getting sick your first week at a new job, I won’t work in an open office, and more

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

1. Getting sick your first week at a new job

I got sick during my first week of work. I was dragging on Friday, but attributed it to a long week of meeting new people and getting used to my routine. By Friday evening, I felt worse, and a trip to urgent care confirmed… I have strep throat.

Luckily for me, my doctor prescribed some great meds and I was able to rest up over the weekend. I was no longer contagious and was already feeling better by the end of the weekend.

But here’s my question — what the heck would I have done if this had not conveniently happened over the weekend? With strep, I know I’d have to call out sick, but what about something less contagious? And — either way — how do you go about taking a sick day (a day without pay, I’m assuming, since sick time hasn’t accrued) without it reflecting poorly on you as a new employee?

It’s certainly not ideal to be out sick your first week on the job, but sometimes this stuff happens — people get strep or break a leg or have horrible food poisoning. Even only halfway decent managers understand that this can happen, and that you can’t control the timing. The keys are to say that you’re mortified that it’s happening during your first week so that they know you’re not being cavalier about it, to make it clear it’s something like strep and not just the sniffles, and to make a real point of demonstrating your work ethic once you’re back. That last part is because the worry isn’t “how outrageous, she had strep her first week” but rather “is she someone who’s going to call out all the time?” since they don’t know you yet. You just need to counteract those worries once you’re back.

But really, you are human and you can’t schedule illness.

2. I turned down a job offer because I didn’t want to be in an open office

Late last year, I turned down a job for which I was well suited and which offered pay and benefits that were satisfactory, and I wonder if I made a mistake. There were a few reasons I declined, but the one that accounted for about 85% of my response was that the company has an open office floor plan. I *loathe* those, and I really felt I could not do my best work in such an environment. That sounds so petty, I know, but it really mattered to me, and still does.

My refusal was prompt, polite, and non-specific, so no worries on that score. However, I always hear that everything is negotiable, so I often wonder if I should have tried to negotiate that as well. At the time I turned down the job, I told myself the employer would never entertain such a request, but I can’t help but wonder if I miscalculated. So was I wrong then, or am I wrong now?

Ugh, I wouldn’t work in an open office plan either, so I’m right there with you in turning it down.

Whether you could have negotiated for your own office depends on how senior you are. If you aren’t especially senior, it’s unlikely, unless they really, really wanted to hire you (and were willing to probably cause unrest among others at your level). It’s also the kind of thing that you might negotiate but could end up changing after the fact anyway (“a new VP is starting and we can’t justify you having a private office when she doesn’t,” etc.).

I actually wish you had told them why you were turning down the offer though. It’s good for employers to hear that they’re losing candidates over this.

3. I’m painfully bored at work

I started at a new job a few months ago and was told that when I finish work, I should ask my supervisor for more work. When I message them about needing work, the response is, “I’ll come to your desk to give you something in a minute.” The problem is that “a minute” has ranged from 15 minutes to three hours. When it’s longer periods, I’ve sent reminders, but get more of the “in a minute” response.

I’ve run out of semi-productive things to do (reading training materials, cleaning out my inbox, etc.) so the waits are becoming painfully boring, and being in limbo is miserable itself. I dread finishing work now. Is there a way to approach my supervisor about this without seeming insubordinate or insulting? (I can’t imagine anyone wanting to be told that they keep people waiting for too long when they’re busy with supervisor duties.)

I’d ask if there are bigger or longer-term projects that you can work on during your downtime in order to keep busy. If that doesn’t work, then you might need to have a conversation with your manager at some point about what’s going on — is this is a temporary situation until she’s through a busy period and then can give you bigger chunks of work that don’t require you checking in with her constantly? It’s not unreasonable to say that you’re finding yourself spending hours with nothing to do and that you’d like to find ways to stay busier. (Also, read my advice in the second letter here to the intern with nothing to do, about proposing your own projects — that’s something you should try too.)

4. How much responsibility do I have for helping to hire my replacement?

My partner and I decided that we wanted to move cities, and my manager and HR said they would keep me on in a transitional period and I could work remotely while I looked for something new and they looked for my replacement. We set an end date to full-time employment three months in the future. Great! I’m leaving (it was time), but still have a paycheck and am also able to look for a new job without fear it will get back to them. Plus I can use them for references.

Fast-forward to today: I’ve been working remotely (going up to the office once a week) for six weeks now and the first round of interviews for my position are beginning to be planned. First I was asked to look through the resumes, which ended up taking hours (there were hundreds). Now I’m being asked to spend 30 minutes on phone interviews with each person who is even a potential possibility (maybe 10–12). Now I expect they’d want me to be there in-person for final round interviews.

Originally I thought it would be beneficial to me to help with the process to get an inside view of hiring — I got this job after being an intern for the company right out of school and never went through the traditional hiring process. But I’m trying to keep everyone happy by doing my regular work (I already have too much) along with writing documentation about processes and also wrap-up projects. I need to be looking for my new job and don’t have time to work more than 40 hours like I did in the past.

If this is determined to be a priority for my limited remaining time, of course I’ll help, but I wonder if this is normal. How much should an employee reasonably be expected to help with the hiring of a replacement? I don’t want to put my foot down only for my manager/HR to be disappointed in my when I was counting on their good recommendations.

It’s perfectly reasonable for them to ask for this kind of help in hiring your replacement, but it’s not reasonable for them to expect you to do it on top of an already full workload. I’m not even sure they do expect that though — they’re probably assuming that you’ll let them know what you need to back-burner in order to make room for this. And since you haven’t spoken up about that, they’re probably assuming you’re able to fit it all in reasonably comfortably.

So speak up! Say this: “To do phone interviews with 10-12 candidates will take X amount of time, which means I won’t be able to do Y and Z. Knowing that, do you still want me involved to this extent, or would it be better for me to keep focusing on Y and Z and have someone else do the phone interviews?” In other words, just tell them what the trade-offs are and let them decide how they want you to spend your remaining time — but you should not be assuming that you just need to work tons of hours to get everything done. (If it does turn out that they expect that, that would be unreasonable and you could explain you don’t have the time remaining — but I’d start from the assumption that you just need to speak up.)

5. Is there any room for negotiating a raise here?

For most of my career, I’ve worked at large professional services firms that have a system in place for annual reviews, raises, and bonuses. At my current company, around May/June, all the reviews from your various supervisors are gathered and your counselor presents your file to a review board. In June/July, you find out your rating, and in August one of the partners tells you your raise and bonus.

Is there any room for negotiation in this process? It seems that by the time my partner gives me my raise, everything has been calculated and calibrated. I know they use some formulas based on how the business unit did and my individual rating, but the formulas are not transparent. If there is room to negotiate, when would that be? For my part, I do my best to summarize my ratings and discuss my strengths and goals with my counselor before he submits it to the review board. But that focuses on my rating and not my actual raise and bonus.

You can certainly try it, and people probably do. In June — after the reviews are gathered but probably before any money decisions are made — I’d make a case to your manager for a raise, in the same way you would at any other company. Ask for a meeting and say, “I know raises and bonuses will be announced in August. Before decisions about those are made, I’d like to make a case for a raise of $X” — and then make your case. (It sounds like you have multiple managers, but assuming there’s one person who’s in charge of stuff like your professional development, that’s who I’d talk to.)

People often end up not negotiating because they don’t feel there’s ever a natural opening for it (both with job offers and with raises). You don’t need to wait for your employer to give you an opening — you can bring up the subject yourself, and you should here.

{ 203 comments… read them below }

  1. Pokebunny*

    But really, you are human and you can’t schedule illness.

    This made me laugh because I know quite a few people who seem to have that convenient super power.

        1. LSCO*


          I’m feeling a bit dodgy today, but didn’t want to call out because it’s a Friday and that *looks bad*. I’m also aware the last time I was sick a few months ago was a Monday & Tuesday, so I fear that taking a Friday off now would really look bad.

          It sucks, and I’ll re-evaluate how I am at lunchtime, but.. urgh. I hate this perception that only fakers get sick Mondays & Fridays.

          1. Monique*

            I wonder if this is a US thing. This would not look bad in the UK where I work. It just… happens. No one would be keeping the exact timings of your illnesses in the back of their minds, especially not if it was months ago.

            1. Daisy*

              I’m from the UK and I definitely worry about it, my last three sick days were on Saturdays and I’m terrified they’re going to think I’ve just been on the lash Fridays. Management is definitely especially suspicious of Saturday call-outs.

              1. Merry and Bright*

                I’m in the UK too and I am conscious of this. I used to work for a company that wouldn’t pay sick leave for Mondays or Fridays without a doctor’s certificate. I don’t know how legal this was but this is what they did. I think GPs in the NHS charge for a cert outside the 7 day period too. Not good.

              2. Mona Lisa*

                Oof, I had to call out of a retail job on New Year’s Day once during college. I came down with the flu overnight, but I could definitely hear in my manager’s voice that she thought I just didn’t want to come in because I was hungover. Thankfully I had a track record of being a great employee, and they ended up believing me after I called out the three subsequent days. Talk about inconvenient timing!

            2. Joseph*

              It’s really dependent on how often it happens, I think. If you get sick once on a Monday/Friday, then no, nobody really cares. But there’s definitely a wonder if it happens repeatedly – particularly if they’re the kind of illnesses that are vague and you’re only out a day.

              Also, my experience is that Mondays tend to get more stigma than Fridays. Because if you’re sick on a Friday after working a Thursday, people start remembering “oh yeah, he did seem a little off yesterday”. Whereas if you’re sick on a Monday, their last memory is that you were perfectly fine and chipper.

            3. LSCO*

              Haha, I am in the UK :)

              As it happens I feel much better now – a slow morning and a cancelled meeting have really helped. But it is definitely something I think about – there’s just a few pointed comments whenever someone is off sick on a Monday or Friday that always give me pause and wonder if people say the same thing when I’m sick on those days.

              1. Monique*

                I think lesson learnt for me – I work for a very chilled out company and perhaps shouldn’t extrapolate my data points quite so happily :) People just don’t really seem to care where I work.

                Glad to hear you’re feeling better!

          2. Christopher Tracy*

            I hate this perception that only fakers get sick Mondays & Fridays.

            I’ve stopped caring about this perception. I have a few chronic illnesses that rear their ugly heads sometimes when I least expect them to, and if that happens to be on a Sunday leading me to be too ill to function on Monday (which has happened twice now this year), so be it. If anyone has anything to say about it, I’d be glad to let them come across the street to my apartment and spend time in my bathroom for “proof” of said illness.

            1. hayling*

              Yeah I have a chronic pain condition, and it tends to get bad after a long week at work. There have been a few Fridays that I have gone home early. Fortunately, my boss trusts me and doesn’t bat an eyelash.

              1. Kinky Kurly*

                This is me. I suffer from chronic pain and there are days when I have flares and just not feeling well enough to come in. I never know how to discuss this with my employer though so I’ll tell them I have something contagious because I fear they won’t understand or try to minimize the effect that chronic pain has on my life.

          3. Alton*

            The logic of that perception seems odd to me, to be honest. I mean yes, I’m sure there are people who just want a three-day weekend. But I know there have been a lot of times where I’ve gotten sick, hung in there for a few days, and then felt completely worn out. And there have been times when I thought that a couple days off would be enough for me to get better, but no luck.

            The last time I got sick, I started feeling it on Monday. I was a little worse on Tuesday, felt better on Wednesday, and then felt horrible on Thursday. The only reason I didn’t call out on Friday was because I had something important to get done and I trusted that I could quarantine myself in my office.

          4. Kyrielle*

            I have a horrible cold and was out sick Wednesday, back yesterday, but today it’s surging again and I’m working from home.

            Because I have a lot to get done, but also because taking the day off would look horrible – we have the 4th and 5th as holidays this year, so it would look like I was trying to scrounge a 5-day weekend.

            1. Kyrielle*

              (And, to be clear, I was careful yesterday, but I really needed some in-office resources. We all have offices – my door was closed except when I left to use the facilities or grab my lunch out of the refrigerator – and I was washing my hands or using sanitizer constantly.)

              1. TrainerGirl*

                I got a cold a month after I started my current job. I was very worried for how that would look, but at the time there was an employee with MS, and we were all told to stay home if we were sick. I ended up coming to work at 6am to get my laptop and worked from home. Once you’ve established yourself, no one bats an eye at someone saying they don’t feel well and they’re taking the rest of the day.

            2. myswtghst*

              In my office, especially in the summer, people rarely schedule meetings on Fridays. Because of this, if I get sick but can tough it out for most of the week, Friday is usually the day I can call in or work from home with the least impact to anyone else. (For example, today I am working from home, where I can work on reports in peace and sweatpants)

          5. DoDah*

            At Oldjob I called out twice over a three-year period. Once was a Monday–once was a Friday. I was labeled “YOU ALWAYS call out on weekends” by PsychoCEO.

            Yep..2x in three years…

    1. blackcat*

      Well, when I was a very young teacher, I *did* basically have that super power. I could feel myself getting sick on a Wednesday and somehow not manage to come all the way down with it until Friday afternoon. I’d just…. will it. I was perpetually sick my first year, but I only took 2 sick days, I think. But I spent like 30% of weekends coughing and sneezing in bed.

      1. Mallory Janis Ian*

        If I feel myself coming down with something and I don’t have time to be sick, I’ll take extra care to go to bed early and to spend my evenings just lounging on the couch and not exerting myself overly much. I have a pretty good immune system, so usually just letting my body devote all energy to combating the illness is enough to nurse myself through without having to miss any work. Sometimes whatever is going around is more potent than that, though, and I’ll end up laid up despite my best efforts.

    2. Kyrielle*

      I wish I did. And not because I’d have more days out…because I’d like to schedule that I never get sick again. :P

  2. Bee Eye LL*

    #2 I left a job after less than 2 years because of an open plan. My desk was in a large room and I sat with my back to the main entrance, so all day long people were coming up behind me, looking over my shoulder at the screen, and so on. Employees would also talk across the room to each other and I was always stuck in the middle. It was loud, there was no privacy, and I eventually realized it was stressing me out. I got sick more times while working there than I ever had in my life, and I know it was all stress-related.

    1. Brooke*

      I actually did my psychology master’s thesis on work environments and their effects (there’s a lot of good articles out there, but long story short, people take more breaks, vacation days, get sicker, more distracted, less efficient, and on and on)… and a few years later, ended in an open office space. Headphones help but they aren’t truly a solution. I’m not sorry I took the job – it pays well and I like the work – but the office environment itself sucks and I have spoken up about it. Thee have been minor changes for the better but nothing substantial. It’s not quitworthy – yet – but I agree with Alison that speaking up IS critical if we’re to hope for change.

      1. Bee Eye LL*

        I’ve read plenty of article on it, too. The idea is to promote interaction between people, but this just is not necessary all the time. That what conference rooms and meetings are for. If I am constantly asking someone else about the job they how are they going to get their own work done, and vice versa?

        1. Kyrielle*

          The funny thing is, I’m now at a job where we all have offices – and the interaction happens naturally and all the time. Among other things, you can just close the door to someone’s office to not bother others while talking, or if there’s a conversation taking place in the hall or in an office with the door open (to allow for the possibility of others jumping in), anyone who needs quiet and doesn’t want to participate can simply shut their door. It’s awesome.

        2. Windchime*

          They say that the idea is to promote interaction, but I think it’s usually really about cost-cutting. If you can just cram a bunch of desks in a room, you can fit more people in.

          I have mostly worked in cubicles over the past 15 or so years, and it’s much better than the 6 months I spent in an open-office layout. Yes, you’re still all in a room together but the high cube walls give an illusion of privacy and it’s much easier to concentrate.

      2. KH*

        I’ve worked in a couple of open office environments and I think they can work, but only if there are policy/cultural changes to support private work when it is necessary, such as:

        – Building reservable private office spaces in the office – you can reserve for up to a full day, but you don’t get to make it your own office or squat there long term.
        – Allowing liberal use of work from home and teleconferencing – saves commuting time, letting people work longer if needed, and allows the workers to concentrate on individual tasks
        – Set up weekly schedules to support “in office” and “remote” days, where they come into the office for team/collaboration stuff, and they can work at home for 1/2 or the whole day
        – Keep offices for the higher rank people who have more private discussions and really do need more privacy – these offices can be reserved for general use when the boss is out
        – Invest in instant messaging, audio and video meeting tools that really work
        – Make it easy for workers to use your company’s Intranet remotely, from a laptop PC or smartphone
        – Encourage individual responsibility and empower them to make their own decisions on work/life balance

        …It requires a cultural change , without which switching to an open office plan just wouldn’t work.

        It works well if everyone comes to the office on Mondays, they work from mixed locations during the week, and work in the office again on Friday, providing a mix environments suited to each type of task. If your company is planning an architectural change without a cultural one, say something about it – try to change it. Companies don’t want to fail; they will listen to reasonable suggestions.

        1. Neil M*

          Or, in the alternative, a company could just leave things as they are and not go through the bother and aggravation of forcing people to work like grade-school children.

          Sorry…I don’t mean to sound snarky, but I have never understood what is gained from an open office environment. None of the usual justifications (More interactivity! Increased vitality!) can be achieved without forcing people face to face for eight hours a day.

    2. friendlyinitials*

      I work in a small company (we’re only 3 people) and we all work in one room. Both boss and coworker sit behind me facing my monitor, which makes me really anxious. Although I know that we’re all busy with our own work, I still can’t help but feel like I’m being watched. I would probably be a nervous wreck all day if people were randomly popping up behind me!

      But the main problem is definitely noise. Boss is kind of hands-on so there’s always some talking around the office, in addition to meetings over the phone or skype (where no one uses headphones) and since it’s a tiny room it becomes very distracting very quickly. Not to mention all the personal calls. My best friends at work are definitely my headphones and

      1. Kimberlee, Esq*

        Noise is typically something you can mitigate, though, both physically and culturally. I work in an open office plan where there are about 50 of us in one big room, and quiet is culturally enforced; we have meetings in conference rooms, and we use Slack. Conversations happen, but in general people are respectful. If anything, our bullpen is *too* quiet (we were going to get these panels installed that would both visually break up the space and mitigate some sound, and we might not do it because there’s no need). For us, it comes down to onboarding: yes, we’re an open space, you can’t expect full silence all the time and it’s OK to wear headphones, but generally if you need to talk to someone for more than a few minutes, do it on Slack or hop into a room.

        1. Noah*

          This is how it is in my office too. We will NEVER get private offices, as an ultra low cost airline it will just never happen. However, all meetings happen in conference rooms or other areas we call collaboration areas. Basically just the areas in wide parts of the hallways with couches or tables.

          You send an IM to converse with someone, even if they are 3-4 desks away. There are sometimes quiet conversations happening, but they are short questions and it is not loud.

          I get that people hate open plan offices and many never want to work in one. I actually prefer it. Even our CEO sits in the open plan. There are zero private offices.

        2. Marina*

          We actually had an interesting memo go around recently that we’re deliberately trying to do the opposite–stay at your desk if you’re on a phone call, and if you need quiet or privacy then hop into a room. The expectation is that the main environment will be, if not noisy, at least at a dull roar. This is relatively new and a change so we’ll see how it goes, I guess. But I do like the push from upper management that it is not only fine but expected to go hide when you need quiet.

    3. BRR*

      Another department next to mine talks across the room for everything. Their director even knows their to reputation as she describes them as “the loud team.” Our office culture is to heavily use IM since it’s a giant open office yet they talk all day. One of the many reasons I’m at BEC with the entire place.

      1. Christopher Tracy*

        Our division used to be that way until they exiled all the loud people to another floor, lol. It wasn’t because they were loud though – we genuinely needed the space for new hires, and this particular group was not apart of the group I’m in, they’re smaller, so therefore, easier to relocate rather than trying to find us all one floor to ourselves (we share with another division). Now our division is dead silent more often than not. I don’t think upper management knows how to handle this change because they’re always walking around marveling at the quiet.

    4. Bend & Snap*

      We have cubes so it’s not open plan, but there are 64 occupied cubes and a bunch of offices in this area and I hate it. It’s so busy and noisy. I have to book conference rooms to write or do something that requires a lot of concentration.

      My first job was in an open plan office where we were on the phones all day (conference planning) and I didn’t know enough about my needs at work for it to bother me. It would be at total deal breaker for me now.

    5. Nervous Accountant*

      We had someone quit before lunchtime on their first day, I’m guessing because of the open office plan. I assume this because after that, every promising candidate was shown around during the interview, prior to any offers being made.

      I always thought I would hate the open plan, but I work in one, and I actually really enjoy it, but I think a large part is because I really like my coworkers as well.

      1. TrainerGirl*

        I work in an open office plan in my current position, and I always thought I would hate it. But I’ve gotten used to it, and for the most part it’s not bothersome. I had a coworker who has a stand-up desk and had a bad habit of pacing around behind my chair during conference calls, but since he moved I’ve found that I don’t mind the open plan. Since our office was experimental, they’ve since begun building spaces with higher walls, so I’m hoping that we will get them too. I’m lucky that I sit with a small group of quiet people…we have customer service on one side and sales on the other, so our space is an oasis in the sea of noise around the office.

    6. Emilia Bedelia*

      I used to work in a place that had an open office plan that worked perfectly- it was a lab/factory facility so people were barely at their desks anyway (as an intern, I didn’t even have a desk!). The only people who had offices were the presidents and the supplier/finance people- the ones who actually sat at their desks all day

    7. Katie*

      I’m so glad to hear that I’m not the only one who would turn down an offer or quit a job over an open office plan. I have a friend who works in one and actually likes it for some reason, and she looked at me like I was nuts when I said I could never sit in an open-office plan.

    8. Polka dot bird*

      My area (highly collaborative, talked a lot) was moved to share a floor with the accountants (dead silent). Not the best match…

  3. Another Alison*

    Ah, that’s me! Horrible food poisoning on the very first day of my very first post-college job! I woke up and immediately knew something was wrong. Thought it was nerves, hoped I could…get it out of my system. Nope. I had NO idea what to do, so I pulled myself together and headed to my new office. I plastered on my best smile and tried to go through the first day motions, but it was really hard to care about passwords and filing systems and letterhead. I thought I could fight through it as long as I was sitting, but then they offered to take me on a tour of the collections (this was a small museum) and I freaked out that I was going to barf all over some priceless artifact and had to fess up. Everyone was super nice about it, and when I came back (2 days later) there was some joking about the job being so bad it made me ill. I definitely made an impression!

    1. KarenD*

      LOL I broke my foot my second day of work at my first “real” out-of-college job. And when I say I broke my foot, I mean the helpful co-worker who was shifting a filing cabinet next to my new desk broke my foot, by dropping said cabinet on said foot.

      And everyone was very concerned, and very sweet, and very kind, telling me to take all the time I needed to get better and being very understanding about the fact that all my doctors were a few counties away (I was still on my folks’ insurance; I was technically still enrolled in university at the time). When I came back they made sure I was mostly in the office for the first few weeks so I could get used to hobbling around on crutches.

      It wasn’t until years later that I realized they were just overjoyed that I never made a noise about a worker’s comp claim.

  4. TootsNYC*

    #2 open office

    Alison wrote: “I actually wish you had told them why you were turning down the offer though. It’s good for employers to hear that they’re losing candidates over this.”
    I don’t think it will make them do anything differently.

    Also, even if you brought it up and they gave you an office, I’d bet cash money that they’d move you out of it pretty soon, the next time someone gets promoted or a department shrinks and they want to move people closer together. There would be no guarantee you’d stay in an office.

    #1–scheduling an illness
    I seem to always get sick on the weekend, so I don’t get any fun time of my own, I don’t use up sick days, and I don’t get that semi-enjoyable “home sick in bed” feeling.

    1. MK*

      No one is going to change their office because of one candidate’s preference, true. But what I imagine Alison meant was that it’s important for employers to hear that open space offices are a negative for their workers; there is a chance that they will factor it in next time they are considering a remodel or a move.

      1. Susan C*

        Or it will signal that it wouldn’t have been a good cultural fit in the first place, which is fine too I’d say.

        For example, I’m far from a fan of open plan as a default, but amazingly, my current employer makes it work (gods know how, although I have some ideas) and wouldn’t be the same otherwise: one of our cultural mantras is the ‘5 minute rule’, ie. if you get stuck on anything for more than 5 minutes, go talk to someone else about it. Pretty sure the office layout contributes to this significantly.

        I love that, because I’m great at wasting time on trying to dig myself out of problems that could’ve been solved in a fraction of the time if I’d just given myself permission to ask for help. Otoh, I can see how some would entirely resent being expected to be approachable for this kind of thing, who need to cocoon themselves for extended periods in order to be productive, and that’s their right obviously, it’s just not how our teams work.

        1. AnonyMeow*

          I’m really curious: What do you think are the things that make your open office plan work well?

  5. Sami*

    OP #1- That would happen to me too. My immune system is a bit compromised and if I were to ever begin a new job, well, all the new people, places and things and their accompanying germs would wreak havoc on me.
    Get plenty of sleep and. wash your hands frequently. Good luck!

  6. Marina*

    #1 I got sick my first day of my current job. It was incredibly awful, I threw up in the bathroom and my brand new boss had to find me a new t-shirt and call facilities to help clean up. I stayed home Tuesday, unpaid, and was back Wednesday loaded up on ondansetron and tylenol. I apologized about a million times and everyone was very nice about it. At least they knew I wasn’t faking because I got sick at work, I guess? If I had been there a while I probably would have taken the whole week off to recover fully, but you do what you can.

    #2 Open office contributes to the whole company culture, as well. Even if you got your own office, your coworkers would probably be the kind of people who pop in for a quick unscheduled conversation, or forget to loop you in on decisions because you’re not within eyesight. There are a few problems with open offices that can be addressed (enough private spaces for meetings and phone calls, construction that reduces ambient noise and echo, etc) but the culture that led to the decision of an open office can’t be changed for one person. If you loathe open offices, probably that culture won’t work for you.

    1. Marina*

      And just for the record, since the comments are filling with people who hate open office plans, I love it. My company does it right–many meeting rooms of all sizes, appropriate technology to be easily able to work in any of those rooms as well as at your desk, flexible hours and a culture of everyone working from home one or two days a week, senior leadership in the open as well, line of sight to windows from every desk, construction and white noise that deadens a surprising amount of ambient noise. (They accidentally turned off the white noise for five minutes the other day and I was shocked that I could suddenly hear conversations on the other side of the room that had previously been inaudible.) Without any one of those things I would certainly agree that an open office would be intolerable. And yes, I’m an introvert, and yes, I get “peopled out” and go hide at least once a day. At least when I go hide in a “focus room”, no one interrupts me… if it’s not my name on the door, no one knows where I am and they have to email me the way I prefer. ;)

      All else being equal, I suppose I’d prefer a private office to open office. But I vastly prefer a well thought out open office over cubicles or sharing an office.

      1. Jen RO*

        We have this conversation at least once a year on AAM, and every time I state my preference for open plan offices. I actually worked for a short in an actual office with one coworker and I felt SO lonely! I asked to be moved in the open area as soon as I got the opportunity.

        My current company doesn’t do open affice it as well as yours, Marina (no white noise, no culture of WFH), but I still like the camaraderie and collaboration. It gets draining some days… but overall I am happy.

        1. Kimberlee, Esq*

          Yeah, I totally love the open plan of my office. And it’s much more efficient for the number of people we employ; it would be really difficult to get all 50 of us in offices, even if we shared them with 2-3 people. It certainly would be less flexible.

      2. Jaime*

        Many newsrooms — and I’m not even talking the post-Internet blogging era but old-style newsrooms — are basically open office, and are and were some of the most productive and energetic places I’ve ever worked.

        1. ThatGirl*

          Yep, my newspaper days were spent in large open rooms with no cubes or dividers between desks. But I feel like that’s a different kind of thing — we were all collaborating on one big project, I had to talk to my fellow copy editors/page designers frequently.

          Now I work in a more corporate environment, it’s semi-open, with blocks of cubicles set up – people can still come up behind me but there are partial walls and some semblance of privacy. For this kind of work I like it better.

          1. Jen OT*

            Newsrooms are a completely different beast on all fronts. Unless you are an editor, only about 50% of your working time is even spent there, sometimes less if you file from a home computer (and, even then, depending on the size of the publication and their assignments, editors may spend a lot of time away from the office, too). I loved the chaos of the newsroom when I worked as a journalist, but I would hate it as an administrator. (I don’t mind cube farms, though – so long as I have a wall and some privacy.)

            1. ThatGirl*

              Right – that was sort of my point. I was an editor (except for my college internship days when I did reporting) but it always felt like the collaborative chaos was part of the process.

              I agree, I do think fully open plans are different from cubicles, I don’t mind the cube farms so much.

        2. Boop*

          I imagine it depends a lot on the type of work being done. An open office might not work if you need to be able to concentrate really hard on a lonely piece of work (like coding or graphic design) or have lots of confidential conversations, but it might be great if everyone needs to work together and have easy access to each other/talk easily.

        3. Mallory Janis Ian*

          I wonder if architecture and other design offices are the same. Every architecture office that I know of is open plan, and I’ve often wondered if that studio culture is fairly universal for the design professions or if there are firms somewhere where the designers have actual offices?

      3. Lindrine*

        I think much worse than an open plan are dark cubicles with high walls and weird rectangle shapes. Talk about depressing. One of the locations in our area has that set up and I would not want to work there.

        1. MJH*

          YES. I hate, hate, hate cubicles with no natural light and high walls. So depressing. Give me an open office plan with windows every day. (I work in an open office now, and it’s fine. We have our own desks and low walls and I am perfectly happy. There’s a window directly behind me.)

          1. the gold digger*

            Oh! I am seeing that people are making a distinction between “open office” and cubicles.

            For me, there is only “I have a door” or “I don’t have a door.” I don’t even want a cubicle. I want a door and floor to ceiling walls and a window. I do miss the old days when this was standard.

            1. Anxa*

              Was this standard only for high-level people or bosses, or did people with more basic responsibilities also have this option?

            2. Calliope~*

              I’m in a state govt. office building with a cubicle with high walls and a door with a side window, which looks out into a hall with NO day light at all. It sucks so much. The work we’re doing has us all going through HIPAA training, but then we pull people into our cubes and discussing their personal lives where anyone standing outside our cube, or the people beside or behind me all hear the conversations. And forget it when people bring their babies, children and partners. Add that the ladies behind me are taking incoming calls discussing benefits and I sometimes go home and pray my husband is late so I can sit in silence for an hour. Thank god for the bose noise canceling headphones as my boss now has us taking college courses that must be done on company time. And I tried to talk her into letting me do the classes from home without success. ugh.. I miss my old office!

        2. Christopher Tracy*

          Meanwhile, I loved my high wall cubicle when I worked at Evil Law Firm. I was so sad when they took them away from us and gave us regular cubes. I loved being able to have my desk look a hot mess or occasionally fix my hair or eat whatever I wanted without anyone seeing me and commenting on it.

      4. Indie*

        I am always amazed a the different types of open office space that are available too! All of the companies I have worked for in my industry are open office floor plans but lots of them have been very different from each other. I was recently visiting a company we were doing business with and they all had one ultra minimalist table with no drawers etc for their desks, (And this is a HUGE company) it was odd, but it seemed like they had a fair amount of offices for senior management.

        Where as my last company everyone had cubes that came up to shoulder height, so while you could see everyone there was a definition of personal space etc. Our customers? They have all open office with half walls between divisions, and high management has a half office (doesn’t go to the ceiling but way taller, with doors, but glass windows full front looking over their employees) It all seems very odd, but there are some that wouldn’t bother me as much as others. (Also, this is standard in my industry, so I have never worked anywhere with physical offices, thus can’t judge maybe I just don’t mind cause I don’t know any better)

      5. TootsNYC*

        I find that I’m much more productive in an open office–but then I did better studying in the snack bar than in the quiet lounge. I think it’s bcs it works better w/ my never-diagnosed mild ADD.

      6. justsomeone*

        I am another open-office lover. I have my own office (everyone here does) and I am SO LONELY. I have had literal dreams about going to a company with an open office layout. The ones I’ve encountered have all been done well enough that they were collaborative spaces, but it was possible to get work done. I miss them so much.

      7. Augusta Sugarbean*

        My company does it right… So basically a bunch of qualities and activities that are non-open office.

        I’m not criticizing you. I’m glad it works for you. It’s just ridiculous to me that companies convert to the open office plan then do a bunch of stuff to make it more like traditional office spaces. Private “focus rooms”? WFH? Pretty much the complete opposite of open office.

        1. Augusta Sugarbean*

          Dang it. Forgot to close the blockquote. Alison, any chance of getting a short edit window for comments?

        2. Neil M*

          Like Augusta Sugarbean, I don’t understand why a company dedicated to the open office then designates “quiet areas” and “private nooks” you can reserve and whatever. I don’t believe in half-measures; either go open office or don’t.

          I can tell you that if I ended up on an open office I’d be reserving a “private nook” all day, every day, for as long as I could get away with it.

          1. Anxa*

            I think I understand the rationale. Not only do people have different preferences from one another, but their (or maybe it’s just people like me) preferences shift day to day.

            There are a lot of advantages to having your own personal space, but I also see the benefits of having spaces tailored for activities. I know sometimes I want a quiet, utilitarian, abandoned corner of the library sort of atmosphere. Other times a steady stream of ambient noise is great. Sometimes you need to get away from the coworker with the really loud voice, or that customer who just. won’. shut. up. and talks their way throughout every process. Sometimes being around other people getting your work done is a positive influence and inspiring.

            I think of it like moving from a man-to-man defense to a zone defense.

        3. Marina*

          The difference is that in a traditional office space, your default space is private and you schedule moving to a group space when necessary for collaboration. In my open office, my default space is public, and when necessary I move to a private space. “Open office” doesn’t mean “always in public” any more than “traditional office” means “always in your own room with the door closed”. And it makes a significant difference in work style.

          1. Marina*

            Also, in a traditional office, when you have a meeting in someone else’s office there’s a distinct power dynamic–it’s their space, you’re on their terms. When I meet with my boss, it’s in a private space that’s the same size or smaller than a traditional office, but it’s not her office or my office, it’s neutral. It makes an interesting difference. (Obviously it doesn’t eliminate the power dynamic. But it is interesting.)

    2. the gold digger*

      the culture that led to the decision of an open office

      You mean the, Let’s just convert this factory space into office space, even though there is almost no natural light anywhere and if we put offices along the walls – that we won’t let people use – then the interior people see no light at all, even though the ceilings are so low that the average man can touch them, and even though the HVAC system is designed for a factory so no matter what, someone is going to be miserable because it’s cheaper than finding space that is a humane work environment?

      I don’t buy any argument that it is all about collaboration as long as there is one single executive in an office. It’s all about the money.

      1. NoWhiteFlag*

        This. Too often the only culture that led to the decision was a cost-saving culture. Functional, business and people needs are often completely ignored in these cultures. It is all about the bottom line.

      2. LBK*

        Agreed. I have a semi-open plan in my office (all cubes, and the middle section of the floor is low cubes that you can see over while sitting) and I’ve never felt that our collaborative efforts were stunted by it. The head of our department sits on a completely different floor and I collaborate with her more than anyone else. If we’ve reached the point that we can handle remote teams on the other side of the world, I don’t buy that putting a door up suddenly makes it too challenging to allow information to flow freely.

        1. LBK*

          Also, “open” to me just implies no cubes/walls/offices, but somehow it always seems to come along with hotdesking or not desking at all, just having long tables, and that’s terrible and has no justification other than saving money.

      3. Heather*

        Bingo. Our company is doing it because they’ve closed a bunch of locations and need to stuff more people into the main building. “Collaborative” is just their code word for “cheaper.”

      4. Neil M*

        @the gold digger:

        “I don’t buy any argument that it is all about collaboration as long as there is one single executive in an office. It’s all about the money.”

        I’m with you on this. I suspect open offices are about saving money, and the justifications (More interaction! Collegiality!) are just there to make employees think differently. But I’m cynical that way.

    3. Beancounter Eric*

      I despise open offices.

      My previous company had Accounting stuck with real estate closing folks, who were constantly yammering away about…well, anything, ranging from the deals in process, to what they were doing over the upcoming weekend. Deals in process…I could cope with if it wasn’t shouting from one side of the space to the other. Low-wall cubicles, so no sound deadening. Headphones – you could only have one ear covered, so frankly, why bother?!?

      The company before that, I had a quasi-office – cubicle sized, perm walled space, but with no door. Ok until we remodeled the office and tore it out in favor of cubicles. At least there, they were higher and blocked some of the sound…until someone strolls up and demands you stop what you are working on for the CFO and deal with their problem RIGHT NOW!!

      It took me 14 years to get back to an environment where I have an office with a door and work with people who display courtesy before interrupting, and going forward, culture and office plan will be a big question on my mind when interviewing.

    4. Marillenbaum*

      Speaking of getting sick at work: when I was at my old job (college recruiting), I was at this ridiculously chi-chi boarding school in the UK–like, “Oh, Princess Margaret donated the science labs” fancy. I was not feeling so hot, and after my meeting, I was waiting in the teachers’ lounge for my taxi when all of a sudden I just KNEW, so I booked it about 15 meters to the nearest trashcan and vomited, loudly, in front of nearly all the teachers and plenty of students (glass walls). It was humiliating, but they were all so kind! I felt worse about having to cancel all of my meetings the next day because I was still sick, but if it had to happen, that was the best version.

  7. Artemesia*

    I agree on the feedback on deal breakers. I know someone who had two good job offers and would have gone with one company except they were definite even when pushed about how inflexible the hours were. He is a father and his wife works and so having a little bit of flexibility with hours — being able to take off for a school thing or a sick kid, or come in a little early or late or have an adjusted schedule is valuable to him. There is no reason for rigid face time in his field and there are pretty good ways to monitor productivity.

    When he accepted the competing offer, then they said ‘will you reconsider if we allowed some of what you asked for’ as well as offered more money. Of course having accepted the other offer, it was too little too late.

    1. TootsNYC*

      Frankly, I wouldn’t have believed them, and I wouldn’t have even considered their counter offer.

      1. Mental Health Day*

        Yeah, exactly. Especially regarding a factor/perk like “flexibility” that is almost impossible to quantify. Even if they agree to be more flexible, I bet the employee and employer are going to have very different ideas about what flexibility actually means.

  8. Chocolate Teapot*

    It was pouring with rain the first day at my new job and I got caught in it, leading to a bad sore throat by the end of my first week. Thankfully I managed to cure it over the weekend, but it is hard to show enthusiasm when you don’t want to talk because it hurts, and you think your day would be better spent not stuck in front of a computer.

  9. Biff*

    I just had an initial interview with a firm with an open office and I told them straight up I’d only consider a remote position. Even then, I’m not that interested — the culture and attitude I consistently see from companies with open offices IN MY FIELD (I think they probably work much better in other industries) is unappealing and immature. There were other serious red flags that showed up in the interview, but the open office thing is a huge deal breaker. And yeah, I do think folks need to know that it’s preventing them from getting certain candidates.

  10. Margaret*

    #5 – That sound similar to the process we have at my firm, and I agree that the time to try to negotiate is after most of the discussion of your performance has taken place, but before the partners meet to determine your raise. For us, there are a few steps to the process, but the final pieces are the partners meeting to discuss performance, and then in a separate meeting (through usually just a day or two later), the partners meeting to discuss allocating raises.

    I definitely previously saw this process as pretty nonnegotiable (but felt I’ve been treated fairly in what’s been handed out nonetheless). Though last year in my meeting in which we discuss performance (with my mentor – sounds like your counselor role – and a partner), the partner gave me my raise, and asked if I was happy with – basically giving me an opening to discuss, and he said if I was unhappy with it it could see what he could do about it. I’m not sure what would have been possible – it was a little on the lower end but I wasn’t truly unhappy with it so I just took it. There definitely wouldn’t have been tons of room – they have the overall budget for salaries, presumably, and at this point they’ve already allocated it, so certainly it wouldn’t work for everyone to negotiate then!

    Then this year, then, my mentor came to me before the partner raise meeting and asked me what I wanted him to ask for me. I’m not sure if that’s because he felt I’d been lowballed the year before, or because I’m getting more seniority and thus have more negotiating power, or what, but he made it clear that, at least in that window, I had the opportunity to request what I wanted. (And he basically had to talk me into requesting a much higher amount than I would have asked for on my own – and ended up getting it!)

    I really do think my seniority had chance with having that opportunity brought to me, and if I’d brought it up I think I’d have had a better shot now or last year than several years ago. But I don’t think it would have totally turned anyone off to at least ask, and I think being aware enough of the process to know when the appropriate time to ask is – before it’s what’s considered “finalized” – is important and will at least mean you’re not penalized for asking, and give you a shot to negotiate.

    1. OP 5*

      Interesting. Sounds slightly different from my firm in that I don’t know when the raise meeting happens and my counselor wouldn’t be involved, but similar enough. I could probably guess when the meeting would be and talk to my partner before that.

      I really wasn’t happy with my raise last year but I got a better rating this year. But instead of assuming my raise will reflect that, maybe I should make it clear what my expectations are before it’s too late.

      1. Artemesia*

        This. It is surprising how often in the workplace you only get what you ask for. Squeaky wheels always have been the ones that got greased in my experience. People like to avoid confrontation and disappointing people and so many bosses would rather push for another 2% for you above what might have otherwise occurred than have to have the conversation with you again.

  11. Chocolate Coffeepot*

    #1 — Most employers nowadays understand that you can’t always avoid germs, thankfully. As long as you mention the strep, they should be reasonable.

    Years ago, I started a new job in January. And of course that year one of the really awful flu strains was going around — it lasted 5 or 6 days, iirc — and it swept through my kids’ daycare my first week on the job. I had to take off two days that week, because none of my backup childcare people wanted flu exposure — they had young children, too. (Lesson learned: make sure you have backup childcare providers who are truly willing to care for sick kids!)

    Then I got sick the weekend after my second week! I remember being glad that I could stay home for the two worst days, but I went back to work on Monday. I would have loved to stay home longer, but didn’t want to use up a whole year’s worth of sick leave in my first three weeks on the job. Also, toughing it out and going to work sick was more expected back then. It was a way to show your dedication, as my boss told me. So thankful that attitude is disappearing!

    (As it turned out, getting the flu right away was an omen; that turned out to be the Job From Hell. Twenty-plus years later it still makes me shudder!)

  12. Emmie*

    OP 3; If you can anticipate a lull a day in advance, it might be helpful to give your manager more notice so she can fill up those times. As a manager, I have always appreciated employees who fill up their time as you have, who engage in self development, and let me know when there are big time gaps. Perhaps you could also offer to be trained and to perform as a back up for others in case of absence or their skills are needed for other projects. If you are in HR, there’s enormous benefit in offering to backfill a payroll position, learn benefits to triage open enrollment questions or triage issues, or conduct employee file audits. Perhaps there’s something like that in your department. Keep up the good work!

    1. Emmie*

      Being a back up puts employees in a place to be promoted and have extra resume skills too.

    2. Sydney Bristow*

      I was going to suggest more notice too. My situation is similar but actually finishing an assignment without another one lined up is pretty rare. If I’m approaching the end of an assignment, I give my boss a heads up with an estimated time of completion. If the OP can give even an hour or 2 of notice, I’d bet they could decrease the waiting time.

  13. misspiggy*

    In the UK most offices are open – no cubicles. No white noise, not enough meeting rooms, tiny desks, and you often can’t keep anything there overnight ‘cos hotdesking. Which means that they have slightly fewer desks than the number of people, so if you’re out someone will definitely use your desk. This is probably due to high property prices on our crowded island.

    1. Lucy (London)*

      That’s definitely not been my experience, working in several major UK cities!

    2. Dangerfield*

      It really depends on your field. If you’re one of many customer service people, then yes, that’s normal. When I worked for a bank that was how we worked. But now I’m in education and it is not normal – I’ve worked in large open-plan offices but my desk was my desk. Nobody else used it, even temping. I’m currently in a large office with two other people.

      I have never been in a UK office that had cubicles, and as a result I find them delightfully exotic. ;)

      1. the gold digger*

        I find them delightfully exotic. ;)

        I am smiling at this. :) My husband and I went to Morocco a few years ago. There was no train to our next destination, so our options were hiring a private taxi for about $50, which, granted, is a lot of money, or taking the local bus for about $2 each.

        I, having been a Peace Corps volunteer in Chile and having taken those local buses all over Latin America, said it would be worth it to take the taxi – that four hours in a super crowded bus on a bad road was not something I had ever wanted to do again.

        But Primo had never been on a bus like that and thought it would be an exotic adventure.

        After four hours of three people to a seat, even though the seats are designed for two, of sweltering heat, of dust coming in through the windows, of chickens, of crying children, of bouncing because of shot shock absorbers, of BO, he decided it wasn’t so exotic after all.

    3. Caledonia*

      I’ve worked in an open office and in a shared office (I only shared with one other but some rooms had 4 or 5 admins in them).

      Depends on the building and space.

    4. Susanna*

      I came here to say that the open office is a normal thing in the UK – I have never worked anywhere without an open office, or at least a shared one. Only executives have had their own offices. At the moment I’m glad that I’m in an open office; I’m in accounts and sit with the operations team. I overhear conversations all the time and it helps me in making decisions about closing months & anticipating the invoicing volume etc., but at the same time is pretty distracting when there’s payroll to do!

      Never had to hotdesk though; call centres etc have shared desks, but wherever I’ve worked, I’ve had my own desk where I’ve spread my personal stuff everywhere.

  14. Italianblue*

    OP 2: there are definitely good open offices and bad open offices out there – I work in interior design, and a majority of our clients are moving toward open plans. I would suggest follow up questions, to anyone concerned about the move out of a private office – you want to know things like the ratio of meeting space to full time staff (aim for 1:1 if you can), and if some of that space is unbookable small focus rooms. Is there a company culture that encourages taking short breaks, quiet spaces or social spaces, so not all things happen at the desks? If you can get a tour, even better! Sound masking and white noise help, as does creating smaller team neighborhoods. Is senior leadership also open? Or is there a hierarchy to office space? I work in an open plan with easily 50 people, and it can be near silent, or very energetic, depending on the mood. It’s really invaluable for teams that collaborate, or even just casual knowledge sharing, but does take an adjustment.
    I’d say warning signs and red flags for a space or culture are things like little to no flexibility in work location, no place like a lunch room for social life, a low meeting room ratio or policies that mean the rooms are always unavailable, and poor use of technology like chat networks and virtual meetings.

  15. lamuella*

    re: #2, My biggest problem when starting a new job is always not knowing what I was supposed to do. Being assigned things task-by-task and not knowing what is coming next is basically my nightmare. Equally as a manager I’m very well aware that my direct report needs to have tasks in line for when they finish what they’re working on. What helped me in both situations is having a bigger picture discussion. I work better when I know what I’m working towards and what comes up next, and I’ve found that I manage better when the people I manage know the context of the work they’re doing and where they’re trusted to take initiative.

    Would it be worth setting a meeting with this manager to determine what they want you to do when you reach the end of your work? It might be that you’re outperforming their expectations and they need to make more things available to you, or that they need to bring you in on the broader picture so you can work in a way that’s less task-by-task. Plus, a manager who is aware of your working speed and working style can make better use of you as a resource.

    Of course, this takes time that the manager might not have. Ironically the periods where I’ve fallen down most on making sure that my staff have adequately apportioned tasks have been the points where I’ve been the busiest.

  16. Daisy Steiner*

    People so often get sick not long after starting a new job – they’re exposed to a new set of people with new germs, so it’s bound to happen. Plus the stress that comes with a new job can wear you out and make you a bit more run down. I’m not a manager so I can’t speak to how they would feel, but when it happens to colleagues it’s almost like “Ah, yes. I was expecting that. Hope they get better soon.” The only time it annoys me is when they come in anyway – understandable, because at my work you don’t get paid sick leave till you’re out of your probation (unpaid sick leave, no problem, but not everyone wants to forfeit salary for a cold).

    1. Susan C*

      Sorry, OT, but *where* have I heard your name before? I mean maybe you’re a regular here and I’m just confused, but I feel like maybe it’s a reference that I can’t place and it’s itching at the back of my memory. Ugh! Help me out please!

      1. Daisy Steiner*

        She is one of the main characters in Spaced, the UK TV show from around 1999.

        1. Susan C*

          Huh. That’s almost certainly not what my subconscious was thinking of, but interesting.

    2. Izzy*

      I’ve gotten sick the first week of just about every job I’ve ever had for the reasons you state. The worst was when I started working for a local health department, a couple months after all the staff got free flu shots. So many sick people walk into that building, in addition to staff. I got the flu from hell for the first time in my life and was out for over a week, too sick to even get out of bed. When I did come back I was still a bit wobbly but I had been out too long so I dragged myself in. My boss suggested I work some extra hours to make up the time – appreciated the offer but no way I could do it. The HR staff were all in a tizzy because I took LEAVE WITHOUT PAY!!! My paycheck was going to be DOCKED!!! (And by the way, on my check stub “DOCKED” was in a larger, bolder font than the rest of the stub.) Good grief! I didn’t expect to be paid, because I hadn’t accrued any sick leave. I didn’t expect everyone to get their underwear in a twist about it. Fire me if you want, but I wasn’t physically able to come in.

      1. Anxa*

        As someone who’s never had leave with pay, is leave without pay worse than leave with pay?

        If an employee doesn’t care about getting paid for the day when sick, is it the too-many-days-off part of the exceeding-paid-days part that’s worse?

        1. Kalli*

          LWOP and LWP are processed differently in payroll systems. LWP means the employee gets the same amount of money as they would normally, so all it is is switching a code from salary to annual leave/PTO/sick leave, so the most effort is that someone has to decide what leave it is, see if it’s accrued and press a button. The payslip still prints as normal, and there’s no difference in the account that salaries come from.

          LWOP requires adjusting the actual amount that someone gets paid, and in a company where there is both, there are often rules (the pesky legal kind, to boot) that say PTO has to be taken first, so payroll has to check that first, and then code it as LWOP, and then the amount on the payslip is different and it interrupts the nice automatic budgeting that has x amount coming out of the account every pay period. It is more work for HR.

          Generally, people assume you want to be paid, and if you don’t, or you can’t, it’s more work and people make a big deal because they can’t understand it. Especially if alternatives can be negotiated like taking leave in advance or working extra hours – people tend not to understand why people might not want to borrow against their leave or as in Izzy’s situation, not be capable of extra hours.

    3. Christopher Tracy*

      People so often get sick not long after starting a new job – they’re exposed to a new set of people with new germs, so it’s bound to happen.

      Huh – I’ve never thought about this. I don’t think I’ve gotten sick at any of my prior jobs right away, and I don’t remember getting sick soon after starting at my current company. But when I was assigned to my official division almost two years ago, I did get sick a few months into it, and I never get sick. And then I just recently caught whatever ebola virus was going around my new division (I transferred internally in January). I always thought this was a harbinger of doom (it definitely felt that way after my experience with trying to leave my old division), but maybe I did get sick at the other places and just don’t remember.

    4. LAP*

      Whenever I read your name I hear it in my head the way Mark Gatiss, as the Matrix-esque government agent, says it.

    5. LBK*

      People so often get sick not long after starting a new job – they’re exposed to a new set of people with new germs, so it’s bound to happen.

      Yeah, there is definitely something up with the air at my office – every new person goes through a coughing spell for the first few weeks they work here.

  17. Neil M*

    Hello all. I am the open-office letter writer, although I’m aghast to associate myself with open offices that way. At the time I turned down the job I had a feeling that the work space was not subject to negotiation, and it’s good to hear that my instincts were probably correct. (I would definitely not have been a senior staffer, by the way.)

    During the interview process I got a look at the work space, and you’re basically face-to-face with your coworkers all day. I did that once, years ago, and the visual distraction was to me just intolerable, not to mention that co-workers seem to assume that if they can see you, it’s OK to idly (or not-so-idly) chat with you any hour of the day for any length of time. So I just knew in that moment that I would not be able to do my best work for that employer.

    For the record, I have never in my life had a real office, but even substantially higher cubical walls would have been better than a giant schoolroom. But now I really wish I had been honest about that when I declined the job! Lesson learned.

    Not to spark some giant debate over open offices, but I’ve never found the you’ll-interact-more-successfully-with-your-coworkers argument in favor of these environments to be very compelling. There are chat clients, there is email, and of course there is the ability to, you know, travel 15 feet. An office or cubicle wall doesn’t seem to me like a true barrier to meaningful interaction, but they sure do cut down on the nonsense!

    Thanks to Alison and to all commenters, too.

    1. Daisy Steiner*

      I don’t love open plan, but the one benefit I do enjoy is, not so much the interaction, but the general knowledge sharing that happens almost inadvertently. By comparison, if I work from home for a day I feel very out of the loop because we don’t have a lot of formal processes to find out what each member of the team is working on. Overhearing the chatter throughout the day – though, yes, it is distracting – is also an important way to stay connected with what the rest of the team is doing. My desk used to be next to the team manager’s, and I learned waaaay more about what was going on in the wider office and our team – not that I was overhearing ‘secret’ things, just that they never thought to share it more formally with us.

      1. LBK*

        That’s an interesting perspective. I think to me, it highlights a problem rather than solves one – if your only method of staying tapped into what’s going on in your department is by overhearing what other people are doing, I think that signals that more collaboration needs to be occurring. It is possible to make conscious efforts to share info like what you’re picking up organically, and I’d be worried that if I had to eavesdrop all my news I’d still be missing whatever important conversations are happening out of earshot that I should be a part of.

        Also, to some extent I think knowing what your coworkers are working on is overrated. It probably depends on the nature of your work, but in my case it’s rare that someone will be doing something I could jump in and help with that they wouldn’t have already come to me for anyway, so it’s just kind of an extraneous FYI to be aware of everyone’s ongoing projects. I have enough of my own projects, I don’t need to be worrying about what anyone else is working on.

        1. Daisy Steiner*

          I agree with your first point.

          To your second, I have the kind of job where a lot of people think they can manage without my step in the process (think something like teapot quality assurance). So it’s important that I’m physically present around people to hear them say “Welp, this teapot is looking great, I’m going to send it to the shop now”, and I can jump in with “Say, has that been QAed? Let me just take a look for you”

          1. Neil M*

            It’s funny you should say that, Daisy Steiner, because that’s *exactly* what turns me off to open offices. Since everything you say and do is public, you can’t freely brainstorm. If I say to a colleague, “I wonder if we could do X?”, I will inevitably receive a torrent of criticism and unsolicited advice from coworkers who have been taught that eavesdropping is what open office layouts are for. When I think everyone is poised to correct me before I’ve even finished my sentence, I tend to say nothing at all.

            I find that kind of thing happens even when you’ve said nothing. If a passerby sees your screen, the open office makes him/her feel entitled to offer guidance even before you’ve articulated your ideas. I work best when I am allowed to fully conceive a concept before I subject it to criticism, and so I turned down that job. I hated to do so, too, because I was *really* qualified for the work and excited to do it.

            1. LBK*

              I agree with both you and Daisy in this case – I know that when I did have a department where people were…let’s say less than careful about following the necessary procedures, my ears would perk up when I heard something going awry and it gave me a chance to jump in and steer people back on course. But on the flipside, I totally agree with you that it can be annoying when people jump into conversations unsolicited, especially if they don’t have enough context to provide valuable input. I have a cube neighbor who does this constantly and it drives me up the wall – almost every single time he chimes in, my response is “No, this has nothing to do with that.”

    2. Joseph*

      “At the time I turned down the job I had a feeling that the work space was not subject to negotiation, and it’s good to hear that my instincts were probably correct.”
      Yes. Even if you’d asked, you would likely have heard no. Frankly, from their perspective, there’s plenty of reasons to deny you this:
      1.) It will likely antagonize current employees and lead to lots of questions – wait, how come the new guy gets an office and I don’t?
      2.) Relatedly, if you’re not senior, there are likely people above your level who are in the open office – so if you go in there, then it upsets the chain. Not clear from your post, but in many open office environments, only the real senior management gets offices, so even your manager might not have an office – definitely awkward for you to have a perk your boss doesn’t.
      3.) They may not actually have the space. It’s not clear from your letter/post if they even had a spare office. Also, it’s not uncommon to be filling multiple positions at once, so even if there was free space, it might be reserved for their future bigwig.
      4.) Sets a precedent that you’re able to negotiate your way out of office standards. It’s one thing to ask for more vacation or a bit more pay, which is basically “we’re making your existing benefit a bit better”, but it’s totally different to have something completely new – especially when it’s a perk that’s clearly visible to everyone on a daily basis.

      Also, I’ve never really understood the open office trend either. You have like many different forms of communication already (email, IM, phone, text messages, physically walking). Is the ability to look up and yell across the room without standing up really that big of a deal?

      That said, I’ve never worked in an open office. I’m pretty sure it wouldn’t work out well for my co-workers – I’m one of those “doesn’t sit still” people, so I’m constantly moving my chair, tapping my foot, etc. Also, my spouse informs me that I type super-loud (enough that the sound of my fingers hitting keys can be heard in other rooms).

      1. College Career Counselor*

        +1 to all of this. I think that the OP would have heard “No” if attempting to negotiate private space, and the employer would have felt that this was a bad culture fit as well. I think I also disagree with Alison that if employers “lose multiple good candidates” over open floor plans, it will make an impact. I suspect the only impact it will make is that they *might* start putting “must be able to work in open floor plan” in the job description (don’t get me wrong, I think that’s good to know up front). I do not think it will lead them to re-consider having an open floor plan, if that’s what TPTB have decided.

        Anecdata alert: Talked yesterday with an old friend about her husband’s situation at work (tech company that rhymes with a popular American brand of shortening). They’ve gone to an open office plan, which is apparently very much an edict from on-high, to create more of a “start-up vibe,” along with the beer & Frisbee Friday afternoons. Sort of a “this is not your father’s IT company,” in other words.

        My friend’s husband has no problem with a more relaxed corporate culture, but he hates the open office plan because:
        a) it’s loud
        b) there’s no privacy
        c) he works with sensitive data and personnel information that anyone can see or overhear him discussing

        His solution has been to go and hide in a conference room to get actual work done, but this is frowned upon if you’re found out. Unfortunately, this is the only game in town for his work where they live, so he’s stuck dealing with it for the foreseeable future.

    3. AnitaJ*

      I think you’re very smart for recognizing that an open office plan would lead to unhappiness in the workplace. So often I see people underestimate the importance of an individual’s actual physical environment in the workplace, and it 100% affects your mood, productivity, and general happiness. I sat next to someone who was relentlessly negative, berating people all day long, throwing nasty gossip left and right, and it made me miserable. If I had to sit in our open office plan (long tables with monitors and no barrier between you and the person sitting next to you, I’d seriously consider if I wanted to stay here. I have a modicum of privacy in my open space, and I’m happy with it (and lucky). Way to go on being self-aware!

      1. Anxa*

        Oh it’s so true!

        Our A/C crapped out for a few hours the other week, and I got gotten more done in the that day’s free time (non client facing) than I had in the previous 2 weeks since I wasn’t literally sitting on my hands at work to warm them up, getting up every few minutes to walk around, could focus, etc.

    4. TootsNYC*

      I think the face-to-face is the worst possible open office. I’ve been in a couple of open-office plans, and that has never been part of the equation!

      1. LBK*

        I’m so glad I face into a corner now and have high walls. I have a very intense thinking face, and when I’m thinking I tend to just stare at whatever’s in my line of sight. In my old open plan setup, the thing in my line of sight was the person who sat across from me. He told me once that it used to scare him sometimes because he would glance over and see AHH! LBK sociopath thinking face! glaring at him.

  18. Colette*

    I got sick three weeks into my current job. The worst part was that I’d had email problems that had just gotten fixed, and the only other person working for one of those days was newer than I was and had just gotten a computer. I felt awful – but there was nothing I could do about it.

  19. Kate*

    #1 – Great question! I got horrible food poisoning my first week at my current job. I lucked out in that we also had a massive snowstorm, so all the offices closed, and I got to stay home without taking the day off. I had the same panicked reaction though. Who wants to call in sick their first week of work?

  20. Sydney Bristow*

    #1: I got sick the second day of a long term temp assignment at a new firm and felt so bad! To make matters worse, I had to communicate it through my agency who probably just told the firm I was sick and didn’t convey my mortification. Luckily I did good enough work for the firm to bring me back for 2 other long term assignments and then many months after that sick day, they hired me as a permanent employee. Work hard and they will forget!

    1. I'm a Little Teapot*

      I got sick my second day at a job too, though it was after lunch. I thought it was food poisoning but it turned out to be something else that took months to get over. Fortunately the company was very slow to fire, because it wrecked my performance.

  21. Moral panic*

    #3- I left my first job because I was this bored and ended up in the exact same situation for my second… sometimes it just can’t be helped. I now try to draw out my work ridiculously long and I hate it because I know it looks bad, buy at the same time it’d look bad to have nothing to do.

    When I take initiative I get crap for not being told to so something but then I’d get the same if caught spinning in my chair waiting for more work!

    Sometimes I truly loathe it because after so long of me asking, they give me really crappy work that no one wants to do – like do the dishes, clean the toilet, reorganize a massive filing cabinet…

    1. lamuella*

      What always helped me in the “nothing to do” moments was to strike a balance between taking initiative and not doing things I wasn’t allowed to do, namely to put together proposals for work, so if you’re working as teapot paint support and none of the teapot painters need any assistance, you might notice that there’s a better place to put the communal paintbrush box. Rather than moving the box, write a message to your manager saying “Hey, I’ve been observing the teapot painters and I was wondering if it would help if I moved and rearranged the paintbrush box. here’s why I think it would benefit people: (1) (2) (3). Obviously if there’s other work you need me to do, or if this wouldn’t be practical, I’m happy to work on other things instead.” It gets you the marks for taking initiative, doesn’t run the risk of getting you in trouble for doing things you weren’t supposed to do, and gets a paper trail of you having good ideas.

    2. Girasol*

      OP3 I like Alison’s advice of suggesting work one might do, but I’ve done that in a tone deaf way (my political skills are awful) and ended up worse off than before. Sometimes suggesting work can suggest that the manager is not doing her job, or lead her to fear that you’ll be a loose cannon. If you’re new, it’s easy to step on someone’s toes when suggesting to take on work that someone other employee feels they own, even though the manager is unaware of someone being on it and the job isn’t getting any apparent attention. So suggesting work needs to be done with considerable care. I had my best luck in targeting the task that everyone clearly hated, but unfortunately that came after I’d squashed toes of people who didn’t forgive me for a very long time.

  22. 12345678910112 do do do*

    #1, this has happened to me in two different jobs. I think that the stress of starting a new job weakens my immune system. In both cases, I made sure to be super apologetic and mortified in my emails, keep my supervisor in the loop about the severity of my diagnosis and how long it would take to recover, inquire about and follow all guidelines for requesting sick leave or advanced sick leave or leave without pay, and work like gangbusters when I returned. Also, request a sick note from your doctor and keep it, and maybe proactively offer it to your supervisor when you return.

    1. Anxa*

      I think as an alternative to the stress of the new job, sometimes you have a release of stress from the old job.

      I would get sick every May in college as the semester ended when I went home. It was like my body was holding it together until it could give up for a few days.

  23. Allison*

    #1, sick happens! I came down with the flu in the second week of my current job, and I’ve been here for more than two years! It helped that after a couple days of rest I was able to work from home. Managers generally understand that people get sick, sometimes at bad times, and sometimes a person really just isn’t able to work, like if they have the flu, strep, stomach bug, you name it. Now, if you’re sick a lot, there might be some concern.

  24. Tax Accountant*

    Oh the open office floor plan… What a horrible thing. When my office moved to a new building, they went from mostly offices to mostly cubes and only offices for senior managers and partners. They claimed it was because it was what “the millennials” wanted. The thing is, not a single one of us “young” people were asked what we wanted. Spoiler alert: WE WANT QUIET PRIVATE OFFICES JUST LIKE THE OLD PEOPLE DO. Maybe some young people want an open floor plan, but it’s probably not the young folks who decided to become tax accountants.

    The new floor plan made various people almost hate each other. It put everyone’s annoying quirks on display. Now we all know that Jeff is having marital problems and that Sally spends all day on Facebook and Adam eats crunchy snacks all day long. What a great boost to morale! Hate open floor plans. Give me an office with a door. Which is what I have in my new job.

    1. Anonymity*

      Once upon a time, we had what I think of as department rooms. Small cubicle farms where an entire department sat together in the same room. We got to know each other pretty well, but there was enough space and the cubicle walls were high enough that it still felt private (people couldn’t just stand up and see what you were doing). I refer to it affectionately even now as “the Cave.”

      Then they moved to an open floor plan. All of the executives of course have private offices, along with high level managers. Everybody else is in a low-walled cubicle farm. I’m relatively lucky in that I’m still surrounded by my own department, but the walls are low enough that anybody behind or beside me can just peer over the wall to see what I’m doing… while the other part of the building is so much worse (true open office – what walls there are between desks are plexiglass, so you can’t ever NOT see your coworkers, all of them).

      If our system for working from home wasn’t so objectively terrible, I’d push for that, but given just how awful the system is, I find it less aggravating to be in the office in my crappy cubicle where I can at least get things done.

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      When I started at this job, most of us were in large cubicles, and it was perfectly fine. Now we all have offices with doors, and yet I can still hear one particular coworker through my closed door and over my fan AND my white noise machine. If this person had worked here when we were in cubicles, I don’t know how long I would have been able to stand it.

    3. Friday Brain All Week Long*

      In my experience, it’s always the super extroverted exec team at the top that thinks open offices are amaaazing. And then they 1. Get their own offices, 2. Get lonely and wander out a bunch, and 3. Always remark at how quiet the open office is when they do wander out, and 4. Go back to private office.

      We actually do have one exec at my current work who Broke the Pattern and scored herself a desk right in the middle of our biggest open office room. Which is truly cool. And even as an obvious extrovert, she’ll don the headphones from time to time as needed.

    4. Anxa*

      My favorite part of this is that Millennials are simultaneously stereotyped as hating interacting with other people face-to-face and demanding extremely open offices to interact with people all day long.

  25. The Other Dawn*

    I’d definitely turn down a job that would force me to be in an open office plan. I’m very easily distracted and I feel like open plans are much more appealing to the extrovert. Introverts? Hell no. In my particular part of the industry–banking–an open office plan would create confidentiality issues. I deal with suspicious activity reporting and that stuff is highly confidential, even within the bank; only my department knows anything about what goes on, plus a select few higher-ups within the bank. The only place within the bank that I’ve seen an open plan is in the call center.

  26. Jessie*

    OP #2: Unfortunately, I think more companies are moving towards open office plans and that this may be becoming more and more the norm. At my company all of the newly renovated areas are open office plans and even many managers don’t get their own offices. Instead, they’ve created multiple “working” rooms that anyone can use if they need to have a private conversation. I know at other parts of my company they’ve even moved towards a “hoteling” method where nobody even has their own desk anymore. They bring their laptop in and hook it up to the monitors at the workstation they want to use for the day (and this is a huge company, not a startup.) I’m not saying I think it’s a good thing, but there may be more and more jobs you have to turn down if this is a deciding factor for you.

    1. Mental Health Day*

      I think you’re totally right about open office becoming the norm (until the next management fad dictates that offices are the way to go cuz all the silicon valley companies are doing it). I can kind of live with the open office environment.
      But, this “hoteling”, is just straight up BS. Having to come in and find a place to sit every day sounds like a special version of hell to me. No drawer to keep snacks/tea in. No office supplies. But, mostly its the psychological sense of not “having a place” at the company. I don’t think I would ever be able to look at the job as anything other than just a temp position, regardless of how much I was paid or how “important” I was made to feel otherwise. People need a little structure.

      1. MashaKasha*

        The “hoteling” would probably put me in the mindset of being ready to be escorted out the door at any moment. I mean, why else wouldn’t they bother to give me a desk and a drawer, unless they’re planning to get rid of me soon, or at least to send me the message that I’m easily replaceable? Even if that’s not the employer’s intention, that’s what it would probably look and feel like.

        Now, if “not having a place at the company” meant that I could work remotely full-time, oh I would be all over that one!

      2. Rusty Shackelford*

        I understand why “hoteling” works for employers whose staff aren’t usually in the office – you don’t need to pay for all that empty space. But why anyone else would use it is a mystery to me.

        1. Jessie*

          I guess the idea is flexibility when you have a matrix environment and the people you work with on Tuesday are not necessarily who you’re working with come Friday. The idea being that you can work out your desk location based on where it makes the most sense for collaboration purposes.

          To be honest, it doesn’t seem like a horrible idea to me. Although I would prefer an office, I could probably adapt to the whole hoteling thing, provided I had the resources I need. I think one of the key components of hoteling is that each work station is fully supplied with all of the tech someone might need there.

      3. Unanimously Anonymous*

        MHD, you must be channeling the executives at my company…one of their stated rationales for mandating open-plan workspaces at the new headquarters building is literally that “the most innovative tech companies” are doing it. And if the most innovative tech companies are doing it, it MUST be a great thing. Right? Right??

        Of course, none of the worker bees are swallowing the bigwigs’ BS…everybody knows the only damn thing that will be enhanced by the open plan is the amount of money available for the executive-bonus pool.

      4. Cherith Ponsonby*

        My gentleman friend works in a hot-desking place – he has a locker to keep tea, snacks, noise-cancelling headphones, etc – and hates it. The only benefit is that it’s a good motivator to get to work early so he’s not stuck with the worst desk. (Technically I worked in a hot-desking place once, but it was before laptops and moving between PCs was a pain, so in practice we each picked a desk and stuck with it. We mostly worked on client sites anyway.)

        I’ve only ever worked in open-plan offices in various configurations – I used to dream of having my own cubicle. The best and worst one was an old converted mill building on two huge levels; the upper level had high airy ceilings and lots of natural light, the lower level had high ceilings covered with pipes and ducts and no natural light at all for most of the floor. Guess which level they put the technical staff on? But at least it was consistent – the CTO was on that level too and even she didn’t have her own office – and the noise level was surprisingly low for such a large space.

  27. Miel*

    OP #1, I also had strep throat the week I started my previous job. I accepted the job the previous week and started on a Wednesday. Monday I had felt bad and Tuesday I went to the doctor, who told me I had strep. I tried to call out and start the following Monday, but HR wouldn’t let me. That should have been my first clue that job would be horrible.

  28. Aceso Under Glass*

    Even if they let you have your own office, the workflow is built around an open office. When I lived in conference rooms because I literally couldn’t work in my team room, I missed a lot of information, because no one was in the habit of considering who needed to know something.

  29. Jubilance*

    #1 – I got sick in my second week at a new job, and I was mortified but my boss was more than understanding. I had moved across the country, from a warm climate to a cold climate, in January. I ended up with a raging sinus infection and after suffering with OTC treatments, my boss told me to go t urgent care and take the next day off. That boss was really great – understanding, supportive, etc.

  30. OriginalYup*

    #2 Open plan office.

    If everything else was great with the offer and it was truly just the open plan that was a problem, I might have raised the point with them instead of just declining the offer outright. For example, by saying something like, “I’m very impressed by the company and your people. Unfortunately, I don’t think this would be the right job for me because of the physical work environment. I find open plan spaces really difficult to work in because (whatever your reasons), and I don’t think I’d be able to do good work as a result.” Most companies would probably say, “OK, thanks, best of luck.” But you never know — maybe they’d be willing to figure something out (probably only if you’re a senior level employee), or you’d discover they’re actually moving to a new location, etc.

    If it helps, I understand your concerns about open plan work environments. I hate them on principle, but ironically I actually work in a modified open plan office right now and it’s okay. (The building itself is nice and comfortable, it’s just the noise and visual distractions that are tough for me. But we’re encouraged to use quiet rooms to do concentrated work and have flexible work from home arrangements, so I can live with it.) The open plan was something I was genuinely worried about when I took this job because I didn’t think I’d be able to handle it, so I totally get where you’re coming from.

  31. Mental Health Day*

    Hate it in theory but I guess I’ve learned to adapt with headphones, tuning people out, glaring at people that decide to have an impromptu meeting right in front of my cube. I probably wouldn’t turn down a good job over it. That said, I don’t think anybody with half a functioning brain actually believes it is about communication and productivity. If it were, all the senior execs would be out on the office floor as well. I mean, they are making all the high-level decisions that require a lot of input and discussion, right? So, if it’s really about communication and productivity, maybe the higher-ups should be out on the center of the floor and us grunts can move into the offices so we can better focus on following the processes that are implemented by the higher ups? Either way, it’s clearly about construction/design costs and being able to cram more people into less square footage.

    OP, I feel you. And, yes, it is great to make suggestions and ask for additional projects and you should do those things. Want to know something you can always do that doesn’t require waiting for permission/approval from somebody else? Read everything you can about your industry. Study your competitors and the general market landscape. Get a solid grasp on how your organization makes money. This is the easiest thing in the world to do, and yet, so few people bother. This is your ace in the hole the next time you are interviewing for a promotion or another role in the same industry. Plus, if you just have a general interest in business (which you should if you are going to work in a business), it is a very fascinating exercise and will go a long way towards staving off boredom.

    No advice for the OP. Just agonizing over the fact that I have never even asked for a raise (no matter how much I deserved it) at any job I’ve ever had. God, I suck. I’ve always just assumed the answer would be NO, so I’ve focused that energy on just finding a higher paying job. That is getting really exhausting though. Goals for late 2016/early 2017: 1) grow backbone, 2) ask for long overdue raise.

    1. Susan C*

      I don’t doubt for one second that your comment to #2 stems from experience, and a very common experience at that, but (and believe me it feels odd to be *defending* open plan) I swear, some people actually put their desk chair where their mouth is.

      Out of all the locations I’ve seen of CurrentEmployer, there’s only one place where I’ve seen offices in the traditional sense, and that’s the HR floor of headquarters. The CEO, I believe, has one somewhere there as well, for prestige reasons I suppose, but he’s usually out and about as well, and my BU directors for instance occupy the row of desks where everyone entering our floor walks past.

      So, you know, open plan: not for everyone, but still sometimes a good faith effort.

      1. Mental Health Day*

        Yes, I believe that in some (probably very few) work cultures, an open plan might actually work. I don’t doubt that it is possible, I’m just suggesting that it is highly unlikely.

        Funny story from PreviousCompany. While I was there, the entire company moved into a new HQ building. Very nice building. Very open office plan. Lots of people that had offices in the old building were now out on the floor in tiny cubes. But leadership made a huge point of noting that for the people that did get offices, ALL THE OFFICES ARE EXACTLY THE SAME SIZE. OK, fine. The funny part is that they distinguished the offices by painting one wall of some of them with the kind of paint that turns the entire wall into a marker board. But this was ONLY for VP and above. If you were a lowly Sr. Director in an office you could not have the marker board wall paint, regardless of whether or not your job required a lot of design work that would greatly benefit from a marker board wall. They did this because they knew there would be a revolt from the VPs if they did not get some little extra something to make them feel special and important.

          1. Mental Health Day*

            LOL, these are VPs WE ARE TALKING ABOUT HERE. And you want to give them PLANTS?

    2. OP 5*

      I feel you. This system is good in that I’ve always gotten some sort of raise without having to ask. Now that I kind of know what to do to ask for more, I just have to work up the nerve to do it.

  32. Rat Racer*

    #3 – Sometimes it takes new jobs a while to ramp up. When new people come on board in busy companies, managers run the calculus of delegating to the new person (who may need lots of explanation/training/hand-holding) vs. giving it to someone who can knock it off in 5 minutes. A good manager will invest the time up front to train the new person, sacrificing short-term inefficiency for long-term gain – but – depends on the day, the project, the sensitivity, the sense of urgency.

    Suffice to say that over time as you get to know the ropes and demonstrate your competencies, the work will start to pick up speed. I’m willing to bet that someday you will pine for those early days when you had to beg for work to keep busy. I know I do.

    1. Ife*

      re: manager has to decide whether to give work to the new person or have it done quickly by someone who knows what they’re doing.
      That creates situations where someone has been in a role for 1.5 years and still has to ask stupid questions because they were never properly trained and did not even have access to training material. As much as it sucks to be that not-so-new person, it will suck even more for the company when the few people who can do the task correctly and quickly leave/retire. (And it sucks for the competent people because they are overloaded with work and working way longer hours than they should have to!)

  33. Julia*

    I broke my arm moving to my new job. I came in on my first day and left at lunch for doctors appointment (Monday) and had surgery on Thursday. I worked half day Monday, full day Tuesday and Wednesday then out Thursday and Friday first week. Then was only allowed half days the next week by the doctor.

    Luckily, a broken arm is a very obvious sickness. Plus it was government job so did not have access to a computer for several weeks as paper work caught up with me.

    Everyone realizes I am hard worker, but I will always get jokes about only working a half day my first day of work. They will probably tell that story when I retire 20 years from now.

  34. animaniactoo*

    For LW3, it seems like the best thing you can do is take it for granted that your manager may need up to 3 hours to find another project to assign to you OR have the time to come over and give it to you and cover it with you.

    Looked at from that perspective, I wonder if you’re not taking “Ask when you’re finished” too literally. Discussing long term down time projects is a great idea, but I think it would also be useful for you to ask “I understand that you can’t always get to me right away. Given that, would it work better for you if I let you know when I’m close to wrapping up a project and you can hand off the new one to me to start as soon as I’ve finished up the old one?”

    1. TootsNYC*

      One good side-effect of this is that, if you pay attention, or keep records, you might get really good at forecasting how long something will take. That’s major useful data for when you become a manager, or team lead, or senior colleague.

  35. ThatGirl*

    My husband got a stomach bug his second week at a new job. Even though it ended up being a really lousy place to work, they did not hold it against him when I had to call his new boss and tell them he couldn’t make it (and he really was so busy throwing up that I had to call).

  36. B*

    #1 – Absolutely sick happens but please please take Alison’s words to heart about being apologetic and stepping up to show you have a good work ethic. A new person started here in the middle of winter and within the first week called out with the flu. Now it happens, especially when everyone else has it, and is completely understandable. Except this is a case where I, and a few others, have given the side-eye and we all still do. Why? Because they came in the next day looking and sounding perfectly fine, eating as if nothing happened, and never once apologized. Even a higher-up commented about how they seemed fine and got over the flu remarkably well. Did I think they had an interview or were up to something else instead of being sick, you betcha! Has their work ethic proven to me I was wrong, no it hasn’t.

    Moral of the story – people get sick, it happens. But what you do afterwards, especially when you are new, is the true telling point.

  37. non-profit manager*

    #5 – Also find our your firm’s budgeting schedule. For two of my professional services employers, general pay increases are/were decided upon during the annual budgeting cycle, which is several months before performance reviews. Meaning department heads decide on pay increases even before they begin preparing reviews. There may be minor tweaks during review prep, but the major work is done months in advance. If this is the case with your firm, start talking with your supervisor before budgeting begins, which could be months before reviews.

  38. (Another) B*

    Luckily we can work from home (half the staff is remote) so when I get sick I just work at home so I don’t have to take a sick day. It works out well – I’m ok enough to wake up and sit on the couch with my laptop in pajamas and do work, but not ok enough to do my long commute on public transportation and deal with people all day.

    1. ThatGirl*

      We can work from home too but I’ve definitely had sick days where I was feeling SO bad I couldn’t concentrate – I worked a few half-days from home where I could muster up the energy to work for 4 hours but not 8.

      And of course not every job can be done from home.

  39. Amber Rose*

    #1: Shit happens. The weekend before my husband was to start his last job, he ended up in hospital with appendicitis. He had to delay his start date and then do a week of half days due to the pain. It wasn’t a big deal, work-wise. Sometimes bodies get sick. Reasonable bosses know. You just work around it.

  40. Kit*

    I was fired once for calling in sick my second week on the job! I went in after the firing phone call and was like, visibly gross (I had the flu), so I was unfired. I have never worked a job where calling in sick was considered a reasonable thing to do. One day. One day.

  41. Jen OT*

    OP 1: Add me to the list of people this has happened to! My husband and I got a ragingly horrible stomach flu from my father-in-law, and I had just started Week #3 of a new job. I was raised that you don’t miss work (or school) unless you are throwing up or running a fever and as a result I very rarely take sick days. As it so happened, the job was in Human Resources at the local *hospital* and it was only when my husband brought up the fact that I couldn’t bring what we had into that environment that I stopped trying to get dressed. (Trying. I could barely stand. I don’t know how I thought I was going to get myself to the office that morning.)

    I left a message for my manager and also shot him an email, turned off my ringer, and tried to go back to sleep. The next time I, er, had to get up, there was a voicemail from my manager thanking me profusely for “not bringing that in here.” In hindsight I probably should have stayed out a second day as well, though I was past being contagious at that point and though still felt horrible, I was at least functional.

    So, therefore, OP, I share your anxiety here! But I can also say now as a manager I would never, ever, ever begrudge an employee staying home due to a very contagious illness. In fact, I would probably send you home if you came in!

    1. Artemesia*

      ‘stomach flu’ remains contagious for about 10 days. The key to not infecting the office is meticulous hand hygiene after using the toilet. I know of cases where a family who were ‘over’ the stomach virus nevertheless managed to infect a family they visited; little kids are notoriously poor and hygiene and touching everything in sight.

  42. Jady*

    @2: Open Office

    Lucky you that you’re in a situation you have that option. In my area, I haven’t been able to find a job *without* an open office plan. I absolutely loathe them. I’d take a pay cut for my own office and jump at any job that would give me one. I just wish I could find one!

  43. Allison*

    #2, I get it. I just got up and moved to the office’s cafe area because two of my coworkers were having a conversation right behind me and while I get it was an important conversation, it was very difficult to focus with them talking right there. Putting in headphones and cranking up the music only helps a little, I still know they’re right there and that alone drives me nuts! Unfortunately I can’t do this every day as this cafe is often busy, it just isn’t today because so many people took the day off. And I’ve come to accept that just about every company in my industry does open plan offices, with the flexibility to work from home once a week – don’t get me wrong, that part is great, but then I gotta spend the other 4 days of the week trying to work with constant conversations all around me.

  44. Anon Moose*

    #1 Nobody (or almost nobody) would want a coworker to come in with strep throat or other super contagious illnesses. I don’t like people who try to push through more minor things like colds and then infect the whole office. Its good it happened on the weekend but just take care of yourself (and be respectful of others) whether you started yesterday or have been there ten years. Its a sign of a good environment if they don’t hold something against you that you can’t control, like an illness.

  45. Gaara*

    #3 — part of managing your workload is to figure out when you’re going to finish your current projects. I don’t know the details of your position, but can tell your manager, “Hey, it looks like I’m going to wrap up XYZ by later this afternoon, is there something I can work on once I finish?”

  46. Lauren*

    #2 – it depends on the open office for me. Is it one long lunch table? or cube farm? The lunch table with no designated seating is worse to me.

  47. Bevina del Rey*

    #1–This happened to me. I started a job on a Wednesday and was feeling great. By Friday I felt like crap but toughed it out, waiting for the weekend to rest. Turns out I ended up having the worst flu I’d had in years and missed the ENTIRE NEXT WEEK, which has never happened to me (being sick enough to miss a full week of work.) I was so very upset. I called my new boss at home on Sunday night and told her how miserable I was feeling, and that I was so upset that it was happening as I was just getting started. I told her I’d check in with her the next day, which is when I started feeling worse. When I called again, and said I was going to urgent care, she said, “What concerns me most is not that you’re sick, but that you’re worried about being sick, which will make you sicker. Things happen–please just take care of yourself.” That helped, although I still felt anxious about everything. I got a doctor’s note but she didn’t even want to see it.

    In the end, again, we’re all human. I kicked ass at that job and got promoted and got a raise after 1 year. Don’t forget that people have hired you based on your interviews and experience on paper, and if you’re transparent and not dramatic about being sick, if you have a good boss, you’ll be okay. If a boss handles it poorly, there’s a red flag for you.

  48. Former Retail Manager*

    #2…this is such a timely post. We are currently scheduled to get a large number of new hires in our building which has created a space shortage potentially requiring the sharing of cubicles. While not an open plan, I do not like not having a designated space of my own to keep my own things with me. It makes me feel like a baglady of sorts lugging all sorts of stuff with me daily. It wasn’t until this issue was brought to the forefront that I really realized how important it is to me, to the extent that it is a deal breaker.

    I don’t think you did the wrong thing. No matter how great the job itself, being in an environment that makes you uncomfortable isn’t worth it. And I agree with Alison in that you should have told them why you were turning down the offer. If enough candidates turn down offers for the same reason, it might make them poll their current employees, of which a fair number are likely to also dislike the open plan.

  49. LH*

    Op#2: Having an office is a rare luxury from my experience so be prepared to turn down a lot of jobs if this is your priority. I’ve been in the workforce for about 6 years now and every office I’ve worked in has been an open plan layout or small cubicle farms with low walls, only the Directors and C Suite have their own offices. I dream of having an office with a door I can close.

    I’m curious if expectations of private/shared offices is industry specific. My experience with open offices has been in the following industries: technology (software and hardware start ups), advertising, insurance, non-profit, university.

    1. Windchime*

      Yeah, offices are only for managers and above where I work. It would be extremely tone-deaf to ask for a private office in my company.

    2. Alienor*

      I’ve been in the workforce almost 20 years and have never had a private office. I work in an open plan now and dearly miss the high-walled cubicles I used to have. My last one was oriented so I faced the entrance, which was the best thing ever–I felt like I didn’t even need a door as long as people couldn’t walk up behind me.

    3. NicoleK*

      For the majority of my career, I’ve had to share an office with other people or had a cube.

  50. That Marketing Chick*

    #1 That actually happened with my new hire. She had been here a week or two, and got really sick. I would MUCH rather someone take a sick day than come in sick and infect me. In fact, I get a little ticked off when people come in sick – especially if I end up catching it.
    She was very concerned about being sick as a new person would look to everyone, and as a single mom she was also worried about calling in sick and not getting paid (she had no PTO yet of course); and I know she really battled over what to do. As her boss (and luckily, I knew her before I hired her and knew her integrity), I did my best to work things out with her and try to convince her that it wouldn’t reflect poorly. We managed to work out one day without pay and a couple of “work at home” days where I knew she wasn’t really working much because she was so sick.
    I choose to try to look at it how I would want my boss to treat me in the same situation. I know she was extremely relieved and appreciative; and this type of support strengthens office relationships.

  51. Anna*

    For # 3, just from my personal perspective, I’ve worked somewhere that when I was hired on, I was told about recent layoffs and I was bored in my first week, with very little to do. My supervisor was clueless and I just felt SO weird about asking for work because it did nothing for me. Soon I was let go, about 8 months later.

    On the other hand, I’ve been in situations where it’s actually beneficial to my career! Asking for more work can lead to great opportunities! So is there anyone else aside from your supervisor who works with you? If so, can you ask them about helping them with projects? Do other people seem bored? Maybe it’s just that time of year of slowness, if so. Also, I’ve learned if there is something specific I can offer help on, my boss/senior coworkers are more likely to say ‘yes, please help!’ than if I generically offer help (which I feel like leads them to spending too much time thinking of what to say and then they forget).

  52. Pennalynn Lott*

    LW1 – I started a new job back in 2008 and it came with a two-week training period. Everything was fine for the first week, but Sunday evening before Week Two my gallbladder decided to finally give up the ghost (I’d been having gallbladder attacks, but this time I ended up heading to the Emergency Room via an ambulance). I had met my manager (she was in the training class with the rest of us new hires), but I didn’t have her phone number. So I called the recruiter and asked him to relay back to HR and my manager that I was in the hospital awaiting surgery.

    He never did.

    My manager finally called me on Wednesday to see if I wanted my final check mailed to me or if I’d come in to pick it up. I was like, “Wha—?? Didn’t the recruiter call you?” She thought I’d No-Call-No-Showed. She also was a royal b*tch to me for the entire time I worked there. I’m not sure how much my gallbladder-ectomy played into that, though, because she was pretty awful to the rest of the women on the team, too.

  53. Vicki*

    #1 I came down with Chicken Pox in my first month (I think it was the third week) of a new job.
    (I was 32; chicken pox as an adult can be gruesome; I was lucky). I had to stay home for a week before I was not longer contagious. It happens. (And it’s a good test for how the company reacts to a sick employee; if your manager wants you to come in anyway, you made the wrong move.)

    #2 Open offices are appalling. I’ve had a few of interviews at companies that have them. The worst was one long room with 5 long rows of desks. It looked like a call center (but it wasn’t). Each time, I’ve continued the interviews because I might learn something. And I ask how people like the open plan. Most of them wear headphones and live with it.

  54. Kalli*


    I also turned down a job because it was in an open office. However, I did bring it up at my second interview (they let slip it was between me and someone else), and said that as I work better independently, and I’m very quiet and introverted, I wanted to know what strategies they had to manage interruptions and social interaction during the day.

    Their response? “It’s not an issue. We have a really loud person sitting next to an introvert like you and they get on fine.”
    They went on to say “And people work together just fine; we had two people miss the Christmas party last year because they volunteered to finish up an important task instead.”

    I reiterated that it made me uncomfortable, said that I wasn’t sure it would be a great match – they also said “if it’s really important, people have to book meeting rooms so they aren’t interrupted”, and I personally hate having to move everything I need into another room just to work – and outlined an experience where open offices had impacted my work. I also let them know that was the only thing I was concerned about.

    I didn’t get the job. They haven’t changed their offices. But being miserable is not worth the money you have to take out of your pay to fix that, whether it’s therapy, investing in an mp3 player and your own headphones, or building your own cubicle. But you’re not the only one!

  55. Susan*

    1. This happened to my boyfriend and he was mortified. He had been unemployed for a long time and was so thankful for the break. He ended up being very, very sick and had to miss 5 days. I think he did all he could, just communicated daily and as far ahead of time as he could. I’m not sure if he made a good impression, but he would have made a worse impression (I think) if he wasn’t so diligent about the updates. He’s now been there for about 6 months and gets very positive feedback, so it’s good to keep in mind that any judgement your employer will make is only temporary (assuming you’re a good employee).

  56. ATXFay*

    I understand the concern for not wanting to be out during your first week. I wasn’t out my first week, but rather out for a week during my second month because I contract viral meningitis. Full blown in the hospital for several days – I was convinced that my new firm was going to think that I was trying to take advantage of our unlimited sick day policy. We were also in a new city and had no family nearby.. it was very stressful. I even needed to have my husband call & email the several people I report to on my behalf.. I was mortified (though really too sick to do anything about it). I was very fortunate that my new team was really understanding and supportive – even to the point that one of the women went out of her way to reassure me (and my hubby!) that I would still have a job no matter how long it took me to get well. Happy to report that I’m all better now.. and will hopefully never, EVER have that happen again.

  57. Adlib*

    I know people get worked up about pay at work, but I’ve asked my managers (at various places) several times for raises and usually get them. What’s the worst thing they’ll say, “no”? If so, at least then you know and can proceed accordingly (whether it’s sucking it up or looking for employment elsewhere). People raise their eyebrows at me a lot like it’s the scariest thing you can do, but that’s been my experience!

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