happen is if I’m ill. Then I can sleep through anything.

          Of course, now that I have a smartphone with emergency alerts, I don’t have to worry about not hearing it if I’m sick. Those things are LOUD.

          Reply
      23. Mallory Janis Ian

        I can sleep through almost anything once I determine that the noise doesn’t pertain to me. We had construction outside our old apartment building once, and my husband couldn’t sleep through the noise for the duration of the project (this was when we were working nights and sleeping in the daytime). I, however, woke up once on the first day of construction, determined that the noise didn’t have anything to do with me, and was never bothered by it again.

        Reply
      24. That Would Be a Good Band Name

        The joke in our house is that my husband could sleep through a marching band going through our bedroom. Snoring wouldn’t keep him awake. A weedeater running next to his ear wouldn’t wake him up. Nothing short of a violent shaking wakes him. He has alarms set for every 5 minutes in the morning and usually the 4th one wakes him. But not always.

        Reply
      25. The Other Dawn

        Yes, I can sleep when someone is snoring in the same room; however, I have to be the one to fall asleep first. If someone is snoring when I’m trying to fall asleep, it’s pretty tough to fall asleep.

        I second the recommendation to suggest ear plugs or an iPod and ear buds. I went on a cruise with three other women. My best friend and I were both very loud snorers (undiagnosed sleep apnea at the time). It made life hell for all of us, because the other two complained about the snoring A LOT, which made us feel like we couldn’t allow ourselves to fall asleep; we nudged each other all night long when one heard the other snoring. The result was several sleepless nights for all four of us. Then the other two decided to start using their iPhones and ear buds, and all was well from then on out.

        Reply
      26. Helena

        My daughter can sleep through *anything*, it’s crazy. During her nap time, the local fire station stopped by the house offering free smoke detector installs.They installed the new detector in my daughter’s room with power tools (drilling into the stud) and tested it. She didn’t even stir.

        Reply
        1. nonegiven

          My son was sleeping with the window open, hot night. I heard barking so I looked in, someone was walking by, out near the road and my son’s very protective Sheltie was standing on the pillow next to his head, barking like crazy. Son never moved.

          Reply
      27. Jessesgirl72

        Yes. My husband snores. My parents snore. My grandparents were loud snorers.

        I don’t even hear it.

        Now, the CPAP hiss… well, that is why we have a white noise machine.

        When we’re traveling, we use the white noise app on a phone.

        Reply
      28. Another Lawyer

        I’m a VERY heavy sleeper and I’ve routinely shared hotel rooms with heavy snorers without a problem. I sleep like the dead, though, and have to have my dog sleep in my bedroom because even the fire alarm won’t wake me up. (I also slept through tornado sirens as a kid).

        Reply
        1. Jessesgirl72

          I slept through a car running into the house directly under my bedroom, and all the police/ambulance sirens after, too.

          Reply
      29. Horse Lover

        Yes, we exist! I’ve slept through gun shots, an earthquake, my grandpa who was not only a HORRIBLE snorer, but also a sleep screamer and of course my alarm clock on multiple occasions.

        Reply
      30. imakethings

        I’m the same way. I recently shared a hotel room with just a heavy breather and was up all night.

        Reply
      31. Sara

        If I can fall asleep before the snorer, I’m golden. I sleep like the dead. If I try to fall asleep afterwards, I’m up all night.

        Reply
      32. The Final Pam

        I can sleep through just about anything. Loud noise, bright lights, on a plane, in a car, etc. I am a very heavy sleeper, so I sleep like the dead.

        Reply
      33. AdAgencyChick

        If there weren’t, I’d still be single. My husband does okay with earplugs, although he will occasionally wake me up to make me roll onto my side.

        We’ve been together for more than 10 years, so I guess he must have made it work.

        Reply
      34. Laura (Needs a New Name)

        Chiming in as another who can do it, and also as a snorer who has shared rooms at conference hotels with others who are perfectly comfortable sharing a room with a snorer. I used to be really self-conscious about it, but it’s never been a problem and I share rooms 2-3 times a year for conferences. My snoring sounds pretty comparable to the LW – occasionally I don’t snore at all, most of the time I’m a mild snorer, but sometimes I REALLY COMMIT TO THE SNORING. I have woken myself up on more than one occasion.

        Reply
      35. KellyK

        I’m a pretty heavy sleeper once I fall asleep, but snoring can still keep me awake if the snorer falls asleep first, or if I wake up for some other reason. I also sleep a lot more soundly at home in my own bed than I do in a hotel room, and I can sleep through snoring dogs or a snoring husband more easily than a snoring roommate in a hotel room. Familiar surroundings seem to make a big difference.

        So, I think swapping in a heavy sleeper is a good last resort, but giving the OP their own room is still preferable. Someone who thinks of themselves as a heavy sleeper might still find the OP’s snoring disturbing if it’s louder or different than a partner’s snoring that they routinely sleep through.

        Reply
      36. Jaydee

        I’m a pretty sound sleeper and have lived with snorers most of my life, so I would probably not have much of a problem. Sure, there are times when it bothers me, but the snoring would have to be incredibly loud or of the choking/gasping type that my husband gets when he is really congested for me to really have a hard time sleeping for the whole week. If I’m tired enough, I will fall asleep and stay asleep. And if I’m not tired enough, I’ll just lay there and play on my tablet until I get tired enough (which will then ensure that the next night I’m tired enough to fall asleep right away).

        Reply
      37. TootsNYC

        I can! As long as I can get to sleep first, I’m good.

        I shared a room w/ my mom and dad once, and I did the same “tossing and turning on the bathroom floor w/ tissue in my ears,” but he fell asleep before me.

        So I might say, “It’ll be OK to share a room, but please give me 20 minutes of absolute darkness to fall asleep, before you even try to. Like, read a book in the bathroom with the door closed, or something, so I can get to sleep before you.”

        Reply
      38. JS

        I sleep every night with a pekingese that snores like an old man and I also take melatonin which puts you in a deeper sleep, so I could sleep through it no problem.

        Reply
      39. Sarah

        I’m definitely in this category and wouldn’t mind sharing with a snoring coworker. Last night, for example, I apparently slept through a giant thunderstorm and a seriously freaked out cat, in addition to my husband’s snores. :)

        Reply
      40. Rebecca in Dallas

        My husband used to snore heavily (thankfully losing 50lbs fixed that). If I fell asleep first, I could sleep through it. But if he somehow fell asleep first or if I woke up in the middle of the night, forget it. I often had to move into the guest room.

        And fellow snorers can usually deal with it better. My grandparents were both the loudest snorers I have ever encountered in my life, I don’t know how they didn’t wake each other up. But they were married for 57 years and managed just fine.

        Reply
        1. Renee

          I’m dealing with this right now. Husband gained a lot of weight and went from not snoring at all to jet engine. He doesn’t gasp so it’s not apnea. It’s just plain old fat guy snoring. He moved out of the room this week because I’m a light sleeper with cycles of intractable insomnia. I’d move, but he’s an easy sleeper himself, and he’s been sleeping in his recliner, which seems to completely alleviate the snoring. He’s working on his weight now and I’m hoping that 20 lbs or so will get him to the tolerable level (though he can stand to lose a lot more and I hope he does). I most definitely could not room with a coworker that snores like that. I would not sleep at all.

          It’s good to hear that the weight loss thing worked for someone else as I think that’s the entire issue for us too.

          Reply
      41. Kat M

        Yup! I grew up with a loudly snoring mom, so it’s not difficult for me at all. I’ve also slept through construction, piano practice, and a couple of earthquakes.

        Cats fighting outside always wakes me up, though. Go figure.

        Reply
      42. Sarah

        Some of us sleep next to a heavy snorer every night. Even as a light sleeper, I’ve learned to sleep through it.

        Reply
      43. AmberGreen

        How could it be possible for there *not* to be people who can sleep through snoring? If half of all people snore at some point in their lives, presumably plenty of them have partners who sleep with them and don’t stay up all night every night.

        Reply
      44. chomps

        We’re out there! I don’t know what it would be like now, but when I was in college I once shared a room with three other people, including a snorer, and I was able to sleep the other night. The other two non-snorers were complaining about it the next day. So it’s possible, but it might depend on how loud the snoring is.

        Reply
      45. many bells down

        I can sleep through my husband’s (occasional) snoring about 50% of the time. The other half, I want to smother him ;)

        He can’t sleep when I snore, though. Apparently when I do I’m quite loud.

        Reply
      46. tigerlily

        I can. I can sleep through just about anything – have been sleeping through my boyfriend’s snoring for some time now. I actually end up finding the rhythm of the snoring to be somewhat soothing.

        I also once slept through a Metallica concert.

        Reply
      47. Connie-Lynne

        I have a sleep disorder for which I take medication. A side effect is that I can sleep through all but the most earth shattering snores.

        Reply
      48. General Ginger

        I used to be able to sleep through spouse’s snoring, yes! Completely tuned it out. But even so, I guess I’d be less willing to see if I can also tune out a coworker.

        Reply
      49. Jillociraptor

        I’m actually a pretty light sleeper but my mom has sleep apnea and is a super loud snorer. I was always the designated Mom roommate when we traveled when I was growing up, so snoring now no longer wakes me (even though a car alarm outside the hotel window will absolutely keep me awake!)

        Reply
      50. Venus Supreme

        My college roommate was a snorer. Her previous roommate confronted me to tell me how heinous the snoring was. I never had a problem with it, and she was the best roommate I had! I’m also a deep sleeper, I always sleep with earplugs, and I grew up with a parent whose snoring sounded like a revved-up chainsaw… so, compared to that, my roommate’s snores never affected me.

        Reply
      51. Noah

        Yes, there are. Most snoring–even loud snoring–doesn’t keep me awake. I can also sleep through construction, though.

        Reply
      52. ZuKeeper

        My husband manages to sleep through my snoring, but maybe that’s because he’s used to it. I don’t know how a co-worker would handle it, and hopefully I will never have to find out!

        Reply
      53. mcr-red

        My husband is heavy snorer and it is LOUD. The first couple times we shared a bed, I cried because I couldn’t sleep and I didn’t want to end the relationship over something like that.

        Within a week or so of us living together, I quit noticing it at all and can sleep through it.

        Reply
      54. Episkey

        My husband once slept through the fire alarm at a hotel. I had to shake & shake him to wake him up because we needed to evacuate the hotel until the fire department came and deemed it safe.

        Reply
      55. Miles

        Yep! I’m a light sleeper, but my partner snores like a chainsaw. I have a pair of custom heavy-duty industrial earplugs a previous employer bought for doing extended work next to running helicopters, and they block out everything. I actually once had to sleep in a tent 10 feet away from a running drill rig and was even able to sleep through that with earplugs.

        Reply
      56. nonegiven

        BIL’s boy scout troop made him pitch his tent 100 yards away and on the other side of a hill.

        Reply
      57. Scotty Smalls

        I accompanied my mom to Mexico and shared a room. We both snore, but she’s a light sleeper and I’m a heavy sleeper. She kept rolling me over and waking me up. Then one time I heard her snoring and pushed her shoulder. She was not amused.

        Moral of the story, don’t share rooms

        Reply
      58. Julia

        Apparently I snore sometimes, but my husband is a heavy sleeper and can sleep through his family stomping around and the dog barking. I guess we’re a match made in heaven. :D

        Reply
      59. SF2K01

        I used to have a roommate who had night terrors – he literally screamed/shouted/would talk loudly in his sleep. Have some stories from when I didn’t go to sleep before him, but as long as I did, I slept right through it.

        Reply
      60. Giudecca

        My mother is a heavy sleeper and could probably sleep through heavy snoring. My family often tells the story of how the home across the street caught on fire. My mother’s bedroom was at the front of the house, and her bed was against the window. Apparently my mother slept through the sirens, the people milling about outside, and her siblings and parents climbing onto her bed to look out the window, all while she remained soundly asleep. She only knows this because she saw the house across the street had burned and was told about it — she has absolutely no memory of it.

        Reply
    3. Jessica

      While I think making coworkers share hotel rooms is awful for a million other reasons, I am an extremely sound sleeper. I go to sleep easily, and once I’m asleep, I don’t really care what is going on. My roommate could be snoring wildly, watching TV, getting in some square-dancing practice… the possibilities are endless before I’d notice or care. I totally get how stressful and upsetting this is for the OP, and if I were one of your coworkers I’d volunteer to room with you just to defuse the situation. It sounds like there’s a good-sized group of employees going on this trip, so maybe ask around? Perhaps one of your coworkers is also me.

      Reply
    4. Teacher-from-Texas

      I was the person who roomed with the loud snorer for multiple conferences. I volunteered because I have a hearing loss significant enough that removing my heading aids was equivalent to using ear plugs. I could still hear her, but it didn’t interfere with my sleep. Perhaps someone in your group is in a similar circumstance?

      Reply
    5. Buffay the Vampire Layer

      Agreed. OP I suggest you ask around. Odds are you’ll find a deep sleeper who will volunteer if your office is as collegial as it sounds. I know I’d offer to share with you – I can turn myself off like a light and sleep incredibly soundly. I’d be glad to switch rooms to save a colleague a sleepless night.

      Reply
      1. Jean (just Jean)

        “I can turn myself off like a light”
        LOL here. I hadn’t read all the way down the page before replying to Ramona Flowers above. Who knew that the topic of sleep could be so entertaining?
        In addition to offering some good suggestions here for the somebody-will-have-to-room-with-a-snorer colleagues, this thread is providing a nice, gentle way to start the day. (Where I am it’s just after 6 am on U.S. Eastern Time.)

        Reply
      2. Countess Boochie Flagrante

        If I could have any superpower, it would be just that — deciding to go to sleep and going to sleep! Even when I’m exhausted I tend to flop around and stay awake for way too damn long :(

        Reply
        1. TootsNYC

          I just made a “we need minor superpowers!” remark downstream–this would be another great one.

          Reply
          1. Countess Boochie Flagrante

            I’m pretty hype about the new weight blanket that’s going bananas on Kickstarter at the moment; my best sleep is during the winter when I can crank the thermostat down as far as my lease will let me and sleep under eight heavy blankets.

            Reply
            1. TootsNYC

              I’m intrigued by those; I’ve seen directions for making your own, but I’m not sure how good they are.

              I like my knit cotton thermal blanket because it weighs on me, and my flat wool one as well. I can’t stand down because it doesn’t.

              Reply
        2. General Ginger

          Oh, if it were at all possible, I’d go the other route and get my need for sleep removed!

          Reply
        3. Terrible sleeper here

          I’d like to get an Acme hammer to bonk myself on the head when I need to sleep. I am the worst! No matter how tired I feel, I either just lie there or toss and turn.

          Reply
    6. anyomouse

      Since the OP is under Dr’s care for the Snoring issue, I wonder if a Dr’s note would work so it could be used as a work accommodation?

      Reply
      1. Jessesgirl72

        No, it’s not her medical issue causing her to need a solo room. The entire rest of the conference goers would need notes.

        Reply
    7. Non-Profit Lady

      OP#1, and anybody reading this – come to that conversation with ear plugs. I recently had to go on a weeklong trip with a co-worker who snores, loudly and without fail all night long, and given our occupation there was no way out of it (two adults needed in the room at all times kind of situation). I was mis-er-a-ble. If this co-worker had come to me with ear plugs ahead of time, even if they didn’t work the courtesy would have been so appreciated.

      As it stands now, I actually turned down an optional conference to Florida that would have been informative and fun, one part because I’ve been travelling for work 4 out of the past 6 weekends, but definitely one part because I knew I would have to share a room with this same co-worker, and I would be grouchy as all get out.

      Reply
    8. Kathy

      Years ago, I was warned by an 8-months pregnant woman that she snored. I said no problem. Well during that conference, I couldn’t sleep a wink. So I understand the letter writer’s concern. She needs to get a heavy sleeper.
      Now I snore heavily; so I would definitely be anxious if I had to share a room with someone and would state so.

      Reply
    9. Minister of Snark

      I snore pretty badly and on the rare occasion I have to share rooms with coworkers, I explain that I snore before the trip and if that bothers them, they should consult the organize to arrange for another room. If they still want to room with me, I bring along a small “nature noises” machine and explain that the sounds of the “enchanted forest” or the ocean cover the sound of my snoring. Most people appreciate the gesture and sleep better.

      Reply
  2. Geoffrey B

    This is probably not a productive solution, but I feel like if OP#1’s managers aren’t willing to flex on this policy, one of them (of appropriate gender) should offer to be OP#1’s room-mate to demonstrate its reasonableness?

    Reply
    1. Personal Best in Consecutive Days Lived

      This, though I with wonder if room sharing is an industry norm? Culturally it’s quite normal in my industry to share a room with one person for a week. Even if they snore.
      If you’re stuck, there is the possibility that your roommate has a spouse who snores like a rusty chainsaw and won’t care that you snore. (Or they could switch with someone who doesn’t care.)

      Reply
    2. Jessesgirl72

      The problem is the Manager didn’t make the mandate- the C Suite did.

      I am sure they aren’t sharing a room. *cough* They might be sharing a multi room suite, at best.

      Reply
    3. LW1

      Hah. While I appreciate the poetic justice of this, and the person who ultimately blocked this is a woman like me (at a higher level than my manager; he did his best to make the case for a separate room), the stress of sharing a room with her would be a punishment to me as much as to her, I think!

      Reply
  3. Ophelia Bumblesmoop

    OP4: Check your employee manual. I had to set up a medical leave of absence and was very surprised to see a box for “Organ Donation” on our forms. I asked about it and my HR Analyst said it isn’t all that common but it’s important enough that they want to provide a protected job status to those donors. Thought that was especially awesome.

    Reply
    1. Jeanne

      That’s quite awesome. It isn’t common but is wonderful for them to accomodate living donation.

      Reply
    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      Yes, absolutely this. Although it may feel weird, I’ve found even organizations who are otherwise stingy about leave tend to be really supportive of time requests for organ donation if they have enough time to plan for it.

      Reply
      1. TootsNYC

        Not organ donation but another “selfless deed” kind of thing: I took two vacation days to drive my elderly widowed neighbor to D.C. for her husband’s interment at Arlington National Cemetery. When my boss found out that’s what I’d used the days for, she said, “I wish I’d known–I’d have just given you those days without charging them.”

        That’s a direct manager’s decision, but I found that the people (and not the company or its policies) are often what makes these decisions, and most people like to support altruistic efforts.

        Reply
    3. gladfe

      I looked into it a couple years ago, and I think some states have explicit FMLA-like protections for living organ donors. I don’t remember much more, so I won’t try to summarize beyond that.
      If there are legal protections that apply in OP4’s state, would that change the advice on how to approach the boss? Or would it still make sense to start the conversation the same way, even if you intended to take the time off regardless?

      Reply
      1. fposte

        It’s true that national FMLA technically doesn’t state that voluntary organ donation is included, but it looks like HR interpretations of the federal FMLA are starting to consider that it is if you require inpatient treatment and require a followup exam (that seems to be roughly how they’re applying it). So bone marrow, no; liver lobe, probably. There’s also a federal Living Donor Protection Act in process in the House right now that would explicitly extend the coverage if it got passed.

        But it is also true that several states, especially if you’re a public employee, include this under their FMLA statutes, so the OP should check with her state.

        Reply
        1. Retail HR Guy

          Yes, I am not getting how FMLA wouldn’t apply to a kidney donation. If you look at the rules for what qualifies as a serious health condition how could it not fall under FMLA? You’ve got more than three days of incapacity plus continuing treatment.

          Reply
          1. fposte

            The argument has been that it’s elective, but it looks like HRs (I don’t know if any court rulings are involved) are starting to focus more on hospitalization time for elective procedures and less on the choice aspect of it.

            Reply
            1. Retail HR Guy

              Okay, couldn’t help but look it up.

              The regs don’t single out elective surgery for exclusion, only cosmetic surgery. Even then it is right in the regs that: “Conditions for which cosmetic treatments are administered (such as most treatments for acne or plastic surgery) are not serious health conditions unless inpatient hospital care is required…” (emphasis added).

              Found what the DOL says on it:
              “If an eligible employee requests FMLA leave for surgery which requires and/or results in an overnight stay in the hospital, the leave request would meet the definition of a serious health condition under the inpatient care criteria, even if the surgery is considered elective.”

              Reply
              1. fposte

                Yes, good find! As I said, I think this used to be murkier, so I’m wondering if this was part of last year’s overhaul.

                Reply
      2. CAA

        California definitely has protection for organ donors, so other states may as well. In CA, if your employer has 15 or more employees, they must protect your job for 30 days for organ donation and 5 days for bone marrow donation. They can require you to use accrued leave before putting you on unpaid leave.

        Reply
    4. CheeryO

      Yes, this! We get 30 days for organ donation and I think two weeks for bone marrow donation. There are several people in our small office who have done one or the other over the years.

      Reply
      1. Seasells

        My office was really flexible when I donated bone marrow! No policy on the books, but everyone was more than happy to accommodate my donation. Even when I had some complications post-op and was out for longer.

        Additionally, while I’m not sure about organ donation, if cost is a concern for bone marrow donation, Be the Match will cover your lost wages! Incredible organization. I recommend joining the registry to everyone that is able.

        Reply
      1. On the waiting list...

        OP#4 Should also ask her organ donation coordinator for information about FMLA coverage or other leave coverage in her state. They should be able to guide her on how the time off can be handled.

        I agree, many employers are supportive of organ donation situations – whether it’s a relative, friend or stranger in need. Personally I commend you for donating altruistically! We need more donors like you. My husband is currently waiting for a transplant.

        Reply
    5. Jillociraptor

      I used to work for a transplant center that did living donation, and it was very common for employers to provide this benefit! I was really surprised by that too. Also, the OP’s transplant center should be able to help them navigate any state or local benefits that might be available to them during their recovery.

      Reply
    6. OP 4

      Thanks, everyone! I’m just starting to look into this and haven’t done the medical evaluations yet, but it’s good to know some options are out there. I think my employer will be cool with it (we let people take unpaid time off) – I just wasn’t sure how or when to start the conversation.

      Reply
  4. Ophelia Bumblesmoop

    OP3: Is it possible to ask Mike to “update” some of his older training forms? That may be a more ego-sparing way to get him to correct his processes or approach his boss. Tell your boss you’ve noticed inaccurate info in areas X, Y, and Z and it may be a time to review all training forms. Mike may be more willing to hear that and less likely to blame you.

    Reply
      1. Ramona Flowers

        Actually no, that would be if there were actual changes which it doesn’t sound like these are.

        Reply
        1. It's-a-me

          Entirely possible that there hasn’t been any changes for 6 years… but Mike has been there 7. Happens all the time at my workplace and it is extremely frustrating.

          Reply
    1. TootsNYC

      This is what I was going to suggest: Take these specifically to Mike (by email–so you have a trail) on a case-by-case basis.

      Use wording that suggests maybe the person got it wrong or his training materials are out of date or the procedure changed.

      Do them one by one, brief alerts. With a similar subject line.

      Then, when you have three or four of them, approach it from an “things have changed; we should update” point of view.

      Reply
  5. AJ

    #1 – I don’t know if this is at all feasible, but is there any way you could request a heavy sleeper as your roommate? I personly sleep through insanely loud thunderstorms and wonder why the ground is wet the next day. If your manager is unwilling to take any steps towards finding a good roommate choice, then A. There’s more proof that she might not be awesome and B. Maybe she will decide allowing you to have your own room is the simpler option.

    Reply
    1. Myrin

      Yeah, I think if getting a single room is out of the question, this is the only solution that at least might have a satisfactory outcome.

      I don’t snore but I make a really weird noise when I sleep, have been all my life (my mum actually thought I was dying when I did it at a few days old) – it’s hard to describe but it’s similar to the sound Phineas and Ferb’s bathing suit Klimpaloon makes, only it’s a continuous noise, not a repeated one. Go listen to it. And now imagine it. Yeah. Every single person I’ve ever slept even in the same flat with has complained about their inability to sleep through it. Situations like #1’s are my absolute nightmare because of that and I really think a heavy sleeper is the only possible solution. (And like others have mentioned above, this might not even mean “someone who can fall asleep while I do the noise”, but really someone like my mum who, once she’s asleep, doesn’t hear anything, so you’d have to do strategical falling-asleep-staggering or something. Which would be wholly unnecessary if this company just got you a single room.)

      [Alison, unrelated wrt #3: You wrote “I’ve noticed a pattern of people having errors in their training when they with Mike.”, I think this might be missing a word or like two sentences mushed into one?]

      Reply
  6. Jeanne

    #4, I know doctors give a range of 1-4 weeks for recovery but I do not think you can be ready for work in less than 2 weeks. If anything goes wrong with removing it laproscopically and they have to cut, much longer. They have made it an easier operation for the donor than when my mother donated in 1998. Some states have laws requiring time off, some companies have policies. Your best bet is to appeal to their image/reputation. Wouldn’t they like to have workers think of them as compassionate? You could say you’d expose them in the news if they deny you (a little irony), but that would make it hard when you come back to work. I hope you can donate. You’re doing a great thing.

    Reply
        1. Ramona Flowers

          Also, I’m ex-media. I don’t know that they would actually care/see this as a story.

          Reply
      1. Gandalf the Nude

        It’s not necessarily a media threat. Word gets around in the industry, not even in a malicious way, usually. We know plenty about competitors without anything to do with the media, and the front line employees know even more.

        Reply
        1. Lissa

          I figured you were joking, but this suggestion has been made in all seriousness a few times recently, so it can be really hard to tell!

          Reply
    1. Trout 'Waver

      My experience has always been that surgeons lowball the recovery time, so I would be a bit skeptical of that 1-4 weeks. That’s just my own personal experience, though.

      Reply
    2. OP 4

      We are the media, so nope, not happening. I really doubt they’ll deny me – I’ve just never run into anything like this before and wasn’t sure where to start the conversation. The company is pretty flexible and good about stuff.

      Reply
  7. sorbus

    Regarding letter 5, I’m wondering if there aren’t two different uses of the term “mental health day”. When I’ve taken days off for mental health reasons, it’s usually because either my meds aren’t controlling my depression and/or anxiety well enough or because I’m having side effects (usually grogginess or dizziness) from them. So I usually spend most of the day resting, at least to some degree. This sounds similar to what OP #5 means. But then I hear a lot of people use it to mean something like an unscheduled mini-vacation to purge accumulated stress before it starts to cause health problems. Have I been using it incorrectly? Or is it used in both ways?

    Reply
    1. baseballfan

      I have seen it used both ways and in my opinion they vary greatly as to acceptability.

      A mental health day because you are extremely stressed, depressed, anxious, or otherwise in need of a mental break to function at work, is a legitimate use of sick days in the same way it would be if it was a physical illness that affected performance.

      A “mental health day” because you just want some extra vacation is not appropriate. Use vacation days.

      Now, what you are describing in your last sentence sounds an awful lot like my first scenario above. Sounds like this is describing a situation where the person genuinely needs some time off to clear the head and decompress. That’s not the same as just not feeling like going to work that day because you’d rather binge watch Friends.

      Reply
      1. That Would Be a Good Band Name

        At my last employer, we had generous vacation plus sick days. I never used all my sick days because I never needed them. And, I’ll admit, was fairly judge-y about people who used sick days when not sick because we had a ton of vacation and other paid time off that we didn’t need to use our sick days just to get time off.

        Here? The vacation is barely existent. If I didn’t use “sick” days, I’d have to take time unpaid because I can’t function on one week a year off.

        Reply
    2. Abby

      Mental health is every bit as important as physical health and I think it a legitimate use of sick time. I agree however that some people do use it as an excuse to just take off a fun day even if they are using vacation or personal days instead of sick days. Just because someone uses the term in that way doesn’t mean it isn’t reasonable to use that time. I don’t think that you need to explain the actual medical reason you are taking a sick day.

      Reply
      1. The IT Manager

        That’s why I object to people taking mental health days. I have almost always seen the term used in the wink, wink “I’m sick of work” kind of way because mental health days are not a category of vacation/sick days.

        If someone is taking a sick day for a mental health reason that is just a sick day like when you have the flue. My organization allows me to use sick days for dental and eye doctor appointments. They’re not called dental health days or eye health days; they’re just sick days. Sick days for mental health issues are the same.

        Reply
        1. Marillenbaum

          Not necessarily. When I was struggling with my depression and anxiety, I phrased my “mental health days” in the wink, nudge sense to my coworkers because disclosing that I felt suicidal wasn’t something I was willing to do. Judging people for using the term isn’t a useful way to spend your time, and why not just be charitable? It’s no skin off your nose.

          Reply
        2. Anna

          But it’s really none of your business how people decide they need to use their sick days. I’m fortunate in that my employer categorizes them as personal/sick days so I can use them however I see fit, whether I am actually physically or mentally not feeling up to the task, or if I just need a break from work to decompress. Self care that consists of just laying on the couch binge watching Friends because work has been crazy and you need a break may not be as serious as needing to adjust medication, but it can have a similar impact on your work.

          Reply
      2. nonegiven

        If having a fun day will keep some stressed out person from strangling their annoying coworker, I’d say it’s a legitimate sick day.

        Reply
    3. lowercase holly

      i’ve used it for days after a night of insomnia where i’m not exactly sick, but my brain isn’t fully functional either. when i was younger, not so much of an issue since i didn’t have to think so hard at my job. but now that i need to be able to manage others, plan, etc., it’s sort of important to be awake.

      Reply
      1. Manders

        Yeah, I’ve done this too. Insomnia and poor mental health are connected for me, so it’s still definitely within the realm of a mental health day.

        For me, mental health day means “I can’t function mentally at a level my employer would want to pay me for, so I’m taking the day off so I can return to being a normal worker.” That could be from lack of sleep, a bad panic attack, a stress-induced migraine, etc. My husband has been gently encouraging me to start taking time off *before* I reach that stage of complete inability to function, and I definitely wouldn’t judge anyone else for using a mental health day that way, but I have a hard time convincing myself to do the same.

        Reply
        1. tigerlily

          That’s how I view mental health days – it’s when I know I need a break so I *don’t* lose sleep, have a panic attack, or get stress-induced migraines. Try to think of it like preventative care, like your yearly physical or 6 month dental check up – it’s preventing something worse, something that often takes far *more* time to recover from than to prevent. It’s just as important to proactively take care of yourself than to reactively take care of yourself.

          Reply
      2. The Rat-Catcher

        I have called in sick because I was up three times last night with my 9 month old and my whole head is foggy. Is it “sick” in the traditional sense? Probably not. But I’m putting others in danger by driving to work while I’m that tired, setting myself up to make mistakes all day, and to top it all off, I’m not even in a role where attendance matters all that much (non-public-facing admin). So I don’t always tell people why I stay home because I don’t want the judge-y looks and comments, but I don’t feel badly about it because it would have been a pretty low-production workday in any case. Showing up would just be for optics.

        Reply
  8. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

    OP#5, it’s 1000% ok to take sick leave for mental health days. Caregiver fatigue is real, and mental health is a real health issue—don’t feel at all guilty for taking the time you need. And don’t at all feel obligated to tell your boss(es) the basis for your sick leave. Just as I wouldn’t tell my boss “Oh, gonna be late for that pap smear!” I also wouldn’t tell them I’m taking a mental health day because, frankly, it’s none of their business. Especially if you’re meeting productivity goals and are an otherwise conscientious employee.

    And the “I never take sick days!” thing is obnoxious. I got really mad at my admin this week because she refused to take sick day when she was clearly sick and contagious. She’s attached to the fact that she hasn’t taken one in 3 years, and despite my repeated directions that she stay home and rest up, she thinks she’s demonstrating her loyalty or commitment or professionalism or some-other-unsupportable-nonsense by exposing everyone else to her cold. A lot of people do this, but it doesn’t mean it’s good policy, and it’s ok if you opt out of drinking the cold-martyr Kool-Aid.

    Reply
    1. Drew

      A former boss once asked me to explain why I was taking a last-minute sick day.

      “Because I just puked up food that I don’t think I’ve ever eaten,” I replied, because I wasn’t in a chatty mood.

      That boss never asked me for details again.

      Reply
      1. Marillenbaum

        I had a grandboss who told us once that, during our busy season, we were only allowed to take sick days if we were “bleeding or vomiting” (classy lady). When I was coming back from 26 days of consecutive international travel, had a bad reaction to my antidepressants and was feeling suicidal, I lied to the entire office about getting food poisoning so I could have two days to just rest. I’ll always think less of that office (and that woman in particular) for the way they handled that situation.

        Reply
        1. Emi.

          Ugh, that’s really obnoxious. On the other hand, it means you get to take off work for your period, so that’s nice!

          Reply
    2. Anonyforthis

      Yeah, it’s definitely a badge of honor for some people to come to work sick. My company even has a breakfast each year for perfect attendance, and the CEO’s favorite quote is “The world belongs to those who show up”. I absolutely agree we all need to be here (and fully present) in order to put in the best work effort, but to get to the point where it’s frowned on that you take any sick time, regardless of the reason, is ludicrous. Bottom line, you need to take care of YOU, so if you have a cold, are exhausted from caring for someone, stressed out and need time to yourself, never, ever feel guilty about that. I hardly ever catch colds, but when I do it’s usually because someone came into the office sick and should have stayed home! And YES, I do take mental health days as sick days, those count.

      Reply
      1. eplawyer

        All those people “showed up” but what did they accomplish while they were sick? I know when I am not feeling well, I don’t get as much done because I am distracted by being sick. If it’s bad enough I don’t even try to law. I cannot imagine giving legal advice that affects people’s lives if I can’t even remember what day it is because I am sick.

        Re-charge days are very important to overall wellbeing. Keeping this solely work focused, you can’t be productive if you are tired and worn out. Take the day. Re-charge. Come back with the energy to do your job.

        Reply
      2. Mike C.

        That’s a rather gross attitude for your CEO to model. I always hated those “perfect attendance” awards in school because come on, I wasn’t skipping classes, I was sick.

        Reply
        1. PB

          Ugh, yes. It’s a ridiculous attitude in school, and ridiculous in the professional world.

          I have coworkers with compromised immunity. People coming in with “minor” illnesses could turn into debilitating illnesses for them. Heck, my immunity is fine, but a “small cold” I caught from a coworker turned into a secondary infection that had me out of work for more than a week. I wasn’t even healthy when I returned, but I didn’t have any more sick time. (I wasn’t contagious at that point, but I was not functioning at my normal level.) Thanks, coworker.

          Reply
          1. Anon for This

            YES, THIS. As someone with weakened immunity, I need sick people to stay home. I have always had this attitude, but it now has become a life-threatening issue. I simply CANNOT catch your germs. Either work from home or take the sick day.

            Reply
        2. Clever Name

          A boy in my elementary school was going for perfect attendance, I think for k-6. His mom committed suicide, and he didn’t take any days off. Because you know, perfect attendance when you’re 11 is that important. Even as a kid I thought that was messed up.

          Reply
      3. F Manley

        The ‘showing up sick shows virtue!’ people set my teeth on edge. The first place I worked out of college, there was a particular employee who was known for coming back from conferences with a minor sniffle, and passing along the bug to everyone he came into contact with, then all of them being out for days with the illness. (He was apparently very good at picking up germs AND at fighting them off. It was like the worst superpower.) To the point that he was explicitly forbidden from coming into work the day after a conference, and told to work from home instead.

        That company’s employee manual said that if you were sick, you stayed home. If you thought you were contagious, stay home. Better to take a few sick days, inconvenient as they might be, than to get multiple people sick and derail production and have deadlines missed by the entire small company!

        The more I read about places that insist everyone show up for work regardless of illness, the more I appreciate that company being my first ‘real’ workplace experience.

        Reply
        1. TootsNYC

          It’s right up there w/ the attitude that “sick people only got sick because they didn’t take care of themselves, so healthy people are more virtuous, so why should healthy people have to contribute to healthcare that benefits sick [i.e., unvirtuous] people?”

          Reply
      4. Abby

        I so object to this practice. While commitment to one’s job should certainly be valued at an organization, perfect attendance does not prove this. Coming to work contagious is actually harmful to your company’s bottom line. And we cannot always control that we get sick. Sure I wash my hands frequently, try to eat well and take care of myself, but I have still gotten sick. And then, of course, there are those people who either have some sort of chronic illness and have no choice about taking days off or employees with family who are sick and also need to take time off. This is an attitude that truly troubles me and I think a company that recognizes this is sending a bad message.

        Reply
    3. Gazebo Slayer

      A lot of people have “never take a sick day” ingrained in them because they’ve worked for unreasonable employers where that was expected and possibly mandatory. It’s not always about martyrdom – often it’s “my last boss would have reprimanded or fired me” or “I’ve never had a job with paid sick days before.”

      Reply
      1. MegaMoose, Esq.

        Yeah, I still remember my first job out of college working for a major coffee chain. They were really harsh about never allowing time off, didn’t have paid sick days, and would just keep you off the register if you were sick. So yeah, making drinks while sneezing my head off in full view of the customers was a great look. I’m sure they saved loads of money.

        Reply
      2. Manders

        Yeah, my first office job out of college was working for a doctor, and that “I have to come to work no matter what, because that’s what you do in health care” attitude is hard to shake. I did give him a whole lot of nasty colds he could have avoided by being more generous with sick days. He never made the connection that the person hacking all over his papers was getting him sick, I guess.

        Reply
      3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

        That’s very true. I should have been specific that my particular report is drinking martyr Kool-Aid–not that everyone who does this is motivated by the same principle.

        Reply
    4. Antilles

      And the “I never take sick days!” thing is obnoxious.
      People who treat ignoring benefits as some sort of merit badge is one of my pet peeves because it is directly opposite of both research AND common sense.
      1.) You are more likely to make mistakes while you’re sick and aren’t operating anywhere close to 100%. Most jobs have plenty of opportunities to make a careless mistake that takes hours to undo.
      2.) Your body and mind don’t get the chance to heal up. This can either (a) increase the odds that the issue gets worse instead of better (so rather than missing one day now, you’re missing three days later) or (b) give you a nice lingering illness (so rather than missing one day now and then having you healthy and effective, I get you at 70% for weeks on end).
      3.) Stress is a risk factor for basically everything. No matter what your issue is, stress almost certainly makes it worse.
      4.) You might get others sick. These others probably don’t treat illness the same way you do, so all of a sudden one person refusing to take one day off ends up with more overall time off.
      5.) No matter how it works out, it will eventually lead to resentment. Co-workers resent you for setting an impossible standard or you resent co-workers for taking sick days.

      Reply
      1. Karine lynn

        I take mental health sick days because I have a disorder!!! I also am prone to stress and in a toxic work environment, I will actually physically get sick. Pass out and have high blood pressure. Rollin the ambulance. Mental health is very serious do not underestimate it and don’t shame someone for using those days.

        Reply
        1. Marillenbaum

          This is entirely reasonable. Even during times when my depression and anxiety were well-controlled, if I’d had an incredibly stressful few days I would still take a day off, because I knew that if I didn’t, my anxiety and depression would be far less well-controlled. Proactive mental health care counts, too.
          I have a thing I call the “Preserve Your Mental Health Pajama Day”, where I actively do not change out of my pj’s until at least noon (if I’m feeling very fancy, I’ll shower and put on different pj’s). It’s kind of a symbolic giving of grace to myself, a reminder to be gentle, because I’m healing, even if all I end up doing is ordering burritos and watching nature documentaries on my couch.

          Reply
        2. Annabell

          Yeah, I think some people don’t realize that mental health can be really closely linked to physical health. This isn’t exactly the same thing, but my anxiety triggers my asthma, and a bad asthma attack can mean a trip to the hospital. No one should be shamed for taking care of themselves.

          Reply
      2. MashaKasha

        I lose sick days every year because I honest to god never get sick that many times (knock on wood). I promise I don’t come to work sneezing and spreading germs. I just don’t get colds that much. Sometimes I feel like finding someone with a cold and asking them to sneeze on me, because I hate losing sick days year after year. I used to spend them on things like long doctor appointments and planned outpatient surgeries, but a few months ago, a new policy came out banning that. All sick days have to be for last-minute unplanned sicknesses. We’re told to use our personal days for the planned stuff. I just… can’t wrap my head around this.

        Reply
    5. Lily Rowan

      Yeah, praise for not taking sick days is ridiculous. And I say that as someone who will go years without taking a sick day! But it’s because I’m lucky enough to not get sick very often — not because I’m coming to the office sick. And I know that’s just good luck on my part, not any kind of moral superiority.

      Reply
    6. The Other Dawn

      ’ll totally admit that I used to see it as a badge of honor to not take my sick days. Didn’t matter if I was practically on my deathbed, I was there. Until I got really burned out and had an epic meltdown in front of my indirect boss/mentor (poor guy, he didn’t know what to do with me). That’s when I realized it’s important to use those days to recharge, recover, and not spread around the disgusting germs clinging to me.

      As a manager, I make sure my team knows that they are expected to take their sick days if they need them. I don’t expect them to drag themselves in just so one task can get done. That’s why cross training exists. The whole department can’t come to a halt because someone is sick, and I want them to know that it won’t. There have been a few times where I’ve had to say, “Please take your disgusting carcass home and don’t come back until you feel better. The work will get done.”

      My company pays out personal/sick days at half the rate to those people that don’t take any of those days, and I wish they would get rid of that policy. A former team member bragged because she got it every year since she’d been there. I would cringe every time she came in sick.

      Reply
    7. saby

      I’ve worked with people who send FAR too detailed emails to the entire office about their symptoms when they take a sick day. I don’t want to know! I hope they feel better and if it’s something contagious I’m glad they’re not coming in!

      OP, what I do if I’m starting to feel really burnt out and thinking about taking a sick day is that I start mentioning to people around the office that I’m “feeling really rundown” (which is true) and “hope I’m not coming down with something” (which is also true, your immune system struggles more when you’re stressed). No one has ever questioned me when I send in an email saying I won’t be coming in because I woke up feeling crappy. Then again, my office also has a culture that when it’s not a really busy time of year, it’s perfectly acceptable to take a sick day because you’re starting to come down with a cold and want to nip it in the bud.

      Reply
      1. ErinW

        Yeah, I don’t get sharing with everybody the full story of the digestive issues that are keeping you home. I do occasionally take a sick day when I can’t face leaving the house (anxiety at peak) and I always notify the office that “I’m not feeling well” and won’t be coming in. The key is to be vague, and to also do it even when you have a legit physical ailment (vomiting, etc.) and then you probably won’t get questioned.

        Like Allison says, choose responsibly. I never call out during busy periods or when office coverage is in question. I’ve also never used up all my sick days, and I’ve never used one to like, go to the amusement park, either.

        Reply
    8. nonprofit fun

      Yes, caregiver stress is so real and so important to address. OP #5, if you’re not already doing this, you should definitely look up dementia caregiver support groups in your area. It can help so much to know others understand exactly what you’re going through!

      Reply
    9. sfigato

      My only caveat with mental health days (and this doesn’t apply to OP#5) is to be mindful of whether staying home will actually improve or worsen the situation. When I was depressed I’d sometimes stay home from work and find it made me more depressed to be at home, whereas even if I felt lousy in the morning, being busy and around people made me feel a lot better. This is sort of true with colds, too – some days I feel like garbage when I wake up but am fine by 10am, while other days going to work just makes things 10x worse.

      I also had a coworker who would take mental health days when work things that they needed to do would stress them out. So they’d bail on an important deadline because the prospect of dealing with it stressed them out too much. I don’t recommend that.

      That said, there is at least one or two days a year when I wake up , realize I have no deadlines or meetings, and take the opportunity to rest and recoup. My rule of thumb is so long as I am resting and not out doing fun stuff, it’s a legit use of a sick day.

      Reply
  9. Casuan

    OP4: I’m not clear if being a kidney donor is something one can plan for…? When you ask your employer about logistics, you needn’t specify that it’s for an unknown recipient.
    Just say that you’re waiting for the call to donate.
    Thank you for donating!!

    As for the flip side, a poll…
    As an employer, would you feel differently about granting time off if the donor doesn’t know the intended recipient [vs donating to family]?

    Reply
      1. Susan

        Yes, this is a wonderful thing! I am hoping that OP #4’s employer will recognize what a great and selfless act this is and be completely accommodating. This is a very different thing than taking a couple of weeks off to go to Hawaii or something. The OP could be saving someone’s life, and I would like to think most employers would take that into consideration.

        Reply
    1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

      It wouldn’t matter to me whom the donation was for. I’ve seen too many people whose lives were saved by a stranger’s donation to make the mistake of thinking only intra-family donations are legit.

      Organ donation is such a necessary and important thing—with relatively low participation—that I think employers should try to accommodate it, when possible. And employers should avoid shaming employees who don’t donate, refrain from judging the legitimacy of a donation request, and try not to sound like body-harvesting organ traders. (Some employers get weirdly involved in things like blood/organ donation, which can skeeve employees out.)

      That’s my $0.25.

      Reply
        1. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock

          Touché :) I should clarify that uncoerces, voluntary donation should be supported with no shaming or pressure on those who opt out.

          Reply
      1. Anna

        A childhood friend is alive and doing well today because she received a kidney donation. I don’t know the circumstances of her donation, but they and their family have my heartfelt appreciation.

        Reply
    2. Madeleine Matilda

      Regarding #4 – With kidney donations it is becoming more and more common to do what are called chain donations where the donor and recipient may not know each other. For example recipient A may have donor X willing to donate for them but A and X aren’t a match. Same for recipient B and donor Y and recipient C and donor Z. Doctors then will match donor X to recipient C, donor Y to recipient A, and donor Z to recipient B. They do all three transplants at once (so no one can back out once the recipient they know gets a kidney). There are 124,000 people in the U.S. alone waiting for a kidney donation, spending hours each week doing dialysis. For more information about donating a kidney: https://www.kidney.org/transplantation/livingdonors#livingdonation

      Reply
    3. I woke up like this

      I was on the short-list to be a bone marrow donor a few years back for an unknown recipient. It didn’t require as much time off, but with travel and recovery, I would have been out a week. And a week would have been a real hardship for my workplace. I didn’t ask for permission when I talked to my boss. I simply said, “I may have to donate bone marrow in a few weeks. This is really important to me, and of course to the recipient of the bone marrow. It is likely I will need one week off. I will let you know as soon as I have more details, but what plans can we make now, so when I get the call, we are ready to go?” I figured saving someone’s life was not up for debate, so I didn’t present it as if I was looking for my employer’s input on whether or not I should do the donation, just how to navigate the time off. My employer was surprisingly very supportive and adamant we could work this out.

      I didn’t end up donating–I received an email that “the donation was no longer needed”–but if I had, I am confident my employer and I would have figured out the time off bit, especially since I mentioned it so early in advance.

      Reply
      1. Suz

        Thank you for being willing to donate. I work in bone marrow transplant research. It’s heartbreaking to see how many people register to be donors but back out once they’ve been selected as a match for a patient.

        Reply
    4. Cube Farmer

      OP4, Thank you so very much for even considering kidney donation! I lost the love of my life just before Christmas as he died waiting for a kidney.

      When donating a kidney, yes, this can be scheduled in advance and well planned. It is a long and involved process before you ever get to the operating room. This may sound callous to some, but since you work in a news industry, it is possible that they would like to make full use of the human interest part of the story while at the same time promoting the need for healthy living donors. So that may be beneficial to your request for time off.

      Best of luck to you and thank you for being an awesome person.

      Reply
      1. eplawyer

        Cube Farmer – I am sorry for your loss.

        But, this is a great idea #4. You can pitch the human interest story angle to get the time off.

        Reply
      2. Sarah

        I think this is a really good point, if you are comfortable being in the news like this (I realize not everyone would be). A friend of mine was a living kidney donor to a stranger, who was able to be the first in a “chain” enabling multiple people to receive kidney donations and he has since become a huge advocate for living donors and done quite a bit of media around the issues.

        Reply
      3. anonforthis

        Sorry for your loss Cube Farmer.
        I’m on dialysis and I want to thank OP#4 for their generosity.

        Reply
    5. Temperance

      Honestly, I would understand donating to a loved one more, but the practical impact is the same.

      Reply
      1. fposte

        The OP doesn’t state, but a lot of people donating to a stranger are actually participating in a donation chain that benefits a loved one–the OP’s sister Lucinda needs a kidney, but the OP isn’t a match. She *is* a match with Bob, and Bob’s brother is a match with Jane, whose daughter is a match for Lucinda. Reportedly, the longest one so far was 68 people (34 donors and 34 recipients). So the OP donates a kidney so that her sister Lucinda can receive one–it just doesn’t happen directly.

        Reply
        1. Temperance

          Oh that’s really interesting! I didn’t know that this was a possibility – it’s such a wonderful idea. I’m candidly in awe of OP’s selflessness.

          Reply
        2. OP 4

          Those are so cool! I don’t know anyone who needs a kidney – I’m just young and (mental health issues aside) healthy, so it seems kind of weird to live my life with an extra organ I don’t need when it could help someone else so dramatically.

          Reply
  10. Ramona Flowers

    #5 I was really struck by this line in your letter: “This helps me out a lot, but I usually feel guilty afterwards for taking advantage of sick days because I’m not actually sick.”

    I’m not sure I agree. Caregiver burnout means you’re suffering from stress, mentally and possibly physically, and the day is needed for your wellbeing. You’re caring for someone who’s unwell, which is by definition focused on that someone’s needs, not on yours. And you worry you’re not entitled to a day off because you’re not the one who’s unwell. But you are doing something that can be a huge strain emotionally and physically. It’s vitally important that you take care of your own wellbeing too.

    You might actually be entitled to more help than you’re getting, e.g. something like FMLA. It might be worth seeing what your EAP can offer, too. I also wondered if you’re in touch with any organisations that support people with dementia and their families, and/or any organisations that specifically support carers, e.g. through peer support groups.

    My point is: taking a day off here and there is probably the minimum of what you need to do to protect your mental health right now. Time off for stress is absolutely a legitimate use of sick time.

    Reply
    1. The RO-Cat

      In her book, The Telomere Effect, Elizabeth Blackburn (a Nobel prize winner for medicine) describes scientific research linking stress to reduced healthspan, reduced life expectance and worse health and establishing a causal link (which is BFD in research, especially with systems of the complexity a human body has). So “sick days” in ths context are, indeed, about sickness. Literally.

      Reply
    2. Hannah

      I get the guilty feeling though. I used a sick day on a slow day when I was just feeling burnt out and tired. I just told my boss I wasn’t feeling well, which was true in a sense. When I was back she asked if I was feeling better and that’s when I felt guilty, because I didn’t even know what she was talking about for a second.

      Reply
    3. Trout 'Waver

      Totally agree here. Would you rather take a day off every couple months to proactively deal with burnout or actually burn out and take months to recover?

      Taking those days is one of the best ways to avoid burnout.

      Reply
      1. AMPG

        This, 100%. I remember being so stressed out at one point when my kids were very young that I was seriously afraid of having some sort of breakdown. I took a couple of sick days and stepped up my work from home days after that and it helped a lot, but I wish I hadn’t gotten to a point where I scared myself a little before I did that.

        Reply
        1. Working Mom

          Yes! Stress is a very real issue and can have a severe impact on your health. Especially when not managed for long periods of time. Mental health day/stress management day/personal wellness day – whatever you want to call it – it’s very real and valid. I will also add, that as a manager myself, my company also does flat PTO for employees. I actually really don’t care to know why a person is taking PTO. It’s none of my business and my staff manages their own PTO balances; so it’s truly none of my concern. (Besides making sure we have enough coverage in the office, of course.)

          Reply
    4. Casuan

      +1

      This can go for other health situations as well. I get fatigued easily from my MS; everything I do or think can contribute to this fatigue & what I do today can affect what I can do in the future.
      For me, sometimes I need to plan a “crash day” [or two]. I need to let myself be unwell & veg so I can recoup & regenerate. Absolutely I consider these days to be sick days. Because of family obligations, often at least one of my days off is to help out & that can be stressful & exhausting [which adds to the fatigue].
      If I can’t schedule these crash days on my regular days off then I’ll take a sick day. The trade-off is that if I don’t preemptively do so, I risk getting overly fatigued which would require at least a few days, if not longer.

      On a crash day, I stay home & usually I can do some lo-impact tasks. The flip side is if I do get overly fatigued, all I can really accomplish is to veg on my sofa & feel guilty that I might have prevented it.

      When I know I need to do this usually I can choose the day & I can discreetly plan my work accordingly so as to minimise the impact on my colleagues. No one needs to know that I’m planning a sick day, nor do they need to know why. Every so often I’m tempted to ‘fess up, then I remember that there’s really nothing to confess here. Sometimes the fatigue takes me by surprise & I’ll need to call in, just like how anyone is affected by an illness.

      Mental health & physical health are symbiotic. Be guilt-free!!
      perhaps semantics will help: just think “health day”

      to be clear, the above refers to my sick days; personal time off goes through the proper channels

      nb for those who might not know this type of fatigue: This fatigue is not restricted to MS; it can be from a chronic or temporary illness. Fatigue does not equal exhaustion. Exhaustion can be cured by sleep. Fatigue might be alleviated with sleep, although sleeping isn’t the cure itself. How fatigue manifests is different in everyone; the most basic explanation is that it’s kind of how one might feel when one has the flu: one’s muscles feel heavy & every movement is difficult… just thinking about moving is fatiguing.

      Reply
  11. Lena

    I was watching a live stream the other day about being successful in business and someone was talking about how great her staff are. One of the things she kept mentioning was that employees x and y never take sick days, as if people who do were bad employees. That attitude really bothers me. We have a right to sick days by law in New Zealand, taking them isn’t a bad thing. If you don’t, it means either 1. you don’t get sick, and if so lucky you, and 2. if not, you come to work sick and probably spread it to everyone else. I had a week off sick the other week and whilst my boss was like okay I gotta scramble to cover this, she understood because that’s life!

    Reply
    1. TootsNYC

      it means either 1. you don’t get sick, and if so lucky you,

      Apparently, here in America, it means “virtuous you.”

      Reply
  12. Tau

    OP#5 – I’d add the caveat here that this also depends on your job and geographical location. In principle, sure, I see Alison’s point. But I am also certain that if I were to use sick time as described and my company found out, they’d view it as me having lied about being sick and I’d be in serious hot water. I’m also pretty sure that this isn’t unusual for the UK. Know your work culture and figure out how they’d be likely to view this.

    Reply
    1. Ramona Flowers

      I’d say it doesn’t quite translate like that. In the UK, the OP would be entitled to a carers’ assessment and time off work for dependents. They may be entitled to paid leave specifically due to caring depending on company policy. They would have a legal right to request flexible working. Stress is not a diagnosis in the UK, but any employer who treats time off due to stress caused by caring for a relative, or time off due to mental health issues, as malingering is asking for a tribunal.

      Are you sure your company would see it this way? If you used ‘mental health day’ to mean ‘going on holiday’ then maybe. But caregiver stress is real.

      Reply
      1. GingerHR

        It wouldn’t technically be covered by time off for dependents. That’s to cover unforeseen circumstances of the dependent, not the caregiver: so if a carer couldn’t come in, you’d have the right to (usually) unpaid time off to make alternative arrangements. Flexible working also tends to be a specific pattern, so less useful for occasional days. It doesn’t mean that some employers wouldn’t let you use time off for dependents or flex working in that way, but they’d be within their rights not to. However, stress may not be a formal diagnosis, but is definitely sonething that turns up on sick certs.
        Personally, I’d prefer to know about someone caring, so that we could try to accommodate the need for time off – caring is difficult and exhausting, and if we could support the employee it benefits both sides.

        Reply
      2. caledonia

        I agree with Romona.

        And perhaps whilst it’s not time off for dependents, the OP and their employer might be able to work something out.

        I am in the UK and when my mum was sick (both times) my dad’s employer cut him some slack because my mum was recovering from major surgery (and then chemo/radio therapy) and then when she wasn’t going to recover.

        Reply
        1. GingerHR

          Absolutely, employers should work something out, and good ones do – that’s why I’d personally want to know – but time off for dependents is a legal right for specific circumstances. It’s also not actually that useful for ongoing needs- it’s to cover emergencies, e.g. taking someone to hospital or finding alternative care, not to provide the care yourself. We have people in similar positions to the OP and your dad, and do our best to make sure that they have the time they need to look after their dependents and themselves, with a combination of options. If the company is aware of the circumstances, then there are a number of things that can be done so long as both sides are willing.
          Sorry about your mum Caledonia.

          Reply
    2. Myrin

      This argument comes up quite often with that topic I find and I always have to wonder – how could the employer possibly find out what’s the reason for your sick day? When taking a day to de-stress, I’d assume you’d stay at home and rest or do some mindless tasks or whatever, just as you might do with something like a light cold or similar. If people ask, you can just say “Ugh, I was feeling really unwell; must have eaten something bad.” or thelike, so I’m not really sure how that can be something the company would ever be privy to.

      (I hope I’m not coming across as sarcastic or patronising – I just always feel like I must be seriously missing something because I’ve never been in a situation where this could conceivably happen.)

      Reply
      1. Stellaaaaa

        If you post to social media about going on a hike or to a movie or even out to lunch, someone at work *might* see that and suspect that you might not be physically ill. It can also come up later in conversation that you went out on X night. If your boss is the type to think that people shouldn’t enjoy themselves on sick days, you need to make sure you never ever mention anything that you did during that day, which can be harder than you might think.

        Reply
          1. Anon now

            No. If its a mental health issue being in nature and going on a hike can help. It can also help to meet up with someone to discuss the burnout feelings and unwind to a trusted safe friend. In fact if you have actual mental health problems its often advused to see others if possible as it can be beneficial.

            Frankly any employer who monitors your social media to verify if you are sick is probably horrible in a lot of other ways.

            Anyway it isnt a false use of sick days. Mental health is just as real as physical health. Being a carer is physically and mentally draining and needing time off to recharge your batteries is best for everyone. Its not a false use of it. And I am in the UK as well so I dont think its regional.

            Reply
            1. Myrin

              Of course all of these things are (or can be) beneficial, but you do not actually have to do them, especially if we’re not talking about actual mental health issues like depression or anxiety but just a day to de-stress where you want to sleep in and lounge around the house or similar. I’m simply responding to the general thought of people being afraid of being fired or similar if their employer finds out they went on a hike on a sick day, to which the easy solution is to not go on a hike on a sick day. Of course an employer who monitors your social media or uses other methods to “spy” on you during sick days is an unreasonable one you generally probaly don’t want to work for but if you find yourself stuck in such a situation, you can often find alternatives to, for example, going on a hike that won’t even be on the company’s radar in any way.

              (And I do have experience with mental illness, by the way, and am speaking from that experience.)

              Reply
              1. Amy

                For some people, lounging around the house is not at all relaxing and is the opposite of de-stressing! Everyone is different. For me, if I am stressed or anxious and taking a mental health day to recoup, lying around like a slob doing nothing is going to make me feel worse. If I go out in the woods and take a walk, or just generally get outside, it helps immensely. Not everyone’s brain works like yours does!

                Reply
              2. Anna

                More importantly, you don’t actually have to post to social media that you did those things. If you go for a hike because that will help your mental health and alleviate stress, it is perfectly reasonable to not take a selfie, not post it to FB, and not talk about it. Much like if you were physically ill you wouldn’t really post about all the Imodium you were taking. Or maybe you would, but you wouldn’t have to.

                Reply
            2. nonegiven

              If you post a pic on FB, make it the pharmacy. Take a few in advance and keep them for later.

              Reply
            1. Stellaaaaa

              Why do people always assume that an explanation of “the weird stuff people do sometimes” is an endorsement or justification? People like to post stuff on social media. I think it’s often stupid, but what can you do? I was answering the question.

              Reply
              1. Stop That Goat

                I wasn’t saying that you were endorsing or justifying anything. Just pointing out that you can still do all of those things and avoid the issue if you don’t post about them on social media.

                Reply
      2. DaisyGJ

        I’m in the UK. When I have to take a sick day, I have to provide a reason to my manager (more detailed than just “I’m unwell”, usually something like “I’ve got a bad cold” or “I ate something bad and have been up all night”) and then fill in a company sick form with the same reason and choosing a category for my sickness (out of about 20). The only people I know who had time off for mental health had a diagnosed condition and doctor’s certificate.

        Reply
        1. Myrin

          Aha, that’s interesting, I didn’t know that! It doesn’t sound like you’d need an actual doctor’s note, though, right? So couldn’t you just write down any of those reasons and your employer will never be the wiser? I mean, maybe I’m just really callous or something but I feel like this problem has a pretty easy solution (unless, of course, you do have to “prove” your reason for being sick somehow).

          Reply
          1. SarahKay

            I’m also in the UK, and no, standard practice is that a doctor’s note isn’t required unless your absence is for more than seven consecutive days. So you *could* self-cert with whatever reason you chose, but you’d need to be very, very sure that you never let anything contradictory get back to your boss, as at that point you’re almost certainly facing disciplinary action.

            For the UK, I’d say that if you had a reasonable manager, you might do better to take a day’s vacation – although while we get a minimum of 20 days vacation (plus public holidays) per year, if you’re caring for someone you might still be struggling for enough days vacation.

            Reply
            1. Countess Boochie Flagrante

              There’s part of the difference, too! In the US, there’s no minimum paid vacation, and for most of those who have it, it’s far less than 20 days. I count myself really lucky that I started at my current job with 15, plus 10 sick days. At OldJob, entry level workers got 10 days vacation and 5 sick.

              Reply
          1. Kj

            Same here. I get them and I get more of them when my anxiety is out of control. So if I take a mental health day when things are getting bad with my anxiety, I can usually prevent a migraine. I prefer to chill at home to reduce my anxiety instead of puking for 10 hours with a migraine.

            Reply
        2. Tau

          Same, except the company sick form gets replaced by a call with HR the next day where we talk about my illness. So, sure, there’s no doctor’s note involved and I could take a day off for stress and claim it was something else – but doing that would involve way more outright lying than I’m comfortable with, never to mention that the whole process would stress me out so much as to defeat the point entirely.

          IDK, everyone is pointing out the logistics, but I personally feel differet taking sick time in a way that’s understood in my work culture to be okay, or that’s wink-wink nudge-nudge understood to be okay, vs taking sick time in a way that’s completely against the culture in a way that would leave me facing disciplinary action if people knew about it. I built up my impression on how sick time works from AAM and was totally blindsided when my current job was way different, and even more when I was told a bunch of that’s normal for the UK. So I really wanted to point out that a bunch of us are in jobs where this use of sick time would be capital-O Not Okay. If at that point you want to lie about a migraine, fine, but at least you know what you’re getting yourself into.

          Reply
      3. Parenthetically

        I wouldn’t feel comfortable lying, but I agree it’s nobody’s business how you spend your sick day. I also think (re: Stellaaaaa’s comment and your followup) that the solution isn’t not going on a hike, but just not posting to social media about it or having a group for coworkers/bosses from whom you can hide a particular status. It’s not hard to tweak your social media settings (or, you know, just not broadcast your hike) to keep those things private.

        I think a good answer to, “Did you have a cold or something?” is “Oh, it’s nothing serious or contagious, don’t worry,” with a broad smile and a subject change.

        Reply
        1. EddieSherbert

          This is my general thought too… you don’t have to hide in your house because you tokk a mental health day!

          I’m not likely to go for a long hike on a mental health day, but I might do a small walk, go to the store or a coffee shop… and I wouldn’t feel bad if anyone saw me then. Being sick doesn’t mean you’re an invalid.

          I will add: my most common “burnout sign” is a migraine. Which is an easy one to say I can’t work (AKA stare at a computer screen for hours) but I can still get out of the house still.

          Reply
        2. Marillenbaum

          If someone is inclined to seriously press me about my sick day, I tend to go with diarrhea, because no one will ask any follow-up questions.

          Reply
      4. Sarah

        Yes, obviously you don’t want to use your “mental health day” to go ride roller coasters and post pictures of it on social media, but as long as you’re laying low at home, I think there’s zero way for your workplace to know whether you were also vomiting the entire day. :)

        Reply
        1. Anon for this

          I’m in the UK and can absolutely back up what the other UK based posters have stated. In very understanding workplaces where they already have knowledge of your mental health diagnosis, I can see some being okay with you being off for a few days and stating it was related to your mental health. But mental health days really aren’t a thing here, in any organisation I’ve ever worked for (and I have worked in a broad range of industries!). If you’re off with anything less than a physical illness necessitating rest or a mental health crisis related to a mental health issue, it’s referred to as ‘pulling a sickie’ and calling in sick to hang with friends and chill or play a new video game on release day wouldn’t be viewed any differently to if you’d taken the sick day to ‘de stress’ because you were feeling under the weather.

          When you return to work, you have a meeting with your boss to discuss your health, why you were off and if there’s anything they can do to prevent you being off again.

          Also I feel like a lot of these comments come from a place of privilege, talking about taking sick days as if all employees have the same experience and rights. In most minimum wage jobs I’ve had, even those that weren’t casual and were contracted. In 100% of those jobs (retail, call centre, factory, food service, barista, bank clerk etc) calling in sick meant ringing up in a whirlwind of anxiety, being shouted at down the phone by your boss, forced to justify yourself, and being told ‘if you can walk you need to get here’. Then losing your wage while being off sick and next on the chopping block.

          UK law seems to be better in several ways than the rights employees have in the US, but there are still tonnes of ways employees can be crapped on by their employers. It’s taken me a while to get used to the fact that in my present professional job, I can simply ring up and inform my workplace I won’t be in due to sickness, take as much time as I need without any pressure and then return to a smile and a welcome rather than a guilt trip.

          Reply
  13. Augusta Sugarbean

    #1 Yes, white noise machines can work to mask snoring. My husband is a champion snorer and I’m a light and restless sleeper. I’ve used the Marpac Dohm for *years* with a fair bit of success. (Sorry if naming a particular product is verboten. Not paid endorser, just a huge fan – ha.) If you don’t always snore and don’t snore particularly loudly, this could be a feasible short-term solution.

    Reply
    1. CMT

      Depends on who the roommate is. A white noise machine would absolutely not cut it for me if I had to share a room with a heavy snorer. Pretty much nothing would, except separate rooms.

      Reply
    2. Maria Elmvang

      Agreed. My husband is a champion snorer as well, and even just the white noise of an AC at hotels will help greatly! (Not used to ACs at home, as I live in a country where they aren’t necessary in private homes).

      Reply
    3. Karo

      Agreed. I know it’s just one data point but I snore pretty badly and my husband uses a white noise machine to drown it out. I also try to stay awake until he’s asleep because he can sleep through it, but can’t fall asleep once I’ve already started. A humidifier, on the other hand, only helps in the winter when running the heat has sucked all moisture from the house.

      I don’t have any particular recommendations for white noise machines, but I know they have portable ones for a reasonable price at Bed Bath & Beyond.

      Reply
    4. Beezus

      I use a white noise “music” file I downloaded from itunes for something like $0.99. It’s five minutes of industrial fan noise, and I just put it on repeat. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever bought for a dollar.

      Reply
      1. Emi.

        When I was babysitting my baby niece and forgot to pick up her white noise machine for naptime, I just tuned the radio to static.

        Reply
    5. michelenyc

      I have a white noise app on my phone that works great. I think it was like $1.99 and has a ton of sounds to choose from. It has worked great for me with treating my insomnia along with some other practices that my Ayurveda practitioner suggested.

      Reply
    6. Marillenbaum

      I also recommend Sleep Phones! It’s a headband with earphones in it, so you can listen to things without disturbing the other person. I listen to a horror podcast* to fall asleep at night (I know), and my ex was understandably weirded out by the thought of trying to fall asleep to the story of the Hungarian noblewoman who would murder her servants and bathe in their blood.

      *In my defense, Aaron Mahnke has a very soothing voice.

      Reply
  14. Bobster Brownie

    hmmm…coincidentally, my work, which is also awesome, is holding an annual conference next week and we have associates flying in and most will be sharing a room. :)

    We allow associates to pay to upgrade to a private room if they prefer or to submit a request for accommodation from HR. Medical reasons should cover it- we had a couple of associates with allergies get their own rooms. Would your company consider that? Could you also request to room with someone you know to make things a bit easier?

    Reply
    1. Mike C.

      Why not just give everyone a private room to begin with? Your company can clearly pay for it.

      Reply
    1. Ramona Flowers

      My money was on that too.

      I think someone needs to say something – it may be that she doesn’t care, but she might surprise you.

      Reply
    2. Kathy

      I have worked in a few offices; where it was stated in the lunch room that you couldn’t heat up fish in the microwave. The funny part in one office was when someone did violate that rule and the office manager found out, she would go running to the lunch room to tell them to knock it off.

      Reply
    3. JustaTech

      The funny thing is just yesterday one of my coworkers politely asked everyone if she should heat up her fish in the kitchen microwave or the lunch room microwave (ended up being the kitchen microwave).
      And then she brought it back to her desk in the cube farm to eat.
      Oy.

      Reply
    4. Clever Name

      I have a coworker who is so obnoxious about commenting on how others’ food smells that the contrarian part of me wants to cook smelly fish just to irk her. (Like seriously obnoxious. Once she went on at such a volume that other people in other parts of the office came up to me and were like, “Wow, what was that about? I don’t smell a thing.”)

      Reply
  15. MommyMD

    Forcing coworkers to share a hotel room, be around each other in pajamas, while dressing and grooming, sleeping just feet from each other, is rude and absurd.

    Reply
    1. No, please

      I agree. I’ve had to share with my supervisor and a coworker at the same time. 2 beds, 3 people. It really sucked. My mom works for Nationally Known Dental and also has to share when traveling. I don’t get it. She could get her own room but she’d have to pay for half the room.

      Reply
    2. Lynly

      Adding creepy, unprofessional, and just flat-out wrong to the list. The practice needs to stop. Period.

      Reply
    3. Falling Diphthong

      Someone once suggested the site motto “Work means never having to see each other in pajamas.”

      Reply
  16. AB

    #5 Mental health days are definately okay! I suffered from depression for about 2 years and after burning through my vacation days having ‘unscheduled days off’ i used sick days whever couldn’t get out of bed in the morning. I totally get the feeling of guilt, which doesn’t help when you’re already feeling depressed or stressed. My work place were really strict on sickness and if you were off sick for more than 3 days in a YEAR it involved a meeting with your line manager about a ‘high level’ of sickness. In fairness to my employer once I explained the reason they backed off and were really supportive. Looking back and I’m amazed that I only took about 6/7 days off over like 2 years.

    But you definately don’t need to be ‘Can’t get out of bed’ sick to use to sick day. Indeed taking a day to PREVENT you geting into that state is a good idea. Looking at the rise of mental health illnesses in so many industries and even schools, I think this will become more common and hopefully people won’t feel guilty or like they have to make up a physical illness when taking care of their mental health.

    Reply
  17. Justme

    In instances such as #2, how would an office go about banning smelly food in the microwave without it coming across as a pushback on certain cultures?

    Reply
    1. Not Australian

      I suppose that, in this as in many other cases, consultation is key. Telling staff that such a ban is being contemplated and asking for their feedback wouldn’t be a bad place to start, and then there would have to be some kind of balancing act between the requirements of different groups.

      Reply
    2. Hannah

      I would just tell the person that general office etiquette​ is to never microwave fish. This one person obviously needs to be told that, to their face. Don’t expand it to say no smelly foods, because that’s subjective and could get into the territory you’re talking about. And don’t bother with a passive aggressive note if it’s just one clueless person.

      Reply
      1. DArcy

        “Fish is against etiquette, but all other smelly foods are okay.” is exactly the kind of arbitrary, culturally biased rule that people are trying to avoid here.

        Perhaps the cultural bias becomes more visible if the rule making culture is flipped: “This person needs to be told that microwaving foods like cheese and deep fried meats is an office etiquette violation.”

        Reply
        1. Temperance

          I don’t think we need to expand the rule against everything that might stink, though, because it sounds like the fish is the worst offender. I think a blanket rule against stinky food is actually more culturally biased; it sounds like this woman is microwaving Chicken of the Sea (WHY).

          Reply
          1. Rebecca in Dallas

            Right?! I thought the whole point of canned fish was that you eat it cold because it’s fully cooked? Why on earth would you heat that up.

            Reply
        2. TL -

          Or they can be asked to microwave later/earlier or eat it cold or microwave it somewhere different…
          If the majority of users find the smell really off-putting, I think it’s fair to request it not to be produced during high traffic hours. And fish is commonly used in almost all major cuisines, so I feel like it’s a bit different than banning something like curries.

          Reply
        3. fposte

          Fish is pretty cross-cultural, so it’s not exactly a problem in that way; additionally, you don’t state the policy like that. “Microwave smells carry, so please be aware that some foods, like strongly flavored meats such as fish or bacon, become pungent and may annoy co-workers; you may be asked to change the time or frequency of heating such foods.”

          Reply
          1. Parenthetically

            Excellent phrasing as ever, fposte — and thank you for including bacon! I find lingering bacon smell most unpleasant.

            Reply
          2. Elizabeth West

            Don’t forget popcorn. “Please do not walk away from the oven when microwaving popcorn. It burns easily; the smell is off-putting and we don’t want any risk of fire. Thank you.”

            Reply
            1. Rebecca in Dallas

              I accidentally burned popcorn at work once. *hangs head in shame* Seriously, it just goes up in flames if you take your eyes off the microwave for one second! I felt awful about it.

              Reply
              1. TootsNYC

                This is why I’ve completely stopped w/ microwave popcorn. Because you can trash the whole batch SO fast–but with stovetop popcorn, it takes a lot longer to burn it, and you usu. only waste a few kernels on the bottom.

                Reply
      2. Roscoe

        But that isn’t “general office etiquette”. I have NEVER had a job where it was banned. I had one where another department in a separate building banned it. But never had one. So acting like it is common knowledge just isn’t true. Its your preference. Maybe a lot of people have this preference. But its not “general office etiquette”

        Reply
        1. Hannah

          It is definitely general office etiquette and common knowledge that you shouldn’t microwave fish at work. This doesn’t require a written ban, it’s just basic etiquette, like flushing the toilet and washing your hands. You can google it or ask someone else if you want to have this confirmed by someone other than an internet stranger :)

          Reply
    3. paul

      Am I the only person that doesn’t get the fuss? I don’t microwave fish–I think it generally taste bad microwaved–but I don’t see it as exactly horrible smelling

      Reply
      1. fposte

        Probably not, given that the people who keep microwaving fish don’t seem to mind it. But it’s quite the odor.

        Reply
        1. MommaTRex

          I like the irony of your comment in conjunction with your avatar. It gave me a much needed giggle this morning. :D

          Reply
          1. fposte

            Heh, I didn’t even think about it. And if you know the book, you know consumption is involved, too.

            Reply
        2. Kasia

          I have had two fish microwaving managers. One of them went to a different office space to microwave because his admin wouldn’t let him microwave in their office. The other would microwave fish in the cube area and then retreat to his office and shut the door so he wouldn’t have to smell it. We peons couldn’t shut out the smell.

          So some of the fish microwavers definitely don’t care for the smell themselves.

          Reply
      2. Parenthetically

        I don’t find reheated fish horrible smelling if it’s a piece of salmon or leftover crumbed cod from the chippy, but CANNED tuna and salmon are notoriously pungent, and heating them up is just going to intensify and expand the reach of an already-less-than-pleasant aroma.

        Reply
      3. The Bill Murray Disagreement

        I’m with you. While I do find the smell of microwaved fish unpleasant, after living with a housemate who would microwave canned cat food as a treat for our kitten, I’ve never again encountered anything that reaches that level of horrific and disgusting. (That’s just me though.)

        Also, while microwaving smelly meats is a nuisance I’m not sure it’s as common as burning microwave popcorn, the acrid smell of which lasts for hours.

        Honestly, companies should better ventilate their lunch or break areas and stop foisting these problems on employees (but that’s a different matter, I guess).

        Reply
        1. Parenthetically

          microwave canned cat food as a treat for our kitten

          I… I… what. Why. Who would… why? WHY?!

          Reply
        2. Lia

          My mom had a cat that, in her (cat’s) old age, became very fussy about food. Warming canned food to take the chill off it (she did not eat enough at a time to use up a whole can so the rest would be refrigerated, and her preferred type wasn’t available in tiny cans like Fancy Feast is) would often entice her to eat a larger portion.

          That said, the food was only barely nuked enough to be room temp and it STILL reeked.

          Reply
      4. Biscuit!

        I actually don’t get the fuss either. I grew up on the coast where seafood is a staple. It’s also a big part of our culture. I personally don’t find the smell of fish to be unpleasant, but this blog has made me aware that other people do. I don’t really see the difference between a person microwaving fish and a person microwaving brussels sprouts or something similar. And what about pescatarians? “Sucks for you, have a bagel”?

        Reply
        1. fposte

          Or eat vegetarian at lunch like millions of people do, or eat a cold sandwich like many people do, or buy something from outside. Those really aren’t unreasonable options.

          Reply
        2. Stop That Goat

          Right. Everything is going to have some sort of smell when reheated that someone could find unpleasant. Fish just has a larger group of folks that find it unpleasant.

          Reply
          1. Rebecca in Dallas

            I had a coworker that often ate hard-boiled eggs and tuna in our shared cube, even after I asked her to stop. Those smells are nauseating to me. Then she told me one day that my pasta with parmesan was smelly. :/

            Reply
            1. Stop That Goat

              Yea, it’s a slippery slope. If you request someone not to eat something in particular because it bothers you, you could end up on the other side easily enough.

              Reply
            2. Emi.

              I brought an egg-salad sandwich to school in the third grade, and another girl looked at me in big-eyed confusion and said, “Emi, one doesn’t bring eggs to school.”

              Reply
        3. Sarah

          Come on now, it’s not like pescatarians have fish at every meal, or NEED to heat it up to eat it! I actually bring fish for lunch about once a week, but I don’t ever remember heating it up — it’s typically either in a sandwich (tuna salad) or a cold piece of salmon on a salad (YUM).

          Reply
      5. Stop That Goat

        I don’t see a problem with it either. Now I’m worried about those days that I brought in leftover Tuna Helper and reheated it.

        Reply
          1. Parenthetically

            Ye gods, I love that stuff. My husband gave me a very strange look just this last week when I did the elementary school after-school snack version (boxed mac and cheese, tuna, peas) for dinner.

            Reply
            1. Stop That Goat

              Right? I grew up on Hamburger/Tuna/Chicken helper. I know that most folks aren’t a big fan but they are SOOOOO comforting to me.

              Reply
      6. Clever Name

        I’m with you. While I do find the smell of certain microwaved foods offputting, I try to ignore the icky smell and get on with my day. People gotta eat lunch, and sometimes food has an odor.

        Reply
    4. Parenthetically

      “Please be considerate of coworkers when choosing foods to heat up in the common areas. A blanket ban on ‘smelly foods’ is very subjective, so we’d rather not go there. Use common sense, observe coworkers’ reactions, be thoughtful.”

      I also think it’s smart for the coworkers just to pipe up and say in the moment, “Hey, Jane, that hot canned fish smell is really pervasive in here and I’m not sure you’ve noticed that it’s keeping other people out of the room.” or “I need to warm up my lunch next but that smell is really getting to me.” or “Would you mind waiting to heat up your fish for when everyone else is done, or bringing something less pungent?”

      Reply
    5. JustaTech

      At one office I worked in a lot of my co-workers were immigrants from China, so the “Americans” tried really hard to be respectful about food (and they returned the favor). Then there was this one guy. He microwaved a whole fish. Whole as in still had scales, fins and eyes. The lab manager politely told him that this was a bit much. He went off on a lecture about how in China only the emperor got to eat fish fins (wha?) and on and on until one of the other Chinese coworkers said “That’s BS. You know it, I know it, they know it, so cut it out.”
      The rest of the conversation wasn’t in English, but there was never another whole fish in the microwave.
      (Other than that one guy everyone’s food ranged from inoffensive to delicious.)
      So I guess you could avoid cultural problems by having the person who asks the microwaving to stop to be from the same culture.

      Reply
  18. Channel Z

    #5 “Am I a bad employee for using my sick time and PTO?” The obvious response is no, of course not! But yet there is this cultural pressure to be a super hero, never sick, always there no matter what. This starts in grade school, where kids get awards for perfect attendance. It’s a myth though, working harder does not mean working better, and often results in worse quality work due to stress and fatigue. Those cultural voices telling you to feel guilty for taking care of yourself are false. Pat yourself on the back for having the wisdom to know when you need a rest, and that it ultimately makes you a better worker and carer.

    Reply
    1. Elfie

      Not to derail or anything, but how do people go YEARS without taking a sick day? I’ve been working for nearly 20 years, and my best 12-month period had 3 days off.

      Reply
      1. Hrovitnir

        Well, I don’t get properly sick very often and I worked somewhere that was terribly understaffed for years so… I didn’t take sick days for years. (I had an almost-yelling argument with my boss about how you can’t only hire enough staff to work without anyone being away when we’re entitled to 4 weeks leave + sick leave. Not something I intended to bring up but he was being a jerk about something else – professional boundaries weren’t really a thing in case you can’t tell, and he treated me markedly better than other people for being willing to call him out on stuff despite responding to it by trying to yell you down. *sigh*)

        Reply
      2. Antilles

        Two things:
        (1) Refusing to take a day off. Anything that you can push through, you do so. End of story.
        (2) Good luck. There are things you cannot just willpower your way through (surgery, cancer, heart attack, hit by a car, etc) and these people just haven’t had any of these issues.

        Reply
        1. Parenthetically

          More 2 than 1, IMO. It’s not just “can’t willpower your way through cancer,” it’s “can’t willpower your way through an incapacity to get out of bed/be more than a couple yards from a private bathroom/keep any solids down/stand without blacking out” which are far more common.

          Reply
      3. Beancounter Eric

        When you have supervisors who constantly tell employees how easily they can be replaced, and who criticize, and in some cases, terminate individuals who take sick leave, it tends to discourage use of sick time.

        Reply
      4. Jillociraptor

        I worked from home for most of my career, so the norms I developed for myself of what’s “too sick to work” are very different than expectations for an office! When you can literally work from bed, it wasn’t hard to avoid a sick day and keep moving forward on my work. I think I took maybe 1-2 sick days in five years? Now that I work in an office, I have had to remind myself/be reminded that other people’s health depend on me making good choices about sick days! (Not to mention my ability to recover — no beds in this office!)

        Reply
      5. Lia

        I …don’t get sick very often, and if I do, it is almost never for more than a day. I have well over 100 sick days built up (I get 20 a year) and take them for medical appointments for myself and family members, mostly. In the last 5 years, I have called in sick once, although I have had a few colds and a mild bout of food poisoning (that was the call in). I am just very lucky, I think.

        Partner, OTOH, probably takes a sick day a month due to several chronic conditions.

        Reply
    2. Parenthetically

      I can definitely attest to the bad results of working while sick — I have a student who is certainly going to miss an entire week of school because of illness, which comes as a shock to no one, given that her parents have forced her to come back to school the second her fever breaks for the last three months of being sick off and on. Our policy is 24 hours fever free, but it’s always down to the discretion of parents. I wish we didn’t give a perfect attendance award; it really does encourage students to come to school when they’d be better off at home recuperating properly and not spreading their germs around.

      Reply
      1. Marillenbaum

        My mom used to do the “Well, do your legs work? Then get to the bus stop; I don’t have time to drive you to school today!” It sounds terrible (and probably was), but a single mom working two jobs can’t always afford to use minimal-to-nonexistent sick days every time her kid feels rotten. Thankfully, by the time I hit middle school I was old enough to stay home solo if I was sick, so I’d just make some ramen and watch The Price is Right like God intended.

        Reply
    3. WhichSister

      I used to joke that the kids getting the attendance awards were the ones who gave my kids the flu. But as someone pointed out to me, for some of those kids, it may be the only award they get. So I tried being more sympathetic.
      And my kids are now allowed to take one mental health day a quarter provided they have no missing assignments and have As and Bs (my older two this isn’t an issue, my youngest…. ) . They are 13, 16 and 18 and SO busy, sometimes they need a day just to decompress. As adults, we need it too.

      Reply
      1. shep

        Oh man, yes, I had a friend in high school who was in marching band, several AP classes, and worked 10-20 hours each week at a grocery store. Somehow he ended up with perfect attendance. I have no idea how he did it, aside from the fact that I know his grades suffered a bit.

        I had pretty decent attendance, but I probably missed 4-6 days every school year, give or take. I was also in band, all AP classes, and did volunteer work for various clubs and organizations, but I can remember very specifically being overwhelmed ALL the time, and did occasionally take a mental health day (once or twice to finish a project)

        Reply
  19. Channel Z

    #2 I think that there is probably nothing that can be done about the fish without singling out your coworker unfairly. The only thing I can think of is to politely ask her to put a bowl of water with a slice of lemon in afterwards and microwave for 2 minutes. It doesn’t get rid of the smell completely, but it helps. It also tells that her stinky fish is a problem in a more subtle way. Or passive-aggressive thought, everyone bring in their own hot smelly dish and eat near her desk.

    Reply
    1. Natalie

      If she doesn’t notice the smell already, adding more fish smell probably won’t even register. :)

      Reply
      1. DArcy

        What people do and don’t notice is very much a function of what they’re used to.

        Case in point: the food jelly that’s used to raise fruit flies for scientific research reeks to high heaven, especially since even a small lab is going to have hundreds and hundreds of bottles of the stuff in the incubation racks . . . yet after a couple of summers interning as an undergrad, I found I really didn’t notice it anymore beyond recognizing that the distinctive odor was present.

        Reply
        1. ancolie

          Non-food odors, too. I’m way into nail polish and I often don’t smell it at ALL when doing my nails unless I put the open bottle right up to my nose.

          Reply
        1. fposte

          I don’t think Epoisses even smells that notable; I always wonder if the French are getting riper versions than turn up here.

          Reply
          1. AvonLady Barksdale

            Probably– we have issues with raw milk cheeses in this country, but that’s a story for another day. I loooove stinky cheeses. I also consider myself to be really scent-sensitive, but I don’t find stinky cheese to be particularly stinky. I think that might be because I expect the smell? Like, I don’t mind the smell of a freshly opened can of tuna because I expect it to smell a certain way, but if you put that thing in the microwave (which I think is so strange), I would notice it so much more. I don’t know.

            Reply
            1. fposte

              See, and I really don’t like the “barnyardy” cheese smell, but I hardly smell it on Epoisses. (And of course it’s not a particularly strong cheese on the tongue.)

              Reply
        2. Emi.

          My third-grade deskmate begged me to “please, please put away the gross sauce!” when I brought hoisin with my lunch.

          Reply
        3. T3k

          I think this is what one of my first roomates tried to do. Problem is, I love the smell of fish so her tuna/salsa mix did nothing. On the other hand, ranch Doritos will make me clear out of the room in half a second.

          Reply
    2. AvonLady Barksdale

      I don’t think singling out this co-worker is unfair. If she’s the only one doing it, then she should be spoken to directly. She’s doing something that’s affecting the office– I would say the same thing to the one person who always burns the popcorn.

      I admit to being really baffled by this woman, because I don’t understand why anyone would microwave canned tuna or canned salmon on its own (as opposed to in a casserole or a croquette or something), but that’s just me. I’m amazed every time this topic comes up, mostly because I love leftovers and I think there’s no better treat than a leftover vindaloo, but I think leftovers are so much better when they’re cold (or, better yet, room temperature). I can count on one hand the times I’ve used an office microwave. I fully admit that I’m weird here.

      Reply
    3. Temperance

      I used to work with a woman who, for some reason, would microwave smelly fish for breakfast. It was very, very pungent, and the smell would waft out to our reception desk. (This was a quirk of the bad layout of our floor.)

      Her boss had to have a talk with her because we had so many guest complaints about the smell. I’m sure it was embarrassing for her, but probably not even 1/10th as embarrassing as it was for our receptionist, who had to field all the complaints and questions about why our office smelled so bad.

      Reply
      1. Parenthetically

        Boy, a can of tuna is a fantastic breakfast protein-wise. But I am making a cartoon-level shocked/disgusted face at the idea of microwaving it! There must be some people who think, “Mmm, warm tinned salmon, delicious!” but I am just shuddering at the prospect.

        Reply
        1. AvonLady Barksdale

          Me too! I love canned salmon and all its many uses, but I would never consider microwaving it. You take that stuff, toss it with some lemon juice and/or mayonnaise, eat it cold. (Now that I think about it, I would add some nori to that as well.)

          Reply
          1. Parenthetically

            I just went to amazon and ordered a 24 pack of lovely olive-oil packed tuna because people’s odes to (cold! COLD, I SAY!!) canned fish are making my mouth water.

            Reply
            1. Temperance

              I dearly love COLD tuna. It’s delicious! But even typing out my earlier comment, I can smell the office fish stank. lol

              Reply
            2. shep

              Yes! Cold canned (or packaged) tuna or salmon is delicious. I can’t imagine microwaving it.

              I do understand having it as a protein-rich breakfast, as Parenthetically says above. Fish is all around a great source for protein and healthy fats. I get why the coworker wants to eat it (although I still can’t fathom heating CANNED fish. Just. What.).

              I am also OCCASIONALLY guilty of bringing baked or fried tilapia leftovers to work for lunch to heat up if I’m in a meal-prep bind, but luckily it doesn’t stink too much, and I try to heat it up well AFTER normal lunch hour. And this is literally once or twice a year.

              Reply
              1. Elizabeth West

                I’ve done that too–it’s fairly mild in terms of smell. I’ve also microwaved vindaloo. I usually eat lunch later than most people, however, because it makes the afternoon shorter.

                Reply
          2. MegaMoose, Esq.

            I have never hear of canned salmon, but I can’t imagine warming up canned tuna. Also, canned salmon sounds great, and also maybe a British thing?

            Reply
            1. AvonLady Barksdale

              I’m in the States– canned salmon is definitely a thing here, but tuna got more marketing dollars. :) You’ll see cans of it next to the tuna in your supermarket. Bumblebee has a line of salmon (you can get pink or red), as do a bunch of other brands. You can use it to make croquettes (like salmon burgers), but I think it’s great as a sub for tuna in salads.

              Reply
              1. Emily, admin extraordinaire

                I thought I didn’t like salmon because the only stuff I had growing up was canned (we were pretty poor). My mom would make salmon patties (kind of like meatloaf–eggs, bread crumbs– then pan-fried) and I hated them. The first time I tried fresh salmon was a revelation.

                Reply
        2. Amadeo

          I don’t think I have ever microwaved tuna – I don’t know why you would. I only like it warm if it’s on a melt and smothered with cheese. It’s not like it needs to be warm to boost flavor, it’s already pretty pungent!

          Reply
      2. Allison

        Smelly fish for breakfast sounds like a cultural thing. I once stayed at a Russian woman’s house for a wedding, and in the morning she served a breakfast that included a very pungent fish, for those brave enough to try it. I was not brave.

        Reply
        1. AvonLady Barksdale

          Good point. My family is Eastern European/Jewish, and smoked/cured fish for breakfast (and at any time of day) is A Thing. I love pickled herring, kippered salmon, lox, all that good stuff, especially on a bagel with real cream cheese.

          I would never, ever, EVER put that stuff in the microwave.

          Reply
            1. fposte

              I would definitely pry surströmming from a Swede’s cold, dead hands before allowing it in my workplace.

              Reply
          1. Parenthetically

            Oh yeah, kippered salmon! A relative of my husband’s brought a whole hot-smoked salmon to Christmas lunch a couple years ago and I swear I ate half of it, on crackers, with beautiful homemade mayonnaise. I could definitely eat it for breakfast (or, like, now, or literally any time of day or night). But *sobs* for the love of God, not in the microwave!!

            Reply
    4. fposte

      It’s not singling out somebody unfairly to ask them to curb an annoying behavior, though. Same as you can ask your cube-mate not to whistle while she works.

      Reply
      1. Sarah

        Yes, there’s a difference between angrily yelling at her/socially ostracizing her/bullying her about the issue (all obviously bad!) and gently asking if she could do something different. I don’t see how this is different from someone letting a coworker know that any habit is bothering them (again, politeness/asking is key!)

        Reply
    5. Aphrodite

      I once, and only once, had this happen and I cannot tell you how close I came to vomiting right there. It wasn’t intentional but my body simply reacted as soon as the (godawful) smell hit my nostrils. I gagged and gagged but was able to keep it down. Fish and popcorn should be banned everywhere–and I’m not afraid to say so.

      Reply
  20. Czhorat

    OP3 – I’ve seen some employees – especially those who have been around for a while, train to how THEY think things should be done or how they perceive that they ARE done, rather than official procedures.

    I’m not saying that’s what is happening here, but it is possible.

    I DO think that it would be better to bring it up non-confrontationally with Mike rather than go over his head to the boss; something like, “I understand that we need form Y for all employees with certification X – can you emphasize this? Some of the new trainees don’t seem to be getting the message”.

    My concern would be that if he gets prickly over being corrected, he’ll get even more so about having the boss looped in.

    Reply
    1. DArcy

      That’s a good point, but it’s also true that in many companies the official written procedures haven’t been updated in years.

      Reply
      1. Czhorat

        Yes.

        They should be; I find that ignoring procedure is a bad thing culturally, even if the procedure has outlived its usefulness. That’s a heavier lift, however.

        Reply
        1. Parenthetically

          ignoring procedure is a bad thing culturally, even if the procedure has outlived its usefulness

          This is one of the truest things I’ve ever read. I love updating procedures to better suit current situations. If only I could ever do such a thing!

          Reply
      2. lfi

        this is my current situation. outdated materials and a counterpart who isn’t well versed in everything. so i will update it all as i go along.

        Reply
    2. LQ

      I also wonder a little if there is a difference between HQ and how they want things done and that might be what Mike is training to and what happens in the field and the way things are actually done. And there are usually reasons on both sides. If that’s the case there may be a case for sit down and consolidate what should actually be done. (And this can be all over the map HQ wants something done but field doesn’t have the equipment, or the resources, or it’s tedious and on the other hand sometimes field will skip over steps to help customers but ignore data security or paperwork. These are all good conversations to have and bringing it up in that light might be a good way to approach things.)

      Reply
  21. Bolt

    #4: Something seems wrong that people can’t have elective surgeries because their bosses may fire them. I wish a medical procedure was considered a medical procedure; regardless of whether or not it is purely elective or necessary.

    I would be telling my boss that I need to undergo surgery and warn about potentially needing a month to recover. That is then my bosses turn to explain what is needed. I would then explain the situation to my doctor and ask for a note explaining I am undergoing surgery and the expected recovery time.

    In most cases I don’t think employers would then split hairs to find out if it is elective.

    Reply
    1. Beezus

      I would think this would come out in the FMLA discussion, in the US, wouldn’t it? I don’t have time to look it up now, but I think it’s the employer’s responsibility to start the FMLA process when they think FMLA would apply – it would for a medically necessary procedure, but I assume it would not for an elective one. I’m pretty sure they’d get enough info from the FMLA interactive process to learn that the procedure isn’t medically needed. If FMLA doesn’t apply, then the job isn’t protected and losing the job as a result of the decision to have the procedure is a possibility. I’m sure the FMLA coverage question has a lot of nuance to it and I don’t know where organ donation would fall vs. a cosmetic elective procedure, but legally required job protection isn’t available for absolutely every kind of surgery one might have, and your employer is legally entitled to enough detail to allow them to determine whether the leave you need qualifies for FMLA or not.

      Reply
      1. Retail HR Guy

        FMLA would apply. From the DOL: “If an eligible employee requests FMLA leave for surgery which requires and/or results in an overnight stay in the hospital, the leave request would meet the definition of a serious health condition under the inpatient care criteria, even if the surgery is considered elective.”

        Reply
        1. fposte

          I wonder if that clarification was part of the 2016 modernization–I swear it used to be murkier than that.

          Reply
  22. AlwhoisthatAl

    OP1 – It’s not a question of whether your snoring keeping anyone else awake. It’s being forced to share a room for a measly few dollars saving. I would be seriously looking at moving jobs. It’s a serious red flag indicator of how they treat their staff and all the companies I’ve worked for or with who did this sort of thing were bad companies to work for. Look at all the stress you have suffered so far that was easily avoidable. And the fact you will be having a humidifier in the room and wearing a nose strip to sleep- so how much sleep will you get and how effective will you be at the conference ? It’s a waste of your time and your companies time and of your prospective room sharer too.

    Reply
    1. Roscoe

      I wouldn’t go that far. There are some really good companies that make people share a room. This can be a part of a bigger picture, or it could just be a random thing that you don’t like. My company treats employees well for the most part, but when people go to conferences, they share rooms. Its not THAT big of a deal. When people have written in about sharing beds though, THAT would be a big deal

      Reply
    2. LQ

      I think this depends a lot on if this is a company in an industry that usually pays. Or a company in an industry that usually doesn’t. Some industries this is very common in. (People get really really crabby about overhead in nonprofits so unless you are out there demanding that nonprofits spend more on overhead please consider that this might just be in an industry that isn’t yours.)

      Reply
      1. TL -

        I’m demanding nonprofits spend more on this. I don’t sleep well anywhere new but I definitely sleep better alone and not with a snoring roommate. I also don’t retain information exhausted, so it would be a giant waste of money all around.
        (And the focus on overhead as the primary signifier of a non-profits’ effectiveness needs to stop but that’s a story for another day.)

        Reply
    3. LW1

      I thought I’d probably get a comment like this–I appreciate the thought, but my pay is good, my work is interesting and in a part of my industry that I want to stay in, my benefits are excellent, my manager is wonderful (and he went seriously to bat for me on this one–he got blocked at a much higher level), I like my coworkers, and the office culture suits me well. Yes, I think this policy is stupid, but it’s the only place I see this kind of stupid (and I’ve been here 5+ years), so rolling the dice on getting another job based on an issue that comes up one week a year just doesn’t seem sensible.

      Reply
      1. Lynly

        Thanks for chiming in LW1! Sounds like you have a good thing going at your workplace. That’s awesome. I’m curious as to why you have ruled out simply paying for your own room at the conference since, as you say, it’s one week a year and you highly value your employer and colleagues. Really, since the company won’t budge on a separate room for you, your paying the difference for your own seems like the most kind and respectful solution all around. You or your boss having to ask your colleagues about their sleeping habits (such a personal thing) in order to ferret out someone who can handle the snoring seems so utterly intrusive and awkward. I really would not want to do that to my coworkers. Is paying for your own room that out of,the question for you? It’s the most direct, least intrusive approach. Anyway, good luck and enjoy the conference!

        Reply
        1. LW1

          Short answer: it’s in an expensive part of a major city (the downtown business hotel area, basically), and a room would be $250/night or thereabouts. If it was one night or even two, I’d seriously consider eating the cost; at a week, it’s untenable. (I know it’s likely that I’ll get suggestions a la ‘get an airBNB/get a hotel room farther away/etc.’, but this is a city where I’d have to get a rental car to swing that–public transit is simply not reliable enough–and parking is ridiculously expensive, so it’d work out about the same.) I like to think that I have a lot of consideration for my coworkers (hence the question), but I just can’t do that degree of expenditure.

          (As it happens, the conference is over and it went all right; my manager tried once more to get an exception made without success, so I talked frankly to a few of my coworkers who I’m close with and found one who was willing to give it a shot because she sleeps very deeply. It seems to have gone okay.)

          Reply
        2. Lynly

          Just wanted to add that I think it’s ridiculous that your — or any company — does room sharing for professional events. Everyone should get their own room.

          Reply
  23. Roscoe

    #2 The smelly food debate. While some offices do it, I’ve never been a fan of it. I remember the first time I heard about a company doing it (it was my job, but another department in a different building) I thought it was absurd. Now I suppose there are a couple of rare cases where I get it, such as its a building with a lot of public people or visitors and it could bother them. Or if someone is legitimitely very sensitive to smells (Something I didn’t really understand how widespread it was til reading this blog). But overall, I say let people eat what they want. You can also get into the ethnic food debate about how something like Indian food isn’t a very pleasant smell reheated, but its not really cool to tell an Indian person that. Also, when you start banning things, then you really start to get into preferences on what is and isn’t an ok smell to linger. Personally, I wouldn’t touch it.

    #5 I say this every time it comes up, but I think any sick use you want is ok. Sick. Cable Guy. Car trouble. Mental Health. Hangover. Just not feeling like going in. They are part of your compensation packaage, and if you are lucky enough to not get sick often, then go ahead and use them (this is assuming you have a limited amount, if you have unlimited, I think its a bit different). I always say just be smart about it. Don’t post a bunch of stuff. Also, consider how it will affect others. Calling in sick just because right before a big project is due is pretty bad. And to all the people who want to be in your business about how sick you really are, those people need to just mind their own business.

    Reply
  24. Argh!

    Re: #1

    I snore, and I have found conference roommates who can tolerate it, but for the past few years I couldn’t. I wound up having to pay double what everyone else pays (and being admonished by my jerk boss to spend less money)

    Reply
  25. mumen rider

    OP1: Even if you are able to get your employer to pay for a separate room for you, please consider using white noise to mask your snoring. I’m the type of person who can hear through the walls and any noise at random intervals wakes me up.

    There are white noise apps you can download to your phone. I prefer ones that are nature sounds (especially water sounds) because I have tinnitus—true white/pink/brown noise makes it worse.

    Reply
    1. VroomVroom

      If OP #1 is in a room by themselves they have no responsibility to people in other rooms who may or may not hear through walls.

      As a frequent business traveler, I utilize a white noise app on my phone specifically to make sure I don’t hear noise through walls because I’m a light sleeper.

      Additionally, a white noise machine playing in another room probably wouldn’t mask the sound. I go to a therapists’ office and she has white noise machines in the waiting room – so that nothing can be overheard from the waiting room that’s being said in the other rooms. I asked her once about it and she said if they were in her office then the people in the waiting room could still hear what’s going on. And these are heavy-duty DOHM white noise machines – way better than any app on your phone.

      Reply
      1. Jessie the First (or second)

        Absolutely true about the location of the noise machine. We have a noise machine in my son’s room so that the noise of conversation, pets, etc, does not disturb his sleep – it helps mask our sounds for him, but from the next room I can still hear him cough, or laugh, or babble, or sneeze, etc. You put the noise machine in the room where you want to not hear, not in the room where the noise is happening.

        So, yeah, if you are a light sleeper who can’t sleep when there is noise in a different room, you need your own white noise machine or fan or earplugs.

        Reply
  26. Hermione Lovegood

    OP#5: If you’re in the US, you might qualify for intermittent FMLA since you’re the primary caregiver for your mother. This would make your time off “protected.” Talk to your supervisor or HR to see if they can help you navigate this.

    Reply
    1. fposte

      That’s not quite right, though–her time off for taking care of her mother is protected, not her time off for stress from taking care of her mother.

      Reply
      1. Allypopx

        Right but if she’s using PTO otherwise to care for her mother (not stated here, but possible), then FMLA could help absorb some of that so she has more for herself. Also, HR might be generous enough to either see the two as linked, or not ask too many questions. It’s worth bringing up the situation and seeing what the company’s options are.

        Reply
        1. Natalie

          Most employers require you to use up your PTO for FMLA before you take the unpaid time. I can’t imagine it would be any different for intermittent rather than a block, so I don’t think this will do anything to let her keep anymore PTO than she would if she doesn’t claim FMLA.

          Reply
  27. Emi.

    My office’s microwave is in the same room as some people’s desks, and we recently acquired a sign that said “Please do not microwave fish or seafood. People sit in this room,” which I can’t help but read as a dramatic “People SIT in this room…hellooooo?”

    Reply
    1. MegaMoose, Esq.

      Hah, I can totally hear that. Related, I brought leftover salmon linguini to work yesterday. I had just stuck it in the microwave when I realized what I’d done. Nooooooooooooooooo!

      Reply
    2. DArcy

      I reiterate that what is considered smelly and not smelly is heavily cultural. You don’t NOTICE how smelly your own home cuisine is because you’re both consciously and subconsciously acclimated to those odors.

      This is exactly why banning specific food items pretty much always screws over cultural minorities. Because it always works out in practical terms to the majority insisting that “no one” minds their smelly stuff while banning everyone else’s smelly stuff.

      Reply
      1. Emi.

        I don’t think it’s “the majority” who put up our sign, though–it’s the people who actually sit in that room. And fish isn’t even culturally specific.

        Reply
  28. DaisyGrrl

    OP5, I fully support taking mental health days as you describe. Another way to think of it (and maybe reduce feelings of guilt) is to look at it from the perspective of how productive would you be at work if you don’t take the day? For example, if you’re running low on energy/stressed, etc., let’s say you’re 70% productive. But taking a day for yourself brings you up to 90% productivity. You’ll end up doing the same amount of work that week. The boost to your productivity will likely last longer than a week, and you would otherwise find your productivity deteriorating if you didn’t take the day. And, you’ll forestall the possibility of needing more time off in the future. These are all good things for your employer too.

    That’s purely from an immediate work/productivity perspective. As others have mentioned, you need to take care of yourself because you are important too. Your health matters, and the occasional day is worth it to everyone if that’s what you need to do to be happy, healthy, and productive.

    The occasional mental health day, taken responsibly, is good for everyone. Go forth, and be guilt free!

    Reply
  29. SlickWilly

    About #5 — I think this depends somewhat on how much sick time you’re given and if your sick time usage falls in line, at least roughly, with what your coworkers are using.

    If your employer gives unlimited sick time (some do) then taking frequent sick leave will be seen as more suspicious by people around you than if you have a limited amount.

    It’s not clear how often you are using the mental health day sick leave, but if it’s more than once a month, I can see coworkers finding this frustrating. It’s not just about your boss’s perception, it’s about your team’s.

    Reply
  30. The Other Dawn

    I’m a manager, and I totally support mental health days. As long as someone isn’t always picking the busiest day of the week/month, always a Friday or Monday, or during an audit, I’m fine with it. I haven’t seen anyone abuse it yet. We all need to recharge, or just stay home and deal with whatever it is we need to deal with. I’d rather someone do that than wait until they’re so fried they can’t function.

    Reply
    1. Allypopx

      I advocate mental health days as well, and I also advocate busy-work days where people catch up on filing or organize their email or focus on running necessary reports and let more emotionally or mentally draining stuff wait until tomorrow.

      I think sick days are there to manage your health and adults should be allowed to decide what that means for them. It’s like taking the first day of a cold off so you can rest up and it won’t last as long – mental health days are preventative medical care and can help stave off needs for longer leaves down the line.

      Reply
      1. The Other Dawn

        Yes, one of me team members recently confided that she’s having issues since her doctor lowered her dose of an anti-anxiety med. Apparently it’s something that you have to be weaned off of, because it causes withdrawal. I told her if she didn’t want to go home, she can work on a project I’d given her a couple weeks ago that was basically just very simple data entry. It was either that or go home, and she said she wanted to tough it out. It worked out well. The project was completed and she didn’t have to use another day.

        Reply
      1. caledonia

        Because that always means a 3 day weekend and 3 days not at work. It also looks like a pattern of behaviour.

        Reply
        1. Emi.

          I don’t understand what the issue is with a three-day weekend, though. It’s more restful than two-and-one, and it doesn’t interrupt the workweek.

          Reply
          1. Jessie the First (or second)

            I imagine because if someone habitually calls in sick on Friday or Monday, it definitely has the appearance of “not sick but simply taking a vacation without asking permission ahead of time and without using up valued vacation days.” Which, regardless company feeling about using sick days in lieu of vacation days, is hard on your coworkers.

            Reply
            1. Jessie the First (or second)

              Like when an employee of mine would call in sick the day after Thanksgiving….and the day after Christmas….and the day after New Year’s. Seriously, she was not fooling anyone.

              Reply
              1. The Other Dawn

                Yes, that’s what I’m referring to. Always taking a Monday or Friday is a pattern of behavior. Obviously a one-off is no big deal, but always using those days is very obvious and annoying to the team.

                Reply
                1. Emi.

                  But if you’re explicitly letting people take days off to recharge as a preventative measure, why does that matter?

                2. The Other Dawn

                  It’s not a license to plan a whole bunch of three-day weekends. The purpose of a mental health day, in my mind and my team members’ minds, is to use a day if you wake up and you just need the day to recharge because XYZ happened at home, or something similar. Or if you feel that way the night before. If you want to take some three-day weekends planned ahead of time, that’s what vacation time is for.

                3. The Other Dawn

                  Should have added that when people take a “mental health day”, it’s actually a sick day they’re using. They’re not using a vacation day.

  31. Lizzle

    #5 – mental health is health; mental illness is illness. It doesn’t matter how your boss would see it; don’t tell them what you’re ill with. If you’re unwell, stay home. That’s what sick time is for. I also don’t think it matters if you take more than your coworkers. If you had a chronic health condition of your own, or if you had a weaker immune system than most and got more/more severe viruses, you would also take more sick time than others. Them’s the breaks.

    Reply
  32. VroomVroom

    OP #4 –

    Your employer’s short term disability plan might cover a surgery like this? I’d look into it.

    Reply
  33. overcaffeinatedandqueer

    The smelly food letter makes me feel bad…I always take leftovers for lunch because budget, and frankly I will die if I have to eat ANOTHER PB & J (after many years of it every day). Tomorrow’s food is turkey sausage (Polish, not breakfast) and broccoli with homemade cheese sauce. I can’t not microwave because the sauce is a solid otherwise, and can’t go out (no nearby food places, just coffee).

    Reply
    1. Parenthetically

      Mmm, that lunch sounds delicious! I bring leftovers every day. I try to be careful of lingering smells (bacon, fish, etc.), but the smell of my reheated black beans and rice isn’t going to survive long when people are in and out of the kitchen all day making coffee, popping popcorn for their afternoon snack, toasting some cheese bread in the toaster oven… I have a hard time begrudging people a hot meal in the middle of the day, and unless your microwave is in the middle of an open office so everyone has to work with food smells around them, I don’t imagine it’s much of an issue.

      Reply
    2. Allison

      Heating up food in general isn’t a big deal! I’ve been heating up chicken for years – sometimes seasoned, sometimes marinated. And it produces smells, as most food does, but I’ve never gotten complaints about it, and it’s nothing that people typically complain about (fish, bacon, popcorn, etc.), so I don’t see the harm in it

      Reply
    3. Sal

      Okay, I’m pregnant with morning sickness out the wazoo, and the broccoli would definitely bother me. The other is meh, par for the course when you interact with other humans in an environment. Not unreasonable. Neither is the broccoli–but that sulfur smell does linger. Can you nuke some hot water with lemon when you’re done (as mentioned above)? Or hell, burn some popcorn? Or light a match? (NB: I have no idea if lighting a match works for kitchen smells.)

      Reply
      1. Librarianne

        I am also currently pregnant and my god, even normal things my coworkers microwave makes me want to vomit (as does the cleaning solution our janitor uses, or the coffee that’s been burning in the pot for the past four hours). Broccoli or fish would probably make me have to take a sick day. I mean, I know it’s a me problem, but it really is a problem right now.

        Reply
  34. WellRed

    News flash: If your awesome company makes you share hotel rooms, it is not, actually, an awesome company.

    Reply
  35. PinkCupcake

    #2 Fish in Microwave
    OP, the only real solution to this is a passive-aggressive office sign placed directly on the door of the microwave. It should be both hilarious and venomous in tone. When the first sign is taken down, it must be immediately replaced. Let your creativity run wild.

    Reply
    1. Allypopx

      Much like roommates, passive-aggressive notes are the only surefire way to deal with coworkers’ obnoxious habits in shared spaces.

      Reply
      1. Allison

        I think notes are fine if you don’t know who the culprit is, or if you know a lot of people are doing something. However, if you know who it is, talking to them may be best. It really stinks when someone posts a note or makes an announcement to everyone about a behavior when you know you’re the specific guilty party they’re trying to address, and it makes you wonder why they couldn’t come talk to you about it.

        Reply
        1. Allypopx

          Sorry I should have indicated better I was being sarcastic. I was following the humorous tone of the thread.

          Reply
  36. The Other Dawn

    RE: #2

    I think it’s perfectly acceptable that microwaving fish and popcorn be banned when you have a very small office kitchen that is very close to the rest of the office, especially if you’ve talked to this person and nothing has changed. We had to do this at my previous company because we actually didn’t have a kitchen. Due to space limitations and the office layout, we had a table in the office that had a tiny fridge and a microwave. Although the boss said it several times, it was understood that microwaving those two foods were out of the question. We were all fine with it, and no one complained. When we moved into a larger officer, we had a very small kitchen, but it was directly outside someone’s office, so the rule held. Again, we were all fine with it.

    Reply
    1. Allypopx

      Same. In my office we have a microwave in the hallway, and it’s right outside my office door. I’m pretty tolerant of food smells so I don’t fuss but I wouldn’t blame someone who did.

      Reply
    2. michelenyc

      That’s the way it has been in virtually every office I have worked in. I also thought it was one of those things that was an unspoken rule of an office but clearly I am wrong. My dad cans his own salmon & tuna and after eating that the canned stuff is just gross to me!

      Reply
  37. PinkCupcake

    #1 Shared Hotel Rooms
    OP, I’ve gone to quite a few conferences/business trips in my day, most of them for companies that were decidedly less than awesome, and I’ve never once been asked to share a room with another employee. “Budgetary reasons” seems to be the universal blanket excuse used by employers for all varieties of bad behavior and ridiculous expectations. If a company can’t afford to accommodate people comfortably when they are already away from home, can they really afford to send that many people to a conference?

    Reply
  38. Michael

    After traveling a ton for work, hearing from colleagues who shared rooms at previous jobs, and reading this blog, I am resolving to never, ever ask someone to share a room if I ever run a business. Why does anyone ever think this is OK?! I would be horrified if I had to share a room with anyone outside my family. The point of having a room is to have a private place to change, go to the bathroom, relax, etc. It’s mind boggling why it’s even considered an option to share. It’s just a cost of doing business.

    Reply
    1. Chicklet

      Heck, I don’t even like sharing rooms with family. I mean, I love my family and I do often share with my mom on trips, but I’m a very private person who also needs alone time EVERY DAY to fully recharge.

      Reply
      1. MegaMoose, Esq.

        My in-laws were astonished when I told them we were going to get a hotel for our holiday visit. I was astonished that some folks don’t put value on alone-time.

        Reply
      2. Temperance

        The only people I can stand to constantly be around are Booth and one of my sisters and her little kids. I need my alone time, badly.

        Reply
      3. Allison

        I have a hobby that involves people getting hotel rooms for events. I know people who have no problem cramming 8 people into a room for a weekend so everyone can save money and they just make it work, and I know people who absolutely have to have their own space to retreat to after spending hours around people, and it’s worth it to pay for the whole thing themselves.

        I’m in the middle, a roomie or two is actually really nice, gives you someone to vent to at 3AM when you’re salty about not making finals and you need someone to remind you that comps are not that big a deal, BUT there are good roommates and garbage roommates, so you can and should be selective about who puts their crap next to your crap.

        Reply
    2. Stop That Goat

      This!

      I had to share a room with a coworker at a conference last year. I was not a happy camper about it. I need my unwinding alone time. By the third day, I was severely wound up and on edge that I ended up skipping a couple after hour networking events to get a couple hours alone. I wouldn’t have done so if I had my own room to come back to at the end of the night.

      Reply
  39. Jade

    Oh OP #1, I feel for you. I have snorers in my family, and when we book family vacations, I have to pay extra to book suites with separated bedrooms. One year before this, the snoring was so loud and disruptive that I slept in the backseat of the car, and another year I slept in the bathtub of the hotel room. Earplugs and headphones do not cut it.

    My suggestion would be to first ask your employer if they could book you a separated suite, which ought to provide a sound barrier, and would be cheaper than 2 separate rooms. If they are absolutely unwilling to budge, maybe your roommate could ask your employer to pay for a rollaway bed and request some co-workers to let them crash in their room at night. What a crappy thing for your employer to do.

    Reply
  40. Professor Ronny

    Personally, I would never share a room with a coworker. Period. If the university where I work required it, I would pay for my own room. I snore but could not possibly get to sleep with someone else in the room snoring. Plus, there is no one I work with that I would want to see in their underwear. Just pay for your own room.

    Reply
  41. Nervous Accountant

    Re: #5, it’s so interesting. At my company, we only have PTO (standard 2 weeks plus bonus PTO) and (unpaid) time off. No specific sick days, so if you call out sick, you use up PTO or take it unpaid. At first I thought that was ridiculous but after reading about how much scrutiny “sick days” get after reading this blog, I’m kind of happy with the way things are here–no one cares if I take a sick day or not, no one scrutinizes me or holds it against me.

    Reply
  42. Frances

    OP5 – Take those mental health days and don’t feel guilty one iota! Caregiving is incredibly demanding. If you were my colleague I would much rather have you take the occasional sick day to get back to your old self than for you to come in stressed out. If you are stressed, your colleagues will feel it too. Just as if you come in relaxed and cheerful they’ll feel it.

    When I’ve gotten upset or seen others get upset over colleagues taking sick time it’s because the person in question has a pattern (and that’s the important part) of taking sick days every Friday and Monday around their weekend trips extending their mini-vacation with sick time rather than PTO or they are sick on days when they had a deliverable due, was responsible for running a program, or something similar so that their colleagues had to pick up the sick colleague’s work on top of their own. It’s the pattern–the repeated use of sick days in such a manner which make colleagues feel taken advantage of because it appears the time taken is not random at all. FWIW we don’t have sick time at my job nor do we have to make up time. We are just expected to stay home until we are well. It makes life so much easier.

    Reply
  43. Beancounter Eric

    OP#1 – You warned your employer, now warn your roommate, perhaps get them a box of earplugs, a bottle of No-Doze, and a gift card to Coffee-is-us, but at this point, it’s on the company.

    Reply
  44. OxfordComma

    OP#1 are you academia by any chance?

    I don’t snore, but I have insomnia to such an extent that I get about 4-5 hours of sleep if I’m lucky and I hate being in a room with a co-worker/colleague when I’m wide awake at 3AM and can’t really do any of my usual tricks to try to get back to sleep.

    Because I’m only getting so much in the way of funding, I either pay extra or try to apply for travel grants so that I can be in a room by myself.

    But if that’s not the case, I think a conversation is the way to go.

    Reply
    1. Parenthetically

      Teacher here and yes, this scenario is very familiar to me. When I started at this job, after a couple years of putting us all four to a room (yes, I shared a queen-sized bed with a new coworker for five nights) for our annual conference, my school got a new financial person who took one horrified look at the proposed hotel arrangements and began applying for grants and scholarships. We still had to share rooms that year, but we were at least two to a room and got to stay at the schmancy conference hotel rather than a much crapper one five miles away like we’d previously done. It really was a funding issue, but fortunately the grants and scholarships fill the gap so we can be a bit more civilized.

      Reply
    2. Professor Ronny

      I’m in academia (25+ years) and was a department chair for nine years. I had never heard of anyone in academia sharing a room until I started reading this blog so I guessing it is not as common as is made out here or I would have heard of it before.

      Reply
      1. fposte

        If your department had a ton of travel money, that would explain it, or if everybody managed to write all their travel into grants. But it’s been common in some fields for quite some time because it’s a way to make your travel funds go farther when they’re finite. For instance, we get $1k a year; that’s pretty much one single conference when you include airfare, registration, and hotel, so people looking to attend more will often keep their costs down through roommating.

        Reply
      2. OxfordComma

        I’m an academic librarian. While they did increase our funding (finally), there is no way I could attend a national meeting on just what they give us. So my options are: 1) don’t go; 2) room w/someone and pay out of pocket or get a travel grant; or 3) room by myself and pay out of pocket or get a travel grant.

        Occasionally we’re sent somewhere and our institution pays, but I always have to push to have my own room.

        Reply
    3. LW1

      Not academia, no. It’s an industry where, based on my anecdotal evidence from talking to other people at other companies in the industry, room-sharing is not terribly common but also not so uncommon that “but that is simply never done!” would have any realistic traction.

      Reply
  45. Malibu Stacey

    I actually donated a kidney 1 month ago tomorrow – I took 2 weeks off and then came back for 4 hour a day for a week.

    I didn’t tell my employer until the surgery was for sure a go there are months and months of tests, evaluations to go through.

    Reply
  46. Allison

    #2 I’m going to give this woman the benefit of the doubt and assume she either doesn’t realize how much microwaved fish smells, or she knows it might bother people but figures since no one has said anything it must not be a big deal – she probably has no idea people are suffering in silence just because they don’t know how to approach her about it. So please, just tell her “hey, you might not realize this, but that food produces a very strong, lingering odor.” You don’t necessarily need an office rule, unless she pushes back, but cross that bridge if you get there.

    Also, when you do talk to her, keep in mind that she’s probably eating fish for a reason – either she really likes it, or she’s on a diet where fish is one of the main foods she can eat for protein.

    Reply
  47. Amber Rose

    The very idea of being forced to sleep in the same room as another person scares me. Not only do I have painful nightmares, I often wake up with no idea who I am or where I am or what anything is. I have woken my husband with my screaming, and I have lashed out violently at him as well (because I don’t remember who he is). He at least has reasons to put up with me. Imagine if I attacked a coworker.

    I wish companies would realize there’s a whole spectrum of reasons why it’s bad to force people to share rooms. But probably the best way to achieve that wish is to start pushing back firmly, and Alison’s wording is spot on.

    I get that funding issues can be a thing, but there’s got to be a better way.

    Reply
    1. nonegiven

      My husband went on a hunting trip, snoring BIL, BIL’s son in law and BIL’s friend. They had a 2 bedroom cabin with a fold out couch. BIL and his friend took the bedrooms, DH was pissed they didn’t draw lots or something, but he took the couch. BIL’s SIL knew the snoring all too well and elected to sleep with DH. The first night, in the middle of the night DH got too hot which threw him into a nightmare. He woke up screaming. SIL spent the rest of the trip sleeping with snoring BIL.

      Reply
  48. Bow Ties Are Cool

    People who microwave fish at work are one of the top 10 reasons this atheist wishes there was a Hell.

    Reply
    1. nonegiven

      I had a Phd psychologist tell me that my depression was existential. WTH does that mean? I think therefore I’m depressed?

      Reply
  49. Passing Through

    My mom snores very loudly. When we travel together, I take a small fan and sit it on the table between the beds. It usually drowns out the snoring enough for me to get to sleep. The white noise machines I have heard do not make enough noise to cover really loud snoring. The fan takes up room in my suitcase, but it is totally worth it so I can sleep.

    Reply
  50. Allison

    #5, I use sick days for a range of things. Sometimes I’m sick with a physical illness, like the flu or food poisoning. Sometimes depression is so bad I had trouble getting through the previous workday. Sometimes I’m going through a breakup and I know if I go to work I’ll just be sad and unproductive all day, and cry in front of people and bum everyone out.

    At my first job, they told us that negativity is an illness, and if you’re in a bad mood, you’ll bring others down.

    So I think, I feel like garbage, I can try to suck it up and muddle through the rest of the week, but I won’t be very productive and my mood might spread to others, or I can take one day off to rest, and be back in action the next day. Which is less disruptive?

    Reply
  51. TootsNYC

    #2: smelly fish in the microwave

    This is one of those situations that makes me sort of annoyed that we don’t really have superpowers, even mild ones, because it would be so much easier if you could offer to heat it up for her outside the building, using your heat vision.

    And weak telekinesis would let you shift the parallel-parked cars forward or backward a smidge to create one full parking space out of the dribs and drabs the end up sprinkled along the line.

    But then of course someone would use their abilities to do gross or mean things–which is probably why we don’t have them.

    Reply
    1. Jessesgirl72

      LOL

      Lacking superpwoers, someone could suggest to her an insulated bag- heat it up at home, keep it warm until she uses it. You can prime an insulated bad with hot water ahead of putting in what you want to stay warm.

      When I was a kid, my mom put hot soup into my thermos in the winter for my lunch more often than she was trying to keep milk cold.

      Reply
      1. TootsNYC

        With fish especially, I might worry that it’s not safe because it won’t keep it hot enough. Especially solids.
        Soup in a thermos stays hot longer than any solid food in an insulated bag.

        Reply
  52. Nathaniel

    Personally, I would never share a hotel room for work. If for some reason it was required, I would expect to be compensated every hour spent in the hotel as overtime. If work dictates you must travel, then work must reimburse reasonable travel expenses. Your privacy outside of the meeting or conference itself is non-negotiable.

    Reply
    1. Jessesgirl72

      Everyone hates sharing rooms for work, but you do realize that this response is really far outside the norms in places that ask it of you? And it is legitimately common in some industries.

      Reply
      1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist

        Common it may be, but it’s not reasonable to expect people to share rooms no matter what the industry. I have never been asked to share a room and I would be incredibly resistant, bordering on incredulous, if I were asked to do so.

        Reply
          1. Gov Worker

            I think the discussion centers on white collar office workers, which seems to be the focus of AAM.

            Reply
        1. Jessesgirl72

          I find this attitude very… privileged.

          Some non profits have budgets so tight that they legitimately have no money to afford to give everyone their own room, even miles from the venue. However, if they don’t send people to the convention, they are worse off, from losing the chance of recognition, etc. The conferences are lifeblood to these non profits. So yes, it’s actually reasonable and necessary to ask people to share rooms. It’s not ideal, but most things in life aren’t ideal.

          The level of resistance that you and Nathaniel talk about giving if faced with that is not normal, and would negatively impact your career in big ways. If you can’t afford to pay for your own hotel room, you definitely can’t afford to be unemployed, either.

          Reply
          1. Stop That Goat

            You must not be an introvert. Some folks literally can’t function without time to themselves. It builds and builds for each day of that conference. I’d rather not have the chance at seeing my coworker in their underwear, dealing with their night terrors or any other other awkward situation that could occur in this setup.

            It’s not unreasonable to push back against this.

            Reply
            1. fposte

              I’m an introvert, and I work in a field with a lot of introverts. It also has a lot of roommating. And I agree with Jessesgirl72 that some of the pushback here is pretty extreme.

              Reply
              1. Stop That Goat

                You’ve never met another introvert that this would be a complete dealbreaker for attending events?

                Reply
                1. Ask a Manager Post author

                  I’m an introvert. I shared hotel rooms in my 20s. Wouldn’t do it now, but when it’s normal in your field, it seems like much less of a big deal.

                  I’m sure there are some people for whom it would be a deal-breaker — that’s true of anything — but it’s not how it typically goes.

                2. fposte

                  Sure. And they don’t get very far in the field unless they bankroll their own travel, because you have to go to conferences. So the question is what’s most important to you in the situation and long-term.

              2. Jillociraptor

                Yeah, I’ve never worked in a field where single rooms are common. The only time folks got single rooms was if it was impossible to room you with a peer. I’m a profound introvert (alllll the way on the I side, need a 2-bd apartment to have personal space away from my partner who I love more than anyone, etc.). I traveled to conferences and events for work at least monthly for years, and was never bothered by having a roommate. At least not any more bothered than by having to go to the conference in the first place! It was part of my job so I had to figure out good ways to replenish my energy regardless, and set good boundaries with my roommate.

                People’s preferences are what they are, and mine would be to have my own space if left to my own devices, but this doesn’t feel like a tremendous indignity to me. Maybe because I’ve always managed the budgets and know what a big chunk lodging is! :)

                Reply
            2. Jessesgirl72

              And there you would be wrong.

              But I know the world doesn’t revolve around me, especially the business world. Sometimes I have to suck it up and talk to people on the phone, and sometimes I have to share a room.

              I never said there shouldn’t be any pushback- there should, especially when the need isn’t as obvious and clear cut as for small nonprofits, but demand that they pay you overtime for it? All that is going to do is get you fired.

              Reply
              1. Stop That Goat

                For the record, I’d push back if I could, attend if it had already been purchased and then make plans not to attend next year if I expected to be in the same rooming situation. I wouldn’t go into it making any demands but just because something is fine by you doesn’t mean it should be fine for everyone else. If it’s a dealbreaker for them, then so be it. It has nothing to do with thinking the world revolves around you (Geeze!).

                Just like any other company policy, if it wasn’t a good fit for me, I’d move on.

                Reply
              2. Jessie the First (or second)

                “But I know the world doesn’t revolve around me”
                I don’t think people for whom it is a dealbreaker think the world revolves around them. We all have lines that just need to be drawn to maintain our sanity, and for some people, that’s sharing a room.

                I wouldn’t share a room if traveling. I’d push back, and if the company refused, I’d pay for an upgrade. A roommate is non-negotiable for me. But I agree that demanding overtime would not work at all, and I wouldn’t approach my boss that way if told I had to share a room. I’d say nope, I can’t, here is what I suggest instead and I’ll pay.

                Reply
                1. fposte

                  Yeah, while my conference roommating experiences were fine, I decided pretty early I was willing to pay out of my own pocket to have a room to myself.

                  But I was fortunate to be able to do that, and it would have hurt me in my field to have decided not to go to conferences. So it’s not a system that you can opt out of without literal or figurative cost.

          2. LoiraSafada

            I would absolutely resist this. I travel internationally a lot for work, and I would absolutely not go if one of the stipulations was a shared room. If you can’t afford separate rooms for your employees, you need to re-think how many people you’re sending and what your priorities really are. Asking adults to be away from home and share a room with their coworkers (effectively resulting in a 24 hour work day) is just too much. And my industry has plenty of non-profits that realize treating adults like adults is part of the cost of doing business.

            Reply
          3. Gov Worker

            Sleep is personal. As are bathroom habits. Call me not normal, but nope, not sharing living quarters with coworkers.

            Reply
    2. Gov Worker

      I totally agree. Organizations are out of bounds to expect co-workers to be all up close and personal, even sharing a bathroom! Snoring aside, its just such a rude imposition that I bet the higher ups don’t have to endure.

      Reply
      1. LQ

        Wait do you have a private bathroom at work? I have to share bathrooms with coworkers and always have had to at work. Except when I worked at home.

        Reply
        1. gwal

          showering and the various hygiene tasks one would carry out in a hotel bathroom are very different from the bathroom needs one would have during a typical 8-hour workday, though

          Reply
  53. Enginerd

    OP#1 Ask around about who is a light sleeper and who is not. I’m fortunate you could play a concert in my hotel room and I’d sleep through it but I’ve traveled with others who get woken up by a gentle rain. From my experience it’s usually better to put the light sleepers together and the heavy sleepers with those who might snore. Snoring isn’t uncommon and those who are woken up easily will thank you for it.

    Reply
  54. WFHMama

    I just came back from a work trip where I had to share a room with a coworker. She did not snore, but she did let me know that she needed a white noise machine in order to sleep. I thought it would be no problem since we use on for our daughter and I hear it through our baby monitor at home. Well, apparently she needs her white noise machine SUPER LOUD because I could not sleep all night. I mentioned it to her the next morning and that night she lowered the volume on her machine, but then told me the following day that she had not slept well while I was fine.

    On top of the time change we were dealing with, the sleep issues made for 2 very tired employees manning a trade show booth for three days. Luckily it was only 2 nights, but it was still pretty rough. I get employers have employees share rooms to save money, but if you can’t afford to put everyone up in their own room, then you can’t afford to send everyone. Sharing a room and having to sleep next to a coworker is just not great all around.

    Reply
    1. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist

      I have no idea, none at all, why companies think this is a cost that needs cutting. If you’re going to require that your employees travel, you should regard individual rooms for each person as a cost of doing business. At normal corporate rates, I doubt the difference would be much more than $500, and if you can’t afford that, you can’t afford employee travel to begin with.

      Reply
      1. fposte

        That’s just not how these places work. I feel like this is a bit of a rerun of the touching discussion from yesterday–I get that you think this is a humongous imposition and that nobody should have to bear it, but your view is not the universal one. There are variants, of course, and one of them is no travel funding, so you’re right that some of them can’t afford employee travel. Another is that the employee is free to pay for the upgrade; still another is a travel stipend for the year that it’s up to the employee to figure out how to spend, and a roommate means getting more access to opportunities.

        Reply
  55. Sick and tired

    My employer allows people to roll over any sick days we don’t use in a year (although they only give us 4, so this policy doesn’t seem all that generous, actually), and if I had a dollar for every time a manager (or worse, our VP) told us a story of one person who works for the company who has over 50 sick days saved up….

    Worse, every time they tell the story, they emphasize what a great and amazing thing it is that she never uses her sick time. I made an offhand comment the first time I heard the story that I bet she was saving up for an amazing vacation and you could have heard a pin drop. (The manager who initially told me the story later laughed and said “Well, it doesn’t matter, we don’t allow vacations longer than 2 weeks at a time!”) The fact that she’d saved up 10+ years worth of sick days is amazing and wonderful to them. The thought that she might actually use them, however, seems to horrify them.

    Meanwhile, I came down with the flu in January and that was all my sick days for the year gone in one fell swoop. I’m desperately hoping I don’t get sick again before next January, because my employer doesn’t permit using vacation time as sick time once you run out of sick time….

    Reply
    1. gwal

      oooh that is so unfair! “doesn’t permit using vacation time as sick time”? like someone would take advantage of the opportunity to decrease their “fun” paid days off and use them when sick instead? sorry you have to deal with that :(

      Reply
      1. Sick and tired

        It’s actually a day more than they’re required to — they give us “lump sum” sick days rather than “accrual” sick days, which means they’re legally actually only required to give us 3. And you better believe they make a huge deal out of how generous they’re being by giving us a whole day more than the legal minimum requirement…..

        Reply
  56. The Not Mad But Occasionally Irritable Scientist

    Also, as regards heating up fish….why do people need their fish piping hot to begin with? I eat almost every lunch at room temp, and it’s fine. In fact, most of the world eats most of their food lukewarm or at room temp – we’re kind of an oddity that way. It’s very easy to get used to.

    Reply
    1. tigerlily

      Room temperature is one thing, but if my food has been sitting in the fridge from 8:30 to 1:00 (not to mention all night long from when I put away dinner) it’s going to take a minute in the microwave to *get* to room temperature.

      Reply
  57. Zahra

    OP #1: Is that something that could be covered under the ADA? The impacts we’re discussing are on your colleagues, but it might cover some accommodations for days when you’re not fully rested.

    Reply
  58. Gov Worker

    Sleeping is personal. Not to mention that I don’t want a coworker to see me in my natural state upon awakening. I have never been asked or required to share a hotel room on a business trip. Working adults should not be required to do such a thing, we are not college students!

    Employees should be given the option of staying in a lower cost hotel to maintain their privacy. Or companies should use lower cost facilities in the first place to enable everyone to have their own room. Or, reduce the number of required attendees, make remote conferencing available, something. Sharing a room on a business trip is a flat out nope for me.

    Reply
  59. Suz

    Would the advice to OP#1 be any different if the issue was talking in their sleep instead of snoring? In my experience, that’s a lot more disruptive than snoring.

    My ex and most of his family all talk in their sleep. The 1st time I went to his parents for a weekend, I thought his mom wouldn’t want us sleeping in the same room since we weren’t married yet. Nope. He’s from a large family and most of his siblings came home that weekend so everyone had to share rooms. She assigned us to a room with 4 of his brothers. All of them talked in their sleep. I didn’t get 5 minutes sleep the entire night.

    Reply
  60. gmg

    I have been carrying around a work life’s (ie, 20 years’) worth of guilt over the 0-2 days a year (depending on the year) when I probably could have physically gotten myself to work, but felt overwhelmed/exhausted to the point that I opted for a sick day instead. Hearing someone of Allison’s authority confirm that this is OK is like a self-imposed verdict being overturned.

    It’s also a reminder of my good fortune in employers, and how effed up it is that too many people have few to no options in this regard because there is no sick time or PTO of any kind to draw on, period. Of this 20 years, about 3-4 of it was indeed spent in positions where I did not get PTO. But for most of this time I also had a great deal of schedule flexibility (as a part-timer/rest-of-the-time freelancer) and could plan a vacation week with the intent of making it up in paid-time work later. Many workers just don’t have that, period.

    Reply
  61. Noah

    “How can we handle a coworker who heats up canned tuna or salmon every day in the small break room microwave? ”

    Call building security. Putting an aluminum can in the microwave is extremely dangerous.

    Reply
  62. I'd Rather not Say

    Regarding OP 1 and the travel, count me among those who wouldn’t want to share a room, though I’d happily pay the difference for my own room. In my case, it’s because I can’t fall asleep without the radio on, and I’d feel I was imposing. I’m also sensitive to other noise such as snoring, or the light from the TV, which some fall asleep to (not surprising I’m single, lol). I’m not completely following why it’s unreasonable to ask everyone to share rooms, though if this is being asked equally of everyone. Maybe there’s more to it than the financial aspect, such as the company doesn’t want to deal with the logistics of trying to keep track of who wants what, (they’re afraid of unfairness if they end up with an “odd number” of singles), or hotel rooms are limited and the company would look bad if they took too many rooms, etc. If none of these are the case, I’d say allowing singles if the person is willing to pay is the best compromise.

    Reply
  63. AnonKidney´sRUs

    OP#4 I have donated a kidney , 10 years ago, so I can tell you that 1-2 weeks off of work is not very realistic in any terms. I had to have a 10 inch incision on my right side due to the anatomy of my veins and arteries, laparoscopic was therefore not an option. That was known beforehand, but sometimes they have to go from laparoscopic to full incision due to unforseen events. They usually take the left kidney if at all possible to avoid nicking the liver so my harvesting was a bit unusual. I was advised not to drive for approximately two weeks and was on medical leave for five weeks. I was not allowed to lift anything heavier than 4 pounds for about a month, if I remember correctly. I was well prepared before surgery , which went very well, and had known for two decades that donating to my sibling was not just a possibility but a certainty so I was blindsided by the emotional effects after donation, most of which is a side effect of medications used during the process but distressing none the less. Aanesthesia also affected my short term memory for quite a long time – weeks and weeks. I truly did not feel I was back to my normal self until 6-9 month after donation. I was in my thirties with two children between the ages of two and five, had all the support in the world, and was between jobs. Donation is not just a surgery, it´s so much more complicated – wonderful but complicated. Please support donation and become an organ donor if you feel it is right for you. Best of luck to you.

    Reply
  64. Sarah

    As a person with mental illness, I really wish we’d banish the word “mental health day” from our collective vocabulary. When I have an anxiety breakdown or a bad bout of depression, or I am getting worse and worse, the only thing that will reset me is a day off. It is, technically a “mental health day” and if I think it will make me feel better, I’ll go out to eat or take a walk or otherwise do things I couldn’t do if I were physically ill. But when my coworkers say “mental health day” they usually mean a personal day to relax and do errands. So I invariably feel guilty for taking a sick day (that guilt, of course, is also a part of my anxiety disorder, but whatcha gonna do). I regularly lie to coworkers who ask after me and say I had a fever or something, because I feel like I have to “cover something up”. It’s stupid and it sucks.

    I really wish we didn’t use that phrase. OP #5, you are an adult who is dealing with real, serious issues. You deserve the time to take care of yourself, mind and body. That’s what sick days are for. The dominant culture that says that sick days are only for when you’re barfing or have a fever is harmful to everyone. Take the days you need and don’t feel guilty about it.

    Reply
  65. Bevina del Rey

    OP #5: When I’m feeling guilty for taking a day for myself, a ‘personal day’ to reset, recharge, or deal with emotional health, some seemingly dramatic questions posed to myself help me relieve the stress. These are from “Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff” (a surprisingly awesome book!) and include the following (paraphrased):

    -Will this (feeling of guilt for taking a day for myself) matter to me/be bothering me in 1 year? 10 years?
    -Someday I’ll be dead and this won’t matter to anyone, including me. (Not in a depressing way, but in a, “Everyone dies, including your boss, and in 100 years, everyone who exists now won’t exist, so you might as well take the best care of yourself that you can, now, in your one, short life” kind of way.)

    It helps put things into a big picture perspective. And I also consider, what would I tell my best friend if she were feeling guilty for taking time off for her health, no matter what part of her health? I’d tell her to go for it and not feel a lick of guilt. Sometimes we’re harder on ourselves than we are on other people.

    Reply
  66. Champagne_Dreams

    OP#1: Have your doctor write you a note saying that you have a sleep disorder that you are under treatment for, and as a result of this disorder, you require a private room. That’s what I did and it worked like a charm.

    Reply
  67. Karin

    Regarding the fish question: I have a very poor sense of smell. I eat a lot of fish, which means I (used to) bring a lot of fish leftovers to heat up in the microwave for lunch. I had no idea, until a coworker gently explained to me just how nasty the smell is, that it really was that heinous a thing. I say just gently explain it, and don’t beat around the bush.

    Reply
  68. OP#5

    Thanks for all of the advice and the support around the general sentiment that mental health is the same as any other type of health. In general I agree and hope that overall our society will continue make progress in recognizing this. Even so, I feel guilty, in part because my work has a very generous PTO policy and I have been using a lot of that lately due to timing of other events like family graduations, weddings, etc. I also work in a small office that is generally pretty open and I am a very open person myself. Typically, when I’m out sick I will say something along the lines of “I have a stomach bug so won’t be in today”. It sounds like I need to get more comfortable with all sick leave-related situations in being more vague (e.g. “I’m under the weather today”) so that when I am using a mental health day it doesn’t stand out from the others.

    I am always very thoughtful about taking my mental health days at a time when it won’t have an impact on my co-workers or important deadlines. I am based in the US but have been with my employer for less than a year so I am not eligible for FMLA. I am currently doing a lot to take care of my mental health in other ways as many commenters have suggested. I regularly see a counselor, have been involved with a great support group for long while, and am well connected with the Alzheimer’s Association (which is an amazing resource for anybody dealing with Alzheimer’s and other dementias).

    I will continue to work on turning off society’s silly commentary in my head and instead try to replace it with the health-positive commentary of the wonderful AAM community.

    Reply

Leave a Comment

Before you comment: Please be kind, stay on-topic, and follow the site's commenting rules.
You can report an ad, tech, or typo issue here.

Subscribe to all comments on this post by RSS