thermostat wars, reply-all, and other unsolved problems of the modern office

Earlier this week, I asked you about what processes or problems your office still hasn’t solved, despite the ridiculous technological advances of the past few decades.

We can video-chat with people on other continents, store things in the cloud, and automate processes that used to take a whole team of workers to get done, but we still haven’t found a way keep the damn office fridge clean. Or found a conference call technology that doesn’t result in chaos and disengagement. Or figured out how to put people in an environment where they can both collaborate and get needed privacy.< Here are 10 stories from readers of problems that technology still hasn’t solved in their offices. Getting people to learn new software< “We can’t get everyone to use the same software. I don’t care what it is – Outlook, an instant messaging client, Sharepoint – we waste so much money and time on various pieces of software that do the same thing, because there are always one or two people who refuse to transition. Just do it. It’s part of your job. Life is not over when you have to use Outlook calendar instead of that one random Yahoo calendar no one looks at anymore.” Absent approvers

“We haven’t found a way to get people to respond to emails and phone calls that are about things that cannot go to the next step without their approval, and getting those same people to understand that requiring their approval for every step means that they also have to be okay with nothing happening until they do approve it.”

Password madness

“We require passwords to be changed so often, and have such obscure rules about how many characters, symbols, and numbers and how similar it can be to your last 10 passwords, that everyone just writes their password on a Post-It stuck to their monitor or keyboard. Even better when the system locks you out after three wrong tries, so you have to sit on hold for half an hour to get it reset.”

A GPS tracker for managers

“When my director started a few years ago, he made a policy that we all use a specific instant messaging client and keep our statuses updated – most of us telecommute on various days so it’s very helpful. Does my manager do this? No. He leaves his status to ‘online’ all the time, even when he is on vacation. Completely defeats the purpose. I’d love to put a GPS tracker on him.”

A warning before replying-all

“I think any attempt to ‘reply all’ to an email should result in a warning pop-up that reads, ‘Are you sure you want to reply to ALL of these people?’ with options for ‘Yes, I’m sure’ and ‘Heck no.’”

Scrambled communication

“I work in Marketing. I am supposed to be selling our goods to clients. Yet our department doesn’t find out about new products until someone calls saying, ‘Hi, I can’t find the flyer on this, I need to send it to a client,’ and we’re stuck scrambling because we literally had no clue it existed. It’s a shame. And yet at the same time, we’re told to create flyers for a product that doesn’t exist yet but will be here in Q2. So we create the flyers, and then when the product is finally sold to a prospect in Q3, we find out that the product was scrapped.”

Thermostat wars

“Thermostat control. People would huddle in their coats and gloves under blankets, and Maintenance wouldn’t let us adjust the heat (they put a locking cover over it). People blocked the vents with paper but Maintenance caught on to that quickly, so then we changed to clear packing tape. I know, I know….the system is ‘balanced’ and that throws it all off. But when people are freezing, what else is there to do?”

One person got really smart and started putting a cup of ice on the locking thermostat cover and that would sometimes trick the AC into going off and the heat to come on.”

Shared calendar mayhem

“We have thousands of employees and everyone has Outlook. The first department I worked in had everyone track their out of office time on a Google calendar. So then we had two calendars to update to make sure we were showing as unavailable for meetings, etc. to those outside our department. Why? No one knew, it was just always that way, so it stayed. In my current department, I have people walk over to my desk to see if I am available for x time on x day. Hmmm, let me check my CALENDAR.

Finally, the busiest people – upper mangers and directors – never seem to bother filling in their calendars. I get the need for confidentiality on things, but there are ways to lock stuff down. So I invite those folks to meetings and client events and I get the response, ‘I am out that week – didn’t you know that?’ Ugh.”

Excel obstructionists

“Getting people to use Excel properly! I have a running list in my head of ‘Bob doesn’t understand multiple pages,’ ‘Steve will delete my formula accidentally and not tell me,’ ‘John doesn’t understand hidden columns,’ etc.
And so when I send Excel files, I need to keep my original file, and then compare it to what I get back, like, ‘Okay, what were they trying to do before breaking everything?’
My inefficient work-around is to send PDFs of Excel documents to make people tell me in words what they want changed, and then I can do it.”

Under-valuing and under-staffing I.T.

“I’ve seen way, way too many organizations that say, ‘Oh, we just need an IT generalist’ and then expect to pay $50,000 for someone who can manage the office network, manage a dozen servers in a high-availability virtualization suite, code up database applications from scratch, and manage the company website. Hint: those are all separate career tracks and each require several years of experience to be any good at.

Of course, you can find someone who will tell you they can do all that who is willing to work for the same pay as your secretary. Then that person will go on to cost you an order of magnitude more, in terms of lost time and efficiency, 95% of which you’ll be blind to.

Or if you do end up with competent IT people, there’s a constant battle over funding. Most companies don’t need the latest and greatest, but they do need the basics to be solid and work, and that includes a lot of stuff that most people don’t even knows exists. It’s almost impossible for non-IT people to tell the difference between “IT always wants more and better stuff” and actual false economies. Really good IT departments can communicate this info adequately, if management has actually spent the money to hire them and will listen to them.

There’s also an axiom in IT that you can teach technical skills but not soft skills, which is (mostly) true. However people often fail to recognize the amount of deliberate time and effort that has to go into training. Simply throwing under qualified people into the job and expecting them to figure it out as they go is a recipe for frustration on everyone’s part.”

{ 144 comments… read them below }

  1. AnonEMoose*

    The throwing underqualified IT people at things and expecting them to figure it out reminds me of something that happened to me about 15 years (and several jobs) ago.

    I started a new job, and for whatever reason, my computer was completely messed up. Looking in the wrong directories for things, refusing to do completely normal functions, you name it. So, I called IT. The guy I was working with on the problem told me “Well, I’m not really sure what’s wrong. Could you keep a log of the issues and call me when you find something new?”

    Ok, fine, I understand that these things can’t always be fixed right away, Windows being Windows and all. Then came the day when I called him and told him “It won’t let me copy and paste information from Excel to Word.”

    His response? “Are you sure you’re supposed to be able to do that?”

    My response: Long, deep breath, slow exhale, and “I thought that was the point of Windows.” Which was far more polite than what I wanted to say.

    The guy did eventually get fired for sheer incompetence, but it took way longer than it should have!

    1. Rebecca*

      This. Just because you are a friend of the owner, or married to someone whose relative is an owner does not make you an IT professional.

      I was getting booted off the server every day at the same time, so I tracked the problem down to a server setting (that I don’t have access to). I sent a help desk request, and they told me I must be doing something wrong.

      It shouldn’t be up to the user to send screen shots on how to change a server setting. IT should know these things.

      1. Jen RO*

        At a previous job we had gotten used to making tickets and including the relevant google result/personally written instructions in them. Otherwise the issues never got fixed.

    2. Schnauz*

      We used to have to use different work stations for different things throughout the day and I noticed my inbox showed different emails on 3 different computers. Put in a ticket.

      Got the worst IT person I’ve ever had the misfortune to deal with, repeatedly. First, he grills me on my name. Have I changed it recently? No. Oh, well did you recently get married and change your name? No. Oh, well divorced? No. Oh, well – NO! I understood what you asked and the answer is NO. So he goes away, send me an email later that it’s all fixed now. It wasn’t. Another IT person catches me in the hall – problem is now fixed. Apparently, helpdesk guy deleted another person’s email, thinking it was me under a completely differen first and last name. They had to retrieve her email, then it was a matter of some settings so my email account would update no matter which computer it was pulled up on.

      That guy was terrible. He messed up all the time, we could not figure out why he was employed with us (or anyone) in an IT capacity.

      1. Jamie*

        I know this is totally not funny and must’ve been so frustrating – but I’m stealing it.

        When I have a bad day I’m just going to refuse to discuss anyone’s specific problem and just keep asking them if they’ve changed their name.

        Even people I’ve known for years and even though the only way a name gets changed in the system is through me – that’s by go to non-response now.

        j/k but it’s a hoot to contemplate.

      2. Windchime*

        Today is Thursday. One of my co-workers sent an email saying, “Hey, I’m picking up donuts on my way in to work this morning!” on Wednesday, but nobody received it. She also didn’t get any emails at all yesterday, and she thought it was awfully quiet, but the help desk said all was well.

        Today at noon, the donut email arrived in my inbox about 30 hours after she sent it. She also got a huge dump of 65 emails in her inbox all at once. Somehow, randomly (or magically!?!), her email had been “taken offline” for a day or so.

        1. Jamie*

          If you’re using outlook I’d bet a paycheck that she inadvertently clicked to work offline – not noticing is weird though.

          99% of my “email is broken” tickets are because they need to uncheck work offline.

    3. Ed*

      I’ve worked in various IT jobs in a bunch of small, medium and large companies. IMHO, the small companies have it the worst with this. You are often the only remotely technical person in the entire company. Management almost has no choice but to take you at your word. And when you leave, they rarely do a good job of replacing you because they don’t even understand what you did all day. I recommend smaller companies hire a consultant to help them hire and then maybe to audit their IT person once a year or so. And it doesn’t have to be a negative thing. My current Fortune 500 company pays companies like Microsoft to occasionally audit our servers and how we do things. We always learn a lot those weeks.

      1. Anon*

        Yes, this. Outside experts are your friends. Ideally IT staff should see them as a resource to call on, not an audit-to-be-passed.

      2. Jamie*

        Absolutely. I have an outside network engineer who takes care of the higher level networking things outside my wheelhouse – I don’t know what I’d do without him.

        Between having a boss that knows enough about what I do to judge me and the outside guy who predates me to verify the rest means tptb have evidence of what kind of job I’m doing. For the people who don’t know, don’t care to know, and just want to judge me because all I do is type all day…I don’t worry about them.

        Anyone one person in house IT needs some outside support – sometimes you need another set of eyes, sometimes you need another set of hands…but you can’t put a price on someone with different experience bringing additional knowledge to the table for the big stuff.

        IT is too important to do poorly.

      3. Vicki*

        I was brought in, on a short term contract, to write a program that would query all of the Windows machines in the department what their state was and when they had last been updated. The report would then be sent to the VP of the department.

        This was because people were not applying their patches.

        I asked: Why not just automatically force patches to be applied once a day or once a week? I know people who work in companies where this is done.

        I was told that they could not do this because “The users would be upset.”

  2. Amanda*

    Thermostat wars! My office is so cold but it’s on some sort of regulated zone with several other rooms and common areas. I begged for maintenance to increase my room temperature. Finally, I got a response, and they agreed to give me a ONE degree increase… with the understanding that if there were ANY complaints from anyone else in my “zone” they would take that ONE degree right back!

    Argh. And brrrrr!

    1. Rebecca*

      The “cold” people have the thermostat in their office. Consequently, most of us roast, winter and summer. Except in my office, because the vent doesn’t work. No air comes out of it, ever, hot or cold.

      So, in the winter, it can get pretty cold until the people on either side of us get their electric heaters cranked up, and then it’s OK. Summer time is miserable, as it normally exceeds 80 degrees. I wear capri pants and short sleeve tops, and have a fan on my desk. The cold people wear fleece jackets on 100 degree days.

      The building manager insists our air vent works perfectly. LOL!

    2. Sadsack*

      maybe you need to have them close some vents. My desk used to be where there was a conference room. After a few complaints about the cold air blowing, one of the maintenance people finally realized that there were four vents open over my desk, he closed three of them for me.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      Huge building, top floor. AC comes on in the summer and it gets cold. Cold in winter because giant windows.

      I keep a large fleece remnant rolled up in the ottoman under my desk and use it for a blankey. I don’t care if it looks stupid!

      1. S*

        I worked for a company that had offices in 5 suites. The suite that I sat in was cold in the winter and warm in the summer. So I would wrap bubble wrap around my legs to keep them warm (over my pants). We always had lots of bubble wrap around the office!

    4. TL*

      At OldJob they came through and asked us what we thought of the temperatures in our rooms. The 4 women who worked there all said “It’s fine.”
      The one man in our group said it was too hot and they turned the temperature down 5 or 6 degrees so everyone except him was freezing all the time.

      1. Ellie H.*

        How come women are always cold? It’s kind of a mystery to me. Is it because men have more muscle mass which is more energy-burning? Or is it because men’s clothes tend to be more practical/appropriate for the environment? Both?

        1. Anx*

          Why is that women are cold? Why isn’t it that men are hot?

          I know what you’re saying, but this strikes a nerve for me because the men in my office always got their way, because they were the Great Arbiters of Neutrality.

          It’s a very subtle and persistent thing: men are neutral, women deviate.

        2. Anx*

          For cis men, they are likely to have higher levels of testosterone, which helps maintain higher temps as does the greater body mass.

    5. glennis*

      My office shared a thermostat with another office, and they misunderstood how it worked.

      In the summer, if they got cold, they would turn the thermostat DOWN – thinking that it controlled the magnitude of the cooling system, (like, it would blow out less cool air) instead of realizing that if you turned it down, it lowered the temperature.

      They also tended to open the door to the outside if they felt too cold – which, of course, just made the cooling system turn on more frequently.


    6. Vicki*

      Once upon a time, long ago, in a company that no longer exists, we all had offices. Very small (8×10) offices, but offices. With doors. And locks. And light switches. And temperature controls.


  3. ChristineSW*

    #2 (Absent Approvers) – This used to drive me batty at TempJob. A few years ago, I was a temporary conference assistant for the Chocolate Teapot Workers Association statewide conference. A big part of my job was to monitor the hotline where attendees could call with questions. If the problem was more complex, I’d pass it on to the coordinator for her to deal with. It irked me to no end when said callers could call back a week or two later angry that their problem hadn’t been solved. Not *exactly* the same as an absent approver, but close enough! Gahhh!!

    1. Vicki*

      I was part of a team that was asked to work on what was supposed to be a regular department newsletter. The department head wanted to approve every issue.

      The first issue was 3 months late.

      The second issue never shipped.

    1. Gjest*

      For #9 (people who don’t know how to use Excel), I really wish there was “track changes” in Excel! Does anyone know if there something hidden in Excel that would do this?

      I like Google docs for this, I find it’s easy to see where things were changed since the last time some inept person got a hold of it…and restore it.

      1. Gjest*

        I just answered my own question a little…it looks a little clunky to use, but there is something under the Review tab with the ability to highlight changes. Hmm, I wish I had found that long ago! Feel kinda silly now!

  4. Anon*

    Wow, you published my huge rant about IT!

    May I ask, did you clip the paragraph about hiring consultants to evaluate IT abilities due to space or because it’s advice you don’t agree with? Or because you didn’t want people to misread it as advice coming from you? If there are downsides, I’d like to hear about them – as I said, I’m fairly junior and may not know about some of the ins and outs involved here.

  5. Prickly Pear*

    I work at a place that has many locations, and the thermostats are controlled centrally. We’ll be sweltering one minute and slowly freeze shortly thereafter because our AC randomly starts and stops. I never know how to dress and I’ve had a cough like ‘ol Bob Cratchitt since I came here. I would laugh if it didn’t usually end with all sorts of wardrobe malfunctions.

  6. Anonymous*

    Thermostat wars will be the death of me, I swear.

    At my last job, we were told to bring thick blankets to use at our desks because the big boss liked it COLD. People would be so bundled up that just their faces stuck out. Every single person, except the one guy.

    At my current job, we aren’t quite at blanket level, but I wear an Arc’Teryx jacket under my uniform and whenever it gets slow, I switch from fingerless gloves to real mittens.

    1. Jen RO*

      Oh wow, that kind of thing would make me look for another job. I hate being cold, and I have a lower cold tolerance than most people…

      1. Anonymous*

        I have a circulation problem that makes me more susceptible to cold so its kind of hard. My summer job has no airconditioning so I’m excited about that!

        1. Jessa*

          Oh goodness, I’m hyperthyroid, I’ll buy you an electric blanket, just please don’t turn down my AC. We’d be a riot sharing space. The best job I had was a small office with 3 people and I had a deal, they could smoke, if I got to control the temp. It was back when you could still smoke inside IF you had permission of everyone who used the space.

    2. Tris Prior*

      The best thing about Former Job (which was otherwise horrid) is that I shared an office with my boss, and we both were perpetually cold. So we almost never turned on the AC in summer and cranked the heat in winter. I was always comfortable. It was great.

      One day the company owner made a rare appearance in our office and chastised us for not running the AC. Um, OK, so you want us to cost you more money in electricity for no reason? There were almost never other people coming in for more than a few minutes and we hardly ever had clients visit either. I never could quite figure out why she was so bothered by this when it affected no one other than Boss and I who were both quite content with the temp!

  7. JennyS*

    I quit a job because of #2 (Absent Approvers). My boss would let projects sit on her desk for weeks at a time. No matter how often I’d remind her, she simply wouldn’t look at whatever I had given her. Then 3 days before it had to be finished, she’d come to me asking “Why are we not on schedule with this?” Every. Single. Time.

    1. some1*

      I used to support a VP who had to sign check requests, etc. I had several folders for the purpose that were different colors and read “For Wakeen’s signature – Return to Some1” in huge black sharpie.

      He would never return them no matter what I did (called, emailed, stopped in his office) and then he had ALL my folders, so I used a manila folder instead for a new check request. He had that on his desk for a week or so, then a freelancer called the CFO (they were friends) asking where his $$ was, and the VP blamed me for giving him a check request in a plain folder because he didn’t know it meant it was something he had to sign.

  8. Elkay*

    We’re just about to move to a new building where apparently all our thermostat worries will be a thing of the past, I’m waiting to see how long it takes for the fans/space heaters to appear.

    1. lifes a beach*

      Update us on that. We moved out of our thermostat hell 2 story building in august into a brand new 6 story building. The air conditioning including any air circulation has gone out at least 6 times. There is nothing worse than being on the 5th floor, with no AC and no way to open a window. They can remotely monitor our areas, and it got to 95 (they sent us all home that day!). Otherwise it is always freezing, because the building is very “edgy” with concrete floor and wood and steel cubicles. We all have throws at our desks to put on our legs. Sometimes you walk through and people have jackets, hats and mittens on. BTW – this is in so california!!! I can’t imagine what it would be like in a state where they actually have cold weather!

  9. Mike C.*

    The password thing is simply nuts. Don’t make different password rules for different systems, with different password update schedules.

    Use something else to authenticate a user. Fingerprints are awesome. Cards with PIN numbers are great. Yes, I get that those things cost money, but would you rather do it right the first time, or have everyone writing down their passwords on post it notes?

    1. Mike C.*

      I guess what I’m really trying to say is quit being such a cheap piece of crap. If you want actual security, then pay for it.

    2. Anon*

      Or a single sign-on feature, where one login to the network gets you logged on to everything you should have access to.

      I imagine it’s a bit complicated to set up at the back end, but imagine the time and hassle and inconvenience it saves the users once it’s done!

      1. Anonymous*

        The biggest problem with single sign on is that often tools you need aren’t your companies tools they are other companies, other vendors, other agencies etc.

        But oh is it nice when it works!

        1. De Minimis*

          That is a major issue at my workplace, we have multiple systems with multiple password rules, and I’ve recently started helping out in a different department that has even more systems.

          It’s terrible practice, but EVERYONE here writes down their most recent passwords. There’s just no other way to keep track without having to contact IT a few times a month to reset something.

          In our case, it’s government so no one here could change the policies even if they wanted to.

          We do have the badges with pin numbers, but those only access a few of our systems,. And our facilities department had the brainstorm of requiring the badges to be worn any time you’re not at your desk and requiring them to access your department, which serves to discourage their use in the computer.

    3. Anonymous*

      You’re absolutely right. One of my previous jobs had this kind of password madness, and everyone just starting making lists of all their passwords and keeping them under the keyboard.

      My current company does require some fairly complicated passwords (required letters, numbers, capitals, and special characters) and they need to be changed every 3 months. But the cool thing is that IT has set it up so that a password change is synced across ALL internal systems. We each have a single password and only have to change it in one place.

      1. Gene*

        Complicated passwords that meet those rules are easy. Come up with a sentence you will remember and stick a number at the end. Like, “Sandy hates eating cake1”. 24 characters, both letter cases, number and special characters (spaces count in most systems.) When the required change time comes, change the number to 2. Then 3. Once you hit 0, you can go back to 1.

        If your IT troll says , “But that’s not what we meant!” refer them to this, .

        1. Anonicorn*

          That’s what I do, and I so prefer passphrases because they work so much better … except for that occasional password requirement that demands complexity yet limits length. WHY?!

            1. Anonymous*

              I ran across this recently and considering it was supposed to be a highly secured database. I ended up setting up a meeting with the people who run it and opened up all their personal information until they agreed to change it.

        2. Meg Murry*

          Except some of the systems also don’t let you repeat anything too close to your previous password like just changing the last number. My system was to go to 11, 22, 33, 44 for the last digits – the password system did allow that. Although now that I’ve put it in writing I’m sure they’ll ban that as well.

          1. De Minimis*

            We have that issue too, most of our systems will not too many characters from the previous password. That’s a good idea about the double digits, I may try that next time.

          2. Windchime*

            I do this, too. And then once I get to 99, I’ll do 12, 13, 14……21, 22, 23, 24….etc.

        3. Jeanne*

          I had one that was at least 8 characters, some letters some numbers, and no character could be in the same place it had been in the last 32 passwords. I would get out the dictionary, look for long words or two words, and put a number in the middle. But I had to write them down.

        4. JessB*

          I’ve had systems tell me ‘This password is too similar to your previous password’ when I’ve tried something like this.

    4. Brett*

      Sometimes there are underlying issues, and costs, beyond what you think, because of third party security standards that have to be met to implement those newer security methods. I know for us to use fingerprint scanners for security, we have to conform to FBI standards for both fingerprint collection and fingerprint storage. The costs for that are far crazier than just buying laptops with fingerprint scanners. Chip & PIN requires installing fiber to our remote facilities for a separate security network (same with facial recognition).

    5. Confused*

      Can’t remember where I saw it but this is what the password comment reminded me of:
      “During a recent password audit by the company, it was found that an employee was using the following password
      When asked why she had such a long password, she rolled her eyes and said, “Hello! It has be at least 8 characters and include at least one capital.”

      1. Anx*

        Absolutely! I’m all for layering, but if you’re hands are cold and your nose is dripping, that’s going to affect your productivity if you do a lot of office work. Or worse, if you’re feet are cold.

      2. EvaR*

        In general I agree with this, but I’ve had coworkers who really ground my gears like this. If it’s the middle of the winter, and you are wearing heels with no socks, and you live in wisconsin, please purchase socks before complaining about the cold.

    1. Anonymous*

      Sometimes a sweater just isn’t enough. It eventually gets into your bones and only a hot shower can start to cure it!

    2. Amanda*

      I’ve got 2 sweaters on, as well as one draped over my lap. My hands are so cold that I keep rubbing them together and blowing on them to warm them up.

    3. Puddin*

      Every single cube in my office contains a personal size heater, a lap blanket, finger-less gloves or convertible mittens (popular as holiday gifts for the depts with secret santas), extra socks, as well as a sweater or two. I would like to say that these items are only used in the winter, but no the AC is so out of control in the summer they are used at that time as well. Except on the days when we need to use the one or two fans we all keep. Unless you are on the other side of the building, then when I need the fan, you need the blanket.

      I am jealous that you have little experience with thermostat wars…

      1. Windchime*

        Yeah, that’s a good point. This isn’t in the winter, necessarily; the AC would blast all summer long. And if it wasn’t blasting, then it was off completely and it was 85 degrees.

        And don’t even get me started about the broken water pipe in the ceiling that they refused to fix. It was fine until some unknowing gardener would turn on the faucet (outside), which would cause floods of water to come down on our offices which were in the basement. This happened twice before they finally took the handle off the faucet outside; to my knowledge, the broken pipe still hasn’t been fixed.

    4. Trillian*

      Thermal underwear, T-shirt, thin woolen sweater, thick woolen sweater – my office wear for December-January.

    5. Windchime*

      Sweaters I can put on. But management frowns on those situations where it’s hotter than Hades and you can only strip down so far.

      Seriously, though, do you really think that it didn’t occur to people to put on a sweater? When my office was freezing cold, people were wearing coats, fingerless gloves, and huddled under blankets. My area was 62 degrees much of the time (I had a thermometer; I wasn’t guessing). Tossing on a cardigan isn’t enough when you’re sitting still at a desk and it’s 62.

      1. FRRibs*

        If you are wearing mittens and your fingers are still cold, you could look into motorcycle gloves. Not the big bulky gauntlets but I have a pair of summer gloves that fit like a second skin and are perforated so there is still airflow (so my fingers are warm but not sweaty, except in high summer). They obviously cost a lot more but a good pair of leather gloves will stand up to a ton of abuse and if you choose the correct size they will fit perfectly (loose gloves would result in dead riders). They make them for every temperature range going.

      2. Another Emily*

        62F is very cold. If you’re in a situation where you’re warmly dressed but your hands are freezing, I recommend wearing long john underwear to work, and layering thin shirts under your sweater. A pair of relatively cheap, cotton long johns are a life saver.

        Our building is poorly insulated, so even though there’s no war over the thermostat (we all agree it’s freezing and beyond the abilities of the heating system to fix), it gets cold in the middle of winter.

        I’m someone who easily gets cold hands, but I can’t type or mouse properly if I wear any kind of gloves.

        I wear long johns under normal work pants, and a merino wool undershirt under a sweater. If you don’t have something as fancy as merino wool, I’d recommend a thin, cotton long sleeved shirt over a thin tank top, then a sweater on that. (You don’t want your layers to be too bulky or circulation will be restricted).

        If your torso and legs are warm, your body will allow more circulation to your hands and feet. If your torso is cold, your body concentrates on keeping your trunk warm before your extremities.

    6. Jennifer*

      I’m with you. I’m so sick of hearing my coworker go on about how cold she is and she literally WILL NOT EVEN PUT ON SOMETHING WITH SLEEVES. Because then she’s too hoooooooot.

      I’m not saying it can’t be so cold that wearing multiple sweaters won’t help, but at least you can try to put more clothes on first before you start whining.

  10. Anon, just in case*

    The PDF of the spreadsheet reminds me, I had a boss once who, if she got an email that included a contact’s phone number, would call that person and mess everything up and then never tell anyone she’d spoken to the contact. So I’d find out the actual right info and call the person back, only to find that this boss had already called them and given them wrong info and been rude to boot. So I started intentionally leaving phone numbers off certain messages so she’d have to ask me for it and then i’d know she was going to call.

    I later realized I was still doing it out of habit, a year after she was fired. Whoops.

    1. EvaR*

      I’m female, and I agree with Wally- my office has a dress code that requires me to cover my entire leg with either pants or nylons except in may, june, and July, and August, when I can wear knee length skirts with no hose. I’m also required to wear sleeves all the time.

      No one wants to smell the pitt stink of a few hundred people, and no one wants to see me in short shorts, but the people who are cold are more than welcome to put on more clothes, and blankets are 100% fine in my office. I still fail to see how it isn’t more logical to keep the temps lower than some people would like when they can adjust for comfort more easily.

  11. Jess*

    I also hate when you’re doing what you gotta do to keep warm so you can concentrate on work (in my case, wearing a coat indoors) and people constantly comment on it (“Going somewhere?”, “Take your coat off and stay awhile!”, “Are you cold?”) Arrgh!!!

    1. Anonymous*

      My old boss once told me that my fingerless gloves were unprofessional. You know what? So is a 62 degree office!

    2. Lanya*

      Oh man. Yes. At OldJob, they made us turn in our space heaters to prevent fires. It was so cold that I would walk around with a blanket wrapped around me. People were calling me Snuggie Girl after a while. But then they stopped the day that the heater broke and we were all sitting in a 50 degree office and it was so cold we couldn’t even focus, but we weren’t allowed to go home! I considered calling OSHA that day.

    3. Jennifer*


      What part of “duh” do you not understand?

      That coat remark about staying awhile sounds like my jerky relatives.

  12. anon*

    Property Manager here commenting on the thermostat wars.

    We constantly get too hot/too cold calls from tenants – it’s the number one tenant issue in large commercial buildings. Often times, people sitting in close proximity vary in body temperature drastically. The 120lb woman is constantly freezing while the 200 lb man is sweating to death. We turn the temperature down and the woman starts freezing. We turn the temperature up and the man is too hot.

    This time of year is especially challenging – in the morning it’s still pretty cold and the heat is on. The afternoon sun then pours into the windows generating a lot more heat. Is it going to be hot enough today to put on the A/C? Is it cold enough to warrant starting up the boiler?

    The never ending battle of regulating the temperature of the building and the body temperature of the building population is something we as property managers/engineers/maintenance deal with every day.

    Also – it’s worth noting – when locks are put on thermostats, it’s typically authorized by your company rather than the building/property managers. Higher level execs or office managers would prefer NOT to have employees fussing with them, so they ask for the locks on the thermostats.

    1. Chinook*

      Having had to manage office temps in a variable climate (+10 Celcius yesterday, snowstorm with windchill today) I learned to let my colleagues know that sealed buildings 24 hours to adjust to temperature swings (which is frustrating when temperature swings move faster). And it is not just offices – I live in a converted apartment building on the top (3rd) floor and my place can be +30 (Celcius) on a day I have the heat off and it is -25 outside. I think my neighbours below are new to Alberta and miss warmer temperatures?

    2. HR Lady*

      Anon, I think you make excellent points. In our building, in addition to the issues you mentioned, we have a “cold side” and a “warm side.” When the sun shines in the windows on the warm side, it’s very hot over there, while still pretty cold on the cold side.

      I’ve learned from living with my husband that people use thermostats differently. (This is related to why there are locks on thermostats.) Hubby will radically change the temp depending on his comfort. If he walks in from the 90 degree weather outdoors, he’ll crank up the AC until he cools off, and then he’ll set the thermostat back to normal.

      Similar in the winter – if he’s cold, he’ll turn the heat way up. On the other hand, I try to leave the thermostat generally on an even keel and use sweaters (or cool drinks!) when I have temperature issues. Even if I’m extra cold after a few hours, I’ll just adjust it by one degree.

      So another reason why there are locks on thermostats is because there are people in the world who want to adjust them with radical swings at a time.

      1. Anonymous*

        I do the cranky the heat all the way up thing. For me it comes from growing up in a house with a wood stove. It would get really hot in the mornings (when you stoked it up for the day) and at night (before bed) and then would cool dramatically. So I come home and crank the heat all the way up for 15 minutes and then I’m good for the next 6 hours as it cools off.

  13. Rebecca*

    #3 – I have so many passwords with so many requirements, you’d think I was working in a missile silo. For heaven’s sake, why can’t we reuse passwords? I have them all written down on a sheet of paper in case I get “hit by the bus” and my office mate has to access things.

    Honestly, I don’t know what the big deal is. What, is someone going to walk in off the street and send an email? Or try to do something in this convoluted system of ours? Highly doubtful. And if the goal is secrecy and security, that failed, as we all have everything written down in plain view so we don’t forget them!

  14. Ann Furthermore*

    I only have a couple thermostat issues at work, thankfully. There is one area of the building that is always frigid, no matter what, and everyone just deals with it. The biggest pain is when the seasons change, and during March and April of each year there are usually some unseasonably warm days. So the building gets unbearably, oppressively hot. I usually work from home when that happens, because when I get too hot, I get headaches, and then I can’t stay focused on work, I get very grouchy, and so on.

    It happens because the cooling system in the building is basically a gigantic swamp cooler, and requires about 7,000 gallons of water. It is stored in a huge tank on the roof. So the Facilities group doesn’t fill it up until they’re confident that we’re not going to get any more snowstorms or hard freezes, because if the water in that tank froze, and caused any cracks or leaks, it would be a disaster. March and April can be very snowy months where we are, so they don’t normally fill the tank up until mid to late April.

    So this is a pain, but I get it, it makes sense, and if I were the Facilities manager I’d probably handle it the same way. But no one else seems to get this, because every year in the spring, an email shows up in everyone’s inbox that says some version of, “No, the company is NOT too cheap to turn on the air conditioning, it’s too early to fill the water tank on the roof. If we fill it too early, and it freezes, then we’d be without air conditioning all summer.”

  15. Elizabeth*

    I used to have a boss that would walk into an office shared by 4 women, go “It’s to hot in here!” and turn the thermostat down by 10 degrees, then walk out to his own office that was another 5 degrees colder, leaving the 4 of us open-mouthed at him.

    One year, when he was on his annual vacation, I checked with our facilities department about putting a lockbox on the thermostat. They installed it and handed over the keys. The 4 of us set it for a temperature that we agreed upon, we locked it, and I put the keys in a communal toolbox, along with the duplicate set of keys for all of the locked areas of the facilities that we routinely had to go into.

    When the boss returned from vacation, he was furious that we hadn’t put the keys on the board of keys right next to the locked thermostat. I explained that that would defeat the purpose of having a lock on it, because then any random individual could just grab the keys and reset the thermostat, when the occupants of the office had already discussed and decided at what temperature we wanted to keep our office. He sputtered and stuttered, but he couldn’t fault the logic.

    After that, as long as we were in that office, we were able to keep the temperature where we wanted it.

  16. The Real Ash*

    I don’t get why offices can’t just have one temperature all year round. Why does it need to be colder in the summer and hotter in the winter? Just make it say, 65F all the time, and then people can dress appropriately/bring in fans or space heaters. Many of my coworkers have fans and space heaters that they keep in their cubes all year.

      1. Anonymous*

        65 is freezing!!! I hated this in old job, it would be 105 outside and 65 or lower in the office. My hands and feet were always cold. It was an open plan office so no chance of heating a cube. I would have gotten serious side eye for wearing gloves. I was one of the few people who would get into work and put my jacket on. I took regular breaks to walk to wear spots and go to the restroom to warm my hands up under the hand dryer.

        1. BeenThere*

          oh that was me btw ^

          Wanted to add that I am really sensitive to cold and am always in the group in the office that wants the room warmer. :)

    1. Anonymous*

      OSHA recommends that the office temp should be at least 68 degrees. (Recommends, not requires.)

    2. Fiona*

      Because of issues like my office – we have four thermostats, and every one of them is set to 71*. In my office it’s currently 73, the person on the other side of our shared wall is at 67, and three doors down the hall on the sunny side of the building it’s 85. It’s not so much about the thermostat settings as it is about how efficiently or inefficiently the HVAC is set up, which of course tenants have very little control over.

      1. Anonymous*

        And windows make a big difference too! I declined an opportunity to move to a bigger office simply because the new office had an unobstructed southern exposure and those offices get too hot in the afternoons.

    3. Scott M*

      65 is freezing! At home i have the temperature set to 72 in the winter and around 78 in the summer.

    4. Elizabeth West*

      Buildings vary in their insulation, window size, cross ventilation, etc. etc. Even different places in the same facility can vary. You’ll never be able to keep it the same across the board.

    5. Anonymous*

      Because windows and cold and hot weather?

      Temperature isn’t magic so you can’t heat/cool a large office building with multiple faces, floors, doors, needs to all be the exact same all the same.

      Have a cold day but a bright sun? The sunny offices are getting additional heat from the sun but the rest of the building needs extra heating because it is so fing cold.

  17. some1*

    I always feel bad for IT people who get hit up to help coworkers troubleshoot their personal devices. It’s one thing if the IT person is a close friend, or they offer, but most of the time it’s pretty presumptuous imo.

    1. Anonymous*

      I think that’s a consequence of work demands sliding into our personal lives and personal devices.

      1. some1*

        Oh, if people are expected to answer calls or emails from home when they are off-duty, I can understand that.

    2. Ann Furthermore*

      A friend’s husband is an IT support guy. When her mom comes to visit them, she brings along her computer — a desktop — so my friend’s husband can help her with all her computer issues.

      1. Jamie*

        Can’t avoid it with family – you just fix it and hope you don’t find anything you can’t unsee while doing it.

        With co-workers – I’m not a fan of people using personal devices for work. If it’s not under my control and I am not maintaining it, then fixing it when it poops the bed isn’t my problem. There have been a couple of times I’ve been overruled by tptb – and in all of those instances they assumed the liability.

        I will do favors for co-workers who are friends – but away from the office (not even on lunch or my own time at work) because I don’t want to set a precedent for other people.

  18. Jeff*

    We still have people emailing around spreadsheets that constantly get screwed up with changes, lost, late, etc. A spreadsheet is not a collaboration tool or task tracker people!

  19. j_e_tothedouble_n*

    There is nothing more terrifying in an open office plan filled with menopausal than a mid-day radio station change.

  20. Anonymous*

    Thermostat wars would be an improvement over my workplace, where either the heat is on or the AC is on, and switching between the two takes some much time, they try to only do it twice a year. So if there a hot day when the heat is on everyone swelters, and if it’s a cold day when the AC is on everyone freezes. And due to a really complicated air handling system and multiple pieces of equipment in each room, the air flow to/from some rooms is so bad that the temp in those rooms is routinely at least 10 degrees above when the thermostat is set to, and it can’t be set lower than 60.

  21. Drew*

    Ohhh, IT. I’m on the other end of that problem (kind of). I was NOT hired as IT or anything remotely technical, but my small company has assigned me to develop and manage a database. Not the end of the world, but last year they asked me to develop a portal into this database for applications. In. 30. days. With no experience. I got it done in 30 days, but it turned out to be NOT what the bosses wanted. Turns out they need a website/CSS developer, but no one knew enough to recognize that, including me.

  22. Boo*

    I do think it’s interesting that we’ve had two or three examples where the male in the office had the temp in his favour despite being in the minority/not working in the office. Is it perhaps because he is senior so his preference takes precedence?

    I’ve been on both sides of thermostat wars. I used to sit in a large corridor where the temp was controlled by Maintenance and it was always freezing cold. Me and the other three women who sat there would often wear our coats and gloves at our desk. I now share a small office with its own thermostat. Which would be great except one of the women I share with is always whacking it up to 26 degrees without asking. She also refuses to wear jumpers/cardigans and will go with summer outfits/no tights well into October when the rest of us are dressing appropriately. Gah.

  23. Jamie*

    The temp should be between 72-77 at all times everywhere. Work, home, car, outside. That is the sweet spot.

    If I ran the zoo it would never be anything else.

    1. Twentymilehike*

      Haha I agree!

      Except at my last office, I tried to win is war and was humbled by the OSHA recommendations for office temps.

      1. Jamie*

        Yes, I don’t know who came up with 68 being a acceptable for the low but as someone who is flexible when it comes to temps (I have cardigans to adjust as needed) I think that’s low enough where it’s going to affect productivity.

        1. Windchime*

          I can live with 68. I usually keep my house at about 70 when I’m just sitting around or doing very light housework. If I’m doing anything energetic at all, I lower it to 68 or so.

          But in the office, I mostly sit at my desk and think. Anything lower than 68 and I would probably be chilly. I keep a lap blanket at work and always have a cardigan as well. Sometimes I use big warm slippers in the winter if it’s super cold.

          1. Jen RO*

            I keep my house at 25C (77F) all winter and it’s perfect! For work it could go a bit lower (22-23C – 72-74F), but if it gets colder than that, I am freezing and miserable and sleepy, so my work suffers. Thermostat wars are the worst!

    2. LizNYC*

      I would be very uncomfortable if it was 77 degrees in my office. I have an illness that’s exacerbated by heat so 68 degrees is perfect!

    3. Cath@VWXYNot?*

      When I was a student in Glasgow, Scotland, I lived in a freezing old flat with big gaps around all the windows and no source of heating other than the gas oven and a terrifying stand-alone gas heater, which we surrounded with carbon monoxide monitors but were still afraid to run at night. In winter, I slept in a sleeping bag under a duvet wearing head-to-toe fleece and I was still cold. We used to throw parties just so all the body heat would warm the place up (none of my friends had heating at their places, either, so this was common practice). We once all went away for two nights and came back to find the goldfish bowl frozen solid.

      Being that cold all the time is absolutely miserable. When I moved somewhere with heating, I overcompensated for a while and would have the heat at (checks Celsius/Fahrenheit conversion) 75 degrees for the first winter. I’ve since gone back to a more comfortable 68-70 during the day, turned down to 60 at night. Our office is at about 76-78 though, which I find miserably hot – but one of the “cold people” (who I’ve never seen wear a sweater even once) sits right by the thermostat :(

  24. Twentymilehike*

    This is a pretty good list, except for the excel sheet one … Excel has great features to ensure that unwanted changes aren’t made when collaborating. They can even be password protected and changes can be limited and tracked.

    Not to be hyper critical, but when I read the point on excel I immediately thought it was written by one of the people that it was complaining about …

    I highly recommend all excel users to learn about these features! Very useful!

    1. Mints*

      That was originally my rant. I like excel, and the more I learn, the more I realize how much more there is. So it’s possible I could track it better using the internal tools, but part of the problem that I’m an admin, so I’ll get asked to create an excel that other people will own. Since I’m support staff it’s not really collaboration. I’ll be asked to start a spreadsheet, then someone else uses it. My micromamager would not appreciate a password.

      Actually, after I wrote that rant I spent time looking at the tracking tools to see if I could learn about them some more, haha

    2. Chinook*

      Except some of the fancier functions (I can’t remember if it is pivot tables, drop down lists or something else) won’t let you activate the password protections or read only options. What I do, instead, is open it first thing so anyone else who looks at it gets a read only/notify when free option and have trained the others to ask me to make all changes (even when it is easier to do it themselves).

      1. Twentymilehike*

        That’s not a bad plan, chinook. It’s a lot less time consuming … As for creating spreadsheets for other people as mentioned by Mints: good luck! I can see the difficulty in that situation!

        Funny story, I used to work at a place with a shared database in an excel sheet. My boss used to go in and screw it all up all the time. Eventually I set the track changes feature and every once in a while I’d just go in and reject all his changes. He had no clue.

  25. FD*

    Ugh, Excel obstructionists. I’ve started always, always locking any sheet that I’m letting anyone else look at so people don’t blow up my cells.

  26. Anonymous*

    I wish there was a way for people to opt out of a reply all message. Ad in, you get the message, realize it doesn’t concern you, and have an option to take yourself off that particular chain. Then people who want to receive all reply all messages in order to keep track of the conversation (and those people are out there) can stay on, and those who aren’t interested can leave.

  27. Nina*

    The thermostat wars are no joke. However, at oldjob #1, no one else seemed to be affected by the freezing air except me. Coworkers were fine with a light cardigan, or worse, they felt hot! I figured I was just really sensitive or just crazy, until I saw (or felt) that the hard surfaces like my desk and the walls were icy to the touch. So the office really was cold, because nothing nearby was retaining heat. When the office was warmer, the surfaces warmed up, too. It was the only way I could gauge the real temperature in the room. I was using my space heater all year round.

    At oldjob #2, it was freezing once again, but this time, everyone else felt it too. People were walking around wearing huge blankets and gloves, myself included.

  28. LizNYC*

    I can SO identify with #1. At my office, we’re constantly talking about streamlining our process so things don’t fall through the cracks … except no one wants to change their habits. Any recommendations to use new programs, change behaviors to streamline actions or follow directions for more than a few days go totally unheeded. And then we’re back to square one. A few months later, the same conversation comes up again…

  29. Jennifer*

    I had one job where only one person had access to or knew how to work (was never sure which it was) the thermostat. So everyone froze–and this is a place with 90+ heat in summer–until whatsherface got there, and if she didn’t come in that day….

    I currently work in a basement where I think the temperature is usually around 60-65 every day (according to my keychain thermostat) and oh dear lord, the “I’m too hoooooooot,” “I’m too coooooooooold” bitching that goes on multiple times a day. Switching off, even. To be fair, a few people sit right under vents, but considering that my apartment doesn’t heat well, I just want to laugh at them all in winter because work is downright tropical compared to my bedroom at home. And like I said above, one coworker flat out refuses to wear jackets or sweaters or sleeves because then she’s too hoooooooot, but otherwise she’s too cooooooold and I just want to roll my eyes really hard.

  30. Kyle Jones*

    In some fashion or another I’ve seen the likes of many of the items listed above. My favorite would be the shared calendar and adoption of software. When one or two decide to do differently, it defeats the purpose. Also, nice throwback using the Unsolved Mysteries logo for the post.

  31. Anx*

    Or how about when the thermostat is controlled by a union worker? And you aren’t allowed to touch it until it’s their day to come in.

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