terse answer Thursday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

It’s terse answer Thursday — seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…

1. Company took away our desk fans

I work in a high-stress call center, which is often warmer than I would prefer. I (along with many other employees) helped this problem with small desk fans. We were recently told that we had to take our fans home as it could be a liability in case the fan caused a power surge and shorted something out. I had the fan plugged into a surge protector but was told this was still unacceptable. Perhaps I should be sending this question to “ask an electrician,” but I am curious if you’ve ever heard of fans not being allowed in an office. As this is a phone sales job, I am finding myself increasingly irritated and uncomfortably warm. I’ve done everything to reason with management and have found them intractable. Do you have any suggestions how I might approach this? Do I have any grounds to fight this?

No legal grounds, but certainly on the grounds of common sense. You and your coworkers should talk to whoever in charge of this about the fact that people generally work better when they’re not uncomfortably hot, and ask what solutions can be found for the temperature problem. It doesn’t have to be fans — maybe it’s central air or some other solution. But make the case for it. You can’t force them to agree, but you can certainly try, and doing so as a group might help.

2. How should we launch an employee performance tracker?

My question is centered around the delivery of employee performance metrics. I work in a fairly new department, and we are about to roll out a performance tracker that gives front line employees feedback on their performance for the last couple months. We didn’t give our employees all the specifics on which data we would be tracking and how they can influence it (because we didn’t know what it would be at the time). We did give them a general overview of what their competencies would be.

My boss seems eager to get the information out ASAP, but it makes sense to me to deliver the specifics on what we will be measuring, give the staff time to perform, and then roll out their performance tracker and develop improvement plans. It doesn’t seem fair to me to give an employee specific feedback on metrics they were not previously informed would be tracked and monitored (although the metrics are for things that they should already understand are relevant to how their performance is assessed). My boss is saying this is just a benchmark, but I’m concerned about those employees who might get lower ratings and their perception of the information.

I think it’s fine either way. There’s certainly no harm in giving people a heads-up and then waiting before the first official reporting, but if these metrics are measuring things that they should already know they’re being assessed on more generally, then I also don’t see any problem in rolling it out immediately. If you were going to launch metrics on things no one had ever told them they needed to care about, that would unfair and demoralizing. But since it’s on stuff they should already be thinking about, I think it’s fine.

3. I didn’t tell my staff that our new employee is deaf

I just hired a part-time person who is deaf. The person is able to do the job fine, but I am not sure what to do in regards to the rest of my department. Before the person started, I sent an email introducing them to everyone with a little background on the person, and I mentioned the university they went to, which is recognizable as one that caters to deaf people if you know that. I do this with all new hires.

I had decided not to mention the fact that they are deaf because I would not mention anything else that is not really relevant to the job (this is a job where you are in front of a computer mostly and pack/unpack things). But just in introducing them around in person, I noticed there were a few miscommunications (they didn’t get they were being asked a question, for example). Having interviewed and now trained them one on one, I think it’s just a question of making sure we are facing the new person when we talk and such small adjustments but I worry that if the rest of the team does not know she is deaf, they will just think the new person is slow or aloof, and it will create a negative atmosphere. On the other hand, I don’t want to draw attention to something that I don’t think should matter in an office. Do you have any suggestions on how best to handle this?

Please tell people, today. It’s not kind to allow people to think this employee is slow or unresponsive, when the problem could be so easily solved. I assure you that your employee doesn’t think being deaf is something to hide, and would probably appreciate having people know how to best communicate with her. In fact, she probably assumes people already know. Your instinct not to mention the deafness comes from a well-intentioned place, but the result is not helpful. Let your staff know that because Jane is deaf, they should make sure they face her when she talks, and any other adjustments they should make.

4. How should I respond to this email from a hiring manager?

I interviewed for a position last Friday and sent a thank-you card a few days later. Today I received an email from one of the hiring managers, thanking me for the card, telling me that they expect to make a decision in a few days, and thanking me for my patience. I’ve never received a thank-you email for a thank-you note. Should I respond or just wait to hear their decision?

It’s not really a thank-you for the thank-you; it’s an update on their timeline. No response is really needed, although there’s nothing wrong with responding with a quick “great, thanks for letting me know.”

5. Explaining a period of caring for a parent

I worked for 25 years in telecommunications. I was laid off in 2008 and since that time have been caring for my elderly parents. My dad passed away a few months ago, and my mother, although handicapped, is stable. I am ready to begin a “second phase of my life” job search. Is it acceptable to put on my resume the duties I performed caring for my parents? For example, managing their money, taking them to their doctor’s appointments, managing in home care, etc. I want to make sure that a potential employer knows that I have been very busy the past few years although I have not been collecting a paycheck.

I wouldn’t list it as a job on your resume (just like I wouldn’t list caring for your own kids on a resume), but you can certainly mention in your cover letter that you’ve been caring for a family member but are now ready to return to work.

6. Manager is making me move my computer monitor

Can a manager dictate as to how you place your monitor on you desk? I have mine directly in front of me because of a neck issue and now she says it needs to be of to the side to be patient friendly. She doesn’t sit in my place, and I think she has no business saying how it should be. I would appreciate your opinion.

Legally? Sure, unless your neck issue is covered under the ADA (although the bar is fairly high for something to qualify for a disability). Your best bet is to professionally and politely explain to the impact of having your monitor where she’d like it and offer to bring in documentation of your neck issue from your doctor if she’d like it. (Doctor’s notes don’t obligate an employer to act on this type of thing, but some employers are responsive to them.) But to get the best outcome here, you need to approach this in a professional problem-solving type of way, not in a “you have no business saying how it should be” kind of way.

7. Can I just write “see resume” in online application systems?

I have been applying to university jobs, which require both a resume and cover letter and the submission of an online application. These online applications ask you to input all of the information that is on your resume, including job duties. I’ve been putting “see attached resume,” but wonder if I should be inputting something else? Should I copy and paste the bullets from my resume or provide a synopsis of my job duties in sentence form?

Ack, stop that! Yes, if they ask you to input information from your resume, you need to actually put it in, not just write “see resume.” There’s a reason they’re asking for it — it either gets stored in their system that way and/or they prefer to read it within the system that way, or whatever — but if you don’t follow their instructions, your application may not ever even be viewed. It’s a pain in the ass, but if you want to apply to jobs that way, that’s what it requires.

I’d recommend having a plain text version of your resume that you can easily copy and paste from. Bullets are fine (but use asterisks rather than actual bullets, because special characters often don’t translate well in these systems).

{ 157 comments… read them below }

  1. Matteus*

    Assuming #6 is in the U.S., and not sure if there are exemption for the health industry, which would be ironic, but OSHA cites ergonomic hazards in the workplace, which #6 sounds like.

    1. Jamie*

      They do but OSHA sites them under the General Duty Clause and to be honest, I can’t imagine them doing that for monitor placement (but I could be wrong.)

      They’ll hit you on ergonomics for things like making sure people are using proper lifting/moving equipment, and the way manufacturing stations are set up, etc.

      IME of being involved in several OSHA audits they never even looked at stuff like this in the offices. But I’m in manufacturing so they were always way more focused on the factory – but I really doubt this would rise to the level where OSHA would issue a citation.

        1. mm*

          I understood her to mean that her manager didn’t want her to have the monitor directly in front of her because it blocked her view of patients sitting in front of her desk. Our HR Manager has her monitor to the side for this reason.

      1. Matteus*

        There’s no OSHA ergonomic exemption for offices in general, and I can’t find one for the health industry either, now that I look at the actual regs. Also, a lot of states add their own guidelines and regs on top of the OSHA ones.
        Regardless of politeness to patients, craning your neck to stare at a monitor for hours a day is a good path to RSI, and that’s something OSHA is very concerned with.
        In my own experience, I have seen warnings (but not actual citations, because the employers were quick to act) by OSHA for just this sort of thing.
        One fellow employee got an expensive ergonomic computer keyboard out of one of the times I witnessed a complaint. Your mileage may vary with your own industry or employers, but I think most employers in my industry (engineering) take it pretty seriously, and the OSHA regs give the person in #6 some leverage, although, I would be tactful in using it, and just approach the problem with “I’m worried about the possiblity of RSI with my current setup, can we come up with a better arrangement?”
        The last extreme resort, of course, would be to file an actual OSHA complaint, which can be done anonymously.

        1. Jamie*

          That’s really interesting – and granted my experience could be skewed because in manufacturing they are a lot more worried about the welders than the AP clerks. :)

          Really good point about checking state regulations – because like with labor laws they are often more stringent.

      2. Flynn*

        We recently had health and safety in at work and they recommended that the monitor be on an arm so that we could have it directly in front of us, but was it out the way for patrons. it is definitely a Thing They Care About.
        Disclaimer: not in the US, so our health and safety stuff is better and they are actually responsible if we get RSI (which I am getting – currently using a voice to text program!, hence the inspection).

  2. AnotherAlison*

    #1 – I am not sure it’s part of the NFPA code, but at a minimum our local ordinances prevent employees having space heaters in commercial buildings. The fire department does random inspections, and you’re not allowed to have these. You’re also not allowed to daisy chain power strips or plug your computers into certain outlets that are built into the cubicle frame. I doubt a mini desktop fan pulls much current (~10x less than a heater), but that might be where your management is coming from with the ban.

    1. Mike C.*

      Their management is being stupid. Fans draw very little power compared to a space heater, and have no fire hazard issues either.

  3. Jamie*

    but I am curious if you’ve ever heard of fans not being allowed in an office.

    #1. Yes – and I’ve yanked them myself. It’s not the surge (that I know of – but I’m not an electrician) but the overload popping the breaker.

    When I first started in IT I found out this guy was tripping the breaker in his office daily. This would cause his computer to hard boot (sending chills down my spine) and if he was in the ERP application it would truncate mid transaction and I was cleaning up his data daily. So I investigated.

    Went to his office and saw a spiders nest of cords for
    – microwave
    -coffee pot
    -computer
    -printer
    -space heater
    -humidifier
    -Christmas tree with lights!

    Yep – after a lecture of how not to burn down the building I put the kibosh on his trying to single handedly keep ComEd in business.

    And fortunately the breaker is by my office now, so whenever a breaker trips more than once I will take a walk back to see what’s up.

    Hard boots are bad and are often caused by tripped breakers. If they are having an issue with the number of circuits this can be reasonable.

    I’m not saying it doesn’t suck to be uncomfortable – but they should address it as a workplace issue that doesn’t involve every employee plugging in their own fan.

    1. Sam*

      Oh my, all of that was plugged into one outlet? Wow. I’m almost surprised there wasn’t a spinning disco ball as well.

      My company offers approved low wattage space heaters and fans to those who want them. Even then, we’re advised not to use the same outlet as the computer. (Back story: someone brought a space heater from home and left it unattended UNDER their desk. Two hours later, the underside of the desk had delaminated and cords were starting to melt. Luckily the building didn’t burn down.)

      1. Anonymous*

        My company won’t permit heaters because of the circuit breaker problem. My office is 60 degrees when I come in, and stays that way unless I use a heater. The problem has been reported about a million times, but I guess it’s not worth it to them to fix it. After all, they can always get new employees . . .

    2. A Bug!*

      Yeah, my first impression was that whoever told the employee that the problem was “power surges” is mistaken and that the issue is probably related to the circuit breaker.

      If the call center’s computers aren’t wired up so that the computers are on a different circuit from other outlets, then it’s a completely valid concern if they don’t control how many fans are plugged in and how much power they take. It’s much easier to just ban fans entirely than it would be to re-wire the building.

      I know it sounds really silly and mean and they’re not going about it as well as they could, but it’s very possible that these fans do pose a genuine risk that’s really not worth taking.

      Writer, have you considered a battery-powered fan? When I worked in a call center these were very popular.

    3. Lisa*

      we are not allowed space heaters per the landlord, and had the office manager remove ours. She still has one though cause she is chronically cold, but we are not allowed them. She just hides it when the landlord comes by.

      1. Anonymous*

        Good way to undermine employee morale – one rule for me and another stricter one for everyone else.

    4. Cathy*

      Personal appliances, including fans, are not allowed in most LEED green buildings. People get around this by plugging fans and other items into their computer’s USB ports and making sure to lock them up at night so the inspectors won’t find them (yes, the confiscate USB fans).

      Google USB Christmas Trees for holiday decor ideas. :-)

  4. Anonymous*

    #2: My org has recently done something similar. We rolled out first and then did trainings and explainations of what it should be. Now were they things people should have been doing already (don’t be rude on the phone, don’t shout, don’t deny someone an interpreter) but that didn’t stop the horrible plummet in morale (from both the top performers and the bottom) or the union complaints (oh yeah it has been a fun year) or the endless infighting about what the guidelines should actually be etc. Now a huge part of this (imho) is due to really poor management. But if I had the power I would have rolled it out and not given any one their scores for the first month or two while we figured out what the problems were. Would have gotten actual statistics for tracking, real metrics. Then would have figured out training, rolled that out. And THEN would have started giving people their scores/metrics.

    If you have good management your situation may be very different, and depending on your morale and staff also different. But if you have mediocre management, some entrenched staff, and a general lack of everyone being on the same page? I’d get some numbers before I told people what the scoring was. (And you can be up front, we are just setting benchmarks right now, so you don’t have to worry about the numbers and they won’t be released in this phase of the project etc.)

    1. BW*

      The one thing I would do with the data regardless of when you give it to employees is to at least the first few months give the data to each employee individually. I’ve seen places where management got lazy and just sent out the stats to everyone in one big spreadsheet.

      1. The other BW*

        This gave me a jolt first thing in the morning trying to figure out if I had written a comment I don’t remember writing and know nothing about. :D

  5. Jen*

    #5 – I relocated from NJ to Mass in 2006 to care for a sick parent. Because of this, I have a 6 month gap of not working on my resume. So I put years only on my resume, and when HR gets down to the nitty gritty and asks for specific dates, and why I left my job in 2006, I explain that I had to relocate for a sick parent. They never seem to have a problem with my response.

  6. Anonymous*

    Deaf employee – please ask Jane what she would like staff to know, & if she would prefer to send out an email herself (after you review it), or have you send one out (after she reviews it, for clarity & deaf culture issues). Let her describe what helps communication, she surely has lots of practice. She may also want to say things to not do; the office will benefit from that clarity, too.
    Check with HR about accommodation policies, too, to make sure your explanatory communication is in line with those as well as the specifics Jane provides.
    And I’m with Alison, don’t wait!

    1. Jamie*

      Yes – this! There is no shame in being deaf and you want to mitigate whatever damage is done already by people thinking she’s aloof and her maybe thinking people are not speaking to her because they are uncomfortable with her deafness.

      And I have a nephew who is deaf (which is why my sister became an ASL interpreter) and that’s the only reason I would know Gallaudette is a college for the deaf. I would not assume this is common knowledge and it’s the only one I know – so if it’s another it’s definitely not common knowledge.

      1. Lisa*

        In mass, we have the “perkins school for the blind” the place may be called something like that, but you can’t assume they are blind / deaf based on past jobs and schools.

        1. S.L. Albert*

          Plus, what if they’ve never heard of the school? I’m new to my area, and the natives know way more stuff about schools/businesses/locations than I do. Simply saying that someone went to a certain school (assuming that the name doesn’t actually have “for the Deaf” in the title) would mean absolutely nothing to me.

        2. Jen M.*

          If it’s Gallaudet, it’s simply referred to as Gallaudet University. We also have Maryland School for the Deaf, but I believe that’s pre-college.

          It’s not always obvious.

        1. Danielle*

          I’m not sure I understand your reasoning. The medical definition of deaf is a loss of hearing. The difference of deaf vs. Deaf is something else entirely.

        2. Jamie*

          My nephew is deaf and my sister serves the deaf community via being an ASL interpreter. The word is still in common usage in their community.

    2. Stacy*

      Also, OP 3 you said “On the other hand, I don’t want to draw attention to something that I don’t think should matter in an office.”

      Except it does matter, because communication and people’s (in this case uninformed) perceptions of their coworkers matter.

      1. Jen M.*

        Bingo, plus, if there is not effective communication, she won’t be able to perform her job functions optimally.

    3. Heather*

      I agree with this comment: please talk to the new hire first about her preferences.

      I’m hearing impaired (not totally deaf) and am VERY sensitive about people knowing, for several reasons:

      1. It may surprise many of you, but people tend to think not hearing or mishearing is “funny” and I’m often the butt of jokes.

      2. And believe me, when people know you can’t hear, they don’t become more patient and understanding. They say, “Do you have your hearing aids in?” As though hearing aids make your hearing perfect.

      This is true for friends and family alike, sadly.

      People think they’re being cute and humorous, but to me, they’re just doing what I experienced growing up and it’s very painful and not funny at all. I get by with a combination of lip-reading and hearing aids.

      I’m often seen as overly sensitive and touchy, but hey, you’d be sensitive too about something that was actually painful for you growing up and caused depression, social isolation and feelings of insecurity. There is only one person in my life who has never mocked or made light of my hearing.

      I thought it was just me who was like this, but over the years, I have met other hearing impaired people who feel the same way, for the same reasons. Some of their closest friends in the world have no idea that they use hearing aids and other covers to hide their impairment.

      I guess this is a defensive way to live, but over the last 35+ years, I’ve learned that when it comes to hearing, people generally are insensitive, so I’ve stopped talking about it or letting them know. I have very good friends who don’t know. I’d just rather they didn’t.

      My coworkers have no idea I wear hearing aids, either. Or maybe they’ve seen them. I don’t know. But I don’t talk about it, and I don’t want others talking about it (questions are fine, jokes are not).

      So, just ask her what she prefers before you announce it. This is probably a good idea anyway, in light of HIPAA.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Heather, what’s the best way for the OP to bring this up sensitively with the employee? I wanted to suggest wording for raising it initially (in order to ask how she’s like it communicated) but would love your take.

        (BTW, HIPAA probably isn’t an issues since it only applies to info released by health care workers, not employers, but respecting people’s privacy is good regardless.)

        1. Heather*

          Thanks, Alison!

          I would simply ask her how she would like to handle it. Does she want people to know? Would she like an announcement sent en masse, or would she prefer to tell people herself as it comes up? This probably comes up so much for her that she knows exactly what she wants to do, and her manager should simply find that out.

          But more importantly, I’d also find out how she would like other employees to interact with her. Is a tap on the shoulder okay? Or does she prefer IM/email? Things like that.

          Lastly, if the employee would like it and be comfortable with it, coaching the other employees on interacting and being sensitive and patient with deaf people may be in order. Do’s and don’ts, if you will. Sometimes people do things that they have no idea are rude and demeaning (such as wordlessly steering a blind person in the right direction or just pushing someone’s wheelchair without asking if they would even like assistance).

          In this case, I’m thinking of things like waving in her face to get her attention (yeah, this happens), speaking in a sharp, annoyed tone when asked to repeat oneself (also happens a lot…it’s humiliating). It seems so basic, but sometimes people just need to be made aware that “helpful” or “funny” aren’t always perceived that way!

          1. Nan*

            This came up for me recently at the college where I work – a new student worker I thought was great but others told me they found him rude and aloof. It was odd because I never had that feeling from our interactions, and he sits right next to my desk, so I wasn’t sure what to do. During an offhand conversation about our school’s football team, he mentioned he had always wanted to play but could not because of his hearing aids – turns out he is about 80% hearing impaired, which I did not know as he has a bit of a shaggy college guy haircut and his hearing aids are not really visible. I took the opportunity to tell him that I wanted to support him however I could and that I’d like to tell some of the other folks in the office – I did end up explaining that some folks felt he was aloof, but that now I think he just did not hear them speaking to him. We worked it out so that people knew to face him or tap his shoulder if he didn’t hear them, and I hopefully think he will take this as a learning experience after he graduates – not to mention he is much friendlier with the other folks in the office now that they don’t think he’s ignoring them. So yes, talk to the employee and put it out there to the coworkers!

            1. T*

              @Heather – I know exactly what you mean. I wear hearing aides although most of my friends don’t even know about it. Personally I wouldn’t want my manager to broadcast that fact since I usually can work/communicate just fine, and people tend to FREAK OUT when I mention my hearing aides.

              My brother, on the other hand, is profoundly deaf and wears hearing aides but mostly relies on lip reading (never learned ASL). He let his teachers/managers know about his deafness and always asks they let everyone else know, just a quick “hey Michael has a hearing problems so make sure gore facing him Wheb touou talk or text him. He also wears very noticeable hearing aides for that reason too

            2. BeenThere*

              Partial hearing loss over here, single sided deafness (SSD) it means I’ve got one good ear, I cannot tell which direction sound comes from and cannot filter out background noise.

              I never tell people to start with, in some jobs I haven’t needed to and really don’t need to stigma. However when I’m in situations where people could think I am ignoring them, I slowly tell my team so they understand why I am like Sheldon (from Big Bang Theory) in a meeting saying “this is my spot”. I can hear well as long as you are on the correct side of me, hence the specific spot in a meeting. I usually organise with my manager to be seated with most of the team on my good side. Teams in the past have been really good natured and act as my missing ear letting me know when someone is standing beside me trying to get my attention.

              However I do end up being the butt of hearing jokes and that part drives me bonkers. Pet peeve, moving the lips and not actually talking. If you do this your immaturity shows and you will never get my respect.

              1. Naomi*

                I’m confused, when you say people move their lips and don’t talk, do you mean they are trying to communicate with you without other people hearing, like a secret code or something?

                1. Heather*

                  No, it’s when people move their mouths as though they’re speaking, but no words come out. It’s a form of mocking the deaf/hard of hearing person. Like, haha, you can’t hear me but you think it’s because you’re deaf but really it’s because I’m not saying anything!
                  Hilarious, right?

                2. Naomi*

                  Oh, I see. That sounds really nasty. I was worried because when I’m trying to talk to friends across a loud, crowded room I often just mouth the words at them, and I thought maybe I was being unintentionally rude.

              2. FreeThinkerTX*

                “…moving the lips and not actually talking.”

                ADULTS do this? Actual, I-was-mature-enough-to-make-it-through-a-job-interview ADULTS?

                Holy crap, that’s just sad.

                1. BeenThere*

                  Adults. In fact the star programmer on the team who was held up as the golden boy that they hired. So he was allowed to get away with all sorts of crap.

                  Kind happy I was layed off, at least I was payed to leave that crappy culture.

          2. Jen M.*

            I had a really embarrassing moment early in my relationship with my boyfriend–before I started to learn sign language–where I spoke up thinking he’d be able to hear THAT (along with lip reading.) He said “louder doesn’t help.” I was mortified, but we got past it.

          3. Rana*

            +1 To asking the employee how she would like things handled.

            I have a friend who is blind, and she deals with people trying to guess what she needs instead of just asking her All. The. Time. And a lot of the time? They guess wrong.

            Having people wonder how to adapt to your requirements is something people who are deaf, blind, etc. are used to; it’s not going to embarrass them if you ask them for advice or suggestions. Just because it’s new to you doesn’t mean it’s new or strange for them.

            1. ChristineH*

              Exactly! I’d much rather a person be overly-cautious and sincerely ask me about my preferences/needs rather than just making assumptions.

      2. ChristineH*

        2. And believe me, when people know you can’t hear, they don’t become more patient and understanding. They say, “Do you have your hearing aids in?” As though hearing aids make your hearing perfect.

        I wear hearing aids, and my husband sometimes does this. I’ll admit I often don’t wear them around the house, but it’s still annoying when he says it.

        I think the OP should ask the person first before making any type of announcement about her deafness. Heather gave some really good suggestions.

        1. FreeThinkerTX*

          My boyfriend wears hearing aids. Or, rather, I should say that my boyfriend HAS hearing aids. He almost never wears them, and I do regularly ask him if he has them in — because I am trying to preserve *my* hearing! He cranks the TV and Pandora to levels I find genuinely painful.

          It’s not a dig at him. Heck, I need glasses and put them on as soon as I get out of bed in the morning, and keep them on all day. If I were squinting at the TV, I’d fully expect him to say, “How come you don’t have your glasses on?”

    4. Elizabeth West*

      Good idea, especially with the what not to dos. I had a mostly deaf colleague once who requested we not whistle around her, as the high-pitched sounds were painful in her hearing aids. Also, there was no need to shout at her, just speak clearly while facing her.

    5. Danielle*

      I was just coming to say this! Jane will know the best ways to communicate for her, so ASK her them if you haven’t already. Sometimes people who are well-meaning think it’s just a few small things, but it can be more.

      And I just want to say YAY on hiring a deaf employee in a time when Deaf individuals face a lot of workplace discrimination.

  7. Jamie*

    #6 – The request is reasonable to me, because it is rude to have to crane to speak with someone behind a monitor…I would think this is even more important when dealing with patients.

    That said, it’s not an either/or thing. You don’t have to resign yourself to neck pain and as a PSA I will state – the height and angle of your monitor(s) makes a HUGE difference.

    I wish I could post a picture – but words will have to do…I have a bank of three monitors which are hooked up to my workstation which are directly in front of me and one off to my right which is for another computer. These are all 23″ monitors – so as you can imagine it’s kind of like a fort.

    The monitor which blocks the view of me (forgive the grammar – kind of lost my way there) if you’re sitting in my visitor chair is easily slid to the right so you can have an unobstructed view of my smiling face. I do this whenever anyone sits down as it’s welcoming.

    Given the lay out of my office if I’m meeting with more than one person I go into the conference room – but this works for one on one’s. I can also swing this one so it’s visible to my guest – but they can’t see the others unless they walk back and stand behind me…which is rarely allowed. (Pet peeve when people are back there who put their hand on my chair which makes me kinda bounce. HATE. Also, if I can feel your breath in my hair you’re way too close – two giant steps back asap.)

    Assuming you have a flat screen there are monitor mounts which can either mount to your desk or wall so you can swing it out of the way when you have a patient. If that’s not feasible then put the monitor where you manager wants it and change the rest of your workspace so that’s the proper angle for you.

    Because it really is rude to have someone crane their neck around your monitor to speak to you.

    1. fposte*

      Yes. I think it’s fine to see if you can come to a solution that doesn’t bother your neck, but you need to acknowledge the point about being in patients’ eyeline. Can you move your chair so that the angled monitor is directly in front of you but you remain in view of patients at the desk?

    2. Jane Doe*

      I guess I wouldn’t necessarily think someone was rude for looking at a monitor, and it would depend a lot on what their primary function was and whether they were otherwise polite. I wouldn’t think twice if someone taking down patient information was mostly looking at a monitor as long as they were giving good verbal cues and didn’t seem distracted.

      1. Jamie*

        I don’t think looking at the monitor is the issue – because she would be looking away the monitor even when it was off to the side.

        But when a monitor is positioned directly in front of you it has an effect like Wilson on the old show Home Improvement – where you can only see a portion of someone’s face. If it’s off to the side you may look away to type – but when you look at someone you still have eye contact.

        1. fposte*

          Right. You can’t even tell if they’re available or not, talking to you or not…it’s not good.

    3. Henning Makholm*

      My reading of the situation was that it was not a matter of the monitor getting in the way of eye contact, but that management wants the monitor off to the side and turned 90° such that the patient can see what the OP is typing about her.

      That certainly makes sense from a patient POV — but if the OP has neck problem it sounds like any position that would let the patient see what’s going on would be painful for her to look at. I wonder whether that could be solved simply by duplicating the monitor signal to an auxiliary monitor that is positioned for patient visibility.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I took it as her monitor can’t block the patient from seeing her — because it comes across as unfriendly if someone is trying to talk to you and you’re half out of their view.

        1. Henning Makholm*

          But if that is all, I don’t see what would be the problem with putting the monitor a bit out to the side — 30° should be plenty — as long as it faces the OP directly. Doesn’t her chair swivel? It might be even better if she can get a desk with a concave front, though.

          1. Elise*

            I’m glad to see someone finally had my thought: Put it to the side, and rotate in your chair. I’m not sure why that’s a problem unless there is a second weird rule that says the keyboard can’t also be off to the side with the monitor.

  8. Fitrah*

    1 – See if they argue against battery operated desk fans. I don’t see how they could since they specifically said the problem was electrical.

    1. Anonymous*

      +1. I think there’s even a desk fan that you can clip onto your desk. It’s small and battery powered.

    2. Nyxalinth*

      This! I was going to suggest it. this isn’t call center management jerkiness, it’s a legitimate safety issue. Now, if they ban battery fans, then it’s jerkiness. Some call center managers get a bee in their bonnets about dumb things like any other manager, alas.

      1. Mike C.*

        I’m a huge safety nut, and I’m having a very difficult time finding the safety issue with plug in fans, assuming the building’s power is up to a recent code.

        1. Elizabeth*

          I’m guessing it isn’t one person having one. It is everyone in a cube farm call center having them.

          My office is in the basement of a building off-campus from the main hospital. A colleague brought in a ceramic heater to make her office a livable temperature. The first time she plugged it in, the breaker for that circuit blew. On that circuit was also her computer, another colleague’s computer, and all of the networking for the building.

          1. Natalie*

            Heaters are a completely different deal. We don’t allow our tenants to bring in space heaters for multiple reasons, including circuit load, but fans are completely fine.

  9. Brittany*

    #7 – Stop that! Putting “see attached resume” is like a death sentence. Typically when this is done or you’re given a paper application to fill out, it’s for their file, but it’s also a test. They want to see if you will listen to the instructions to fill it out completely, as it’s an indication as to how well you take direction.

    I’ve seen people apply doing this and even had done it myself when I was searching for jobs fresh out of college. Whenever I, or someone I knew, used “see attached resume”, the calls never came in for an interview.

    1. Jenn*

      Yeah, I screen a ton of applications for my positions; to me (rightly or wrongly) not completing the application signals that the person could be bothered to complete it. I get how annoying it is – I’ve applied to a few job recently myself – but if I really want the job, I take the time to fill out the application.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I will say that at this point in my career, if I’d already been talking directly to the hiring manager and some random HR person wanted me to fill out an application, I’d put “see resume.” But you really can’t do it at junior levels where they’re more interested in you just following their system than in courting you.

      (But that gets into companies being sensible about not making senior level candidates jump through annoying hoops, which goes to culture.)

      1. Brittany*

        I definitely agree. If I was being courted, I would definitely put “see resume” but for entry level jobs, I agree with Jenn above in that it looks lazy and like the person couldn’t be bothered to complete it. It’s a total time-sucker of information that is right there for hiring managers, but I can understand how it’s a sly way to weed out candidates too. Especially if “attention to detail” is a key component of the job description.

      2. BW*

        I had one job where filling out the formal job application was the first task I was assigned on my first day of work…. I can’t remember if they had me write everything in on the application or if I could just put “see resume” for everything, but I always thought that was really the proper way to do it for non entry level jobs!

      3. Erin*

        I recently did this on a application, and I thought it was OK.
        Here’s why:
        I had sent my resume, cover letter, and I filled out an online application where I did copy and paste the information from my resume. I was asked to come in for an interview, and when I arrived they had me fill out another application for HR. I honestly wouldn’t mind writing everything again, but the unbelievably tiny box was only able to fit “See Resume.” I did attached another copy of my resume to the packet.

        In this case do you think it was OK, or should I have copied everything and made my application look like a mess?

    3. Elizabeth West*

      You forgot to say “Ack!” ;)

      Agreed, and a lot of the online app systems have a place for you to upload a resume, where it then populates the form with your data and you can check it, making corrections as needed. But copy and paste works too.

      I’ve filled out so many of these though, that I can enter all my data really quickly and without even looking at my resume anymore. :P

  10. Sabrina*

    I worked in a call center where we didn’t have assigned desks. Every day it was wherever was open and you could get in to. It was also very warm. Plugging in a fan would have been a pain, so I got a battery operated fan and lugged it back and forth every day.

  11. Kinrowan*

    Thank you so much for answering my question #3! The more I thought on it, the more I felt I needed to say something and I am glad you confirmed that for me.

    1. Josh S*

      You can also ask your employee if there are specific things that are helpful to her.

      Something like, “Hey Jane. I just realized that I never made it clear to other employees that you’re deaf, and I’ve noticed that sometimes you don’t notice when they’re asking a question. Assuming it’s ok with you, I’m going to let them know so that they can be sure to catch your attention and face you when you’re talking together.

      Are there any other things that would be helpful for me to pass along?”

      Maybe that’s too formal or something. But presumably Jane knows the things that help Jane the best, rather than you (a hearing person) trying to guess at it.

  12. sab*

    #7 OP– I concur with the “Ack! Stop that!” — One, it may be the case that there is an automated program that is scanning your descriptions for keywords related to the job, so “see attached resume” is a waste of time and gets you nowhere (although I think this is something that happens more in government hiring rather than academia). Two, it just doesn’t look good to HR or the search committee… it comes across as lazy, unfortunately. I understand it feels like a huge waste of time, and I’ve known people from grad school who (foolishly) flat out refuse to do those kinds of applications, but if I hadn’t taken the time to put in all my info when applying for academic jobs, I wouldn’t have the job I have now. :)

  13. BW*

    #3 – Do tell people the new employee is deaf along with some tips for how best to communicate with her. We had a woman who was deaf hired on in my dept at a former employer, and the manager was very good at educating the rest of us -letting us know the new employee was deaf and giving us tips on ways to aid communication with her, especially in meetings and doing presentations where people who might not work with her daily would be interacting with her. Ask your new employee for advice on how best to approach this subject with her new co-workers. She would know best really.

    1. ChristineH*

      This x 100. I have both a hearing and vision impairment. Both are on the mild end, but because they occur together, it is quite the challenge. I think, overall, my past employers and coworkers were pretty good about respecting my preferences and needs (my manager at one job even voluntarily provided me with a large print copy of our weekly meeting agendas), but there were times when things could have been dealt with better, even on my part. But I had people in my corner too. I remember one day a coworker telling me I could go ahead and move on to the next step of that day’s work, but she said it so low that I didn’t hear her. Another coworker spoke up for me, saying, “I don’t think she heard you”. I’m sure coworker A rolled her eyes, lol, but she did repeat herself louder.

      This is definitely a major area of interest for me. I just wish more people wouldn’t be embarrassed to ask questions of persons with any kind of disability (I do recognize that many deaf people don’t consider themselves to have a disability) and that people with disabilities aren’t embarrassed to talk about it openly with others.

      *steps off soapbox*

  14. ExceptionToTheRule*

    Do they make battery-operated space heaters? Our building was built in the mid-1980’s with 1880’s quality heating & cooling and it’s cold everywhere. Space heaters were banned because of the damage they did to the electric bill. I’d love a battery-powered one.

  15. KayDay*

    Follow up question to #7.

    When I run into these sorts of situations, I usually am far more general in my online description than I am on my resume. For example, my resume might include 10 bullets of specific accomplishments and relevant responsibilities; but on the online application I will just briefly describe my responsibilities (e.g. “oversaw office administration, monitored budgets, inspected chocolate teapots, read askamanager”).

    I do this because there usually isn’t much space on the application, (or a character limit, or really tiny type that is hard to read) and also because the question is usually something like “describe your role.”

    Should I be copying and pasting the exact description from my resume, instead? Or is the shorter summary okay?

    1. AG*

      As far as I’m aware, a lot of these systems are scanning the information you put in the fields online for keywords, so I think it’s actually better to be as detailed as possible. I was assuming that when they ask you to do the PITA filling-in and also attach a resume, the resume was for the recruiter or hiring manager to have as a printable document.

  16. AC*

    For #1, what about a fan that plugs into your USB port? I’m no electricity expert, so I don’t know if that would bypass their issue with the circuit overload, though.

    1. Jamie*

      I think the most you can get out of a USB would be 5 volts. The fan would be akin to the cooling fan in your computer – not a lot of power outside of the case.

  17. Jamie*

    #2 – I agree it’s fine to roll it out as is and just let them know it’s the baseline. Then explain how each metric is compiled, when they will be posted, if there are any incentives/disincentives for performance, etc.

    And I would love it if you’d send an update on this. I am the designated keeper/poster of the metrics/KPIs and I have really struggled with getting people to engage beyond “does this number mean I’m in trouble.” I would love to have these really mean something to people and for them to use them as the tools that they are – but I’ve never been able to communicate that passionately enough.

    I would love it if you’d send an update letting us know how they responded. Because in my experience it can be interesting when you begin publicly measuring people for things initially.

    1. FreeThinkerTX*

      The metrics are so easily misused by poor managers, though. In my last inside sales job, we were supposed to aim for 80 outbound calls and 4 scheduled customer meetings each day, along with documenting each call and each lead or sale (which was a horribly complicated process involving triplicating data across three disparate systems). We also, of course, had sales quotas. The idea being that the more sales you made, the bigger the bonus you would receive; and, hey, more dials lead to more sales, right? So far, so good.

      I became known as the “whale hunter”, because of my ability to have complex business conversations with C-level execs that resulted in high-dollar sales. One would think that would be a good thing, yes?

      NO!!

      You see, I once orchestrated a $1M (yes, one-million dollars) sale purely over the phone, by skillfully negotiating my way through the customer’s organization and working with each member of the buying committee (even people who weren’t officially part of the process, but who could make it difficult if they weren’t convinced my software solution was right for their company). [Keep in mind that my co-workers were thrilled if they landed a deal worth $50K].

      It, obviously, took several weeks, lots of prep time for each constituent and each web presentation/meeting. So… ta-da!… my number of dials suffered for those weeks. But, wow, hey, look at that massive sale. I did almost a half-year’s worth of quota in ONE SALE. My bosses were so thrilled that THEY. WROTE. ME. UP. Yup. I got put on Plan, with a capital P, and was warned that I’d lose my job if I didn’t get my dials back up. Silly me, I thought that sales was about, you know, *selling*… otherwise known as “bringing in revenue.” As in, help the company pay the bills and make a profit. Boy, was I ever wrong. At this company, it was all about making the metrics on a spreadsheet look good.

      And, that, children, is where I developed my new business mantra, “Just because you can measure something doesn’t mean you should.” Ugh.

      1. Jamie*

        My motto is more along the lines of that which is measured gets improved.

        But your example is a perfect illustration of people using metrics incorrectly where they cause more harm than good. Metrics should help one see patterns, not be used arbitrarily by management out of context.

        It’s critical that the right things are measured and that very e understands what is being measured, how, and in what sense this data will be used and evaluated.

        1. FreeThinkerTX*

          Amen to that!

          In Sales, the important thing to measure is net-new revenue. If I can knock my quota out of the park with half the dials and customer “touches”, then that is all that should matter. But if my sales are down *and* my sales-generating activities are down, then that’s an apt conversation to have, and metrics can help inform a manager who doesn’t know her people very well.

  18. Malissa*

    #1–Check out a chill pad for your chair. They take no electricity and can make the biggest difference. One of those saved me from being frozen out my a coworker who had hot flashes.
    #2–Having a baseline for metrics is always a good idea. Even better if you can do it with-out notifying employees because it gives you an honest starting place.
    #3–Tell them now! If you don’t tell your staff something basic like this they’ll wonder what else you’re not telling them.
    #6–As a vertically challenged person, talking over somebody’s monitor is very annoying. Can you angle it in where it would be easy for you to turn just a bit to be facing a patient with-out the monitor in the way? Other wise is down sizing the monitor an option?
    #7–As tempting as it is, don’t! I can’t tell you how many online applications I’ve abandoned because I just got tired of filling in boxes and jumping through hoops half-way through.
    At this point in my life I just don’t get why anybody needs to know what my high school GPA was. I don’t even remember.

  19. OldSoul*

    #3.
    I had a former colleague who was deaf/partially deaf. The boss never told us that he was deaf, so for months I thought new guy was kind of an ass.

    I would say something to him (from behind or on the side of him) and he would never respond. I thought ‘I know he hears me talking to him, why doesn’t he answer?’ It never ever occurred to me that he could have a hearing impediment (because I assumed someone would tell us if that were the case).

    Then one day, he came to work with glasses which had a hearing aid on the arms. I was blown away. I felt like a huge ass for thinking he was an ass.

    Please don’t delay in letting your staff know new girl is deaf. As long as you convey it in a professional manner, no one should have a problem with it.

    1. Cath@VWXYNot?*

      I had a similar experience with a new colleague in a former job – she would never respond when I said hello in the mornings (from the side – she sat at a 90 degree angle to the elevators) and at certain other times. It took me an embarrassingly long time to figure it out (it didn’t help that when she did respond, there was often a language and cultural barrier, and that she was – frankly – a little bit odd in general). I really wish someone had said something when she was first hired…

  20. Ash*

    I currently work with someone who is fully deaf, and I was informed my first day on the job. We work very closely together and I have taught myself very, very basic ASL (such as good morning, how are you, thank you, etc.) and finger spelling. Finger spelling is REALLY helpful because even though she is great at lip reading, some words she can’t parse and it makes it easier for the both of us for me to spell than have to run and get a notepad and pen. I just printed off an alphabet sheet and practiced every day; it’s really easy to pick up. I have had to tell other new employees who meet her that she is deaf, like the new guy in the mailroom who tried to stop her from walking away because she had a package, but obviously didn’t hear him and kept going so he was super offended. Just tell your employees. Being deaf isn’t a horrible, terrible handicap, and your employees need to know for communication purposes.

    I’d also like to say that I find ASL very fascinating from a linguistic and cultural standpoint. It’s amazing that there is a language that involves no speaking and relies instead of facial expressions, body language and hand movements.

    Also, as an aside, ASLpro.com is a great, free website with a HUGE video dictionary of ASL words.

      1. Jamie*

        It’s a beautiful language. I remember watching my sister hound my nephew to pick up his laundry and take the hamper downstairs and it was still so flowing and elegant – really graceful.

        Kind of like how anything – even arguments about laundry – sound romantic and even sexy in French or Italian.

        My husband shouting randomly about how no one brings their own glasses to the kitchen to an empty house in his Dennis Farina like Chicagoese doesn’t have the same kind of sex appeal.

        1. Ellie H.*

          I so much wanted to give a link here, but I can’t find it and there is no good way to find anything with “exotic” in the title in a google search. Anyway, I heard this very funny story some time ago (maybe on the BBC, maybe in a book or web article) about how Eastern Europeans, I think Romanians or Hungarians, thinking that United Kingdom place names were incredibly exotic sounding and that English was a beautiful and sexy language. Very funny to us English speakers. I think all it takes is seeing something as unfamiliar. It’s individual difference too – for some reason Italian and French do pretty much nothing for me – but I find Russian a very sexy and beautiful language (good thing, because I study it) which I gather most don’t share.

          1. The other BW*

            I studied Russian as well. Awesome awesome language! The usual offerings of French, Spanish, and Latin in high school didn’t do it for me either, although now so many people around me speak Spanish so I am interested in learning it for that reason, but my brain insists on reverting to the Russian I learned 20 years ago every time I try to think of how to say something in Spanish.

        2. ChristineH*

          I think ASL really is fascinating and have tried to teach it to myself, but no luck there. I really should try to pick it up again because there is a deaf woman at one of the organizations I volunteer for, so it’d be nice for me to at least be able to say something basic to greet her other than a shy wave.

          1. The other BW*

            In my area I have seen community education (non-credit) offerings for ASL. The community college I attended offered it as part of their community ed. These types of classes are very inexpensive and meet on evenings or weekends.

          2. Laura L*

            If you’re in DC and live near Gallaudet, you can take free classes. I used to live over there, but never took advantage of those classes. I’m in a different neighborhood now and pretty sure I can’t take classes for free. :-(

            Maybe there is something similar wherever you are.

  21. Ashley*

    Oh how “see resume” makes my blood boil!

    The other very strange thing I sometimes get is a candidate who applies online and when I go to open the resume file, it’s just a blank Word doc that says something to the effect of, “Resume pending” or “Resume in process.”

    Kills me! This is not a good practice. Stop doing this.

    1. businesslady*

      “resume pending”?! oh my god, why bother even applying?!?!

      …although it would be funny to bring one of those people in for an interview & see if they claim to be good at meeting deadlines or managing their time…

    2. Chriama*

      That last point is really strange! How often does this happen to you? It’s one thing for a candidate to not want the hassle of essentially giving you their resume twice, but do they really expect a hiring manager to open the document, see the message, and assume that the hypothetical resume is so impressive that they’ll call you for an interview without even seeing it?

  22. Job seeker*

    #5. I am in this position at the moment. I have my mom staying with my family and she is going through some health concerns. My mother is a widow and I have only one sister who is unable to help. No-one in my mother’s extended family have offered to help my mom. My mother is in her late 70’s and counts on me a lot. My worry has been I was actively job-searching and even went back to school for a year before this happened. I want to help my mother, she is my family. I was a stay-at-home mom for a long time working only part-time for a year, so I do not have your wonderful experience behind me. I have lately been trying to look for part-time and including a brief statement in my cover letter. I understand you not wanting employers to think you are just sitting on your seat. I worry that the gap of job-looking is getting wider and my recent experience and education is getting farther behind me. I already feel employers are going to consider this a minus.

    #7. I have recently been e-mailing my resume and cover letter separately to some on-line websites. I know one health system that ask you to cut and paste but when I did the format looked strange. I felt embarrassed doing it this way but there was no place for a cover letter to be included at all. This particular place has given me the opportunity twice (HR called me about two separate jobs) and I blew the phone interviews. I think I am going to try Alison’s suggestion of not using bullet points next time I cut and paste. The post earlier in the week about dream jobs made me wonder sometimes you have to make peace with something and move on. Sometimes your dream job isn’t your dream job at all. Good luck with your search. :-)

    1. Frenchie*

      To copy and paste your resume into an online system, save your word doc as a text file, make edits so the format looks good and then copy and paste into the online box.

  23. LCL*

    #1
    Surge protectors protect your device from problems with the power system, not the other way around. If the concern is your device shorting out, the best thing would be to use a GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter.) And GFCIs purpose is to protect humans from shock.

    Any electrical circuit and system has a definite finite number limit. Sounds like that room’s electrical circuits are at capacity, or someone thinks they are. Watts equals volts times amps; a typical 120V, 15A circuit can supply 1800 watts. Add up the wattage of all your devices and you can get a clearer idea of what can be added.

    I would fight this by getting some cheap thermometers and putting them at people’s work stations. Once you know the actual temperatures, you can ask management to do something about the HVAC in the room. From a maintenance standpoint, controlling the room temperature is better for the building than allowing people to bring in any old junk from home and plugging it in.

    1. Karthik*

      Not quite. The 120V signal coming out of the wall is actually a sine wave, not a flat 120V signal. This means that you need to multiply 120V/sqrt(2) * 15A, or closer to 1275 Watts!

      1. Henning Makholm*

        Right, but only halfway so: The nominal voltage of AC power systems is the root-mean-square voltage, not the peak voltage, such that it is exactly what you must multiply by the current to get the power. Your sqrt(2) factor is already taken into account.

            1. Lauren*

              I started having bad, bad flashbacks to my physics class (that I failed miserably – never scored higher than 32 on any of the tests). My brain just short-circuits when physics terminology comes into play.

  24. Scott M*

    #2 – I would definitely let people know what will be measured ahead of time. People may be focusing on the wrong tasks or giving tasks the wrong priorities. It’s better that they know what they will be measured on ahead of time, so that they can do things the way management want’s them done. Of course they should know this already, but often times management doesn’t communicate these things well.

  25. Kristoff*

    Our office recently started a new employee performance system. Unfortunately not only did they not initially let us know what was being measured but after a couple months of the weekly report being posted and several of us showing significant improvement, they changed what was being measured, once again without letting us know. Grrrr…

  26. LLG*

    #7 – My handwriting is so bad that even I have trouble reading it sometimes! So when I am handed an application to fill out I ask if they wouldn’t mind attaching my resume instead and explain why.

  27. mimimi*

    Of course the co-workers need to know the new employee is deaf. So they can communicate with him/her.

    A quick tutorial on do’s and don’ts for communication, how to get the deaf person’s attention in an appropriate way, maybe a bit about Deaf culture, etc. would be in order too, and likely to make everyone more comfortable, if there is someone available who can do it (an interpreter, perhaps? There’s a cost for that, though.)

    Signed (<– see what I did there?), long-time ASL student

    1. Jen M.*

      …but it should come from “Jane”, because what works for one person may not work or may actually bother another.

  28. mimimi*

    I was thinking that it might be weird for “Jane”, like saying, “Here’s what you all need to do to communicate with me, and here’s what you need to know about deaf culture” but in reality it would probably be a lot simpler than that.

    1. Jen M.*

      Deaf culture is very diverse, though, like any other culture. Everyone has different preferences. I just feel it’s polite to defer to the person in question, since that’s the person who is involved.

  29. Kevin*

    Re #6, HIPAA 164.310 2,C requires workstations to be protected and this includes casual viewing of the screen. If people walking in can see your screen you are required by law to move it. A screen security cover is great, but usually an addition to physical location fixes.

  30. Maggie*

    Another health situation…I am blind in one eye. I took it upon myself to let it be known if you are on my right, either speak to me or just make some noise. Otherwise I don’t know you are there. I wonder if the hearing impaired employee has never considered just being upfront and saying something along the lines of ” make sure I’m looking at you when you talk.”

  31. Lynn*

    My company also made people remove their fana. O2 makes a battery operated fan that can also be plugged in. I got mine at Bed Bath and Beyond. It’s a nice size, isn’t noisy, and works well. It takes 8 D battreries (I think). I plug it in usually, but I’m not in a call center constantly being monitored. I also use it on batteries. If anyone would ever say something to me I’ll just take it off the plug and on to battery power. I always put it away at night.

  32. Cassie*

    #1: Our office is perpetually cold, thanks to central AC, so most of us have space heaters (I wouldn’t be surprised if every single female staffer had her own space heater – they are pretty prevalent). I’ve have a fair number of electrical devices (computer, printers, etc) in my cubicle so I had to arrange everything so the fuse won’t pop every time I print something while my heater is on. But I heard from a coworker that the power in another cluster of cubicles went out because 3 of them were using space heaters).

    But given the number of space heaters, TPTB should probably do something about the temperature in our offices. Or if they decide to ban heaters, then they definitely need to make the offices more tolerable (the other day, my hands felt like they were frozen – for a good couple of hours).

    1. Lulu*

      This seems to be a perennial issue – I’ve had to work with gloves (bought the fingerless “arthritis” ones) and a winter coat on, it was so cold at my desk, and take periodic breaks to go outside because it was warmer out there! I’d hear through the grapevine that space heaters weren’t allowed, but I’d pretty much have had to quit if they’d made me surrender mine at my last office. I partially blame the “open office plan” concept, that doesn’t allow for temperature differences between more open cubes, those next to windows, etc. I can’t even imagine working in a call-center environment in this case! Even if non-electrical solutions helped a bit with comfort level, a room full of hot, sweaty people and computer equipment and minimal breaks for 8 hours… ugh. Speaking of which, computer equipment is also not known for functioning well under temperature duress, so if it’s getting too hot in the room for people, you might still have some non-breaker-related equipment issues to deal with.

      1. Jamie*

        Best practices is to keep the computers between 72-78 F – but I’ve heard the upward parameter is 81 as long as the cooling fans are working.

        I’m assuming call centers have thin clients and not full desktops at every work station – in which case the server cabinet could be cooled separate from the room.

        My office is always toasty (about 76) since we moved the data center in here and people come in to bask in the warmth.

        Servers are better than campfires – also more productive and less likely to anger Smokey the Bear.

        I read somewhere once that Google recirculates the cast off heat from their servers and uses this to heat the entire office. Not sure if that’s true – but I did read it somewhere a long time ago and I’ve repeated it more than once so if it’s an urban legend that will be embarrassing.

        But the rule of thumb is the best environment for computers is a comfortable environment for people. Not too hot/cold, humid/dry. But again if the servers are housed seperately and it’s just the thin clients in the room they may not care as much.

        1. Jamie*

          Sorry – that was 62 and 78 F. Typo – maybe Freudian because I wouldn’t work in a 62 degree office.

        2. Natalie*

          The best practices for humans in offices is quite a bit narrower than it is for computer – 68-73 F. IMO that’s still pretty chilly, but I think those standard were set by men wearing suits (i.e. layers).

          1. Anonymous*

            Does layers = lawyers? Cuz if you really meant layers, that completely changes how I should have interpreted that sentence…

            :)

            1. Natalie*

              No, I meant layers – a full suit with a dress shirt is a fairly warm outfit, even if it’s made with a lightweight fabric.

              Many offices follow the ASHRAE standard (American Society of Heating, Refrigeration, and Air conditioning Engineers. Although now that I think about it, those guys are probably not wearing suits but they are people who move around during the workday and probably don’t type a lot.

          2. Editor*

            The optimum temperature for typing is fairly high. I pretty much prefer to be in an office that is around 68 F. This study says much warmer makes for faster data entry with fewer errors:

            http://www.news.cornell.edu/releases/Oct04/temp.productivity.ssl.html

            Quote:
            “At 77 degrees Fahrenheit, the workers were keyboarding 100 percent of the time with a 10 percent error rate, but at 68 degrees, their keying rate went down to 54 percent of the time with a 25 percent error rate,” Hedge says. “Temperature is certainly a key variable that can impact performance.”

            1. Natalie*

              I totally agree. I don’t think the office temp standards were set with typing in mind, unfortunately.

            2. Lulu*

              My hands seem to get cold rather easily, so when it’s arctic in the office, typing becomes nigh on impossible – I’ll get a cup of hot water and try to warm my fingers with it, but then it becomes “type 5 words, hold cup for five minutes, type 5 words…” Highly productive, that! And I’m pulling my arms in to try to maintain warmth, so not really great ergonomically, either.

            3. Rana*

              Definitely. I had the misfortune to have an office on the same AC sector as a seminar room with large, south-facing windows. It was warm at the best of times; in the afternoon, it was like a sauna. People would hold meetings in there, and adjust the thermostat accordingly (which, of course, was in that room), and this would result in a blast of arctic air pouring out from the vent directly over my desk. I started keeping a hat and a pair of fingerless gloves in my desk to cope with it.

              (Which always resulted in a bunch of people saying, “Wow! Are you cold?” when they walked by, fanning themselves because they’d been roasting in the other room, even with the AC on. Gee, ya think? ;) )

  33. Shay*

    Hi, it’s OP #4. I didn’t respond to the timeline update email and was offered the job via email a day later! They said it was a no brainer after my interview so they arrived at a decision sooner. I am super excited! I never submitted references so I wonder how they vetted me. Maybe they just called past employers.

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