who should pay for a medical emergency while on work travel, office AC wars, and more

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

1. My office is fighting over the AC temperature

Our office has a bit of a stalemate when it comes to air conditioning. After a lot of discussion and debate, 77 degrees was decided as a compromise indoor temperature during summer.

You would think that setting the thermostat to 77 would solve the problems, but it hasn’t for various reasons. Firstly, certain desks (in the line of the A/C units) are much colder than others. I’ve tried to encourage people to prefer colder temperatures to move to those desks, so far unsuccessfully.

Secondly, people near the window like the windows open for a summer breeze. But only a small minority of desks are adjacent to windows.

Finally, the 77 degrees compromise was not one achieved in happy harmony, but with a lot of discontentment on both sides!

The current status quo is that the air conditioning is turned on or off, by individuals, unilaterally (windows are opened when the AC is turned off). This seems to go in cycles of about 45 minutes. I have the authority to make changes – the question is should any changes be made (or is the current situation the best compromise), and what should be they be?

If people who want to be cooler have the ability to move to cooler desks and are declining to, why not tell them that they need to do that before registering further objections to the temperature (assuming that moving wouldn’t impede their work)? Second, tell people who are too cold to bring in layers, which is a time-honored method for dealing with offices that are too cold but can’t be warmed up without overheating other people. People who are too cold can add layers, but people who are too warm often can’t remove more clothes. 77 is far from freezing, so it’s not like you’re going to be telling people who are too cold to type to suck it up.

Third, tell the people opening the windows to stop it because they’re messing up the temperature for others. If they want a summer breeze, they can get desk fans.

There. We’ve solved the office AC wars.

Ha ha! As if. They will never be solved. But those steps might help things in your particular office.

2. Who should pay for a medical emergency while on work travel?

My company’s headquarters are in San Diego, and I work in a D.C. office. While on a weeklong work trip to San Diego, I got a nasty cough. During this trip, I was working a lot, so it was only Friday night when I woke up unable to breathe that I called the 24/7 nurse line on my insurance card. Nurse tells me I have to go to the ER within an hour and gives me the address to two ERs covered by my insurance. I go, they pat me on the back, diagnosis me with walking pneumonia, and send me on my way. I continue to work the rest of the week.

Now I have an ER bill for $700 even though it was in-network. I asked HR if they could cover part or all of that cost since it was work travel and they said no. From my point of view, if I had been at home or not on work travel, I would have gone to my doctor or an urgent care, not the ER. From their point of view, they’re saying “that’s really unlucky, sorry!” Is this something HR should cover? How hard should I push for even partial reimbursement?

Oh, that sucks. I’m sorry! I definitely see your logic, but I don’t know if there’s one universal answer here. If you were my employee, I’d try to pay the bill or at least split it with you. But I think a lot of employers who would take the stance your company is taking, figuring that sometimes you’re going to be out of town when you get sick, regardless of your reason for being away, and that’s just how this stuff goes.

But I do think you have some room to try pushing back, pointing out that work travel is already tough enough without having to pay $700 medical bills on top of it. (And if your manager is a generally sensible or/or sympathetic person, you might talk to her about it too, not just HR.)

I’d be interested to hear from readers on this one, if people want to tell us in the comments how their company would handle this.

3. Am I being inflexible about how my boss handles our meetings?

I have been brought up (perhaps rather strictly) not to disturb the boss. If the boss wants a word, they will come to you, and if you have an unscheduled meeting, they’ll seek you out when they have time. Scheduled meetings should get cancelled as soon as one of you realizes you can’t make it, and in general if there is no fixed meeting place, then you try to catch each other at the coffee machine so that you disturb your coworkers as little as possible.

My latest boss however seems to have very different ideas. It took me about a year to realize that no matter if the meeting was informal or not, he seemed to expect me to come pick him up at his desk. He’ll never cancel or reschedule a meeting that he can’t come to — ever. Not even if he has a personal engagement plastered all across it in his calendar. Basically this means that I either have to interrupt my work to go pick up a boss who isn’t there, or keep one eye on his calendar at all times. When I cancel a meeting, however, he’ll dutifully reschedule, even when I tell him that there’s no need, we can do it during the next one. Last time I asked him if we should have our scheduled 1:1 (after I’d stubbornly waited for him outside his office for 10 minutes), he told me “if you want, boss” and I totally blew it, telling him that perhaps we should drop 1:1’s from now on, and just schedule meetings when we actually had a need to.

However, it has since come to my attention that his boss does exactly the same thing. Am I wrong (or overly inflexible)? What is the best way to proceed here?

Yeah, you’re being kind of inflexible. Some managers work the way you described in your first paragraph, but others don’t. You generally need to adapt to the manager you have now, not the ones you had previously. This one expects you to come to him when it’s time to meet. It also sounds like he isn’t good at managing conflicting appointments, so it would be smart for you to check his calendar ahead of scheduled meetings to make sure he still has the time free. That’s definitely annoying, but since you’re unlikely to be able to change it, you’re better off figuring out how to work around it.

It also sounds like it would be helpful to talk with him about how he wants you to handle this stuff generally. You could say something like, “I know you’re really busy and you sometimes end up needing to schedule over our meetings. I don’t always realize that’s happened though, and so sometimes I end up waiting outside your office for a while. What’s the best thing for me to do when I come to you for a scheduled meeting and you’re not free? Should I wait, or interrupt you, or reschedule it for later?” Who knows, you might hear that he wants you to interrupt him. But ask — there’s no point in trying to read his mind about what he’s going for here, especially when it’s making you this frustrated.

4. Asking about the job of a colleague who died

A long-time colleague in my office suddenly passed away a few weeks ago. It was a huge shock to all of us. She and my boss were very close and worked together almost 20 years. I’ve worked here for about four years and am also deeply saddened by this.

Her job is now open and I don’t know how to ask about it. I don’t want to seem insensitive or rude because I do really feel bad that she passed away. But my job has a habit of being “hush hush” about job openings and quickly filling positions before you get a chance to apply. This is a small office and it’s the only position I’m qualified to move up to. How do I go about asking without coming off as just caring about her position? And how much time should I let go by before asking? I want to give my boss her space and respect to grieve. My main focus is to respect everyone’s grieving period, respect the loss of our friend, not come off as pushy or disrespectful, but not miss this opportunity for promotion. What should I do?

It would definitely seem premature if you brought it up right after she died, but since it’s been a month, I think you should be fine. I’d say it this way: “I don’t want to bring this up prematurely, but at whatever point you’re ready to think about filling Jane’s position, I’d be interested in talking with you about it.”

{ 607 comments… read them below }

  1. Delaghetto*

    I’m one of those people who is always cold.. and I do mean always. I bring a light jacket with me wherever I go, even during the summer. If the people who are cold aren’t willing to move to the desks that are not as close to the air conditioner, then I don’t see what else the manager can do except tell them to bring light jackets and/or layer up.

    1. Senior Technical Writer*

      Before menopause, light jackets would not do it for me. I was always always always cold, and I wear trousers, bring a jacket, and whatever else I need. And although in theory, cold people can dress to be warm, the cold can really tire you out after a while. Imagine having to work outside for eight hours on a chilly day!

      I think I’ve seen here before suggestions for electric foot warmers or other types of heating pads. I think for the cold people they could really help. Perhaps the company could buy them for the people who need them?

      1. Artemesia*

        but 77 is so not cold. I mean people are usually walking around outside in shirt sleeves at that temperature. I could understand fussing about cold if it were set at 68, but 77 is more likely to be too warm for most people.

        1. Pomona Sprout*

          77 would definitely be too warm for me! I’m one of those peopke who is almost always too hot, and having to work in 77° would just about kill me. (Especially on those days when the menopause fairy decides to go overboard with the hot flashes). I’d probably be fighting to sit at one of those “colder desks,” but it’s hard to know if even those would be cool enough for me to function well.

          Also, what Alison said about being able to add layers but not necessarily remove more clothing is sooooooo true. At 77°, the amount of clothing I’d probably have to take off would be downright indecent,

          1. Project Manager*

            It is not universally true that one can just add layers. It’s better after having children, but before I did, there were many days when I shivered in misery in my office, which was usually low 70s, no matter how many extra layers I piled on. In the summer, I used to take breaks to go sit in my car just so my muscles would relax for a few minutes. And when I was 9 months pregnant in August, I still needed a sweatshirt in my office.

            That being said, I’m the one well outside the norms, so I just suck it up and deal (and always park in the sun). And I think 77 is going to be too hot for too many people. I’d never ask my office to go that hot.

            This is a case where you have to use utilitarian ethics – choose the temp that minimizes the overall discomfort, offer accommodations like moving people closer to/farther from AC vents as desired, and everyone just has to deal. Sounds like this office has done the first two (even if 77 sounds hot to me) and people are stuck on the third.

            1. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

              There is something about being motionless with cool air blowing on you vs being outside and doing something in the same temperature. 65°F and I’m outside with no coat is fine. Sitting at my desk, I’ll be wrapped in a blanket, wearing a coat, hat, and gloves and probably still cold

              1. Koko*

                Yes, it’s all about the air current. I keep my house pretty warm in the summer, both because I like it warm and for energy costs, and I still find myself needing to grab a blanket sometimes because of the cooling effect of the air movement from my ceiling fan.

                It’s the same reason a house on a forced air furnace feels chillier than a house on radiator heat. The air movement creates a draft and it causes an evaporative cooling effect on your skin.

              2. JD*

                Yes. This. Our office AC blows down on my desk. Everything I touch is cold. And AC feels different than cold.

                I used to work in a warehouse in Canada in winter where the bay doors were mostly open, but since I was moving around, standing, etc, it was better than being chained to my desk with AC blowing on me.

              3. Mookie*

                Same for me. I live in an arid climate that under most circumstances I would characterize as hellishly too-hot and not nearly gloomy enough, but sitting still in artificial light without access to exterior air or some kind of hardscape reflection lowers my body temperature and my Raynaud’s flares up immediately to the point that my teeth chatter (so loudly people who don’t know me think I’m acting). It’s a very strange cold-from-the-inside sensation that nothing but a small heater aimed directly at my face and chest can solve. And I can’t subject co-workers to that, it would just seem unfair and disruptive when everyone else is sweltering.

            2. LAF*

              Amen. I hate when people say “if you’re cold you can just add layers.” For one, there are only so many layers you can add and still look professional. For some jobs it wouldn’t matter too much if you wore a snuggie, but for some, it definitely does. Also, people’s extremities tend to get coldest, and generally you can’t wear gloves or mittens and still perform basic job duties, like say, type on a computer. That being said, I do my best to wear extra layers when I know I’ll be in a place where I can’t control the temperature (I’m lucky enough to have my own office where I control the thermostat right now), but it isn’t fair to dismiss all the cold people by saying “just wear more layers!”

              1. JB (not in Houston)*

                Yep. I always have at least one cardigan on, and i keep foot warmers at my desk, and I sometimes have to resort to fingerless gloves. At my office, the rule seems to be “the people who get warm should never have to be the least bit uncomfortable because the cold people can just keep piling on layers until they can’t put their arms down.” It sucks that I have to stop work multiple times a day to go run my hands under warm water or sit on them to warm them up. All the women at my office have space heaters, which only sort of help. “just add more layers” only works if the office is only slightly on the cool side.

                1. Sarah*

                  I agree. But this office is set at 77 degrees (!!). By any measure that is not cold. I am also someone who tends to run cold, and if my office were keeping the AC at, say 65 degrees and telling me to just add layers, that would not work for me. But 77 degrees is much more likely to make the average person too hot versus too cold.

                2. K*

                  My father-in-law got me fingerless heated gloves that plug into my PC. It’s easy to type because they’re fingerless. I just have to remember to unplug them before I get up from my desk or I get yanked back by the cord.

                3. JB (not in Houston)*

                  @K I had some of those but found them too bulky. I should try a different pair.

                  @sarah I wasn’t addressing the OP’s office temperature. I was addressing the general, often-untrue advice of “cold people can just add more layers.” So I’m not sure why you’re addressing your comment to me. If that was your polite way of pointing out that not addressing the OP specifically is off-topic–point taken! :)

                4. The OG Anonsie*

                  It’s probably not actually 77 if a lot of people are still cold– the thermostat’s reading vs what the actual temperature in a very large space is are rarely the same. Whatever takes the temperature reading is probably in a much warmer spot than where most people (or at least the cold people) are sitting.

                5. Londontown*

                  This! I seem to always have a desk right under the aircon draft. I agree just enough layers do not do the trick. I currently sit with a blanket in my office. I might just start telling the people who are to hot to get a fan or bring cool packs into the office. And 77 degrees in the office may not feel like 77 degrees when there is a constant blow of air. It also depends on the humidity 77 degrees feel like 77 or more or less.

              2. Lance*

                I don’t think anyone’s fully dismissing it, but at the same time, if you’re too cold, there’s some room to add a layer or so to try and help with it; if you’re too warm, there’s generally no room to remove any layers at all.

                1. The OG Anonsie*

                  This is only partially true– one thing no one ever suggests when this comes up is for the people who are hot to wear performance fabrics that help keep you cool. There’s a loooot of business wear out there these days, and not even just expensive stuff, that is made of athletic type fabrics meant to keep people cool when they have to be buttoned up. Once I discovered this stuff I never ever went back, the difference is HUGE.

                  The people who are cold should add layers, like, obviously. But I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that they are and are still cold, at which point I think it’s pretty reasonable to say “hey hot people, you should also be making some different wardrobe choices so we can find some middle ground here.”

                2. Nic*

                  You’re right in that there is room to add a layer or so. At work to be something close to comfortable in the summer (I never actually get warm) I make sure to have two long sleeve shirts, a jacket, long pants, socks, boots, hand warmer (usually against my neck), fingerless gloves, and blanket. About the time I warm up enough to remove the blanket the AC will kick on.

                  There’s technically some room to add some more layers, but if my “too warm” colleagues are wearing long sleeves and it’s summer, it would be lovely if they’d consider wearing short sleeves and allowing me to be closer to comfortable without looking like Mrs. Whatsit.

          2. Kyrielle*

            Yeah, at 77 I’m not comfortable if I’m dressed appropriately for pretty much any office. I’d be begging for the iciest of the cold desks. And I might still be uncomfortable.

          3. Getting There*

            I’m one of those “always cold” people, but I agree with you! 77 degrees is even too warm for *me*, and I’d probably start feeling uncomfortable at some point during the day. Of course, a lot depends on the unit and the building; 77 in one location could feel cool, whereas in my house, it would be almost as though there were *no* air conditioning. I think 74 or 75 would be a more reasonable temp.

            When I lived and worked in the deep South, I learned early to keep a sweater or jacket with me in the car at all times. The area where I lived just loved arctic cold A.C., my office being no exception. I’m quite cold blooded, so I just dressed more warmly. I have sympathy more for the people who run hot, (although I don’t understand them, LOL!!) We cold reptile people can bundle up. The warmies are stuck.

            1. Chandra*

              If it is very humid, maybe, maybe I can see 77 being too warm. Otherwise I personally have a fan on and my house set at 82-84 most of the time during the summer. I find 79 chilly when inside a building. I am legitimately always cold. I work a pretty physical job and I still always have a scrub jacket on. At around 68 my teeth literally chatter. There has to be compromise on all sides. If the warm people aren’t willing to move to the coldest areas than I would be pretty miffed at having to be constantly cold.

          4. Office Manager*

            I hope the OP and others in her office aren’t holding it against people for simultaneously being too warm but also not wanting to move to the “cold” desks. The cold desks are cold because they have air vents blowing on them, and some of us can NOT stand to have air blowing on us. I have super sensitive eyes and have been the annoying one to building maintenance departments in the past, trying to get air diverted away from my desk so I can even function. Just yesterday, I was wearing sunglasses at my desk because our lately-smoky air had cleared a bit and it was just TOO sunny outside, and the light hurt my eyes. So yeah. I’d be able to function at 77, but would be feeling a bit too warm, but wouldn’t be able to move to a colder desk, either.

        2. Surrogate Tongue Pop*

          Yup, 77 isn’t cold. But, in order to reach that ambient temp across the office, there may be pockets of huge coldness from vents that are in the 60s in order to keep the general office at 77. My office (which is supposed to be 74) can never get this right, either, and we are in FL. I can walk the length of the building and go from freezing to not freezing. No matter how many times we contact facilities, it’s just the way the HVAC is set up for our building. So…we have our “afternoon sweaters”. A few people have tiny desk fans and a few people have tiny, approved, non -tip, desk heaters for under their desk area. Or…we just go outside for a hot minute to warm up!

          1. Koko*

            Same here. We have a lot of space, most of it encased in glass for LEED reasons. Climate “control” really overstates our abilities. The amount of sun coming in the glass largely determines the temperature in any given spot. We all have fans and sweaters/afghans at our desks to deal with it.

            1. Natalie*

              At my old office this worked really well for me, as an “always cold” person – I got to snag a desk on the window line where we got the most solar gain, and I didn’t have a desk neighbor because no one else wanted to sit in the sun with me.

          2. Samata*

            I was going to say something similar but will just tack on here. We had this problem at old job. Pockets were hot, but areas near a vent were cold because the air was almost constantly blowing a temperature much colder than 72 to keep the office at that temperature. We basically told the chronic complainers to move or shut the F up. But in very nice, HR appropriate terms.

          3. Ama*

            Many years ago I worked in a building that was a full city block long, and our floor was open from end to end. For some reason all the a/c vents were on the East end of the floor on which I sat, which was particularly poor planning since all the windows that got afternoon sun were on the West end. So that side would complain, they’d crank the a/c and then we would be freezing . We actually started keeping a thermometer at the desk next to mine and more than once it dropped into the 50s.

            Moving desks wouldn’t have worked because anyone would have been too cold on the East end desks and too hot on the West end desks . On the East end I kept a sweater and a fleece blanket at my desk, and I knitted a pair of fingerless gloves for a coworker who sat directly below the air vent and was so cold she couldn’t type. The last year I had that job, some restructuring resulted in me moving to a desk on the West side and I spent the entire summer trying to find nice linen or cotton work blouses that wouldn’t make me a sticky sweaty mess by the end of the day.

          4. ErinW*

            My office is the same. We work in an architectural addition to a 100-year-old building. Some of the rooms (my office included) don’t even HAVE vents. No windows, either. So the air conditioning is on, but it makes no difference to me in my corner. With an app on my phone I have logged the room temp as high as 85 degrees in the summer. I have a small desk fan that blows directly on me at all times.

            On the plus side, I never get cold in the winter, while my window- and vent-having co-workers are wearing coats and gloves.

        3. Sans*

          Yeah, 77 would kill me. I’d have to come to work in a bathing suit. And trust me, no one wants to see that.

          1. JD*

            HAHA! One of our senior geologists used to threaten to take his pants off if we (cold girls) touched the thermostat ONE MORE TIME! Nobody wanted that.

        4. aebhel*

          This! I’m usually too cold, but 77 is t-shirt weather, and I’d probably be boiling if I had to wear anything resembling professional clothes.

        5. Merida Ann*

          I also wonder if it’s *actually* 77 degrees, or if maybe the thermostat is off. I think it would be worth it to get a standalone thermometer (like the ones they sell to put on your patio) and use it to check the actual temperature in the office to make sure the thermostat is accurate. Then you can also take the thermometer around the office and get an accurate reading of the cold spots.

          Personally, I’m always cold in my office, which is set to 74. I always wear a sweater and long pants and close-toed shoes, but I still usually have to go outside a couple times a day to “thaw out” my hands and nose. I get that there’s only so much clothing people can take off if they’re hot, but the amount of clothing we cold people can add isn’t infinite, either and there is no work-appropriate clothing that would warm my nose. And desk fans are a cheap and easy option for people running hot that won’t throw off the AC system the way a desk heater at my desk would.

          1. heatherskib*

            This! We worked in a sub basement one year- we were always freezing. the maintenance guys would come in, use their laser thermometers and tell us it was 72. One winter the condensation catcher bags from the ceiling were frozen- but they still insisted it was 72.

            1. hayling*

              FREAKIN LASER THERMOMETERS! Building maintenance people are so insulting with them. The surface temperature is totally irrelevant to how it feels at your desk under a vent.

              1. motherofdragons*

                Agreed! My office was FREEZING for a time, such that I asked to have maintenance called in to address it. The guy pointed his laser thermometer at the vent in the ceiling and said, “It’s reading at 105.” and just sort of looked at me. I just showed him my fingers, where the nailbeds were nearly blue, and pointed to the thick blanket I keep on my legs. I don’t care what your fancy laser says, dude, I’m COLD!!

          2. Mike C.*

            If you want to do actual measurements, get a thermocouple attachment to a voltage meter. That patio thermometer is going to be absolutely useless in comparison.

          3. Lindsay J*

            At one of my jobs we had a locking cover over the thermostat so you couldn’t change it. (Due to people fighting over whether it should be 70* or 71*) and a thermometer taped to the outside so you could see if maybe it was malfunctioning and it was way hotter or colder than that. (It was a small analogue thermometer, too, not a digital one, which made seeing small variances in temperature more difficult.)

            I was ridiculously cold at my last job all the time. Thankfully I didn’t have to look all that professional so I usually had a big fleece lined hoodie on, and other things I tried included layering leggings underneath my pants, big thinsulate lined hiking boots, Uggs, and my favorite: USB powered warming fingerless gloves (with a mitten thing that flipped over the tips if I wasn’t typing). Unfortunately, a lot of those would not fly in a more professional office.

          4. LB*

            Yes! I’m an always cold person and sit by a very large, vintage window that loses a lot of heat. Our property manager insisted that the office was heated to 73, so I had no grounds to complain and I was not allowed to get a separate heater for my office. I got an independent thermometer, placed it on my desk and showed that my office was consistently 60-62 degrees. He finally agreed to let me get a space heater.
            Fortunately, it’s a non-issue in the summer, as we all have window ac units, so I simply never turn mine on unless I have meetings.

          5. TheOtherLiz*

            @Merida Ann … IT ME! “there is no work-appropriate clothing that would warm my nose.” I have a coworker who has a down comforter on her lap most work days, and got special magnets to block the air flow out of her cooling unit.

            1. Merida Ann*

              By random chance, the AC actually went out in my building for a while today. The thermostat in my room (just a readout – I can’t change it) was at 76.5 when I finally took my sweater off, max temperature it showed was 78 (and I was still comfortable), and then the AC came back on and when I felt like putting my sweater back on again, the thermostat was showing 76 again. 3 hours of comfort for a change. It’s usually showing 72 in here when everything’s working, which is never comfortable for me. My nose and fingers get cold, my muscles tense up, even with the sweater on, etc.

          6. allysa*

            Our thermostat at work is off, mostly because the temperature reading is taken at a location which is in the hallway, which has no a/c vents. To get the desired temperature in the rooms the temperature has to be set about 5 degrees higher than what is actually desired. I am always cold and bring extra clothes to the office, but that doesn’t help when one of my coworkers, who is always hot, sets the a/c to a ridiculously low number because she thinks it will cool down the office faster.

            This coworker also wears heavy long sleeve shirts and pants all year round, no matter the weather. If it’s OK to ask cold people to wear extra layers, is it OK to ask her to wear short sleeves? It’s a casual office and everyone else wears short sleeves or sleeveless blouses/shirts/dresses. My boss doesn’t think so, but it seems like a double standard – if you’re the only one in the office constantly turning down the a/c because you’re hot, it seems counterproductive to not wear clothing that is cooler.

            1. AsianHobo*

              She probably has a reason for wearing the long sleeves year-round.

              My grandmother-in-law wears long sleeves year-round to cover up scars from domestic abuse that happened years ago (years before she married my husband’s grandfather). Doesn’t matter how hot it gets, she’s unwilling to let them show even to family.

              I have arm tattoos and when I worked an office job, I wore long sleeves year-round to keep them covered.

        6. Rachel Green*

          It probably doesn’t feel like 77 for those sitting right under an AC vent. I think the trouble is that even though the thermostat is set to 77, it’s not 77 all over the office. And if someone has a window open, that could make the AC turn on even when it’s not over 77, because it’s trying to cool the warm spots.

          And regarding Senior Technical Writer’s suggestion for electric foot warmers, some offices may not allow those kinds of things. My office doesn’t allow space heaters, or coffee makers, or a bunch of other things for fire safety.

        7. Yomi*

          I have to admit, the 77 baffles the heck out of me and I am always cold (well except in my own home because my husband is more always cold than I am). Setting a thermostat at 77 for anything other than “I’m going to set it too high for the AC to kick on because I don’t feel like turning it off” just baffles the heck out of me.

          I’m pretty sure most places who have studied the topic have rarely suggested above 72. Most places I’ve worked have stuck to 68 or 70.

          1. LB*

            77 is what we set our home to most of the summer. Sometimes, if my husband isn’t home, I’ll kick it up to 79 and revel in the wonderful, wonderful summer heat.
            But, temperature is greatly impacted by humidity. We don’t know LW’s location, so it’s entirely possible that it’s very dry in their office and 77 feels more like 70 with moister air.

            1. Yomi*

              That’s a good point, I’m in a notoriously humid part of the country. It’s a swamp outside right now.

        8. Infinity Anon*

          It could be colder than 77 in some areas of the office. It all depends on where the thermostat is. I have found that with AC, my ideal temperature to set it at varies by unit. Some are great and I can set it as 72, others suck and need to be set at 65 and still others have weird temperature sensing issues and I need to set it in the 80s.

        9. Delphine*

          Inside temperature of 78-79 is usually just right for me–a little lower and I’m cold, but a little higher and I wouldn’t mind. 78-79 degrees outside is much different from what it feels like inside, in my opinion.

        10. TheOtherLiz*

          The assumption is that it actually IS 77 though. There’s a useless thermostat in my office; right now it says 72, but I know that really means about 63. Because I’ve called the building engineers who come with a temperature gun and read the air coming out of my vent a good 9 degrees cooler than what it tells me. And, I have the “thermostat” set to 80 – a meaningless action that does nothing to change the air blasting me and making me freeze. Especially if the AC system is cooling this office as unevenly as mine does here, I don’t think anywhere in that office is actually 77 degrees.

        11. Kat M.*

          At 77 I often have a light cardigan on. Below 75 I need to bring out my typing gloves to stop my fingers from going numb while using a computer.

      2. Sherry*

        I’m one of those people who’s always cold.

        Logically, I get that I can put on layers — and I do!

        But emotionally… Arrrghhh! This is the *one* warm season, and my annoying coworkers have to jack up the A/C so it’s practically winter again?

        1. 10 Points to Hufflepuff*

          Google women’s winter. I’m often colder in the office in the summer time than in the winter, sigh. Who hasn’t gone to the bathroom to warm up and to run hot water over your hands!

          1. SaraV*

            Many eons ago, at a previous job, I worked in an extremely tiny enclosed room. Unfortunately, it contained a floor vent for the HVAC system. So, it was shorts and a sweatshirt in the summer, and jeans and a t-shirt in the winter. And no, propping the door open with a garbage can didn’t help much.

      3. bookish*

        I brought a space heater to work and I keep it at my desk. I don’t know what I’d do without it. Yes, people say “if you’re too cold you can always put on more layers!” but that has never been a reasonable solution for me – people think it’s awfully weird when you’re wearing heavy outdoor winter clothing indoors – like a full puffy winter coat, which is what I used to do. AND I’D STILL BE COLD! No matter how many layers I put on, if it’s too cold it’s too cold and I can’t just wrap myself up in a giant quilt at the office. (People would be like, you’re crazy! You should go to a doctor! And I actually did talk to doctors about it and they were like “no, literally you just run cold, that’s all it is, some people run colder than others.”

        Sooooo, thank goodness for my space heater.

        I’ll also note – and I’m sure I won’t be the first to say it – that the office AC debate is well-documented as a gendered issue, with offices being air conditioned to freezing temperatures to suit the men who work there, since men run warmer than women. It’s been the case in my office too, and let me tell you, no one is wearing a suit here – this is a t-shirt level of casual.

        1. The OG Anonsie*

          Yeah, this is what drives me nuts in the places I’ve worked where I’m one of the cold people* to the point that I have a blanket and more than one ankle to wrist layer. People always think it’s just so god damn funny that you’re cold. I’ve never ever worked somewhere that having a blanket or heavier coat on inside didn’t make everyone chuckle about it and think you were kind of goofy and dramatic for it. I’m way more annoyed by the contradictory nature of “it has to be this cold, just wrap up” and “haha look at you all wrapped up, you’re so silly looking, why are you so cold?”

          I know folks will say it’s not reasonable to tease people for being bundled, but it happens more often than not in my experience so it’s not exactly rare.

          *which is interestingly usually not the case, since so many factors go into this. I’m usually comfortable in a cold office but there have been a few places that were positively frigid to me anyway.

          1. boris*

            Or even better, the people who laugh at you because you’re wearing a winter coat and a blanket, and then step into your personal space and express, with surprise in their voice, “Oh, it’s cold over here!”

            No shit.

        1. The OG Anonsie*

          Oh yeah. This is what I do. You can pick up cooling base layers for really cheap, and for not a lot more you can get button downs, blouses, underwear, sometimes pants that are all breathable and wicking and sometimes with cooling as well.

          1. Gadfly*

            Yeah… that is a pretty standard problem with most of these solutions. :'( I would love this sort of thing.

      4. Specialk9*

        For people who run cold, look into thin adhesive warmers by Hot Hands.
        1- stick them to your socks or tights – my husband uses Hot Hands brand foot warmers every day in the winter, as well as thin wicking socks under thick wool socks. They are super thin and comfortable, no problem with shoe fit. They go on top of the toes.
        2 – stick one to your underwear or clothes in front of your lower belly. It’ll radiate a low temperate that feels like it couldn’t possibly warm you up, but it does. By adhering it to your core, you’re warming the blood that circulates throughout the body.

      5. Zip Zap*

        I’m a cold person too. When I lived in a cooler climate, I wore thermals all the time. With turtle necks, wool sweaters, scarves, insulated pants (they have an extra lining inside), wool socks, whatever helped. It makes a difference, but when you’re sitting all day, you can still get cold. When I’m cold, it’s harder to focus and I’m really distracted. It impacts my work.

        77 seems pretty warm, though. I think it’s reasonable to ask people to layer up at that temperature. The office could even help people purchase extra layers. I wouldn’t allow heaters, though. They can be a fire hazard. Most people use them responsibly, but all it takes is one mistake or lapse in judgement.

    2. Ramona Flowers*

      I’m one of those people who is not always cold and it just amazes me how much people can vary in this. The person I sit next to can be wrapped in a pashmina shivering while I’m sweltering in short sleeves, and the actual air temperature is the same at both our desks m. I am in a minority as everyone around me seems to get cold easily.

      You really need to not have people opening windows if you have A/C.

      1. Pomona Sprout*

        I hear you, Ramona. I am always the one weirdo who is sweating while others are shivering, lol. The fact is, different people’s bodies differ greatly in what feels too warm or too cold, for all sorts of reasons, most of which are NOT under our personal control. It’s often not easy to keep a roomful of people all comfortable temperature-wise, but I think it ccan be helpful to remember that these differences are not usually voluntary.

        And, yes, opening windows while the ac is running should NOT be a thing that is allowed or tolerated. It’s an absolute no-no, and grown ass adults should knew better.

        1. Look, a bee!*

          Plus some colleagues might have private medical issues going on that really affect their ability to regulate their body temperature! When I was transitioning between long-term painkillers from morphine to fentanyl for a good four or five weeks I literally could not stop sweating profusely, it was hell. I just started a new course and felt so bad because the other fourteen participants were clearly fine whereas I was sat bright red, dripping with sweat and frequently just had to get up and bolt outside where I’d stand in the winter air surrounded by ice on the ground and still be overbearingly hot, it was awful.

          It’s probably not the norm but I try keep that in mind when I’m sat wondering why people are shivering or sweltering when the air feels really moderate to me. It would drive me almost to tears, it felt like being trapped inside an oven.

          This doesn’t really alter the advice given though, I know. It was down to me to try and dress in as little as possible, carry ice packs and cold water and a fan and I wouldn’t have dreamed of trying to get the rest of the group to sit and shiver just for my temporary relief of an open window. But it can help when you start to get all BEC about somebody complaining about the temperature.

          1. Liane*

            Yes. An old friend of mine has multiple sclerosis and she gets hot very easily. She cannot use restroom hand dryers because they get too hot on her hands. I recall the first time she told me she was cold it was in the 40s and I had trouble wrapping my mind around the idea.

            1. 2 Cents*

              Another MS-er here! I know that when I’m comfortable, everyone else is usually freezing. I’d *love* to switch desks to be under the A/C duct, but the guy who sits there (who’s always cold) refuses to switch seats :/

        2. MK*

          Eh, why? I hate the heat, but I also hate how dry the atmosphere gets when the AC is running for hours on end. I have found that keeping it on, but also leaving a couple of windows slightly open (in a “reclining” position) is ideal: it is still cool inside, but the air gets ventilated.

          1. SarahTheEntwife*

            Doing that is hugely wasteful of electricity since now the AC is working overtime to cool down the warm air that you’re constantly reintroducing.

            1. Myrin*

              Exactly. It’s also possible that it won’t ever really cool down at all (depending on a building’s layout and placement, of course) because there’s constantly new warm air getting inside.
              We don’t really have A/Cs in houses here but the local train has one and it has huge stickers on each window reminding people to keep them closed when the A/C is running – and it does indeed take remarkably longer to cool down when a window is open compared to when all are closed.

          2. Darkitect*

            Moisture intrusion is the most damaging thing for buildings, aside from getting hit by a tornado or asteroid. Air conditioners cool the space but also dehumidify to protect against mildew, mold, and condensation that creates mildew and mold, etc. Not sure where OP is located but here in Florida opening windows while A/C is running is bad; your building will smell like a basement in pretty short order. For me personally, I also consider the dry atmosphere a feature.

            1. SpaceySteph*

              Florida-raised, now Texas swamp-dweller. Our home AC drains condensation to a sink in the master bath. Until one day the drain clogged and the condensation poured out of the sink and onto the floor. I was AMAZED at how much moisture was being pulled out of the air, such that we had to bail water out of the sink several times a day until we fixed it. But man am I so glad (when the drain is working, that is) that I don’t have to sit in that swampy air.

              1. Gadfly*

                I was raised in a desert where a lot of places do the opposite and use added humidity to cool (‘swamp coolers’/evaporative coolers). Funny how different things are in different places.

          3. Koko*

            This is why the best air conditioners allow you to control the temperature *and* the humidity level, so you can prevent the ultra-dryness.

            But I agree with the others, opening the window is not a good solution. Running A/C is one of the very worst things you can do for the planet. That doesn’t stop me from doing it because it’s a health and safety issue, honestly, but making the A/C work twice as hard is no bueno.

          4. Yomi*

            Well, I mean, you’re achieving a much larger carbon footprint and adding to the growing energy crisis so I guess if that’s on your to do list along with more inside humidity, then mission accomplished?

            If you want air circulation, run a fan without AC with the windows open. Moving air is still cooler, and you’ll not dry out. But running the AC with the windows open is so incredibly wasteful it just should never be done.

      2. Sans*

        I’m always the one at meetings with a think short-sleeved shirt on, and everyone else has sweaters wrapped around them and still look cold.

      3. Purplesaurus*

        Before I had much experience with this, I thought if someone is absolutely sweating while sitting still or totally bundled up and shivering, then the temperature must be too extreme. But then I’ve seen coworkers wearing fleece wraps in 80F/26.6C temps, and any rational ideas about temperature are destroyed.

    3. T3k*

      I think you mean the ones who are hot, not cold (the LW said the ones who like it colder haven’t bothered to move to the desks that get blasted with AC).

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        In fairness, being blasted with cold air can cause sore throats and dry eyes so it’s not ideal either. Though personally I’d be there like a shot. Except I wouldn’t, as we all have people we really need to sit near.

        1. Lehigh*

          That is true, but asking that cold air to be blasting even colder on your colleagues who are already cold doesn’t seem like a great solution. If I’m miserably chilled and getting a cold while you’re complaining that it’s hot from across the room in a warm seat where I’d rather be…I’m not going to be super sympathetic at that point. Presumably someone has to sit at the coldest desks, and that should really be people who prefer it colder.

          1. Ramona Flowers*

            But nobody agrees on whether my seat is hot, or anyone else’s. I think it is. Others don’t, because they get cold more easily.

    4. Raina*

      I’m unclear about whether people are already occupying the desks where it is colder. It is one thing to encourage people who are uncomfortable to move elsewhere, and another to convince people who like their spot to move to another one (and office temperatures often are only one factor regarding how people think about their specific desk space). Plus, it sounds like people near the windows aren’t that interested in moving, whether they prefer it hotter or colder, despite any amount of encouragement, partly because they have some control (and probably partly because in most offices any window is somewhat coveted real estate).

      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        Right. I’m not sure asking folks to move desks is a good solutions. What’s the temperature at those desks in the winter? (It seems likely that they’d run warm when the furnace is on; is everyone supposed to move back and forth each season to optimize their preferred temperature?)

        There’s also so much more that goes into determining who sits where. Keeping people with their teams, deciding who gets to be nearwiindows or away from high-traffic hallways, who needs what kind of storage, etc.

        77 is quite warm; it would be unreasonable to increase the temperature. If that’s the temperature you’ve landed on, I think anyone who is too cold or too warm just needs to make their own accommodations and let the issue drop.

        And the window people for sure need to keep their windows closed. Yikes.

    5. Stellaaaaa*

      I am an Always Cold but 77 would verge on being clammy for me. A true 77 that is. I suspect that the system isn’t in the best working order if this office’s 77 is this far off. It’s not about picking a number in this case.

      1. GovHRO*

        #1 They sell covers that can go over the thermostat (and prevent anyone from touching it without tools) so you don’t have to worry about people changing it.

        1. jasmine*

          Those are so annoying. I once got tired of sitting in a conference room that was at about 60 degrees, so I banged on the cover with my fist and knocked it right off. It’s years later now, and the company has never replaced it.

      2. Koko*

        Agreed – I’m sure the temperature at the place where the thermostat reads is 77*, and there’s probably a +/- 8 degree swing depending on where in the office you are.

        1. Yomi*

          That’s accurate, at my office the thermostat is basically locked in stone at 70 and nobody ever touches it (which isn’t a good way to go either) and anything from the amount of sunlight to the number of people in the office that day will change the actual ambient temperature.

    6. Kate the B*

      Try bringing a dog to work if you’re cold…a little snuggling while you work can do wonders.

    7. kimberly*

      I’ve only worked in an office once (I’m a nurse so while office jobs happen they aren’t the norm), but I had an electric throw I had to use to keep warm — more in the summer than the winter. I’m not sure what the thermostat was set at, but I’m pretty sure it was *well* below 77deg. Most places you would have major, major backlash from most staff if the thermostat was kept at 77.

      Back when I was lucky enough to have a/c at home I used to keep the thermostat at 78 and people thought I was nuts.

      Have you tried having the air temp checked to see if it really is 77deg on average? There will always be hot spots/cold spots, but overall the air temp should be somewhere near the thermostat setting.

      Otherwise t sounds like those who like it colder have already compromised quite a bit. Those who like it warmer really need to move somewhere sunnier, or figure out some other way to deal — I don’t think there is anyway you can justify setting the thermostat any higher that it already is.

      1. Decima Dewey*

        In the spirit of it could be worse: our library branch shares a meeting room and a HVAC system with the recreation center next door. As you can imagine, the HVAC needs of the circulation staff, who sit at the front desk at the entrance, are different from the HVAC needs of people running around doing vigorous exercise!

        But it’s been a battle every branch I’ve worked in. Sometimes I think I’m the only staff member with circulating blood.

    8. Menacia*

      I definitely run hotter than others, an extra *natural* layer will do that but I also get cold as well. So to combat either, I have a desk fan, and I usually have a sweater with me (and keep a company jacket on hand in case I get very cold, which does not happen often). I think for those who are too cold, when it starts to affect your extremities is where it can get uncomfortable. It’s not unheard of for a woman in my office to wear fingerless gloves, and we do have folks to use heaters (even in summer), though they are banned from use in our company. We have a customer service area which is open, and the cubicles are low, and they are always shifting employees around due to the temperature. One of the managers even sewed shawls (made of fleece) for those who wanted them. I am thankful that the windows cannot be opened here as I think it would make the situation much worse.

    9. Infinity Anon*

      It sounds like people can move and are choosing not to. Step 1: measure the temperature at various locations in the office. When we did this, we found that their was a serious A/C issue since half of the office was literally the temperature of a walk in fridge. Step 2: Arrange fans to blow across the A/C draft. This will more efficiently cool the areas not in the draft since it will literally be blowing the cooled are that way and help diffuse the draft better. Step 3: Test out several different temperatures for the A/C and get feedback. Step 4: Decide on a temperature and then no one can touch the thermostat. They can switch desks, add layers and add fans, but the thermostat is off limits. People will adjust.

      1. Infinity Anon*

        Forgot to mention that if there is an actual issue discovered, call in the HVAC guy before doing anything else.

    10. Nic*

      I keep a hot hands packet on me nearly all the time at work, and am usually wearing a jacket and wrapped in a blanket. My peers giggle, but I’m often so cold that my hands will chill a hot hands packet below normal body temp for other people, and my hands will still be cold to the touch to others.

      And this is AFTER figuring out medical issues and addressing them.

      I’m surprised the cold people aren’t absolutely jumping to move to warmer spots. If there was a warmer option in my workspace I’d move in an instant, even if in many other ways it was less ideal.

  2. Jade*

    Re: #2, probably a different scenario as I’m based in Aus, but my company would cover it. It would likely be covered under the companies travel insurance policy for employees anyway, but if the excess was greater than the claim I’m 99.9% sure they would just pay it.

    1. Undine*

      My company (in the U.S.) is big enough that it has company travel insurance and if you book the trip through the company website, you are automatically covered. I’ve never needed to use it, but presumably something like this would be covered.

      However smaller companies may not have the same coverage.

      1. A day in the zoo*

        The HR person may have assumed that the medical policy is the only coverage available. A lot of “travel” policies assume overseas travel, not travel in the US or only cover when the travel is overnight.. Most medium to larger sized companies (100 employees and up) offer a business travel accident policy which covers medical and non-medical issues when someone is working 100 miles from home, even if it is just a day trip. But, BTA policies are often under the risk department (property and casualty), not under HR, so the HR person may not think about it. The BTA policy should cover the employee’s medical expense outside of the medical plan.

    2. Rebecca Anne*

      One of my colleagues was on secondment in the US last year (normally based in the UK) and unfortunately, she ended up getting sick and being prescribed some medication that cost over $1000. Coupled with the doctor bills and ER bills, it came to several thousand dollars. She was encouraged to put it on her company credit card and the bills were 100% covered by the company.

      Granted that it’s a little different that OP’s situation given that the UK has the NHS and medical costs are covered by National Insurance – there are no additional charges, except for a <£9 fee for prescriptions. So this really was an unreasonable cost that wouldn't have been racked up if she'd been at home.

      However, I would expect some sort of compromise from the company.

      1. Ramona Flowers*

        I’m curious as to why your colleague didn’t have travel insurance that would pay out for this?

        1. MK*

          Doesn’t travel insurance cover, well, travelers? “On secondment” suggests a longer stay to me; possibly covering a trip of several months was too expensive.

        2. Jill of All Trades*

          HAH, a question on AAM I can actually speak to!
          MK is correct – “on secondment” typically means a term of six months or more. Traveler’s insurance usually wouldn’t apply. HOWEVER, it is normally advisable for a company to acquire private health insurance that will cover employees during their assignment. In this case, they may have chosen not to and simply made it a policy that they would cover medical expenses instead.

      2. Akcipitrokulo*

        (Pedant feels the need to point out that it’s only England that still does prescription charges ;) )

          1. Akcipitrokulo*

            In the UK ;)

            Wales, NI and Scotland don’t charge for prescriptions.

            And I love I got pedanted on this one ;)

    3. blackcat*

      My husband just started at a new (large) company. Something like this would be covered *after* health insurance (this is quite clear: company covers coinsurance/copays/etc for getting ill on business travel). But if it were slightly different, eg getting in a car accident while on business travel, the business travel insurance, rather than the health insurance, would cover 100%. It is quite clear that the business carries extra insurance just for this purposes.

      I think they have such clear policies because of the amount of international travel conducted at the company–they’re frequently sending employees to places where their health insurance would be useless. It is possible cheaper for the company to have a blanket international health insurance/travel insurance policy than to get travel insurance trip by trip.

      1. Original Poster - Q #2*

        Hi! OP here for #2… the $700-something is the after-insurance bill. The whole thing would have been closer to $3000. :( This is not relevant to HR but the fee breakdown was pretty galling, $399 for a chest X-ray and then there’s a $2700 “facility fee” i.e. what they charge you for showing up at their door.

        1. Ego Chamber*

          I have to wonder why the hell your insurance sent you to the ER instead of finding a nearby urgent care. That seems somewhat irresponsible, considering the after-insurance cost, and cost in general. (Although the urgent cares near me don’t do chest x-rays, they’ll send you to a hospital/ER for that, so maybe an irrelevant point.)

          1. Ego Chamber*

            Just realized it was a 24/7 nurse, not a rec specifically from your insurance. Reading comprehension fail on my part.

            I still think it shows a tone-deafness from medical providers to patients’ financial concerns, but that seems sadly common from many of the medical professionals I’ve spoken to (like the doc who told me “This antibiotic used to be really expensive, but they have a generic now, so it’s only $200” when I was unemployed and had bronchitis that 2 other antibiotics hadn’t been able to touch).

    4. AndersonDarling*

      I have a relative that travels for 90% of her job. Over the last few years, she had 2 major health issues while on the road. The first was a slip and fall that resulted in a major sprain. It was considered a work injury and it was completely covered by her company including the extra days she needed to stay at her hotel while she recovered. The second health issue was an appendicitis that happened to flare while traveling. Again, everything was covered even though this was a spontaneous personal health issue.
      The only reason I could see the OPs bills not being covered is if the company suspects she was overreacting and could have waited until she got home to see the doctor. But if the 24/7 nurse said to go to the ER, then you go to the ER.
      I’d be reluctant to travel if my company wasn’t willing to cover out of network expenses while I was traveling. If something major happened that required surgery, I could be bankrupt!

          1. Anna*

            Yes, but Cmdrshp4ever was specifically referring to the part where AndersonDarling said they’d be reluctant to travel if the company didn’t cover out of network expenses. Perhaps because they misread or misunderstood the situation.

    5. Cmdrshp4ever*

      I have to side with the company on this one. I think it would be different if there were no in-network hospitals in the area due to traveling, but the hospital OP 2 went was in network. This charge would have been the same if they were at home and went to an in-network hospital.

      If OP 2 had been at home on Friday night when they called the nurse helpline I think the nurse probably would have still suggested for them to go to the hospital. Maybe OP would have disregarded instructions and gone to urgent care anyways, but if that is the case OP could still have tried to find an urgent care facility where they we’re on travel.

      I think as a phone helpline without being able to actually examine a person and based on self reporting has to be cautious and recommend more immediate help if it seems that it could be anything serious.

      1. Cmdrshp4ever*

        To add to that OP 2 was on a work trip to San Diego I would be highly shocked if they did not have some kind of urgent/immediate Care facilities in that city. I imagine if there were in-network hospitals in the area there were probably in-network urgent/immediate Care facilities.

        1. Arjay*

          I don’t know about San Diego specifically, but in my major metropolitan area, urgent care centers close at 7 or 8pm. I would either have to go to the ER Friday night or wait until 8 or 9am Saturday morning for urgent care to open.

            1. JHunz*

              Presumably because they were working, since they continued to do the rest of the week even after being diagnosed with pneumonia

            2. Original Poster - Q #2*

              Hi! OP #2 here…

              Hindsight is 20/20 but I was trying to tough it out. If I had been in my home office, I would have just gone to urgent care, but since I was HQ and all of my meetings were with leadership, I didn’t want to cancel meetings “for a little cough” and look wimpy.

          1. Brett*

            Same here. All urgent cares except one close at 7 or 8 pm in our metro region. The one that doesn’t closes at 10pm and I love them for that!
            (They happen to be the lab for a network of 20 urgent cares, so that is why they stay open later.)

        2. cataloger*

          I read OP2 as saying that had they not been traveling, they would have gone to their doctor or urgent care earlier (while it was still just a nasty cough) and avoided the ER trip that way.

      2. L Dub*

        This. If employee had gotten sick at home and still gone to the ER, they would have had to pay the bill on their own. ER visits are mad expensive, which is why for something like a cough you go to an urgent care or walk in clinic. Yes it sucks, but this wasn’t an illness or injury caused by traveling for work, and the employee had other options they chose to not utilize.

        1. Engineer Girl*

          Logic fail! The OP didn’t have a local doctor on travel which is exactly why they had to go to the emergency room.
          This whole incident exposes the fact that HR didn’t put together an adequate employee health insurance plan. There are coverage holes that HR should be addressing. The HR person may simply want this to go away.
          OP should probably go to their boss and the two of them make a second run at HR.

          1. LBK*

            That seems like a stretch to me…ER visits are intentionally expensive on pretty much any plan, and the OP says this was in-network so it’s not even like you could argue that HR chose a plan with a limited network. I’m not sure what they could’ve done differently here.

            1. Original Poster - Q #2*

              Hi! OP #2 here…

              Hindsight is 20/20 but I was trying to tough it out. If I had been in my home office, I would have just gone to my regular doctor or urgent care, but since I was at HQ and all of my meetings were with leadership, I didn’t want to cancel meetings “for a little cough” and look wimpy.

            2. Engineer Girl*

              HR should have travel insurance that kicked in.
              Doctor availability is a key issue on people seeking treatment.

                1. Engineer Girl*

                  It’s not. If someone can’t get a regular doctor then they end up at urgent care or emergency. It’s extremely difficult to get a regular doctor while on travel. Hence, a visit to the urgent care or emergency room.

            3. sstabeler*

              It’s more that taking sick time would likely have been scrutinised more with the trip- so, understandably, most employees would tough it out. As such, it got worse until it turned inot an actual medical emergency by the sounds of it. THAT is why the company should CONTRIBUTE to the cost.

        2. Brett*

          “this wasn’t an illness or injury caused by traveling for work”

          We don’t know that for certain. Catching diseases like pneumonia is a pretty common consequence of taking long plane flights.
          I used to have to travel from the midwest to San Diego for business once a year, and I got sick ~80% of the time on that trip, whereas I am sick about once every two years otherwise.

      3. nonegiven*

        At home they would have called their own doctor or gone to an urgent care they knew was in network.

    6. MTinEurope*

      Working across Europe – the work place takes out insurance to cover such and when items like taxis instead of public transport to dr, the office paid. This is part of the cost of having employees travel. In some good policy cases there is even a clause to send a spouse or family member should it be long term hospitalization! A visit to the ER sounds pretty standard…

      Aside from the out of pocket costs, I would raise this with HR to have clear office policies and wonder why there is not a sort of insurance policy? If traveling, esp but not limited to out of city, state, country – how are employees expected to handle this. There should be clear policies (and suggested provisions). Otherwise it is not very responsible as an employer to expect employees to travel uninsured.

      1. Cmdrshp4ever*

        OP was not traveling uninsured they we’re still covered by insurance then even went to an in-network hospital. I suspect had OP been at home and gone to an in-network hospital the ER copay would have been roughly the same. The only difference in traveling was they went to ER instead of PCP or Urgent care facility, but in San Diego I suspect there were Urgent Care facilities OP could have gone to.

        1. Anna*

          Yeah, but for a serious enough problem (as the OP said, they couldn’t breathe) an Urgent Care facility would have referred them to an ER. There are only so many things an urgent care place can handle.

          The only issue I see is that this would have probably come up whether or not the OP was traveling, which could be why the company isn’t willing to pay. I dunno.

        2. sstabeler*

          it’s more a case of the travel meaning they held off going to a medical professional until it became a medical emergency, when if it was at home, they would have gone earlier. There probably WERE Urgent Care facilities, but it was too serious for them.

  3. Lady Phoenix*

    There is only so many layers you can take off before it gets you
    A) Arrested (all of the clothes)
    B) Dead (all if the clothes plus skin)

    People who are cold need to suck it up and layer up. You can buy a cardigan everywhere.

    1. Ramona Flowers*

      I understand where you’re coming from because I run hot internally and wish the temperature could go down, but it’s not just about adding layers and sucking it up. People who run cold can have issues with cold hands that can’t just be solved with gloves (can you write in gloves? no? exactly), for example.

      What I will say is I wonder if it’s a coincidence that I very rarely turn on the heating at home (Britain, central heating but no A/C at home) preferring to add layers first when needed. I’d be wildly curious to know if people who get cold at work keep their homes at much higher temperatures.

        1. Undine*

          No office is a uniform temperature. There are always cold spots and hot spots. And when I was younger, my hands were always ice cold. It’s partly circulation. I would assume that everyone is genuinely suffering.

          There are fingerless gloves though, that you can type in.

          1. Gen*

            I have reynauds syndrome so when my hands get cold the blood flow to the top two joints of my fingers basically stops. It’s agony and I now have nerve damage from it. You can get it in feet and other extremities like nose as well. I had a note allowing me to wear gloves since they were out of dress code but I’d still regularly get told off for it. If I were stuck under an air con vent I wouldn’t be able to work even though 77 overall is a very comfy temperature for me.

            Opening the windows with air con running is a massive waste of energy though, I’ve worked places where they alarmed the windows to stop people doing it so I’m a bit surprised that’s allowed

            1. KF*

              This. My sister has a severe case of Reynauds, and even when it’s hot (and she lives in the desert) she can still have cold extremities, and when it’s cool or cold she can really suffer. So it’s not always just about putting on or taking off clothes. I’m not saying accomodations should be made only with that in mind, just that oftentimes there is more going on than meets the eye.

            2. Yomi*

              I was going to mention Reynaud’s since I have it too, mostly in my feet. When my feet have gotten too cold (because I can’t go layer up with the two layers of socks it takes to stave it off since fuzzy slipper socks aren’t professional) the only thing that can warm them up is being immersed in warm water, and there’s not a way to immerse your feet in warm water at work.

              And even with being in the water, it’s still incredibly painful at basically every step of the process, though the water is the least painful way to warm up as well as being the most effective. This reminds me that before this winter I need to get a note from a doctor and request an accommodation for a space heater, which are forbidden in my office. If anybody knows any USB powered solutions I could use and wants to rec something, that’d be great. I figure USB powered would put their minds at ease that it won’t trip a breaker and also I won’t forget and leave it plugged up and powered when I’m not there, as my computer has to be secured in a cabinet before I leave work each day.

              1. Nicole*

                I can’t use a space heater at work because it will blow a fuse but suffer from ice cold feet in the winter. In addition to wearing nylons with wool socks and fuzzy boots, I also purchased a heated mat. Google Cozy Toes. What’s nice is it uses only 70 watts and keeps my feet warm. I love it! Chances are your office will approve that over a space heater which is a fire hazard.

            3. JAM*

              I too suffer from it post-chemo and it’s awful. I do everything I can to prevent it but if it triggers I end up with numb fingers or toes at first. When I finally get warm enough to regain blood flow and movement, I have agonizing pain till I’m fully warmed and then there’s still a horrible aching feeling. It kills my productivity for the day and it also physically hurts beyond basic discomfort.

              My desk and conference room share a thermostat and I can guarantee the conference room is 5+ degrees colder most days. If I’m just at my desk I might be okay but if I have a meeting I know I’ll trigger. I wear long sleeves at work, I can’t wear sandals ever, I keep gloves and sweaters and a heating pad under my chair ready just in case. In the conference room I keep hot drinks on hand that I don’t drink just to wrap my hands around them.

          2. HVAC Engineer here*

            An office that does not have uniform temperatures then has a crappy HVAC system. I am sorry you have to work in an environment like this as a good engineer could probably figure out what’s going on with your system and make recommendations on how to fix it. But hiring an engineer ($$) and then getting the issues fixed ($$$) are things that landlords to not want to pay for.

            1. Dust Bunny*

              Our office doesn’t cool uniformly because of, well, the offices. Walls impede airflow, of course. So most of the office is OK but one specific office is a meat locker. We can’t afford to not use the space, but have one person seated in the warmest corner of that office but keep a work table, where people are going to be standing up and moving around, under the worst part.

              1. Red 5*

                Yeah, this is really the thing. The other day I was at my desk under a vent, completely freezing. I went into a co-workers office to help her move some files around (not exactly strenuous work but still moving around) and she has direct sunlight from a floor to ceiling window. I was sweating in less than a minute. It’s not even about the thickness of the window, it’s just the actual light coming in.

                That’s just one of a dozen tiny factors that affect the temperature from one spot to the next in our office.

        2. Ramona Flowers*

          I’ve just looked up the conversion to Celsius (I can’t think in Fahrenheit and hadn’t twigged how hot it was). But I guarantee someone will comment saying they’d still need gloves at 77.

          1. Rookie Manager*

            I’m generally a cold person. If I’m converting correctly 77F is 25C which is way above normal room temperature (20C/68F?).

            I keep a warm office cardigan and I’ve had jobs where I had office blanket/gloves/microwavable heat bag/personal fan heater. Yet I can’t imagine needing any of them for 25C. For reference we keep our house thermostat at 21C/70F which means I wear layers and have blankets and my partner wears a tshirt.

            I’d suggest making a new office desk plan. This will take time but should ease disagreement. Mark which desks are cool and which are warm. Ask people if they run warm or cold. Match up as best as possible. Ban opening windows if aircon is on (wasting money and energy, save the planet!). If everyone moves desk to the new layout at once it os easier to manage then telling a complainer to just move desks.

            For what it’s worth, I didn’t expect to react this way but 77F really is a warm office temp and I’d consider reducing it. In the UK the minimum safe temp for workplaces is 16C but we have no maximum, just ‘reasonable’.

            1. Thlayli*

              Is isn’t actually 25C everywhere though. Some (most?) aircons will measure temperature in location A and blast out freezing air in location B which continues until the temp in location A reaches the set temp. So let say Fergus sits in location A which starts out at 28C in the morn – uncomfortably hot. He turns on the air con to the agreed set point of 25C. Immediately air at a freezing temperature of 5C starts blasting into Wakeen who sits in location B. It takes a full hour of Wakeen sitting in a freezing breeze before the temperature at Fergus’ desk reaches an acceptable level. It’s unfair to both Fergus who is boiling and Wakeen who is freezing.

              25C would be uncomfortably hot for me, but sitting in a constant breeze of freezing cold air while waiting for the room temperature across the room to reduce to 25C would be uncomfortably cold.

              The best solution is for the people who dislike cold more to sit in the warmer parts of the room and the people who dislike heat more to sit in the path of frozone.

              1. MK*

                This. I think 77F/25C is a good medium temperature that should allow almost all people to be comfortable. The problem is that setting the AC at that is not going to result in the whole office having that temperature.

                1. Soon to be former fed*

                  Nope. I would be cooking at 77. I always run a fan though and go sleeveless too.

              2. Akcipitrokulo*

                Yeah – I think, if the office allows, moving people to their preferred hot/cold spot may be the best way to work it.

                1. Thlayli*

                  The issue is the people who want it colder are refusing to move to the colder areas. They want other people to be cold to make themselves comfortable.

              3. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

                But then the people who like it cold will be blasted by the heat in the winter, and the people who like it warm will be shivering.

                Moving desks is not the answer.

                1. Thlayli*

                  Moving desks within the same room takes me about 20 minutes. I would be perfectly happy to do it twice a year. Granted some people are more reliant on paper than I but it’s still not a huge onerous undertaking. Getting up and down to turn on and off the aircon/open windows every 45 mins not to mention the constant complaining must take up a lot more work time than two or three people swooping desks every 6 months. Get a rolling cabinet for each desk and chairs with wheels (most offices still have both of these) and a few boxes to carry your gear across the room. One hour max every 6 months. In my current job I had to wait for someone to leave to get a permanent desk and I had to change desks 4 times in 6 weeks. It was really annoying but it’s not a massive big deal. I am 5’2″ and was able to do it all alone but I’m sure if a particular coworker has difficulties with carrying things then someone else could help out.

              4. Mary*

                Is it worth getting a heating engineer in to look at the aircon system and see whether it is actually functioning correctly and (relatively) evenly across the office? Because if you’ve got people complaining they’re too cold when it’s set to 25C, then it sounds like that is not doing what it should be doing!

                1. Thlayli*

                  That’s a good point. It may be possible to add deflectors as someone else said to point the freezing cold blasts away from the desks

        3. Akcipitrokulo*

          Had to look it up… that’s bloody 25 degrees C! That’s BOILING! Everyone in my office was noticing it was warm at about 22, and grumping about there being a legal minimum temp but no max by 25!

      1. T3k*

        This. I’m pretty cold natured (though 77 would be fine to me) and I’ve been in situations where my hands were icicles to the point I tried to type with gloves on 2 separate occasions and I might as well not have worked that day with how difficult it was, and I had a friend who was even more susceptible to the cold to the point her finger tips would turn white so even fingerless gloves didn’t help.

        Add on the fact that my body isn’t very good at regulating my temp. and I can’t even do sweaters because I’ll start to burn up in 15 mins, take it off and get cold in 10 mins, put sweater back on and repeat. Thankfully I had a tiny office to myself so my last employer dug out an old space heater, making them happy with 65 where they were and me happy with my 80.

        1. Red 5*

          One thing to consider if it ever comes up in the future is the compression gloves that are designed for people who do crafts. I’m still not 100% sure I can get used to them, but they’re designed to help increase the bloodflow and keep the hands/wrists warm so that the blood going to the fingers stays warm but you can still have the dexterity you need for knitting/sewing.

          I haven’t tried this for typing in a cold office yet (I only got a pair a few weeks ago) but I’m wondering if that might be more useful than just regular fingerless gloves?

      2. Not a Morning Person*

        Yes, I keep the home temperature higher by 3-4 degrees and still have to put on a fleece and socks in the summer and wear similar items to sleep in when it is 99 degrees outside to accommodate the others in the house who want it too cold for my comfort.
        It can be so miserable to be cold and feel like you are tense and uncomfortable ALL the time because the hot people tend to rule the thermostats. And it is true that cold people can put on more clothes to accommodate the hot people and then be ridiculed by the hot people who are incredulous at how someone can be cold at 72 degrees until they shiver when they touch your cold hands. As Alison says, it is a problem that can never be solved to everyone’s satisfaction.

    2. Anxa*

      And there are only so many layers you can put on. Seriously.

      It’s really not much more professional looking to be wearing hats and gloves and scarves and down coats. Also, I have literally spent hours at work sitting on my hands when gloves are not enough. And while I don’t see 77 as a cold temperature, I do see other temps as quite cold (or rather, I can’t help but to feel icy) that others find warm, like 74, 72, etc. Plus, drafts.

      Yeah, you can get a cardigan, but that’s not going to come close to cutting it for a lot of people. Plus, it’s very frustrating to have to cart around a parka or coat or wool blanket in 90 plus degree weather for a 68 degree office.

      1. It's-a-me*

        People in my office get told off for not following dress code, when they’re wearing coats and covered in blankets and mittens trying to keep warm.

          1. oranges & lemons*

            I used to work in an office pocket like that too. Everyone in my section wore winter coats, scarves, gloves, hats and blankets all day every day, because our corner of the office was like a meat locker. Apparently facilities couldn’t do anything about it.

      2. Thlayli*

        Drafts are really distracting as well. I can be concentrating on something then get cold air blowing suddenly right into my face – it’s impossible not to lose your train of thought.

        I also get dry skin, chapped lips, and respiratory infections when I have to sit in the path of ac. Once I was involved in a big negotiation in London. 6 weeks in the office of a big law firm from 9-7 or 8 most nights (and later a lot of nights). Air con blasting out constantly. In London. In January. Apparently you could either have boiling air blasting on you or freezing air blasting on you but IT WAS NOT POSSIBLE TO TURN IT OFF. By the end of 6 weeks I had really bad acne, split ends all over my hair, bad dandruff, had almost constant colds for the 6 weeks and about a month after (also my hair literally stopped growing and my nails were bitten to the quick but I think that was just stress not aircon). I used to sit there in a warm coat and Russian-style hat (while my colleagues with more padding laughed at me no less).

        None of which is really relevant to OPs situation I guess. I’ll shut up now.

        1. Yomi*

          Sitting under the cold air could also aggravate someone’s asthma. It actually can have serious negative health effects that are worth considering, so I think the comment is relevant. It’s not as cut and dry as “you’re too cold put on a sweater,” as your story demonstrates.

    3. Sylvan (Sylvia)*

      Yeah, sorry, no. Can’t type with numb hands. My body’s not great at handling temperature differences. There’s a point where layers stop helping, too.

      There is no way that 77 (if it’s actually 77 there) is too cold for very many people, though.

      1. Thlayli*

        It actually says in the letter that desks in the path of the air conditioner are colder. Yet the people complaining about the heat are refusing to sit there despite OP encouraging them too. They are happy for other people to freeze for their own comfort.

        1. Red 5*

          That is the part that gets me here. Every person I’ve ever known that runs warm at an office has actually begged to be put near air conditioning vents or sought out the colder spots in the office, and heat seekers do the same. It makes me wonder if there’s some other reason those desks are undesirable, like being far from the windows, or too close to the break room or smaller workspaces maybe? Though again, most people I know would make that sacrifice for the comfortable temperature so I don’t know.

          1. Thlayli*

            Yeah this is the bit that kind of annoys me. I understand there must be a compromise, but the way aircon works is by blasting freezing air into one part of the room until a different part reaches the set temp. By design the desks in the path of the aircon HAVE TO be exposed to temperaturesless than the set temperature, because thermodynamics, otherwise the desks near the thermometer would never cool. Saying “the people in the path of the aircon must put up with freezing drafts because I am hot, but I refuse to swop with them” is just so unbelievably selfish that I can’t really fathom it.

            1. Ego Chamber*

              It sucks all over and it comes down to very specific personal preferences that are less likely to line up the more people the office employs. Best idea is the thing Alison said, and accepting that this will never be solved in a way where everyone is happy unless your office has a way to assign people to floors based on temperature preference (and then accept that there would be some other huge office controversy, like dishes soaking in the break room sink, or the direction of the toilet roll, or whether 20 points is enough/too much for the supply closet when playing Duck Club).

              Story time. I used to work at a large company (300-500 people—there was a lot of turnover), and they loudly resented having to pay for anything that wasn’t getting directly compensated by the client (breaks, training, utilities—you know: business expenses). In the summer they wouldn’t kick on the AC until the inside temperature was at least 85F and in the winter they wouldn’t turn on the heat until the outside temperature was barely above freezing (that last one was because some pipes in the bathroom froze and burst one year during a long weekend closure). It was awful, but I mind being too-cold less than I mind being too-hot… but that’s just my very specific personal preference.

    4. Brandy in TN*

      I am cold natured and keep my house at 77 all summer, its perfect. But in order to dress summery, i just use a heating pad for when i get cold at work.

    5. Danger: Gumption Ahead*

      What always gets me is cold hands and feet. For me, 77°F would be fine unless I was directly under the vent, but high 60s-low 70s and I would need a blanket, gloves, and something warm on my feet/over my ankle bones, not exactly the most professional look (remember the reaction to the letter about the woman wearing the blanket and hat for sun protection). My office like it colder at 65, so I have had to sacrifice professionalism for ability to function.

      It sucks for everyone and unfortunately there is no magic temperature that would allow everyone to be comfortable. Too bad there isn’t a way to let people sort into hot and cold rooms, but between open plan offices and employee seating being based on business needs, someone is always going to be stuck in a temperature that is uncomfortable.

    6. Lehigh*

      I mean, there’s only so cold you can get before you die, too.

      You’re not going to die of heat OR cold at 77 degrees. Pockets of hotter or colder may be very uncomfortable for some people, though–regardless of sweaters, sundresses, or fingerless gloves.

      1. LavaLamp*

        Ugh, office AC issues. Two summers ago, my office AC broke and we had to wait for the new unit (the one that goes on the top of the building no less) to be shipped from wherever it was made. Took ages, and then they waited for a weekend to install it because it involved a crane and they don’t do those sort of things with people in the building. It was regularly 80F/26C in my area. After some of us started getting sick (I threw up a few times from heat issues) they brought in some rented AC units that. . . routinely tripped the breaker and shut all our computers down at LEAST once a day. It was not fun.

    7. Murphy*

      Offices can be too cold for people to be expected to just “suck it up”. My office is so cold that I’m often wearing a blouse and a cardigan, and I’m still freezing. And I’m not someone who is cold all the time. When it’s 90+ degrees outside and I’m inside in a hoodie and fingerless gloves, I think it’s definitely too cold.

      1. Soon to be former fed*

        So, what about the people who are comfortable?

        I’ve noticed that public places, such as restaurants, movie theaters, and stores, are much warmer in summer than they used to be. I don’t like it, but I don’t need to carry a cover up either.

        The only solution to individual temperature preferences is to create micro climates. Cold people need heaters, hot people need fans. People with medical issues should, to the maximum extent possible, be permitted to work at home.

        I keep my home AC at 72.

        1. Murphy*

          Between personal preferences and temperature variances within a building, there’s definitely no solution to please everybody.

          I was just saying that it’s possible for an office to be unreasonably cold and telling cold people to bundle up shouldn’t always be the default and only response.

      2. Mary*

        >>My office is so cold that I’m often wearing a blouse and a cardigan, and I’m still freezing

        Wait – would that not be normal? What would you consider normal amounts of clothes to wear in an office if not a blouse and cardigan?

        1. Mary*

          (For context, in the UK, I would almost never go to work from Sept-Maywithout a cotton/silk vest, a blouse/long-sleeved top and a wool cardigan or jumper over the top. Just a blouse and cardigan would be June-August wear for me!)

        2. Murphy*

          I don’t think I said it wasn’t normal. A blouse and a cardigan is definitely a normal amount of clothes. I don’t think a person should be super uncomfortable when wearing a normal amount of clothes. Particularly when a normal amount of clothes for the office is way too much for the temperature outside.

          1. DArcy*

            Unfortunately, the natural variance in temperature comfort zones means that it is *literally impossible* to select a temperature where everyone in the office is reasonably comfortable when wearing “normal” clothing. Especially when that’s doubled down on by people having very different ideas of what normal clothing even constitutes.

            From an efficiency and practicality standpoint, the best that can be done is to select an office temperature which is on the low end of the range that the *majority* of people in the office are comfortable in. While bundling up in extra layers isn’t a *perfect* solution and can only warm so far, there’s no equivalently convenient and customizable option for those who run too hot as opposed to to cold.

        3. Murphy*

          Also, I said that because the comment I was replying to implied that cardigan will solve the problem, and it often will not.

    8. LB*

      Yeah — I’ve definitely sat in my office with fingerless gloves, a wool sweater, a winter coat, a hat, 2 layers of wool socks and snow boots before. Sure, I can put on more layers, but at a certain point, it hurts my professional development because no one takes you seriously when you look prepared for a ski trip at the office.

  4. DecorativeCacti*

    I keep a desk fan, a light shawl, and a heated blanket at my desk. Some days I have used all three. I totally get the wars that break out over temperature, but I’m a firm believer in setting it cooler and layering up.

    1. Undine*

      Yeah, I’ve been on both sides of this — too cold before menopause, too hot after — and I’d say they suck about equally. I think everyone needs to have what they need to create their own microclimate.

    2. Doug Judy*

      I kept all that and fingerless gloves at my desk. I was right under the vent, and it was noticeablebly cooler at my desk. Everyone commented on it. I’m always cold too, hypothyroidism, my fingers would be blue sometimes. One person was always hot. We asked the grand boss about switching desks, he thought we were ridiculous. For many reasons, I don’t work there anymore.

    3. Darkitect*

      Yes. Right this minute I also have a desk fan, a blanket, and a shawl. And I’m warm-natured!

    4. over educated*

      My office building’s AC settings are literally “on” and “off.” When it’s off, we get the heat and humidity of 90 degree summer day. When it’s on, we put on wool sweaters and store blankets and shawls in our desk drawers, but one day this week I still found myself drinking a cup of plain hot water just to warm up my fingers that were losing circulation, and seriously regretting bringing a PB&J for lunch instead of hot food. It’s ridiculous and layering up only goes so far.

      Fortunately, we’re due to move into a space with better climate control pretty soon, and that may solve the issue. I will miss the lovely views and natural light of our historic building but I won’t miss the blankets and hot water!

    5. Red 5*

      There’s actually some recent interesting studies that show from a productivity standpoint, edging the temperature to the warmer end of the spectrum is better for productivity and generally employee happiness. A lot of people think colder is better for a variety of reasons, but it hasn’t been holding up to scrutiny so far. I’m sure more studying is being done though.

      That said their “warmer end” was I think 70-72. 77 is off the deep end even for me.

      1. a Gen X manager*

        Agree! I read and re-read the “77” part. I would be an inert, melted puddle if the office temperature were 77 degrees.

    6. Stranger than fiction*

      Same here. We have a bipolar building where the hot side/cold side flips every couple months for some unknown reason.
      My most important defense is warm footwear. I may look silly wearing socks and ankle boots in the summer but so be it!

  5. Ramona Flowers*

    #4 I think that’s the perfect way to handle it – you would be bringing it up while acknowledging that it might be too early.

    I would try to be prepared for the fact that they may not fill the position as soon as they would in other circumstances, or might change things up so the role doesn’t stay the same.

    1. Trillion*

      What about asking to pick up some of the slack left by her gap? Preferably some tasks you may have only occasionally handled that this position does more of or a new (for you) task that this position did. This way should they be looking to fill the void you are better positioned to move into the role without seeming over eager.

      1. Purplesaurus*

        That sounds like a good idea. I think OP still needs to make it clear she/he’s interested in the position permanently.

      2. RMF*

        My first thought exactly! The easiest way to ask for a promotion is to show you’re already doing the job. And, it’s a tactful way to say, “I know this is a hard time for everyone; what can I take on to make things easier?”

      3. Stranger than fiction*

        Then she risks inheriting thost taks permanently and them still filling the role with someone else if sje doesn’t at least let them know she’s interested.

  6. Artemesia*

    That is some crappy insurance that would not pay most of an ER bill for pneumonia. That makes it seem fair to me to push a bit on that. We recently had an ER bill for 18K for a heart workup that we ended up having to pay about $600 on — it is hard to imagine a cough/pneumonia workup would be that much more expensive. One more example of how badly US medical care sucks.

    1. PollyQ*

      Yes, I 100% agree. How were you supposed to know it wasn’t that serious without going to the ER to find out? I would definitely try pushing back on this.

      1. TL -*

        I know my insurance had an ER copay that got waved if you got admitted nut charged if you weren’t. It’s specifically to encourage people to use the ER only for true emergencies. But they didn’t classify ERs as in or out of network.
        But there are definitely places without urgent care options that would make an ER a necessary choice.

        1. Corporate Safety Director*

          My insurance is the same way.
          FWIW, I’d just expense the cost after giving my supe a heads up.

        2. Artemesia*

          ‘Being admitted’ is a game insurance companies play. You can have serious symptoms and be kept for observation for a couple of days and still not be ‘admitted’ and private insurance won’t pay for the hospitalization nor will medicare. There are a whole bunch of situations where serious symptoms still don’t equate, insurance covering the major costs. And since medicare only covers nursing home/rehab situations after 3 days of hospitalization all sorts of people end up in the hospital after a serious event and discover that although they spent 3 days hospitalized, they weren’t considered ‘admitted to hospital’ and so the nursing care is not covered.

          1. Hangry*

            Thanks for sharing this. I learned it the hard way after my son spent two nights in the hospital, only to find out later the entire visit was “outpatient.” Turns out admitted and assigned to a room/floor does not equal inpatient. How were we to know?!?

          2. sstabeler*

            I’m not sure it is actually a game by the insurance company, actually. IIRC, you’re admitted to hospital when you are sent from the ER to an actual ward. If you are put under observation in the ER, then you aren’t admitted.

            having said that, I wouldn’t be surprised if insurance companies play games as well.

      2. (Different) Rebecca*

        Loving the rest of the statement, but walking pneumonia *is* serious. Just because someone is treated and let go doesn’t mean their problem wasn’t life-threatening.

        1. Some sort of Management Consultant*

          Yes – I was shocked that LW just went back to work afterwards.

          (But not surprised. Damn you, American health insurance.)

        2. blackcat*


          My MIL thought her walking pneumonia “wasn’t that serious” and still went on vacation against her doctor’s advice. She ended up being treated *for heart failure.* She’d doing better now, but man, get pneumonia treated!

          (And $700 doesn’t surprise me that much. Even post deductible, I am responsible for 20% coinsurance up to the 13k out of pocket maximum. So a $3500 bill from the ER–which wouldn’t surprise me–would leave me with a $700 bill.)

          1. Koko*

            Yep. My mom had walking pneumonia when I was a kid. But she was a single parent who had to keep doing all the things she had to keep doing…until she wound up in the hospital with a collapsed lung.

            Her doctor mentioned that it’s nearly always women who try to power through illness and come in with severe complications.

          2. straws*

            Yes. I ended up in the ER for a migraine and came out with a $2000 bill to pay, after what was covered. ER visits & the related testing can really add up!

          3. Original Poster - Q #2*

            Damn you’re good! Original poster here… $700-something was the remainder of the uncovered $3100-something bill. :(

            SHOULD have just gone to urgent care during the day in San Diego but thought it was just a cough and didn’t want to look weak in front of all these coworkers I don’t know well. If I had been at home, I would have gone to the doctor or urgent care.

            1. Sarah*

              I kind of feel like this makes the cost your responsibility. It sounds like you DID have cheaper options, but chose not to use them. The exact same situation could have occurred at home, let’s say if senior leadership were travelling to your home office and you chose not to cancel a meeting with them, then called a nurse helpline after urgent care hours were done — I imagine the nurse would have made exactly the same ER recommendation and the bill would have ended up pretty much the same. It also doesn’t sound like the illness was work-related, like slipping and falling while on the job. Ultimately we mostly consider health-related expenses to be the individual’s responsibility to deal with (hopefully along with insurance) — which may be the wrong call, but I don’t think it’s really an individual company’s responsibility to remedy that.

      3. AsianHobo*

        “How were you supposed to know it wasn’t that serious without going to the ER to find out?”

        This is what I keep trying to figure out.

        I took my kid to the ER for a suspected broken finger once. Nurses and a doctor looked at it and weren’t sure if it was broken. While we waited for x-ray results, they gave her a coloring book about a rabbit going to the ER for a broken arm.

        Turned out the finger was just sprained, not broken. I got a huge bill – insurance said it wasn’t an emergency since the finger wasn’t broken, so they weren’t paying for the ER visit.

        How was I supposed to know when even a doctor couldn’t tell? Use my x-ray vision?

        I complained about it online and everyone said “Well you shouldn’t have gone to the ER for a broken bone anyway!” Whaaaat? I’d never heard of NOT going to the ER for a suspected broken bone before that. Why do they have coloring books about that very issue?

        1. sstabeler*

          I’m assuming they were thinking of Urgent Care- since Urgent care is sort of designed for things like broken bones. It’s still far from inappropiate to go to the ER.

    2. Just Me Here*

      One word – deductible.

      I was in the ER a month ago, and my bill is over $1100 for it. I have a $3000 deductible and I, up until this emergency, hadn’t met it yet.

      And yes, when you look at the bill, the prices must be marked up. The ER submitted it for $2500, and my insurance made them lower it to the $1100. They mark it up knowing the insurance will reduce it for their clients.

      1. VioletEMT*

        Not quite. They have the sticker price and then have a contract price with the insurance company. The insurance company gets a discount for making th hospital “in network” and sending their patients there.

        Uninsured pay full price.

        1. Artemesia*

          One of the reasons that medical care pushes people into bankruptcy and takes everything they have. It is unconscionable that the US allows medical providers to hose those who are uninsured like this.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            I agree with you 100%. It’s a tragic cycle: people can’t always afford to pay ER bills … so ERs need to raise the prices to compensate (because they’re required by law/regulations to treat people at the ER even if they can’t afford it—but there’s no mechanism to compensate the ER for those costs) … which makes ER bills higher … so more people can’t always afford to pay ER bills. (Thanks, Reagan!)

        2. Risha*

          Depends on the hospital too, of course. The billing department of one I went to in New Jersey told me that the uninsured paid full price…. but then also got an automatic discount applied. (It was pertinent because my insurance was refusing to pay some portion of a bill, so she agreed to extend to me that discount and cut my $400 bill to $200.)

      2. VioletEMT*

        And so many uninsured can’t pay that and so default or get charity write-offs that the hospital then turns around and hikes up the prices more for everyone else to compensate.

        1. Artemesia*

          But those uninsured people are first stripped of all their assets and pushed into bankruptcy. If they are employed, their wages are garnisheed. An absolute minimum of fairness is that everyone is charged the same for the same procedures.

      3. krysb*

        I had emergency surgery a couple of years ago. Because it happened about 3 weeks before my insurance kicked in, the ER bills (ER doctor and diagnostics) and anesthesia bills I had to pay out of pocket, but the hospital bill was specifically coded to discount me for being uninsured.

        (Side note: I had paid off all of the emergency and anesthesia bills and was studiously paying down the hospital bill – which was over $5K – when a charity group aligned with the hospital paid off the hospital bill and refunded me some of what I had already paid. I nearly cried on the phone that day when they explained to me what happened when I tried to pay my bill, but it wouldn’t work.)

        1. Former Employee*

          krysb: I am so glad you had a somewhat happier ending than you anticipated as respects your financial obligations. (Of course, I am assuming that the surgery itself was a success)

      4. SpaceySteph*

        The OP’s story doesn’t surprise me at all. Last year while pregnant I went to a standalone in-network ER for something that I probably wouldn’t have bothered to even see a doctor for at all, except I was worried it would affect the pregnancy. I was billed $800, which my insurance company then had reduced to $660 but since I hadn’t met my deductible for the year I had to pay. Then I later got a bill for $300 more for the *doctor* services which was billed separately from the *facility* services. So almost $1000 out of pocket.

    3. MissDisplaced*

      I am not surprised at all. The US healthcare system is broken. Employees end up footing the bill when they get sick EVEN IF they do have insurance. Some insurance plans have $1,000, $1,500 or even $3,000 “deductibles,” which means the employee is on the hook to pay that BEFORE insurance even kicks in.
      So much for insurance!
      No, it does not pay to get sick in America. You tend to avoid the ER at all costs unless you are literally falling over unconscious or bleeding profusely.

    4. Zephyrine*

      This made me laugh because I was just thinking that $700 is an amazingly low price for an ED visit.

    5. kittymommy*

      I would imagine it’s likely there was a deductible that wasn’t met? With my insurance, we have $1500 deductible, under that is the patients responsibility.

    6. Red 5*

      My insurance wouldn’t have covered a single dime of the entire trip because I haven’t met my deductible yet this year. It’s actually considered a “silver” level plan, so according to American health insurance companies, it’s not crappy.

      According to me it’s really crappy, especially considering what I pay for it, but it’s entirely normal in this country for people to get a bill for at least that much. Which yeah, another example of how badly US medical care sucks.

      1. sstabeler*

        I think the idea is supposed to be that insurance is for costs you can’t be expected to pay yourself, and so you’re expected to pay the first $X- a nice idea in theory, but it shows up that there is something of an ivory tower involved- the people who design these policies usually have a sufficient income that a couple of grand isn’t a major hit. Unfortunately, the people who need health insurance the most don’t have enough of an income for that.

    1. #3*

      Of course, and he’s a really good boss and a great person. After my very unfortunate blow up, we now bump into each other in the hallway before meetings. I don’t expect him to start cancelling stuff, but this is a great improvement non-the-less!

      I have worked with bosses who just expected me to leave the final results at the door and with bosses who wanted to hold an hour long meeting every morning to discuss what their kids had for breakfast. I am fine with both, within reason. But I don’t like feeling as if I’m chasing the boss down and forcing them to meet with me. Then I consider it better for both of us to drop the meetings – dunno? Perhaps this is my “direct communication” style banging headlong into a conflict avoidant boss? It’s a real shame because everything else is really good between us (I think!).

      1. Teapot Librarian*

        Hi #3, this question and your response here have given me food for thought. In my case, I’m the conflict avoidant boss (working on it, with much help from AAM!) and my employee has the “direct communication” style–I’ve use the quotation marks here both because you did, and because my employee’s “direct communication” takes more of the form “I tell it like it is and don’t modulate my tone or word choice so that I’m not insubordinate.” However, in my case, my employee is the one who is late to meetings and I need to chase him down. It frustrates me because he complains that I don’t talk to him in person (also, working on it!) but he doesn’t talk to ME in person. Maybe he was taught not to interrupt the boss? I’ll have to ask him about that.

        1. #3*

          I’m glad if my words can be of some help to you. I know that being direct is sometimes used as an excuse to be rude but in my case it is both a cultural thing, and a deep held belief that if you get things directly out in the open then it is easier to fix them. A long life has taught me otherwise though and now I’m working on some sort of a happy medium.

          I would only ever be late to a meeting for two reasons: if I felt comfortable enough with the boss to have them come to me so that I can show them directly what I’m working on (I’m like a little kid at Christmas when work is going well, and I love sharing) or if I felt that there was not point in the meeting, probably because I felt that I wasn’t being heard.

          I think that direct and avoidant communicators have a lot to learn from each other; I can envy his ability to “talk a river” without really committing himself either way, or how he can smooth things over when something goes wrong. But I can miss knowing what his exact position is on matters – how can I follow someone when I don’t know where they are going?


      2. Quinalla*

        Are your meetings not on your boss’ calendar? I don’t think it is unusual for your boss to expect you to come to him to start a meeting, that’s pretty common honestly, but I do find it weird that he doesn’t cancel meetings. Are they not actually part of his calendar or does he not pay attention to his calendar and double book often? I’d talk to him about that part in particular as it seems like it could be something as easy as getting on whatever calendar/tracking system he’s using to book things.

        Also, being direct is not bad, but you might want to approach it as more of a collaborative solution kind of way. “Hey boss, this is the problem I keep running into with appointments, how can I handle it differently so we can avoid it in the future?” Similar to Alison’s suggestion to ask about what you should do if you show up for a meeting and he is unavailable or not there.

        1. #3*

          I should hope they are in his calendar, he’s the one booking them!

          And perhaps I need just to bite the bullet. I just really don’t like disturbing everyone when I know he’s smart enough to configure things so that he gets a reminder 5 minutes ahead of time. To me, it’s about respect for your co-workers, and also your subordinates: my job requires a lot of planning and timing, and for me to shut everything down for a meeting with a boss who shows no interest in participating in the meeting he himself initiated is both infuriating and inefficient. It also leaves me feeling like my job is pointless, because literally my only function within the firm is to do what he asks of me, and if he can’t be bothered to follow up on his own projects then what is the point of us working together?

      3. Ego Chamber*

        He doesn’t sound conflict-avoidant, he sounds like he’s kind of shit at time management/scheduling. Do you have intraoffice IM/does he respond to email (or even a quick phone call or text), so you can confirm these things without having to physically go find him?

        I don’t see the issue with you having to check his calendar on the day of to see if the meeting is still on (yes, it’s inconsiderate to not tell someone you’re cancelling, but it happens, and if it’s set up correctly your calendar should be able to tell you when things get cancelled). If your meetings aren’t on there at all, that would explain why he doesn’t seem to remember them, and also it’s weird to schedule meetings but not put them on a calendar. If the meetings are on his calendar but can have other things scheduled over the top/the timeslot still shows as available, that’s also a problem. Both of these possibilities would confirm my “not good at scheduling” theory.

  7. Sierra*

    I got sick and had to visit an urgent care center while running an out-of-town event for my company. I know they wouldn’t cover the medical expenses–I felt guilty enough expensing the cab to and from (though I reasoned that since I wouldn’t have taken a cab if I’d been home and since I bought event supplies at the pharmacy in addition to my medication, it was a valid expense.) My bill and prescriptions only came to about $300, still much more than I’d been planning to spend on this trip. I can’t imagine having to shell out $700!

    1. krysb*

      About 5 years ago I cut my finger on a slicer at work (I worked in the deli department of a large big box store at the time) and had to go to the ER and file workers’ comp. I had 2 stitches in my finger tip, a tetanus shot, and some antibiotics. The ER bill came out to $902. Luckily, I didn’t have to pay it.

      1. MommyMD*

        Emergency room visits are always expensive. You are paying for the 24/7 availability. Many of the visits are for non-emergency matters. But if one is truly ever unfortunate enough to have a genuine life-threatening emergency the staff is trained to save your life and the facility has the equipment and means to do so such as specialists on staff or on call. That’s why the bill is so high.

        1. Shadow*

          Not really. You’re paying because they prey on suckers who don’t know how much an ER visit costs. It gouging based on supply/demand/ignorance. Paying for services or specialists or staff you don’t use is complete BS. That would be like a 24 hour pharmacy charging you $50 for cough medicine.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            Also not quite there. :)

            You’re paying more for ER visits because ERs are required by law/regulation (I forget which) to treat someone who needs care even if they can’t afford to pay for it—but since there’s no mechanism in that law/regulation to cover the care that isn’t paid for by patients, the ER raises prices to spread the costs out over everyone who gets care.

            As far as “That would be like a 24 hour pharmacy charging you $50 for cough medicine.”
            Have you ever bought any medication at Walgreens (or anything at Walgreens)? Markups for 24/7 convenience are really common, at least in the States. This is why I don’t shop at convenience stores unless I desperately need some milk to eat Peanut Butter Crunch at 2am, and the same rationale can be applied to ER visits.

          2. a different Vicki*

            You’re also paying because it can be hard to tell whether a given symptom or set of symptoms is a sign of something life-threatening, and it can take trained professionals time to figure it out. If you think you’re having a heart attack, go to the ER, and several hours later they figure out that you didn’t, that doesn’t magically change things so you didn’t ride in an ambulance, or weren’t seen by a cardiologist.

            Am I a sucker for having decided it was worth paying the ER copay in case I had a serious problem, because after that ambulance ride, a CAT scan, conversations with doctors, and blood tests, they concluded that I had fainted due to low blood pressure, from hydrating entirely with water rather than something like a sports drink? Or is that okay because I was in my own home, and could ask for an in-network ER (which happened to be the closest anyhow)?

            1. sstabeler*

              I think he means it’s BS to charge more for seeing a cardiologist to pay for having, say, an orthopedic surgeon. it’s fine paying for a cardiologist if you actually saw one, but not if they had nothing to do with either your treatment, or diagnosing you.

    1. Mes*

      It is. I’m always cold in offices but 77 is quite warm. If someone is too cold to type at that temperature they probably need to work from home.

    2. Mike C.*

      It all depends on what people in the area are used to. In Seattle, that would be very warm, Los Angeles it would be normal to on the cool side. I still remember commercials saying to keep your A/C at 78 to save power during heat waves.

      Add in the fact that air flow is hard to deal with and situations where there are sudden and drastic changes in area temperatures and it’s a mess.

      1. TL -*

        My parents kept the house at 80 (south Texas) when we were kids; now they keep it at 78/79. It was always perfectly comfortable to us!
        77 seems reasonable in a hot climate, but the people who are hot and not moving get zero sympathy from me.

        1. blackcat*

          I set my a/c to 80, which means I run it very infrequently here in Boston (there were 2-3 days in July, and then those god awful days in May). But I also set my house to 60 in the winter.

          I am a cheapskate. I would not expect offices to be anywhere close to what I am willing to endure to save money.

          1. LBK*

            Oof – the temperature may not get up that high in Boston but I find myself running the A/C here just to get the humidity out of the house. Although this summer’s been mild enough that the ceiling fans have been pretty sufficient.

        2. Soon to be former fed*

          But then they would just have to move again when heating season arrives. Moving desks around is part of a temporary solution at best.

      2. Chicken*

        My office in LA was usually in the low 70s, and I found that quite warm – luckily I could wear sleeveless dresses! I’m at home right now with the a/c set to 72 and I’m wearing a tank top and have bare feet. I would be totally miserable at 77 degrees, that’s way too warm for me no matter what I’m (not) wearing.

    3. Allie Oops*

      I’d think it would depend on the job duties. People sitting at a desk typing all day might be okay, but people who have to run around the building all day would probably work up a sweat.

    4. Miso*

      That’s what I was thinking. 77 F (so 25 C) is my perfect outside temperature for summers – anything hotter is already getting too hot unless I’m lying motionless on a beach under a palm tree with the option to take a swim in the sea whenever I want. I mean, it’s 20 C here right now and I’m running around in a t-shirt and skirt – and I’m usually freezing super easily as well.

      But honestly, reading everything makes me kinda glad we don’t have an AC. Even though with our big windows, we usually manage to keep the building quite cool – opening the windows in the morning and then closing them in time and shutting all the blinds down is the key. Although on the third floor it still gets quite warm. The big glass pyramid over the stairs isn’t really helping…

    5. Darkitect*

      I think relative humidity makes a big difference. I work on a Gov’t installation in Florida. We passed an energy initiative 2 or 3 years ago that required re-setting all facilities to 78 degrees. It was torture. It was also ill-advised, as many of our conditioning systems required a cooler set point in order to properly dehumidify the space. So it was hot AND muggy. I think we were eventually able to use the humidity issue to set the temperature back to 72-74. All us smelly, greasy, frizzy-haired people were thankful.

    6. Chicken*

      It seems so crazy hot to me! I wonder if it was a typo and the writer meant 67. 67 is chilly though – not much of a compromise.

    7. Murphy*

      My house is set to 77, I wish my office was 77. (It’s very hot and humid outside, and once you get the humidity out, 77 is pretty comfortable.)

    8. CheeryO*

      I’d kill for our office to be set to 77, but I know I’m in the minority. 72 has me in sweaters all summer long, with a USB heated mouse (probably not technically allowed, but no one has noticed in over two years) and a light blanket for my lap.

      1. Turquoise Cow*

        There are heated mice?

        My current office is okay (although we still struggle with the temp occasionally), but my last job the AC was so low it was ridiculous. Heated mouse would have been a life saver!

    9. straws*

      I also wonder if the office temperature is maintained at 77 or if the thermostat is SET to 77. Depending on where the thermostat is located, setting it to 77 won’t necessarily mean that the rest of the office will actually achieve that temperature.

    10. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

      I can’t imagine being comfortable at that temperature, but I keep my house at 68. There are 5 of us in my area at work and we all have a vent in our individual offices that we each sit under. We keep the temp at 74 because 4 of us can make that work with a light jacket or cardigan and the 5th person is ok with that temp plus a fan. I’m one that uses a jacket, even though my house is set a lot lower. It’s being directly under the blowing cold air that gets me.

    11. Nic*

      I keep my AC at home between 78 and 80 during the summer. Blowing air more than just cold air makes me super cold.

      But you’re absolutely right. I usually see offices between 72 and 75.

  8. KTB*

    #3: I’m the opposite–I always have my boss’s schedule open in my Outlook. At this point, I pretty much know his schedule better than he does. It lowers my stress level considerably to just keep checking his calendar and reschedule as necessary.

    1. over educated*

      Yeah, this really varies based on the boss. Mine and others in my office tend to share their calendars and just say “find a time when I’m free and schedule a meeting,” it’s a way to take something off their plates and leave them mental space for other things.

    2. kittymommy*

      I have 10 calendars open all the time. My 6 direct bosses (highest ranking people in our organization), 3 senior level staff (they have their own assistants and I don’t report to them) and mine. And all of them keep their calendars differently.

  9. Middle Name Jane*

    Thank you, Alison. I’m hot natured and get tired of hearing cold natured people complain. I can’t take my clothes off, but they can add layers.

    1. JanetM*

      A valid point, but as someone noted above, there are only so many layers you can add to your hands before you can’t type anymore.

      1. aebhel*

        Right, but if you need to wear heavy gloves and a coat to function at 77 degrees, you’re well outside the norm.

    2. DC*

      FWIW, we also get tired of hearing hot-natured people complain. It goes both ways. Sure, you can’t take things off, but you can get a desk fan.

      1. SpaceySteph*

        Eh, a fan only marginally cools things down. There’s only so much you can do when blowing around still-hot air. There’s no perfect solution where the mitigation is 100% effective, so either someone is really happy while the others are really unhappy or everyone is slightly unhappy in the middle ground and doing their best with fans and sweaters.

      2. Master Bean Counter*

        In this case the hot natured people can move to the desks under the vents and get a cool breeze. And they aren’t doing it. My office stays a couple of degrees cooler than my bosses office. But he picked the hottest office in the building and turns down the thermostat to 71. I turn it up to 73 all the time. Some days I deal with a slight chill and leave it on 72.

    3. kittymommy*

      To a degree, but if I’m sitting at my desk with a space heater on, a heated keyboard on and a coat in Florida, in the summer, it’s possibly too cold in my office. If I’m sitting in a meeting and can’t feel my toes after 10 minutes, it’s possibly too cold in the office.

  10. Simone R*

    #3- I’ve never had a meeting with a boss where they’ve come to get me. It’s always been my responsibility to show up to their office and knock if I can’t see in or wait if I can tell they’re busy. It would totally seem weird to me to have them need to take the time to walk around the building to find me! My current boss is so busy, I’m not sure she even knows what her schedule is, she just has person after person show up in her office.

    1. #3*

      My boss is sitting in a room with 15 other people, each of which manages several other people. Imagine every subordinate knocking on the door every time they need to chat … would you want to work in that office?

      1. Colette*

        Does your boss want you to hunt them down wherever they are, or just stop at their office on the way? I understand that stopping to pick them up is annoying, but (unless you sit a long way away) shouldn’t be more than that.

        But I also don’t think you have to wait more than a minute or two – if she’s not back by then, you should be able to leave a note asking that she let you know when she’s ready. But definitely have a big-picture conversation about how she’d like you to handle it to make sure that works.

        1. Koko*

          I’m so confused about this “picking up” thing. Why aren’t you just meeting at the meeting location? If it’s in boss’s office, OP goes to boss’s office at appointed time. If it’s in OP’s office, boss comes to OP’s office at appointed time. If it’s in a conference room, you both arrive at the time.

          Are you saying that you’re in the meeting location and boss is late, so you have to go look for him?

          1. Antilles*

            My understanding of the ‘picking up’ thing is basically this: The boss is so busy with deadlines / conflicting appointments / whatever that he doesn’t keep track of the exact time and/or doesn’t remember what he has scheduled.
            So OP needs to swing by on the way to the meeting and remind him “Hey, it’s 10:00, you still good to meet?” Boss goes “oh yeah! whoa! what happened to my morning? Yeah, let’s chat.”

            1. LBK*

              Yeah, this is how it’s worked with every boss I’ve ever had, especially for one-on-one meetings. For larger meetings that we’re both attending sometimes we’ll just meet at the meeting but generally speaking I’ve always walked to meetings we’re both in together.

      2. hbc*

        I don’t think you need to knock in an office of 15. Knocking is for private areas, and unless their grouping is so they can carry on discussions with each other or they stay anchored to their desks all day, I think you just head on in and do your best not to disturb the other 14 desks.

        If I’m off and there’s a Do Not Disturb expectation, just talk to your boss. Maybe he’s fine with you interrupting if you’ve waited 5 minutes outside, maybe he’d prefer a text, maybe something else that I’m not thinking of.

      3. LBK*

        Is the door to the room usually shut? If it is, I think they have to expect that there will be regular knocks. If not, I think you can just walk in.

        I’m still a little confused about the setup of all of this, to be honest. When you say you’re “picking up” your boss, do you just mean that he expects you to stop by his desk on the way to the meeting, and then you walk to the meeting together?

        1. #3*

          Yes, that’s exactly it.

          The meetings have no fixed location – that would be inefficient given how often they get canceled. Instead we find a quiet location where we can sit.

          There is a do-not-disturb expectation in the office, depending on who is there. Often if I just need a quick word, we’ll go outside and talk in the hallway. He’s not the eternally busy type who doesn’t keep track of time – he’s actually really good at time management in projects and such.

  11. Middle Name Jane*

    Letter 2: That sucks! What else were you supposed to do? You were across the country and followed the advice given by your insurance company’s nurse line to go to the ER. What other choice did you have? No advice, but I can sympathize. I’m East Coast based, but travel to the west several times a year. I hope your company will agree to at least split the cost.

    1. Yada yada yada*

      It seems as if this all happened in the middle of the night, right? So even if the letter writer was at home, it’s not like he/she could have gone to their primary care physician. They probably would still have called a 24 hour hotline and been given the same advice, still ending up in the ED with the same bill. I agree that the situation totally sucks, but I don’t see how it relates to the travel, unless there’s something I’m missing. I don’t see how they could have gone to their PCP or urgent care if they had been at home. Even if they did, when you to to an outpatient office and complain of shortness of breath, they’ll probably send you to the ED anyway to be safe :/ They don’t have the imaging capabilities to rule out some of the more serious possibilities

      1. PX*

        From my reading of the letter, the cough started earlier, but because they were on a work trip, they couldnt go to their primary care physician and instead had to wait it out hoping it would pass. Its only when it became so bad they couldnt breathe that they were sent to ER. So to me the fact that it was work travel has a direct relation to the ER visit by preventing OP2 from going to see a doctor earlier.

        1. The IT Manger*

          My thought was that perhaps the LW should have gone to Urgent Care during the day even on a work trip. Because she tried to wait it out, she got sick.

          OTOH, I work for the government. I know this would not be covered by my agency. I would expect to pay for this myself and take it as a lesson learned to go to Urgent Care before it gets so bad that I have to go to emergency.

          And as someone else mentioned – deductibles and individual situations impact the cost of the visit and can impact the cost of the LW’s care the rest of the year.

          1. Emma*

            I had similar thoughts. I work for the state, and this kind of thing wouldn’t be covered. We do have international travel insurance if I were traveling internationally, but other than that, I’d be expected to use my own insurance.

            In my situation I’d probably have looked for an urgent care during the day if I felt sick then, but if I really was sick at night and needed to go to the ER, I’d have done that and just sucked up the cost.

          2. SarahTheEntwife*

            It sounds like this felt like a cold until the LW couldn’t breathe. Even for a severe cold, I’m probably not going to bother going to the doctor since there’s really nothing they can do other than maybe prescribe codeine syrup.

        2. Original Poster - Q #2*

          Hi! OP here… you nailed it. The other option would have been to go to urgent care but I didn’t want to cancel the meetings I had traveled across the country to take. Hindsight… :(

      2. Alice*

        Well, I don’t know if OP’s organization is like mine, but I could go to a company-sponsored urgent care (with a mini hospital/triage ward) in our city at any time of the night. All other places (walk-in clinics as well as ERs) are out of network for me.
        I have had a health emergency while traveling for work. I called my nurse-staffed triage line, got told to see a local doctor immediately, and had to cover an out-of-network co-pay because the in-network doctors were 300 miles away.
        In hindsight I think I could have asked for more reimbursement, but at the time I was very new and didn’t feel comfortable being a squeaky wheel.

        Isn’t it crazy that we depend on our jobs for health insurance? And then think of all the hours spent on benefits administration…. Absolutely crazy.

        1. Gaia*

          What kind of terrible insurance makes and ER “out of network?!?”

          I have known hospitals to be out of network but their ERs were always exempted. That is seriously crap.

          1. Zephyrine*

            Wow, I’ve definitely never heard of the ED exemption. That would be nice! I had to go to an ED for a UTI while on vacation in NYC. I was billed $1800 for the privilege of peeing in a cup, spending less than three minutes with a doctor (seriously, he showed up, said hello, pressed on my lower abdomen, and left), and sitting around for several hours waiting for the results.

            1. Yada yada yada*

              Part of the reason the ED is so expensive is because it’s meant for true emergencies. I think primary care physicians should do a better job educating people about their options! It’s hard for people not in the medical profession to know what they should go in for, but I’d say more than half of people who go to the ED should have gone to urgent care instead. Again, this is something that isn’t really the patients fault, but PCPs should have guidelines to help their patients decide where to go

            2. sstabeler*

              to be fair, the doctor may only spend 3 minutes with you, but that doesn’t mean they spend no more time than that on diagnosing whatever you have. The show’s far from perfect, but remember that in House M.D, he doesn’t actually examine most of the patients himself, IIRC- but it would be legitimate to bill said patient for the time he spent diagnosing their problem.

      3. INTP*

        My interpretation was that the OP did not want to leave work to go to urgent care or similar because they were on work travel. Maybe they were running a time-sensitive project or in a client’s office, something they couldn’t easily walk out on? During normal work, they would have been more likely to leave work during the hours that clinics and such are open to go to the doctor. So it was more the work hours than the travel that caused the problem.

        My opinion really depends on the nature of work the OP was doing. If the OP was a crucial person engaged in a client meeting or something similar, such that OP leaving work during the day would have cost the company a lot of money, then it seems crappy to keep that money saved by the OP’s decision to stay at work but leave OP with the resulting ER bill. (Not to mention, a sure way to make sure the next employee in this situation DOES walk out on the client meeting.) But if the OP could easily have gone to the doctor during the day and simply chose not to ask/try, I don’t think the company owes her.

    2. kindnessisitsownreward*

      This is a good example of the insanity of our health care system. Your doctor has no idea what your co-pays are–their job is to give you medical treatment and advice based on their best knowledge, and your job is to decide if you can afford to do what they suggest.

      1. Alice*

        You might be interested in reading about “financial toxicity” — some researchers actually study this.

        1. Mother of Cats*

          I’ve never heard that phrase before am now reading all about it. Thanks for your comment!

  12. Magenta Sky*

    #1: Alison’s advice is excellent if you are dealing with people who act like grown ups. If you are not, it is trivial to purchase and install a key locking cover for the thermostat, and should be nearly as easy to put key locking latches on the windows. Perhaps the mere threat of doing so would be enough to convince everyone to act their age.

    Also, while sitting under the A/C vent will always be colder, if you have hot and cold zones in the office, your HVAC guy may be able to adjust the venting to mitigate it at least some.

    (And people not wanting to move to those desks may actually be somewhat legitimate. There’s more to sitting under the vent than just temperature. It also means you have air blowing on you when the fan it running. I wouldn’t be able to do that all day, because it dries out my eyes to the point that it’s unacceptable. But that, too, can be mitigated by your HVAC guy with a different adjustment on the vent, or a different vent.)

        1. Ramona Flowers*

          That wouldn’t necessarily stop people offering – but it might be why they weren’t taken up on it.

    1. Thlayli*

      I read it as the people who are complaining about the heat are refusing to sit in the cold parts of the room but they are perfectly happy to blast freezing drafts on their colleagues who do have to sit in the cold parts of the room.

      If there were nobody sitting in the path of frozone then this wouldn’t even be an issue. Someone is already sitting there – the people moaning about the heat should swop seats with the people moaning about the cold and then both sides can see how bad it actually it on the other side.

    2. krysb*

      Also, I wonder if those spots are hotter during the fall/winter. I wouldn’t be much of a fan of moving desks twice a year.

      1. Another Jennifer*

        As someone who sits right near a vent at work, yes, those spots are (much) hotter in the winter.

  13. David St. Hubbins*

    #1 – I think the answer is to remove all aircon controllers and only have one for the whole building. In a locked room.
    Where I work there is a certain group of ladies who like to crank up the temperature as high as they can. Then someone casually told them that according to the Occupational Health and Safety Act, the temperature has to be between X and Y (not remotely true, but it was worth a shot). It didn’t work. The war continues.

    1. Catherine*

      I was going to suggest something similar: have a lockable thermostat installed. You can either install a thermostat that requires a passcode or install it inside a cover that locks with a key. This isn’t very expensive in terms of office maintenance costs. Keep the access closely guarded, and if anyone does tamper with it, I think that that is going far enough that there should be some consequences.

      1. nonegiven*

        They break it off. Or somebody opens a vent and someone else closes it, repeatedly until one of them breaks the handle off in their preferred position.

    2. blackcat*

      This was the case when I was a teacher. Temperatures were set in the facilities office. That caused conversations like this:
      Me (on phone): It’s currently 85 in my classroom
      Facilities guy: No, our system says it’s 72 in there, right on target.
      Me: I am a science teacher. I have more than a dozen thermometers. They all say it’s 85.
      Facilities guy: Well, they must be wrong, because my system says it’s 72.
      Me: *uses a 150W an incandescent bulb and clip lamp to heat up sensor, causing a/c to turn on, finally*

      1. Hey Karma, Over here.*

        My office had something similar. My cubicle was catty-corner from a small conference room that was well below 60F. The cold just poured out on me. I called facilities. They came, read the thermostat and announced it was 72F. My supervisor called, as did hers. Two more identical visits. Nearly 9 months later a fortuitous over-scheduling of conference rooms brought a C level meeting from the 26th floor to the 17th. The visit by facilities at that time amazingly discovered that the thermostat read 72 but, hey, oh, wait, it’s broken.

        1. Joielle*

          My office-mate and I did that at my last job. We were sharing a large, high-ceilinged office in a historic courthouse, with a HUGE window, during a winter of record-breaking cold, and as two Always Cold people, we were generally freezing. Eventually, someone in maintenance must have noticed that one of the offices’ thermostats was reading way colder than all the rest and came to investigate… aaand that was the day we got yelled at by a custodian for trying to trick the thermostat. At the time, it was seriously irritating because we were just trying to be comfortable, but in retrospect, it was pretty funny. We were sneakier about our wet paper towel usage from then on.

    3. HVAC Engineer here*

      I am an HVAC engineer and have to weigh in on this.

      1. As the poster above pointed out, have your landlord switch out the thermostats so they do not have a temperature read-out. When you SEE a number on a thermostat, you automatically, based on your personal preferences in your head create a bias towards whether that is too hot or too cold. Whether your body actually feels hot or feel cold doesn’t matter. Your brain and your biases overrule. We have eliminated A LOT of problems on a lot of projects by not telling people what the temperature is. Then you truly have to rely on what your body is saying.

      2. If you cannot do number 1. A locking thermostat cover is a great second option.

      3. Take this up with your landlord. This issues described can be due a system that is out-of-balance, thermostats that are out-of-calibration (or have failed outright) or other controls / performance issues in the system. The issues described above are fixable.

      4. DO NOT ALLOW OPEN WINDOWS. Heating and Air Conditioning consumes 40% of America’s energy. Do not allow your carbon footprint to grow by opening windows. If you want open windows, the AC has to go off.

      5. ASHRAE (The American Society of Heating Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Engineers) sets standards for what comfort is in ASHRAE Standard 55. Here is the Wikipedia cliff notes on it: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ASHRAE_55

      1. Murphy*

        See, I do the opposite of #1. I am freezing and THEN I check the thermostat to see if it’s in fact really cold. (It’s usually between 67 and 72 whenever I feel cold enough to get up and check.)

      2. only acting normal*

        I was surprised at the open windows too. Ours are all locked so no-one can open them and mess up the AC. The only time they were unlocked was the time the AC went down in the middle of summer (in the UK… but it was actually hot that week). It was really lovely with all the windows open, the always-too-cold people and the always-too-hot people were *all* fine! Then the AC was fixed and they came round and locked all the windows again – back to normal, woolly jumpers or desk fans all round. :(
        While I really appreciate the wonder of AC when visiting hot places, I think it’s a waste of energy in a temperate climate like the UK.

        1. HVAC Engineer here*

          Ahhh, you’ve hit on a really good point. It is well studied and well known that the better the connection that building occupants have with the outdoors, the less AC and heat we need. Open windows, open doors, and all of that make us feel more “in tune” with nature and the outdoors, and as a result our range of comfortable temperatures and humidities opens up, and temperatures once deemed uncomfortable become suddenly comfortable. (I do feel for all of the allergy suffers though…….)

          Unfortunately, here in the US, we are trained to rely on AC, and once you put energy into conditioning the air, then please, keep the windows shut. (BTW, in metropolitan areas with pollution, sometime your outside air is not clean and no, you really don’t want to interact with it directly)

          1. only acting normal*

            I’ve worked in the centre of London with no AC – let me tell you about pollution! ;-)

          2. Callie*

            I have lived in both the PNW and in the deep South. Right now in my corner of the south it is 100* with 70% humidity. No amount of open windows, open doors and being “in tune” with nature is going to make me comfortable. When I lived in the PNW we didn’t even have AC and I was fine 90% of the year, with open windows and a box fan or two, except those few weeks in August when it got to the upper 90s-100s. I was MISERABLE… and we lived all year round with open windows and fresh air and all that “in tune with nature” stuff.

            It’s a little dismissive to suggest that those of us who live where it’s 100 flipping degrees are just “trained to rely on AC”. as an HVAC engineer I assume you know about all those elderly people who die each year because they don’t have AC?

            1. only acting normal*

              In HVAC Engineer’s defence, they were replying to my comment about temperate climates like the UK not hot climates, and they said *less* AC not *no* AC.

          3. CT*

            When it’s 98 degrees and 100% humidity, when walking around outside for 5 minutes leaves you drenched, no, it’s not about being “trained to rely on AC”. I do agree that natural air is better, when its condition allows it. I used to live in Scotland, and it was paradise. Nice temperature year round, for me, and only maybe 2 days when I would have wanted AC. In the midwestern US it is almost literally hell during July and August, and would make working in a professional environment untenable, especially since practically every business has computers, so a nice active heat source at all times as well. And no, fans moving hot air around doesn’t really help, unless you think hot air dryers generate cool, refreshing breezes.

            This isn’t purely directed at you, I just hate when people who don’t have to deal with intense humid heat make sweeping comments about those who do

        2. sstabeler*

          that’s…not always true, though i agree that AC is often overused in the UK.
          1. considering that most of the year it’s between 50-68 Farenheitish, then when it gets to 85ish, it’s hot enough to be a serious problem- as in, people dying of heatstroke. As such, AC at about 68ish Farenheit is comfortable for us.
          2. AC isn’t just for cooling air- it can also be useful for keeping the air warmer in midwinter when it’s down to 30ish Fahrenheit. (as for why central heating can’t be used instead, it can, but AC can also help keep cool in summer.)

      3. Lora*

        Are there any ASTMs on the cal requirements for thermostats in commercial buildings? I feel like they’re always the cheapest crummiest electronics on the face of the earth.

        PSA: HVAC systems should have annual preventative maintenance, including a check of the electronics. You do not want to find out about the mouse colony living in the ductwork only because a relay blew up and set the building on fire. Also, if you are in a large building that has been carved up into smaller units, make sure you REALLY know where the fire alarm control panel is, because even though it’s supposed to be near the front door, sometimes they carve out a smaller rental unit and the alarm panel is in the neighbor’s door. Which you don’t have access to. And the place keeps burning longer than it would have if the firefighters could have figured out from the control panel where exactly in the building the fire was.

        1. HVAC Engineer here*

          In the US, there are no codes that set the accuracy and longevity of thermostats. There are industry norms though, and you have nailed it: for cheaper installations we permit cheaper thermostats. For better quality projects, we specify stat’s with better accuracy and longevity. For hospitals and labs, we specify the best that’s out there. Even then, over time, stuff ages, gets dusty, gets out of whack.

          And, totally agree with your PSA.

          Regarding the fire alarm, codes take that very seriously in the US. Building modifications done with building permits will address this and either require the panel stay accessible or that it be moved to another high-visible, high access spot. However, commercial building permits require drawings produced by licensed architects and engineers (who legally and ethically must follow codes) and all of that is expensive. Landlords (and some tenants) will elect (not legally) to make building modifications with out permits and then what you describe above is a real possibility and a real risk.

  14. PX*

    Im in Europe and have always worked for large companies, so #2 sounds crazy to me. All work travel is always covered by work medical insurance (and I have a boss who has said if you get sick on work travel, its fine to cancel it and come back home – there’s nothing more miserable than being sick in a strange place having experienced it themselves!)

    I dont know the size of your company but I would try and push back on you paying this, and perhaps float the idea of work travel insurance for the future.

    1. little mermaid*

      Yeah, same here. This is totally outlandish to me. If I travel nationally I’m generally covered by the country’s health insurance that everyone has (in case of me just getting sick, unrelated to work) and of course the company has to insure me in case of work related incidents. Additionally, the company provides private travel insurance for when we go abroad and they also made that available for our private trips and holidays (and we’re at under 200 employees, so not that big a company). Being stuck with a bill like that just would never happen!

      1. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

        Same for us!

        We’ve even got this new mandatory app for our travel insurance (one click and you’re connected to the closest sos international center) that we’re meant to use even if we’re abroad on holiday (I asked.)

      2. LBK*

        We do have workers comp in the US if you’re injured as a result of something work-related, but I wouldn’t say getting sick while on a work trip is a “work-related incident” unless maybe your work sends you somewhere with a known outbreak of some disease.

    2. Ramona Flowers*

      I wasn’t going to comment because I’m British and my perspective isn’t relevant but as you mentioned it, it sounds crazy to me too but I gather it’s not so crazy for America.

      I did spend an interesting while pondering whether Scots and Welsh people (who have no prescription fees) could expense the £8.60 if they needed medication while in England on business.

      1. Thlayli*

        lol that’s great. I guess technically they could expense the £8.60.

        I used to live and work in the uk and the thing I miss most is the NHS. I’m still EU though so it’s not too bad. ER charge here would be €100 precisely to encourage people not to go but there for minor issues but there are no additional costs for any treatment you receive on top of that so it’s a flat rate.

        Every time I read a story like this I feel so sorry for Americans.

    3. Some Sort of Management Consultant*

      Yeah, all organizations are legally required in my country to have insurance for employees here, that covers them during and to/from work. Most have extra travel insurance as well.
      If nothing else, I’d have thought it’d be a major risk for an American firm to NOT have insurance for their workers.

    4. Jennifer M.*

      OP’s insurance did cover the visit because it was an in-network ER. It’s just that insurance doesn’t cover 100% of the bill. Most US insurance has a deductible of anywhere from $500/year for a PPO (higher monthly premiums) to $5K or $6K on a High Deductible Plan (lower monthly premiums). And once you hit the deductible the insurance coverage is 70/30, or 80/20 or 90/10, but generally the patient has to pay something (unless they hit their annual out of pocket maximum).

      1. Some sort of Management Consultant*

        Ah! Thanks for the explanation.
        Then it seems EVEN crazier that the company wouldn’t cover it.

          1. LBK*

            The argument is that if she were home she could’ve just gone to her regular doctor or urgent care rather than going to the ER, which would’ve been cheaper…but I’m not totally sold on that argument unless she was in a really remote place where there was no in-network urgent care available. I’d imagine the nurse on the hotline was just giving general advice for medical expedience (“if you can’t breathe, go to the ER”), not the advice that might be in the OP’s best medical and financial interest.

    5. CmdrShepard4ever*

      I think this is the difference between Europe and US, but usually if it is travel or personal insurance being covered does not mean you pay nothing when you are sick. It all depends on the plan but there are co-pays for everything, prescriptions, Primary doctor visits, specialists, urgent care, and ER visits. Then that is only if you have met your deductible, if you haven’t then you might be on the hook for the full cost. Deductibles can be $500, $1000, $3000, $5000.

    6. INTP*

      It sounds like the OP’s medical insurance did apply in this case. A lot of insurance just has an outrageously high copay for ER visits to discourage you from using the ER as an urgent care or walk-in clinic.

      I’m pretty sure the travel itself didn’t add any additional fees for the specific medical care, it would have been the same if OP had the same emergency at home. The issue was that OP was working long hours and decided not to go to a clinic, urgent care, or other cheaper option during the day, which would have prevented the emergency breathing difficulty in the middle of the night when only ERs were open. It’s hard for me to take a side without knowing the nature of the OP’s work, though. If, say, OP was a consultant that a client was paying hundreds of dollars per hour to speak with, OP saved the company a lot more money than the ER cost and the company should pay. If OP could have left work during the day without major consequences, though, I lean towards saying it was her decision not to go to the doctor earlier, and they don’t owe her reimbursement.

    1. Violet Rose*

      Oof, I feel ya. I work from home 80% of the time, which would normally be a temperature-control dream – buuuut, AC is expensive and my flat runs naturally warm, so sometimes I try to tough it out with ceiling fans. This is… not great if, like me, temperatures in the 80s make you angry and resentful!

      My record is 86 before I saw the thermostat, thought “hang on, HOW hot???” and hastily switched on the AC.

      1. Sparkly Librarian*

        Our building doesn’t have AC, so we have to close down for safety when our thermostat gets to 87.

    2. Ramona Flowers*

      I hear you.

      I use a lot of deodorant. I don’t get how they aren’t all melting like me.

    3. Been there*

      My internal thermometer has always been broken. I’m a happy camper at 65-70 degrees anything warmer than that I get hot.

      That being said I hate air conditioning. So my office is really my definition of hell. It turns out I have the main vent for our 1 story building in my my office. I spend about 80% of the time in here on the phone with the door closed. The vent blows the cold air into my office non stop because the thermometer is in the hall blocked by door. In the winter it’s reversed I get all of the heat.

      So I’m the weirdo that’s wearing wool sweaters at the office in the summer when it’s 80+ degrees out and t-shirts in the winter when it’s 20 degrees.

  15. Kayleigh*

    I’m British, so I just looked up 77 degrees in Celsius and I would be MELTING if I had to work in an office that warm! As Alison says, the trouble is that us warm people can’t just strip off in the office to cool down, whereas cold people can layer up, so I’d err on the side of keeping it cooler (not just because I’m biased!). If I were in your office though, I’d gladly take one of those colder desks – I focus much better when I can stay cool at work.

    I do sympathise though – we used to have ridiculous ongoing air con wars at my old company. One time, someone requested that we turn the heating on in JUNE, when everyone was already sweltering in sundresses and t-shirts. The air con/heating unit in that office was operated by remote control rather than a wall unit, so I believe the remote happened to go missing that day to avoid everyone being cooked alive…

    1. Ian Mac Eochagáin*

      I also had to look that temperature up and was surprised that that was the “compromise” temperature. 25C is very warm indeed. The one good thing to be said about this person’s situation is that people speak up about it. It’s much better than an office where everyone just grumbles quietly but says nothing to anyone while their resentment grows.

    2. krysb*

      Y’all just made me flashback to when we had a Brit come to work at my company on a 6-month visa, during the summer, in Tennessee. Poor guy could barely handle our weather, which usually hovers around 95*F/105 – 115*F with the heat index (95* is the real temp, but it feels like 115*), which equates to 35*/46*C.

      1. sstabeler*

        The hottest day ever in the UK was 34*C IIRC, so it’s not that surprising. Last time I went anywhere with that kind of temperature, I couldn’t actually do much until I acclimatised.

  16. Carley*

    $700 to go to the ER and a diagnosis? Good lord! Forgive an ignorant foreigner (UK) but is that the standard fee for something so…standard?

    That really does suck though. Does your company have travel insurance for employees for when they travel that might cover costs of emergencies?

    1. TL -*

      ERs can be really expensive, especially if you’re out of network and not admitted. It probably would have been $10-$25 to see his/her regular doctor for the same thing.

      1. Really*

        There are some policies where you have to pay for the whole charge yourself if your reason to go could have been handled at a lower level. I had a policy like that once. They paid when I pointed out that it was Christmas, my doctor’s office was closed and normally patients with my condition get put in the hospital.

      2. Regina Phalange*

        Why is there such a big difference between going to the ER and going to your regular doctor? As someone from a developing country with free health care, it blows my mind that a country like the US has such high fees for fairly common things, even with health insurance.

        1. Emma*

          In the US, ERs are supposed to be for emergencies only, so any care there is always more expensive. We do have urgent care clinics (not located in hospitals) that typically stay open later, into the evenings, but are closed at night. With those, you can go without an appointment to get minor injuries treated (I’ve had stitches at one, for example), and it will usually be much cheaper. But for serious emergencies, the hospital ER is the only option, and it will be expensive.

          1. TL -*

            Not true! My last two insurance policies (in MA) both waved any copay if I got admitted and then it was just normal deductible whatever I had. (I never understood when I would get charged or when I wouldn’t but it normally worked out in my favor.)
            Not that I’ve had to go to the ER since reaching adulthood, but still.

            1. Emma*

              Was that admitted to the hospital though? You’re right that if you’re admitted to the hospital, then it can be cheaper, but if you’re going for something like stitches (where you’re not admitted, and go home afterwards), in my experience it’s almost always more expensive at the ER than urgent care.

              1. Callie*

                Urgent cares are not always open 24/7 so it’s not always an option. Around here the latest UC closes at 10 pm.

        2. blackcat*

          Hospitals are more expensive to run than a simple doctor’s office. Hospitals are also much more likely to have to spend money on uninsured people (they are required by law to treat people who show up in the ER, regardless of ability to pay). They pass that cost along to patients who can pay/have insurance. A regular doctor just refuses to see uninsured people, so does not incur those costs.

        3. Lora*

          Two reasons:
          1) they want to discourage people from going to the ER for something that could have been handled by a regular doctor. Unfortunately, the regular doctors are often overbooked to the point that you cannot see a regular doctor without an appointment several weeks in advance, which is useless when you have pneumonia, and the regular doctors often use the ER as their “backup” when they know a patient needs treatment but they’re already completely booked up.

          2) ERs are legally mandated to see all patients regardless of ability to pay or why they are there. That means a great many people who can’t pay show up for treatment, because they have no other options. ERs tend to run at a deficit that the rest of the hospital revenue has to make up somehow. So they jack the prices partly to cover that deficit. Even simple surgical recovery treatments are billed at a small fortune because of this.

          Yes, our health care system is the pits. Have visited developing countries, can confirm you guys get just as good or better treatment than we do with all our $$$. It’s a big stupid mess…

        4. Kate*

          I might be able to shed some light on this!

          I once had a very similar situation to the OP’s. I am Canadian, I was traveling to Los Angeles on business, and I got unexpectedly sick in the middle of the night on a weekend. I had no idea what was wrong or what to do, so I caught a cab to the closest ER.

          2000 dollars US later…

          There was one bill for the ER itself.call it the “showing up to the ER fee”. It included the cost for the triage nurse and the admin who checked me in.
          There was one bill for the nurse that saw me once I got through triage.
          There was one bill for the junior doctor that saw me after the nurse determined I needed to see a doctor.
          There were two fees for the blood and urine tests they ran to determine what I had: one for the tech that actually did the tests and one for the tests themselves.
          There was a fee for the senior doctor that reviewed the test results and determined that I had a UTI that required antibiotics.

          The kicker was this:

          They handed me a prescription for antibiotics but no antibiotics. I explained that it was the middle of the night on a Saturday, I had no idea where I was or how to get to a pharmacy, when the pharmacy would open, etc.

          Could hey give me ONE dose of the antibiotic to get me started on the night and give me time to find a pharmacy.

          “If you’re sure…”

          125 USD later! 100 for a “hospital dispensing fee” and 25 for a single pill of an antibiotic that costs 2 dollars in Canada.

          THAT’s why here is such a big difference between going to the ER and seeing your regular doctor. Lesson(s) learned.

          1. aebhel*

            Exactly. Each thing bills separately, and if you need, say, X-rays, it may not even be the hospital billing you, but some entirely separate outside entity. So even after you get the hospital bill, you may end up with more bills on top.

            1. Regina Phalange*

              That’s crazy! How much does the average health insurance cost in the US? Do people pay a monthly fee on top of whatever they are billed when they need medical care?
              I’m not gonna lie, I don’t think our free health care treatment is great, there are loads of issues with it. But I do have private health insurance which costs about USD 500 a month for 3 people (which is still a bit expensive if you consider the average salary of about USD 900/1000 a month) but if I go to the ER I pay 0$, or if I need x-rays or blood tests I also pay 0$. If I see a regular doctor that accepts my insurance plan, I also pay 0$. You only get charged for things like surgeries and the dentist if you need something like an implant or a crown (how much depends on your insurance plan).

              1. BananaPants*

                My medical insurance to cover me (employee) plus family is around $1000/month in premiums; we pay 15% and my employer pays the other 85% of the premium cost.

                So, we pay $150 every month for the privilege of having insurance. Then we’re on the hook for the first $7K in medical expenses before the insurance pays anything, then they pay 80% of all costs until we hit $13K in out of pocket costs, at which point they cover 100%. Deductible and maximums re-set every year on January 1st.

                Dental is an entirely separate insurance policy with its own premiums and coverage limits.

              2. abra*

                ‘Average’ is very difficult to estimate; it depends on the region where you’re living, whether you have insurance through an employer or are purchasing individual insurance, your age, and how much the insurance you’re choosing actually covers. Most insurance here has a deductible, meaning you’re out of pocket for all costs until you hit a certain cost threshold. Low deductibles are a few hundred dollars; many deductibles are a thousand dollars or more — all out of your pocket, on top of your premiums, before insurance kicks in. If ACA protections are repealed, costs may also go back to varying depending upon your gender and health history.

                Your private health insurance is much cheaper than what most on the individual market in the US would pay, and covers much much more — most plans these days have a co-pay for ER visits and diagnostic tests. Few plans cover dental at all. Employers will sometimes provide dental insurance but it’s separate from health insurance, with a separate premium, and even then, it only covers about what you’re saying your insurance covers.

              3. Lora*

                Yeah, my very fancy insurance costs me about $200/month, costs my employer a little over $1000/month. And I pay $10/prescription, $20 for regular doctor visits, $50 for fancy specialist visits, $150 to the ER if I’m not admitted to the hospital overnight.

                For dental I have to pay I think 60% for crowns or implants. And vision I have an allowance of $250 for glasses frames and get a 50% discount on lenses.

                Prior to the ACA I could not buy insurance outside of Massachusetts for love or money. Too many pre-existing conditions. So I did without. Had to pay $15k in cash for then-husband’s back surgery, and he was in the hospital for 3 days. If we’d had insurance, they’d have billed the insurance company about $5k.

        5. Specialk9*

          Regina – hospitals have an unfunded mandate to provide medical care even if people can’t pay. Many many people can’t pay and don’t have insurance. So they show up to the ER for routine medical needs, as well as emergency (and sometimes, when I was riding an ambulance, just to get a ride into the city). Which, hey, we have an utterly broken system, people have to deal with it however they can.

          What that means is that hospitals in poor neighborhoods often have to close because they can’t balance the books.

          Let me repeat that: in America, poor people often don’t have hospitals, on top of not having insurance they can afford.

          And don’t get me started on dental care, which is an unaffordable luxury to so many.

          It’s disgusting. America has broken its Social Contract.

          1. cheeky*

            America doesn’t have much of a social contract at all, and never really has made major efforts, aside from FDR’s New Deal.

            1. Ego Chamber*

              To be fair, Reagan was the one who made sure people could get treated in the ER without first proving they could afford it, although he didn’t seem to really think it through as far as where the money would be coming from.

              I never realized how recent that whole thing was until I started looking at the copyright dates on a few books I read that hinged on a plot point of someone who desperately needed emergency services tragically being turned away from the ER because they didn’t have an insurance card (or credit card) on them. These books were written in the early 80’s.

        6. Student*

          Same reason the price for hot dogs is much higher at a baseball game (err… rugby? ) than at the local grocery store.

          If you only have one or two choices for where to get treatment, and getting treatment is essentially non-optional, such as during medical emergency, then:
          (1) they know you have to get the service they offer
          (2) and you’ll probably pay whatever they charge because your options are very limited and going without their service would be very unpleasant, at best.

          The only thing that keeps them from charging more is the principal that you can’t squeeze blood from a stone – most people can put that kind of charge on a credit card and deal with consequences later, but a decent number of people would not be able to pay a much higher charge due to credit card limits / existing debts.

          Without laws to keep them from taking every advantage they can, they charge as much as they find the market will bear.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            Kind of? If the hot dog vendors were required by law to feed everyone who requested a hot dog, regardless of whether they could pay, the vendors would probably end up increasing the price on all hot dogs to keep their business open, or close the business.

            Similar principle (but more paperwork). It’s easy to villainize ER’s because pretty much everyone who’s been in one had a pretty bad experience, followed by an outrageous bill, but the overall system as it currently exists isn’t giving them a lot of options to keep doing what they do.

      3. TL -*

        Because going to the ER to treat things that could’ve been handled by a primary care or urgent care (which is not available everywhere but is available in most decent-sized cities) is a huge waste of money and resources AND you’re probably going to get sub-par care anyways, because the ER’s job is to keep you alive and then send you on to a different doctor for appropriate follow-up/treatment.

        ERs are not allowed to refuse patients; they have to treat everyone who walks in. Which I am totally in favor of, but there are people who will go in for things that can be treated better and more easily elsewhere and then complain about really long wait times (ERs triage; if they’re being run properly, you will wait a long time for non-urgent care) and not-great treatment. Again, an ER’s job is to patch you up and keep you alive and, if they’re run properly, they should get you stable and refer you to a GP/specialist or admit you in the hospital and transfer you to specialist/internist care.

        1. Specialk9*

          Complaining about people who go to the ER for normal ailments is pretty callous. That is the behavior of rational people in an irrational and unjust system. Don’t blame the sick people for America having deeply unjust medical care.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            Agreed. Last time I was at urgent care with bronchitis that wouldn’t die, I watched someone get referred to the ER because they couldn’t afford to pay for urgent care.

            Yes, they should have been treated by a primary care doc, but they couldn’t afford one of those.

            Yes, urgent care would be a good back-up solution, but they couldn’t afford that either.

            Yes, it will cost more get their kid stitched up a the ER, and it will take longer to get him seen, but the ER will actually treat him, and if you’re probably not going to be able to pay anything anyway, the difference between $500 and $5,000 doesn’t really matter in any material way.

        2. Mary*

          We have this debate in the UK too, and as far as I can see, the big flaw of “A&E is only for risk-to-life-or-limb situations” is that you’re basically asking unqualified medical people to triage themselves. Yes, there are some obvious cases where people shouldn’t go to A&E, but quite often it’s not *that* obvious. How bad does a broken bone have to be before you’re at risk of losing a limb? I have no idea!

          My daughter had bronchiolitis when she was six weeks old: we went to A&E on Sunday, got diagnosed and told what to watch for and to come back if X,Y or Z happened. On Tuesday, we had a general appointment at the GP, and he witnessed a coughing fit and sent us straight to children’s A&E, even though X, Y or Z wasn’t happening, and I wasn’t confident enough to refuse. We spent six hours sitting in a corridor waiting to be seen when we’d have been much better off at home sitting on the sofa. I also phoned my GP and NHS111 when I had a cat bite, and got sent to A&E. Fortunately, the A&E I got sent to was attached to a Minor Injuries Unit, so I got triaged and sent to that service instead.

          “A&E is only for real emergency life-and-death situations” is all very well, but most of us aren’t trained in triage. Services like combined A&E/Minor Injuries/Urgent Care centres where you can rock up with a range of conditions and get properly triaged and sent to the right place are so much more sensible!

          1. sstabeler*

            it’s not actually quite as simple as “risk to life or limb”- broken bones actually are legitimate reasons to go to A&E.

      4. Kalamet*

        Not always. I have high-deductible insurance that covers very little beyond routine care. It costs me a minimum of 100$ to see my doctor for any reason other than a physical. My company provides an HSA, which helps, but most minor illnesses still aren’t worth going to the doctor.

    2. MissDissplaced*

      Actually, I’m surprised it was that LOW! An ER visit can run into the thousands. Yes America has shitty healthcare.

      1. blackcat*

        I had an ER visit for a severe allergic reaction. I got an ambulance ride to hospital with an epi-pen, I was pumped full of benedryl and observed for 3 or so hours and sent home. Never admitted. I was shocked! Totally shocked! at the bill from the ER: $600. Total! SO CHEAP!! I was totally prepared for a several thousand dollar bill. I <3 my local community hospital. Quick, quality, cheap care less than 1 mile from my house. Big area hospitals (I'm in the Boston area) charge FAR more for the same services. I don't get it.

        (To my surprise, my normally crappy insurance fully covered the $2500 in ambulance fees. I was expecting to pay that since I had not met the deductible. But apparently they waive that for certain conditions.)

        Also, to compare: total expenses incurred when I had a severe allergic reaction in a developing country: $12. That was the fee for basically identical care: shot of epinephrine, giant shot of benedryl. Bill broke down the fees: $10 in hospital/doctor fees, $0.5 for medication (epinephrine and benedryl are actually that cheap), $1.50 for medical supplies (needles, I presume).

        1. blackcat*

          Edited to add: In the developing country, I was charged the foreigner rate (moderately touristy area, they were used to getting some foreigners). Locals were charged nothing.

            1. blackcat*

              Yep. I had never heard of an ER bill of under $1000. I told it to tons of people and the response I got was either 1) “Holy crap that’s cheap!” or 2) “Don’t you love [local community hospital]? So cheap!” This was about two years ago.

              I told my mom and she recalled two ER visits: when my brother broke his arm in a simple fracture ($1200 in 1995 dollars), and her getting stung by an entire beehive ($3000 in 1997 dollars).

              The US has the most expensive medical care in the world.

            2. Ramona Flowers*

              I’m sure the American readers are sick of hearing this but I just find this so shocking.

          1. Kiki*

            My last ER visit cost me $3,500. I woke up at 2 am with shooting pains in my abdominal region, obviously no regular doctor’s office was open, so I had to go to the ER. Doctor read my medical history and gave me an ultrasound, turns out I had an ovarian cyst rupture. He wrote me a prescription for painkillers and gave me directions to the only 24 hr pharmacy in the city.

            So yeah…I’d have been thrilled with only a $600 ER bill.

            1. Kiki*

              Also forgot to mention that the $3,500 charge was AFTER they’d negotiated with my health insurance company, which I pay $400 per month for. I can’t remember what the bill would have been before health insurance.

          2. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

            $600 is crazy cheap. If I got a bill for $600 after going to the ER, I would assume more bills were coming. Hospitals here bill everything separate.

            This is *not* ER related, but my daughter has an ongoing medical issue that is relatively minor, but needs testing that has to be done at a hospital. We received one bill for the doctor, one bill for using the lab, one bill for the doctor that read the lab results, and it seems like maybe one other bill? By the way, my insurance is excellent. Seriously, people are always amazed at how much it covers. We were still $1500 out of pocket.

        1. Lora*

          Depends on what for. We’re good at the really weird rare diseases and things like heart surgery or transplant surgery – crappy on obstetrics, infectious disease, lots of primary care. Oncology we’re pretty good, so are Canada, Japan and Australia (doi:10.1016/S1470-2045(08)70179-7), and oddly enough, Cuba. We’re downright pathetic at plastic surgery, even in places like LA and NYC where you’d expect there to be the best surgeons: Brazil is miles better than us for plastic surgery. A big part of that is how many medical school grads end up going into specialties and the resulting shortage of primary care docs, due to the student loans/cost of medical school. Other countries do not have these problems.

          1. blackcat*

            And where. I am in Boston. Last semester, I had an international student whose parent was here in Boston specifically for a certain cancer center. I can get world class care in just about any specialty within 10 miles of my house. One of my friends won’t move away from the area precisely because the only doctor who studies her super rare disease is here.

            My grandfather in the rural south, though? He has to drive 5+ hours to get reasonable medical care. His local hospital gave him MRSA twice, and the care is generally incompetent.

        2. Ego Chamber*

          I urge you to consider your inherent implicit national bias before making broad, unquantifiable statements about the healthcare in your country compared to everywhere else.

          The line about America and where our healthcare ranks is something I only hear from other Americans (unless they were treated out of country, then I hear “Thank god this didn’t happen when I was in America, amirite?!”) I’m pretty sure there’s no accurate way to judge this, and any scientific attempt to do so always has a line of asterisks explaining the methodology and caveats.

    3. aebhel*

      …that’s actually pretty cheap. Especially if it’s a high-deductible plan. Last time I went to the ER for a what ended up being just a diagnosis, it was over $4k. Fortunately for me, I’d already met my deductible, so I didn’t actually have to pay all that, but it was still a hefty chunk of change.

    4. Government worker*

      $700 to go to the ER and a diagnosis? Good lord! Forgive an ignorant foreigner (UK) but is that the standard fee for something so…standard?

      That visit most likely included X-rays and other tests, so it’s not like you’re paying $700 for someone to put a stethoscope on your chest.

      But yes, a ER visit costs exponentially more than a regular doctor visit, even if you only do things that could be done in a doctor’s office. Just like you pay more for a fancy hotel even if you don’t use the spa or pool or concierge, you pay more for the ER because you’re paying for all that equipment and personnel to be there for you.

      1. Specialk9*

        It’s really not (just) about the equipment and staffing. It’s about the fact that 20% of adults, nationwide, do not have any insurance, and 30% have penny-pinching Medicaid/Medicare.* Only 33% (one third of the nation!!!) has medical insurance – and that lumps together crappy HMOs and premium PPOs.

        People without insurance are sicker when they come in. So that tiny third of visits are paying for themselves and for the very sick uninsured.

        Meanwhile, govt insurance (Medicare/Medicaid) keeps cutting how much they’ll pay so now many doctors can’t even afford to take it. As in, taking these (old and disabled) patients costs more than the government pays back.

        It’s a broken system.

        *CDC, 2012, Data from the National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey

    5. only acting normal*

      (Also UK here) I understand why an ER costs more to run than a GP’s office, but I’m shocked too. That price delta is orders of magnitude different! If that’s a true reflection of cost differences I guess that’s why the NHS is also so keen to stop people needlessly going to the ER instead of a GP.

      1. blackcat*

        I do not think it is actually reflective of the true differences in costs, in part because US hospital fee structures are designed to compensate for the fact that the hospital is out $$ for the care of people who can’t pay/don’t have insurance. That’s not a factor in the UK.

        I’d believe that hospitals spend 2x or so what a GPs office would, but there’s no way it’s 10-50 times more, even in the US.

        1. Government worker*

          I’d believe that hospitals spend 2x or so what a GPs office would, but there’s no way it’s 10-50 times more, even in the US.

          I don’t know. Look at all the things the hospital is paying for that the GP’s office isn’t – the equipment, the shift pay differential, the higher/more expensive levels of staff (any time I’ve been in the ER as a patient or family member, there’s been both an RN and LPN involved, but at my GP’s office I usually only see an aide), the people who don’t/can’t pay for their care, the greater utility costs, etc. Probably not 50X more expensive, but I can see it getting to the range of 10X more expensive.

          1. Mary*

            Quick google suggests that the figures the UK uses for the cost of a GP visit is £45, and the average cost of an A&E visit was £114 in 2012-13, so probably around £150 now. So around 3x the price.

            But obviously any visit to A&E which is necessary will probably rack several hundred more pounds pretty quickly, whereas most GP visits won’t cost much more than that £45, unless you get prescribed some pretty expensive medication.

      2. nonegiven*

        The insurance companies want you to think about calling your doctor or urgent care before going to the ER for something that isn’t life threatening, the copays are higher to make you think really hard.

        People that can’t pay anyway only go to the ER and they wait until they are sicker to do it. I don’t think Medicaid charges copays at all.

    6. INTP*

      My ER copay is $300. That’s the charge just for going in. Then any tests they run, I owe 10% on, and ER tends to charge more for the same stuff than a regular doctor’s office.

      My urgent care copay is just $50, and a regular doctor or clinic is $35. My insurance company just doesn’t want us treating ERs like places to go for non-emergencies because it is so costly for them, so they really jack up the price to a prohibitive level. Unfortunately, if you have an emergency late at night, there may be no cheaper types of offices open.

    7. Yada yada yada*

      They may have done a chest xray or a culture to make the pneumonia diagnosis, that’s possibly why it was so expensive. Or any other litany of tests due to the shortness of breath. But the writer said they got “a pat on the back” so maybe not

  17. hbc*

    OP2: This seems like a grey area to me. That option to call for an opinion was available earlier in the week, when you still could…breathe. If you had been home and called that number (or whoever was manning the phones at your doctor’s office) in the middle of the night, they also would have told you to go to the ER. An urgent care clinic was still available earlier in the week when your symptoms were bad but not emergency-level. I understand you probably were working longer hours because you were out, but if you had been pushing on a big project at home and had the same situation, would you expect work to cover?

    That said, my workplace would probably knee-jerk “no”, then debate a little bit, look at your contributions to the company, and do something for you. It would carry the stipulation that you not tell anyone, because we don’t want people turning a one-time exception into a new policy.

    1. (Different) Rebecca*

      I’m sorry, but “symptoms [that are] bad but not emergency-level” are often symptoms that are misdiagnosed (due to the fact that many illnesses have overlapping symptom profiles, examples below at the *) and require return visits once they get worse. Can we not blame people for not wanting to spend money/time they didn’t think was necessary?

      * A cough from a lingering cold/pneumonia/bronchitis. Food poisoning/the stomach flu/appendicitis. Mild dehydration/a bladder or kidney infection. Some of these you can tough out or self-treat. Others require medical intervention. In the early stages, the more severe diseases look a lot like the ones you can tough out.

      1. Sarah*

        I don’t think anyone is blaming the OP here! I think it’s just a matter of determining whether the travel really caused the expense. If exactly the same chain of events and expenses could or would have occurred at home, then I can’t see how the company bears any responsibility.

        1. (Different) Rebecca*

          Sorry, the phrase “That option to call for an opinion was available earlier in the week” struck me as pretty blame-y.

  18. Juli G.*

    #2 Allison’s right about going to your manager. In my company, HR has no money to hand out for expenses. The department/manager budgets cover all travel/people expenses, not HR. If I told an employee we’d cover an expense, I’d be spending someone else’s budget.

  19. DooDad*

    #4 sounds really familiar. I’ve been reading AAM for about three years, and I swear I’ve seen that one before.

  20. OfficeWench*

    #2 – As HR manager for our company (60 people), I manage our healthcare benefit. Our provider really pushes back on ER visits when the diagnosis is “non-emergency related” – they’re trying to stop those people who use the ER as a doctor’s office since that pushes costs up for everyone. However, not all situations fall into that category. I would go to my rep with the provider, explain the situation & push back on what was covered – after all, we are their customer. Then, I would take care of the balance. Our company tries its best to take care of our employees. In fact, if an employee was ill while on company travel, we would expect them to get medical care as soon as they needed it (and that can be a different battle at times.)

      1. fposte*

        I doubt they’ll ever recommend anything but the ER for somebody with serious breathing problems.

        1. Shadow*

          Agreed, but is the op trying to say she would have taken care of it sooner if she were at home? Seems the nurse would have gave her the same recommendation regardless of where she was

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            Yeah, that’s the issue I’m having with this LW. It seems like the outcome would have been the same whether she’d been traveling or at home.

          2. fposte*

            If I’m following, the OP is saying she wouldn’t have gotten to the point of needing to call the nurse if she’d been at home; she’d have gone to urgent care when it was clear it was more than just a cold. I think this may be a clearer stairstep if you have the OP’s knowledge of how she felt and when–it can be hard to convey the “I knew it was bad” vs. “I thought I was going to die” difference.

            1. Shadow*

              Which begs the question of why she didn’t just go to urgent care earlier on her trip? I’m assuming she just tried to tough it out because it wasn’t more of a pain/interruption being on a work trip.

              1. Original Poster - Q #2*

                OP here – yes, tried to tough it out… hindsight is 20/20.
                Had a bunch of meetings with senior leadership and didn’t want them to think they had spent this money shipping me across the country for me to show up and say “cough cough I’m sick” and not be there.

            2. Rusty Shackelford*

              Well, I hope that if she really thought she was going to die, she’d go straight to the ER instead of calling the phone nurse.

          3. WellRed*

            Sometimes though, it’s easier to take care of things in a familar hometown enviro. Leaving my insulin on a plane when i went to Vegas for work left me scrambling to find an open Rx and getting a script called in. Tougher than you’d expect in such a party all night place.

      2. Original Poster - Q #2*

        OP here – it was 3 am and there weren’t any urgent care facilities open. She was like, you need to see a doctor NOW. So I called a Lyft and went. :(

      3. Callie*

        If it’s the middle of the night, UC might not even be OPEN. The latest UC around here closes at like.. 10 pm.

  21. Gee Gee*

    I’ve been cold basically since birth. My boss bought me a zebra-print Snuggle for Christmas last year, and has no problems with me wearing it in my cubicle. She’s awesome.

  22. Allie Oops*

    LW #2, I’ve had two coworkers who became ill during work travel together, and were stuck in another country because of it. They were required to have a temperature of under 100 F for 24 hours before they were allowed to get onto the plane. After that incident, the benefits department revisited their policies.

    1. Zathras*

      I think in a situation like that you should definitely expect the company to cover the hotel, meals, whatever for extra days if you get stuck somewhere on a work business trip. That said I’m sure there are some terrible companies who would try to weasel out of it.

      I think in OP #2’s case, when people are traveling for work there is often pressure to maximize the value of the time you have in the other location. The bar for “I am sick enough to stop working and get treatment” is often higher. It shouldn’t be, but that’s often how it plays out. If I were #2’s manager I’d try to get reimbursement for at least the difference between the out-of-town cost and the at-home cost. And if I couldn’t do that I would let him take a free sick day (without subtracting it from his PTO).

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        If I were #2’s manager I’d try to get reimbursement for at least the difference between the out-of-town cost and the at-home cost.

        But the LW went to an in-network hospital, so the cost would have been similar.

        1. Zathras*

          Ah, you’re right, I misread. And now that I think about it, most of the health plans I’ve had don’t ding you for out-of-network emergency rooms, presumably since you may not have much choice about which one you end up in. In that case, it sounds like even if #2 had been at home, the same choice about not seeking care during the week would resulted in the same bill, so it’s a lot harder to argue that the added expense was work related.

          In that case, I’d probably offer the under-the-table sick day plus a serious conversation about priorities and how health always comes first.

  23. Roscoe*

    #2 If this was an injury, like you sprained your ankle and had to go to the doctor, I’d definitely think work should pay. However, this being an illness, I kind of think its on you. You can’t prove when and where you picked it up, just when symptoms started showing. I know it sucks, but I don’t really think they are being unreasonable. It would be nice if there was some kind of compromise though

    1. Kyrielle*

      I think it matters less when/where it was picked up and more how it was treated, though. On a business trip, the OP really wanted to keep going with the reason for the trip and get things done – in my experience, business trips often involve long days and extra work. (At best they involve full normal days and no one wants to duck out during business hours. But usually, 13-hour days seem to be the norm.)

      That, plus not being in the same town as your regular doctor, makes it unlikely you’ll see a normal doctor. You might make an urgent care, but not if the days are really long – not unless you’re willing to skip out on the work purpose of the trip (as OP wasn’t). And if you don’t do that and it’s bad and you call the advice nurse, well, they’ll send you to the ER (especially if you’ve let it get worse for several days).

      Honestly, OP #2, I would tell your company that you understand, but that this means that the next time you feel sick to X degree (whatever that is) on a business trip, you will be immediately locating an urgent care and going there, in the middle of the day, even if it disrupts the business trip. Because that’s what they are, by their choices/actions, telling you to do: treat it the same, or nearly the same, as you would at home, and go get care “even if it might not be anything” just to be sure.

      1. BananaPants*

        Only if the injuries are work-related. You don’t get worker’s comp if you trip and break an ankle while sightseeing on a business trip.

        1. Kasia*

          Maybe that depends on your employer? Mine covers us for most work travel injuries or illnesses. I was told I’d be covered for slipping in the shower but maybe not for breaking my leg skiing on the weekend. I know someone who discovered they had Lyme on travel and had a tough time getting that covered, but certainly food poisoning would be.

  24. Delta Delta*

    #1 – I once had a job where our receptionist had to run her space heater all summer because of the AC. Her work area was walled on 2 sides and had a vent directly above. Because of the walls, the cold air blasted straight down on her, and it took more cold air to make the ambient air temp the right temperature. You could be 3 feet away from her desk and it would feel normal. Go to her desk, and it felt arctic. The rest of the year it was perfectly pleasant, temperature-wise.

    1. paperfiend*

      I had something like this once (sitting directly under a vent). I shared a fairly small office with a coworker, and his desk space was pleasantly cool. Mine was so cold I had to wear gloves to be able to type, and regularly went outside to thaw out in the 90F summer temps.

      I taped a piece of cardboard over the vent and called facilities. When they finally came, the guy held a thermometer up near the vent and said – “Wow – it’s 55 degrees here! I thought it was just going to be someone complaining because it was 70!”

      So, yeah, jaded facilities folks plus weird air flow…

  25. EvilQueenRegina*

    At Exjob I was the one positioned right next to the heater and also the one with the highest tolerance for the cold. However, the reason why I chose not to move at the time was because I knew we were about to move to a different room in the building (a screwup in a previous office move had left our team with a room that was too small and one person unable to sit with the rest of us) so felt that two moves within a few weeks of each other was a bit much when there might well not be a problem in the new room anyway. If it had been my permanent desk, yes I would have moved. Is there any factor in play like that which might be why no one’s moved?

    It does remind me a little of the job before that where something like that blew up. The office manager sent round an all staff email which went something like “Please note that the heating is now turned on for the duration of the winter. So please no more sob stories. I just cannot stand the emotion it brings. My handies are wet with the tears I have cried.” Some guy replied all telling everyone if they were cold, to wear clothes because no one wanted to see him come in in his Speedos. Office manager’s boss then had to send round another all staff email to apologise for the whole situation and say that someone had been called out to look at the system.

  26. Arya Snark*

    I’ve been in the temperature wars before. some of it is placement, and it’s great if folks can relocate based on that. If that’s not an option, the things that others (layers, desk fans, etc) have suggested can help. Sitting directly under a vent isn’t great for anyone though, especially if they run cold. One thing that worked for people in the building I used to work in is air deflectors. They come in different sizes and are adjustable to fit various vent widths. The hoods are plastic but stick to the vent with magnets. I use them in my house and they work great.
    Vents in larger buildings buildings can sometimes be turned off individually – this was the case where I used to work but you need a particularly responsive and accommodating facilities crew to make that work.
    I had a coworker in that same building that was always cold, no matter what. She was relocated to the south side of the floor, where most everyone else thought it was too hot in the afternoon, but was still cold. She had a vent over her cube that ran along the length of her cube (the
    building was all glass) and it ran constantly. It was only a couple of inches wide and she stayed late one night and covered it in clear packing tape. I don’t think the facilities guys were too happy about it but it stopped the complaints and kept her from having to work in gloves & a blanket so it was allowed.

    1. Hellanon*

      A fancy new building I worked in for a bit had installed the air con vents in the floors instead of the ceiling. Most of them were helpfully positioned under peoples’ desks so no one could trip over them. Well, what you might imagine happening happened: within about 3 days after we all moved in, every single one of those vents had been blocked by magazines, binders, books, etc. Facilities couldn’t understand why the expensive new system wasn’t working since every time they came up to check on the vents the magazines got kicked out of the way.

      “Make sure you don’t block those vents,” they’d say.

      “Oh, of course,” we’d respond, and the minute they left, back the magazines would go.

      User experience testing: more useful than it sounds.

      1. only acting normal*

        I once worked in a building with floor vents. One office complained all the time that it was too hot, so facilities kept adjusting the thermostat settings, creating cold spots in other offices, until one day they checked the vents in the hot office. They’d all been blocked up with paper (under the removable plastic covers, not magazines stacked over them). Paper removed, not more hot office.

  27. eLizWM*

    I am a cold-natured person and always carry an extra layer.
    That said, I have earned to get up and move every hour or so-even if it just to go to the copier or file a random something.
    I’m still chilly, but not bone achingly cold.

  28. MissDissplaced*

    On the ER visit, I think they’re seeing this way because you were sick, as opposed to something happening to you such as an injury.
    I know you probably don’t see it that way, but if say you got conked on the head and needed stitches at the ER, they would likely pay. But getting sick is viewed as more personal. Still not your fault, but they’re not viewing it as a result of the trip.
    It sucks, but you might have to suck this one up unfortunately as a result of America’s horrible expensive and this broken healthcare that forces this burden on its citizens.

  29. Gigi*

    #2 – I travel internationally for work, including high risk environments on federal contracts. If I got typhoid from the food at the guest house in Kabul that I was required to stay in for security reasons, then it would be covered under the Defense Based Act (DBA) insurance that my company is required to carry for employees performing work in certain countries and it basically functions like worker’s comp. If I’m in Uganda on a business trip and decide to take a weekend to go on a gorilla trekking expedition and I fall and hurt my ankle, then it’s treated like any other medical incident except that there is an international clause on my insurance that says while I am in another country for business purposes, all medical services are treated as in-network (80/20 coverage after I hit my deductible).

  30. Lora*

    The whole temperature wars thing is sort of mind-boggling to me. I grew up in a lot of very old buildings (schools, relatives’ houses etc) with cantankerous Victorian-era radiators and my current house is antique – lots of drafts, no AC. I also work in clean rooms where they run the AC full blast because we are all sweating to death under layers of Tyvek. In summer, I have fans and cold drinks and minimal clothing; in winter, I have space heaters, blankets, arm warmers, fireplace, hot drinks and sweaters. It’s about 80F in my house now, but in winter it can go down to 50F. Pre-menopause I was always cold and wore sweaters everywhere, during menopause wore a lot of layers that could be peeled off and carried a hand fan and giant bottle of ice water everywhere with me (yeah, classy), now it’s settled down to warm-ish in that I usually wear short sleeves and find jackets too warm.

    Like, seriously, nobody is going to die of hypothermia at these temperatures. What the heck? If you’re cold/hot at the temperature you find yourself in, this is your personal problem to deal with. It is expressly not MY problem to deal with. The thermostat will be set at the temperature which has been deemed both economical and appropriate by the facility management, i.e. 64 – 74. You can sit wherever you need to.

    1. a1*

      Exactly. Unless it’s extreme like icicles forming, or a sauna, why complain? Who cares? I’ve never complained when my nose was cold, or I was too warm. It’s hard to get at physiological neutral for everyone. I just accept that the temperature is the temperature and deal with it. I can still get my work done if my ankles are cold or my face is warm or whatever.

  31. kindnessisitsownreward*

    #!: This sounds like a mess and I hope you get this under control soon. . In our office we have defaulted to keeping it colder and telling people to wear layers if they are cold. I am one of those people who find it too cold, but I agree that it’s a lot easier for me to put a sweater on than for somebody to take clothes off. (I am cold in the winter too because the office isn’t warm enough.) One person in our office has a space heater.

    LW # We would not cover the ER co-pay unless of course the visit occurred because of a work related illness or injury. Getting sick while working–whether in your regular office or while traveling–sometimes just happens. However, you might be able to get the hospital to write off some of your portion of the bill. Doesn’t hurt to ask.

    LW #3 Rule 1 of working in an organization: The person who is higher up on the food chain gets some accommodation when it comes to meetings–they get to be late, you don’t. They get to cancel at the last minute, you don’t. You go to them. You may not like it–and good managers won’t abuse this privilege— but that’s how it is.

  32. Hannah G.*

    Holy crap. 77 degrees is effing hot. and I run cold. I would DIE. Who are these people? Bring a snuggie.

  33. saffytaffy*

    Ugh, I once worked at a huge, respected national company and had a terrible experience similar to this. I fainted at work, and even though I asked that my RN mother be called to take me to the doctor, HR called an ambulance which ended up costing me over $900. It was a HUGE expense for me at the time and had a serious consequence in another area of my life. HR sort of appeared sympathetic, but the company wasn’t willing to pay any of the cost and the insurance wouldn’t bump up coverage, either.

    1. VerySleepyPregnantLady*

      I fainted in an airport a couple of weeks ago (while not yet obviously pregnant to strangers). I am SO HAPPY no one called the paramedics. Strangers got me ice water and sat with me while I ate cookies (I have no idea where those came from, LOL). They believed me when I said, “I’m fine, just pregnant.” It would have been SO EXPENSIVE to have medical bills, flight rebooking, etc.

      I faint when nothing is wrong (naturally super low blood pressure), and I get frustrated when people treat fainting as an emergency, particularly when as soon as my head gets low enough, I regain consciousness. I wish we lived in a world where calling emergency services would always be helpful, but very often it just ends up costing someone a lot of $$.

      1. Kiki*

        I have a funny story similar to this. I get nosebleeds easily if my nose is even slightly bumped. One day I was out at a public event with thousands of people and a woman with a large diaper bag accidentally hit me in the face with her bag. Blood immediately started pouring from my nose and I couldn’t get it to stop. Someone saw me holding all the blood and helped me get to the medical tent.

        Once in the medical tent, I got some paper towels and was able to clean up and stop the blood flow. All was well. Except the medics were insisting on calling an ambulance for me, no matter how many times I told them no. When they left to make the call, I ducked out of the tent and ran away. I was uninsured at the time and was not gonna incur an ambulance bill for no reason!

        1. Specialk9*

          That’s awful. I used to ride an ambulance, and we always had to get permission before transport. That’s disturbing that the medics insisted on calling an ambulance after you refused.

      2. Soon to be former fed*

        Strangers can be expected to know that, they don’t know if you are having a heart attack or stroke.
        Please consider wearing a medical alert bracelet. Salt can help low blood pressure, I suffer from it from time to time due to medication side effects.

        1. VerySleepyPregnantLady*

          Well, but if it’s only 5-10 seconds before I’m up and saying “No, really, I’m fine!” and someone else is saying, “No, you’re not!” I get pretty peeved. I’ve never passed out for more than a second or two, and normally I’m fully lucid in 5-10 seconds–that’s less time than it takes for someone to complete a 911 call.

          And trust me, I’ve spoken to doctors/nutritionists/etc about my blood pressure. I do what I can.

      3. Been there*

        It doesn’t matter if EMS is called for you or not. You only get billed if you are transported. It’s considered a sunk cost for the responses that don’t end in transport.

        1. VerySleepyPregnantLady*

          My experience of this, though, is that the EMS folks are VERY pushy about transporting. One time, when I was a teen, I fainted in public and had the EMS worker literally grab me so hard that I bruised severely and try to force me onto the stretcher. My mom flipped out and got on the phone with the cops. Cops defended the EMS workers. It was a mess.
          Instead of just being able to feel better in 5-10 minutes (the amount of time generally needed for me to feel normal post-fainting), I had an arm that hurt for over a week and my family got a CPS visit.

          1. Been there*

            As a teenager they will be pushy because you are a minor. That’s different than an adult signing off that they are refusing care. Technically a teenager can’t do that.

            It wasn’t clear if mom was present or not, but if she was she should have been able to refuse care. If that didn’t happen then you ran into a weird bunch of EMS.

            They are generally a cautious bunch, as it’s there job to be. And they get used to having to convince Grandma that yes, you do really need to go to the hospital now for that heart attack you are having and yes even though you have a doctors appointment next week your doctor won’t think you are a bother by going in early.

            But most won’t press the issue with an adult who has a history of something and has been checked out by their own doctor.

  34. PizzaDog*

    I feel like qutting and never coming back when I hear the telltale beep of some f****** with the AC. I keep a sweater in my desk for when I get cold. Why is that so hard for everyone else to do too? I feel like an old dad.

  35. AVP*

    re: #2 – almost the exact same thing happened at my company a few years ago. A contractor traveled to Texas, where over the course of a few days she got sicker and sicker, and had to go to the ER, where it turned out she was dealing with pneumonia. She ended up with about $1200 in related expenses as it turned out she didn’t have health insurance. We had given her about $1000 as petty cash since she was meant to be meeting with a lot of people and buying them coffee and maybe lunches. She ended up using that to pay the ER bills and we considered it a wash. Luckily we had some local contacts in the city who stopped by to check on her and bring her food, and got her on a plane home as soon as the doctor okay’ed it.

    The real issue ended up being that we badly needed her work done on a tight deadline and had to hire local people to cover it at great expense, using up the whole emergency budget right at the start of the project. I think the contractor who got sick only billed half her rate as she left really early and hadn’t actually started the work when she got ill.

    All in all, we felt like it was better to cover as much of the expense as we could because she might not have had such an expensive time of it had she been home and had access to her regular clinic, and because our contractors are “talent” who we need to keep happy.

  36. Kyrielle*

    LW #1: invest in a bunch of cheap thermometers and scatter them around the office. Check on them at various points of the day for several days and note the values.

    This will give you an idea of what your HVAC is really doing, and I suspect it may give you some surprises. It’s more likely to be adjustable to people’s needs if you have a lot of walls/offices, but even in an open-plan office or cubicle farm, if the results are wildly varied, it might be worth seeing if the company will have someone come around to configure the system / check on how it’s operating.

    To be clear, this won’t solve the thermostat wars. Nothing will solve those. But it might improve the situation, and if it doesn’t, it might give you more data to see what’s happening and help people work with whatever the scenario is.

    1. Beancounter Eric*


      If you don’t mind spending a “few” dollars/pounds/euros, you might find a wireless sensor with temperature and humidity – I would almost bet you can find some with software which would let you track over time the changes in office environmental conditions….then work with your facilities people/HVAC tech to adjust the system.

  37. nonymous*

    op#3, you have my sympathies. In grad school I was the only interdisciplinary student for my PI, which meant that my desk was in the grad student bullpen in a different building. Of course my PI didn’t think I needed to see her schedule, for our regularly scheduled one on ones I would have to get my winter gear on, traipse about 15 minutes across campus only to peek into the window to see if she was there. Bonus was that sometimes she was just running late. In a field where the expectation is to give 110%, it was a real motivation-sapper.

  38. Sue Wilson*

    #1: People who are too cold can add layers, but people who are too warm often can’t remove more clothes.
    Being the person freezing in an office (so you know my bias), this argument has never ever convinced me. People who are too warm might not be able to remove clothes but they CAN usually have fans, either actual plug-in fans or handheld fans. People who are too cold MIGHT be able to put more on, but it will eventually have a negative effect on movement, and office buildings usually won’t allow heaters, even if they allow fans. I cannot type with full gloves, and fingerless gloves leave my fingers cold, and I’ve been told hats are unprofessional to keep on all day. I cannot move in both a sweater and jacket. Those are the cold areas, I cannot cover them at all, and drinking gallons of hot tea only does so much. I’m not convinced there’s a solution. The Very Cold People Fight On.

    1. Kyrielle*

      As a person who runs hot, I have to say that at a certain point a fan doesn’t help much. Yay, now I have moving hot air. Objectively it probably helps. Subjectively? Not nearly enough.

      That said, I hear you. I’ve had coworkers who are on the cold side and they seemed *miserable* with temps that I was comfortable in. I have at least heard of Reynaud’s, which can make them downright torturous.

      Honestly, maybe the company should supply the cold people with heating pads/heated throws/heated gel hand rests and the like.

      Or have offices with adjustable temperature. (I adore my current job, but I think it’s a unicorn as far as the thermostat wars. Don’t like the temperature? Let facilities know. They’ll be by and adjust the vent in your office.)

      1. Kyrielle*

        And because I’m easily amused, a few (completely arbitrary – I have not used any of these products, since I run hot!) products that might help:







        1. Sue Wilson*

          I just want to have a space heater. I’m sorta at the point where I don’t care if people are afraid of it exploding. And not a single bit of this will help my head, the part that gets ridiculously cold and ALSO mean I will 100% have my allergies turn into full blown sinus infections.

          But I also know it is nowhere around 77F in my office.

          1. Kyrielle*

            Agreed, a space heater is a great solution in many cases (but in some office configurations, it might be just a direct fight between it and the AC). One of the ceramic ones that automatically shuts off if tipped over should be safe fire-wise; as long as the circuits aren’t overloaded, I’d think it was reasonable for a company to allow that.

            *pokes Amazon* Yeah, they do make heated hats, but those are horribly expensive and you’d be wearing a hat in the office, which I think most people would rather avoid. A heated throw could achieve the same thing for less and take the place of the wrap also, but again, if it’s over the hair, I know a lot of people won’t be thrilled with it.

            1. Sue Wilson*

              I agree, but the company technically rents the building, so I don’t think they have a choice (my desk isn’t completely open plan, we have 3.33 walls although they don’t reach the ceiling, so a space heater would actually work). Before my office moved I had a closed door office and it was heavenly.

              If I could wrap a scarf around my head or have a hat, I definitely would, but it is out of sync with the company culture. I’m eventually going to have to decide how much this is worth talking to my doctor about versus how much of my deductible I can pay at a time, to converge two letters.

      2. Mike C.*

        Above 95 or so and at a certain humidity it actually becomes more like a convection oven, so it’s harmful.

        1. Sue Wilson*

          It’s a good thing no one in this entire comment section has suggested 95F be the main temperature.

        2. sstabeler*

          um, OSHA say that a workplace really should be kept at between 68-76 degrees. Above 95 degrees, yeah, it’s pretty much objectively true it’s too hot.

          besides, part of the problem in the OP was the people who wanted the AC cranked up also wanted the windows open so they could get a breeze. Frankly, while it’s far from universally true, I would be suspicious that those complaining are actually a degree or so cooler, and that it’s more a case of them expecting everyone to have to put up with the heat so they can have a window open- in which case, it’s actually better for everyone if the AC is lowered, those who want a breeze use a fan and simply wear extra layers.

      1. Sue Wilson*

        Sure if hot air exists. I too am not actually cold in hot air. There is no hot air in my office, it is people with an internal temperature that is incompatible with the area temperature (in both directions). Like I said, I don’t think there’s a solution. I think you have to give people a lot of leeway to control the temperature immediately around them, and for a lot of reasons that doesn’t happen. I’m also a little annoyed at the “well you won’t DIE” I’ve seen in some comments. No shit, there are very few temperatures I encounter I will die at, that doesn’t mean I’m productive in any reasonable way.

    2. aebhel*

      Sure, but at a certain point making the stifling air circulate doesn’t actually make it any cooler. I usually run cold, but someone who has to wear hats and gloves at 77 degrees is well outside the norm.

      1. Kyrielle*

        Yep. But as others have noted, the “cold” people may not be at 77 degrees. Either the HVAC may not be accurate to the temperature requested, or they may be in colder-than-average pockets or have more moving air (or all of the above).

        If it’s set at 77, but the outside temperature is 90, it can’t be blasting 77-degree air – if it wants to get down to 77 and stay there, it has to be colder. How much colder? That I don’t know. But it could be quite chilly near the vents. (Exactly where I’d want to be seated….)

    3. Murphy*

      And as someone in a very warm summer climate, it is hard to strike a balance between it is 95 degrees with 95% humidity outside with working in a freezing office. I feel somewhat unprofessional putting a hoodie on over my clothes when its really cold (though I work in a fairly casual office) but aside from leaving a winter wardrobe in my office, it’s hard to know what else to do.

    4. Specialk9*

      Sue Wilson, my husband sticks Hot Hands brand foot warmers on his toes, over socks. It’s the only thing that gets him through the winter. I’ve found myself using them when really chilly, and I end up in a tank top after awhile. The heat really does radiate.

      Also, the same thing stuck inside the front of your underwear will warm your core significantly.

  39. Beancounter Eric*

    #1 – Is the HVAC blower running most/all of the time, or only when heating/cooling? Or to put it another way, is the fan switch set on “auto” or “on”?

    Keeping air moving should at least even out hot/cold spots – also, for years, the recommended temp for A/C has been 78.

    1. Beancounter Eric*

      Also, meant to add look at the humidity level….might be a bit high. A dehumidifier may be worth looking at.

    2. Lora*

      Bunch of smaller fans rather than one big one works best for this, also. If one room is running excessively cold, you can also put a baffle (even a piece of cardboard loosely taped) over the vent opening to distribute the cold air sideways so it isn’t running right on your head.

      And a +1 on the dehumidifier. That’s a tremendous help!

      1. Beancounter Eric*

        Desk fans – have to have my desk fan – whether it’s 60 or 80, desk fan is running.

        Short term, DIY baffles can help – if it’s to that point, I’d be thinking real hard about a call to my HVAC/Facilities Management people to have the system tweaked, because there are probably going to be further adjustments needed – blocking vent A may shift airflow to vent B, etc.

  40. Nan*

    77 is hot! and I’d be a sick, sweaty, cranky mess. I keep the AC at home at 72, but only because my hunny won’t let me turn it lower. And I get hot just sitting there. The heat in the winter goes on 64 and it’s perfectly comfortable for sitting around. But I’m probably abnormal. I also sleep with the window cracked open in the winter, as long as it’s above 20 below F.

    We can only take off so many clothes at work. I’m sorry, but the cold ones need to put on a sweater and get some fingerless gloves. If you’re hot, fans don’t help, they just blow around hot, nasty air. Some offices, mine included, don’t allow us to have personal electronics (fans) plugged in. I don’t know many people who feel physically ill when they’re cold (but I’m sure it happens), but I know several who do when they are hot.

    1. Ktelzbeth*

      My office thermometer has been reading 75 this summer. I wear a long sleeved shirt with a blazer, slacks, wool blend socks, and closed toe shoes and am still cold if I sit in there too long. In the winter, I add long underwear tops and bottoms, fingerless gloves, and often switch the blazer to a thick boiled wool blazer. Oh, and a blanket to wrap around my legs and a hot drink. I tried to find good wool slacks, but they weren’t around my neck of the woods. I don’t have a medical problem. I just run cold. I can get so cold, even in all those clothes, that I hurt all over. I’m not allowed a space heater. I’ve gone far beyond “put on a sweater and get some fingerless gloves.” I’m sure it must be miserable to be hot, but it is also miserable to be cold, especially when I’m trying everything I can short of wearing my parka and snowpants. Though I’m responding to Nan, this plea goes out to all the hot people responding: Please realize that for some of us cold people, putting on a sweater won’t work.

      1. Scarlott*

        Feeling that cold at 75 degrees would in itself be a medical problem. No one should feel cold at that temperature unless you come from a warm country.

  41. idi01*

    1) The AC wars have been going on for centuries, ever since UGG and NUG argued whose rock desk should be closest to the cave door during the hot summer days.

    1. idi01*

      And it will continue until we develop personal climate control, that everyone can have set to their own temperature.

      1. aebhel*

        This whole debate is making me very glad that I have my own office with a window AC unit/space heater. We have no central air and the heating is cantankerous in the winter, but at least I can more or less regulate my own working environment.

  42. Yomi*

    I’m sure there’s a chorus of us in the comments, but I disagree with the common rationale that people who are cold can just add layers and problem solved.

    I have poor circulation and Raynaud’s disease. Once the temperature of my extremities starts to drop, it’s actually incredibly difficult to bring it back up and it inevitably results in pain no matter what happens. Cold air (including that nice summer breeze) can also have a negative effect on asthma, but that’s a more complicated thing.

    One day a few years ago, I was sitting in my office wearing my regular office attire, plus a sweater, my winter coat, a hat, and a scarf, and I still couldn’t stop shivering and couldn’t actually function and do work because I was so cold. Beyond the fact that this is just a ridiculous situation, it’s also ridiculous to expect an employee to try to work at their own desk wearing the same amount of gear they’d have to wear to go outside. It feels really disrespectful, especially considering that I’ve worked in multiple offices where they have no problems with employees having fans but have hard and fast rules against space heaters (for good reasons, sure, but it’s still unequal treatment). I don’t have the answers, but “put on a sweater” has always felt insulting and dismissive to me in a way that doesn’t really improve morale. The people who are cold are probably already wearing sweaters. If there was just one person in your office who thought it was too cold, it would be one thing, but this sounds like a significant number of people who shouldn’t be discounted.

    There’s plenty of research about what temperature to set your office thermostat for maximum comfort and productivity. It’s not 77, but I can’t recall what it was. But you should also be considering energy efficiency and cost effectiveness. Having the windows open when you have the AC set is a huge waste of energy and if I was the office manager I’d be billing those employees for part of the power bill. Going from one temperature extreme to another throughout a day is also a huge waste of energy. This isn’t a case for democracy in the office, this is a case for somebody who has control of the thermostat to set it and forget it (within reason) and if you have to install a lock box over the thing, I know almost every place I’ve worked has had one for a reason.

    1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

      The optimum temperature for productivity is 71 degrees, according to the Lawrence Berkeley Lab.

      1. Yomi*

        Thank you! I knew I’d read about that study somewhere and that it was low 70’s but I couldn’t remember what it actually was or how to find it.

    2. Scarlott*

      They said the windows open when the AC goes off. I run warm, very warm, and on days when the AC is broken and we’re extra warm all day, by the end of the day, I’m so exhausted from my system trying to dispense heat, and I’m far less productive. For people with actual disabilities, I think reasonable accommodation is necessary. With a doctors note that you have a disease that causes you extra discomfort when you get cold, you should be able to get a warmer area with a space heater or something, but you can’t expect reasonable accommodation to make everyone else overheat and less productive.

    3. Nan*

      I 100% hear where you’r coming from, but when I’m fighting a migraine and throwing up because my head hurts and every joint in my body hurts because it’s 77 degrees, I’m not productive either. And no one loves the puking coworker. Heat and I do not get along. I detest summer. I’ll take 3 feet of snow, a stiff breeze, and 0 degrees any day!

    4. Specialk9*

      Have you ever tried sneaking in a heating pad? Or stuck Hot Hands inside your clothes? I’ve had good luck with both, but don’t have your condition so am not sure how applicable that experience is.

      Could you get an ADA accommodation?

  43. Shadow*

    2. Are there no urgent care clinics in San Diego? I could see pushing back if this were the case or it was truly ER worthy, but it doesn’t sound like it was.

    1. fposte*

      She was having difficulty breathing and was advised by the insurance company’s nurse to go to the ER, though. In hindsight it might have been fine to go to an urgent care (assuming one was open), but it sounds like it couldn’t really be known at the time.

        1. fposte*

          I understand her as meaning she wouldn’t have waited until it was that bad in DC. I agree it could help the OP’s case if she were clearer why–if there’s a different stated or implicit absence policy, for instance, when you’re in SD that would have prevented her from taking time off from work to go to urgent care. (I also have a lot of sympathy for the fact that finding a facility in a strange town is a PITA, but that doesn’t necessarily factor into whether the company should cover the cost.)

      1. BananaPants*

        Nurse lines default to very conservative recommendations because they can’t actually see the patient, check their vitals, etc.

        For OP’s information, a telehealth app like Dr. on Demand is reasonably priced. The doctor can advise you if you’re experiencing a medical emergency or not, and potentially could have diagnosed and prescribed the antibiotic without you needing to go anywhere. Many employers offer discounts for their employees to use such apps.

    2. (Different) Rebecca*

      I have lived places where urgent care closed down at 8pm. Probably this isn’t the case in San Diego, however, we cannot assume that she had better options than the one she chose, particularly when she was advised to choose it.

    3. Original Poster - Q #2*

      Hi! OP here. Urgent care facilities were closed (it was 3 am when I called). The nurse said, YOU NEED TO SEE A DOCTOR WITHIN THE NEXT HOUR. I actually tried to lie back down again and go to sleep until 8 am but she had scared me so much, I figured I had to go.

  44. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

    Re: the letter writer with pneumonia.

    While our current health care system is absurd, complicated, and overpriced, I don’t really see an argument for asking the company to pay your medical bill just because you were on work travel. The work travel didn’t cause your illness or change the cost of treating it.

    I do think your company should pay for any support you needed in recovering from your illness away from home — changing your flight, extending your hotel stay, flexibility on your per diem, etc.

    1. Kyrielle*

      Except OP was trying to work through it and not take time away from the work reason for the trip…so that did alter the way/timing of treating it, which altered the cost.

      If I go to my doctor or urgent care, I pay $25. (On a previous insurance, urgent care cost me $50 instead of $25 for my doctor.) Either way, $900 is a little steeper….

      Lesson learned…go get treated even if you’re not sure you need it, and even if it derails the work trip.

      1. CmdrShepard4ever*

        But then did OP make that judgement call on their own or were they told they couldn’t go to Urgent Care to get it looked at by boss/company?
        If the company explicitly told them they couldn’t go to Urgent Care to get checked out then yes I agree the company should be on the hook for the ER bill later when things got serious.
        But I suspect at first OP did not feel a cough was a serious issue, and being away from home and busy with work figured it was not worth going to an Urgent Care until they woke up with serious issues being unable to breath. At that point it was to late for Urgent Care to be open and serious enough that it needed ER treatment. So while being on a work trip did make it a little harder to get it checked out, maybe depending on the work it was impossible idk the details, but most likely could have gone to Urgent Care in the evening.

        1. Kyrielle*

          And, if OP made that judgement call “on their own” was it in a context where they had reason to believe that leaving would penalize their career? Would it have left a client in the lurch? And did OP have the ability to leave at any moment? (I’m guessing, since they made it to the ER without an ambulance, they did – but I’ve been on trips where there was one car for multiple people, which can also cause issues.)

          (I don’t assume the company pushed it. I just note that they could have, either explicitly, or implicitly. I had a coworker who continued to provide 10+ hours of training a day to a client for a week or more after being diagnosed with walking pneumonia, because if he didn’t, the entire project schedule would fall apart, and have to massively reworked – in the end, months of delays, because you have to find a new training time frame that works for the client and for an appropriate trainer, and where you can line up all the other things that happen after training to happen in a timely fashion. Revenue was on the line. Whether his job was on the line if he didn’t deliver, I’m not sure, but certainly it would have given a lot of people major headaches if he didn’t carry on. And he knew what he was dealing with, rather than being able to talk himself into thinking of it as a very bad cold.)

          Work trips I’ve been on working on software, I might get to the client site at 7 or 8 in the morning and except for quick meals (as in, dashing out for fast food, often; on rare occasion having something I brought with me, or bought on-site), might not be done until 7 or 8 at night. If then. And in that case, the urgent care might be closed, either as I walked out the door of the client site, or certainly after I could drive over to urgent care. (My local urgent care closes at 5 pm. 15 minutes away is one that closes at 6 pm. Hm. Okay, I can find one that closes at midnight 30 minutes away. I didn’t know that option existed; good to know. Still, I’m not sure I’d count on everywhere having urgent care that was open super-late. Early evening is more what I’m used to seeing – and weekends.)

          I can see how this could absolutely be the OP’s responsibility, entirely. I can also see how the company culture and requirements of the on-site trip could play into it enough that I would feel the company ought to shoulder some of it.

          If there was a directive from someone “in charge” that blocked the OP from going to urgent care, then I think the price difference is absolutely on the company.

          If there was no great cost to leaving early, and OP just thought it wasn’t that serious until it became clear that it was, then yeah, that’s on the OP.

          If there was a cost to the client, and/or a company culture that would have prevented it, then that’s a grey area where (IMO) the company should bear some of the responsibility, but practically speaking probably won’t.

      2. fposte*

        Yes, for me a question is the specialness of the onsite work. Is it a big deal and all hands are on deck? Or is it a four times a year routine? It’s a moot point for me because my employer, the state, would never cover it either way, but if this was a work situation where she felt it would be not permitted to take sick time during the visit I think she has more justification.

  45. Kim Possible*

    #1 – This exact situation is happening at my office right now. My two female coworkers and I kept turning the air down, only to have males in our office turn it back up. My (female) supervisor, who is the only female who isn’t too cold, put a sticky note next to the thermostat that said, “please do not turn temperature above 73 degrees for the sake of those in external offices.” (which consists of her, and three males. The rest of us are in cubicles, where most of the air blows.)

    The problem for me is that I sit DIRECTLY under the main vent, so bringing a jacket/sweater and wearing pants does NOT help, or even remotely solve the problem. My hands, fingers, and nose remain freezing cold. I’m constantly going to the bathroom to wash my hands under hot water just for some temporary relief. Before the note was put up by the thermostat, the other cold ladies and I would never turn it above 77, which I think is a very reasonable temperature for everyone. It’s super frustrating. I can’t wait to leave the office every day just to feel the relief of stepping outside in the hot and sunny 90 degree weather.

    1. Kyrielle*

      You have my sympathy – but for the record, at 77 I’m feeling exhausted and queasy. And the external offices may well be warmer than the set temperature, so setting it to 77 could leave them at 80 or more.

      (Sounds like they need to have the system tuned so those offices have a separate thermostat, or so the vents into them blow the maximum amount of air possible, or something of the sort – cube farm vs. external offices *is* something that tuning the HVAC system can theoretically solve!)

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      Before the note was put up by the thermostat, the other cold ladies and I would never turn it above 77, which I think is a very reasonable temperature for everyone.

      No, it’s not. I understand that if the thermostat read 77, it wasn’t necessarily 77 in every part of the building. But 77 degrees is NOT a reasonable indoor temperature. The solution is not to make part of the office comfortable while the rest is miserable. The solution might be to rearrange your cubicles so no one is directly under that vent, which sounds pretty awful even to a warm-natured person like me.

      1. Kyrielle*

        You have a point here – rather than putting no one directly under that vent, which means moving furniture, maybe putting a thing on it to redirect the air so that it’s not pouring straight down? Spreading it out at ceiling level so that it descends (as cold air does) over more of the office would, in theory, help equalize the temperature more anyway, wouldn’t it? Rather than creating one *really* cold spot.

    3. Yomi*

      I actually bought a small thermometer to sit at my desk so that I thought I could prove to the building people that my desk was too cold, and much colder than anywhere else, so that I could argue for either a change in the temperature or for some other accommodation.

      I discovered that my desk was 70, exactly like the thermostat was set. The problem really was largely about me. That doesn’t mean I’m not going to seek an accommodation, but it did change my mind about how to approach the issue.

      Perhaps a thermometer could help you guys get a feel for what the actual ambient temperature is at each desk to reach a compromise. Because my coworkers with windows and direct sunlight actually do get sometimes around five degrees more heat just by virtue of the position of their office, and I don’t want them to melt either.

  46. Rachel Green*

    #2: I really don’t see an employer paying for an employee’s medical bills. I had a sinus infection once while traveling for work, and flying made it worse. But I didn’t get back home and ask my employer to pay for antibiotics or decongestant. I’m kind of surprised Allison is even entertaining the idea. Just pay the $700 bill, and move on.

    1. BananaPants*

      Agreed. I’m not sure why an employer would cover the employee’s medical bills simply because the illness happened on a business trip (unless it was a work-related injury).

    1. a1*

      Yes! I’ve never worked in an office building that had windows that could open, whether it be small 1-2 story buildings or large skyscrapers.

  47. Cringing 24/7*

    OP #4: I generally lack a lot of emotional depth, connection, and sympathy, so I have quite a bit of experience working to avoid coming off as… myself when I’m at work. Alison’s suggestion and wording are very good depending on whether the manager is the kind that can compartmentalize emotions from occupational responsibility at least a little bit.

    If you don’t get that vibe from them, you may also consider asking to take on some of the workload that is getting left undone or has yet to be re-assigned from the recently deceased. Filling in for their work may be a way of getting your foot in the door to have that conversation if it’s something you feel needs to be eased into even more delicately.

  48. 10 Points to Hufflepuff*

    On the age-old office temperature debate: I always thought the most sensible thing to do is accept that half the people will not be comfortable at any given time. The key is to switch which half it is by the season. In the winter it is more energy efficient (and cheaper!) to not heat the building as much, so keep it a bit cooler – cold people will bundle up, hot people will love it. In the summer, it takes less energy to keep the place warm – cold people will rejoice and hot people will get fans.

    Also, OP, maybe encourage the staff, especially the cold-blooded ones, to take short breaks every hour or so to move around. Physical movement is a huge help. On the days I bike in to work, I am not cold for 1-1.5 hours as my circulation is still pumping from the morning exercise. So, it would be a kind gesture to give permission so-to-speak for people to move around more. This way they don’t have to worry about being away from their desks for a couple of minutes on a regular basis. You could try tying it in with any wellness initiatives you may have going on in the workplace – a lunch time walk is healthy and will keep cold people warm(er) for an extra hour after lunch.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      I always thought the most sensible thing to do is accept that half the people will not be comfortable at any given time.

      Yes, this is wise. We’ve determined that if we leave the thermostat at a certain temperature, both warm- and cold-natured people are able to adjust. Nobody is blissfully comfortable at all times, but half can wear a sweater and half can run a fan and everybody is able to achieve comfort.

  49. Rusty Shackelford*

    #1 Regarding sweater comments… the “if you’re cold, you can always put on a sweater” comment from warm-natured people is usually directed, not at the person shivering right under the vent who’s so cold they need gloves, but at the lady in the sleeveless dress and bare legs who says “oooh, it’s so cold!” and turns the thermostat up to 80 because “that way it will get warm faster.” We hate her. You should hate her too. We’ve been suffering under her thermostat dictatorship for years, and thus our instant knee-jerk reaction to you being cold is that at least you have a little more power to do something about it, even if we realize after some discussion that the situation is not quite so cut-and-dried.

    (And maybe I’m a little bitter because my mother in law is one of them? Perhaps.)

    1. Sarah*

      This is true, I enjoy turning up the heat and being able to lay around my house in my underwear even in cold weather. However, I would never subject my coworkers to that standard. ;)

  50. Ms. Minn*

    I have come up with what I think is a GENIUS idea on how to cut down on two big office issues: temp and noise. Split the office into four zone, ideally:

    1. People who are always cold and are loud
    2. People who are always cold and like quiet
    3. People who are always hot and are loud
    4. People who are always hot and like quiet

    Plus, add a floater desk in each area for those who are alternately hot/cold. I would personally sit in the hot/quiet area! I’m sure people would still find something to complain about though!

    1. over educated*

      The hard part here is that I am all of those! I am usually hot…unless I’m directly under an AC vent at full power, in which case I lose feeling in my fingers really quickly. And I like quiet to get work done, but I also like a friendly and very collaborative worker.

      1. Ms. Minn*

        Thank you, thank you! It came to me when the very loud woman next to me (really, it’s like she’s yelling on the phone…all. the. time.) said she was freezing. Meanwhile, I was sweating while wearing noise-cancelling earbuds. I can still hear her perfectly. :(

  51. Mike C.*

    Do people not know that air deflectors exist? These are $5-$10, so any company with functional A/C can afford a few and it solves the issue of “I’m sitting right below a vent that’s blasting hot/cold air and more than likely gets that air closer to where it’s needed.

    1. fposte*

      I’ve only seen them for yer basic floor register type–do they have them for industrial blowers and ceiling vents? I should look into them for my office if so.

  52. BananaPants*

    #2 – the ER charges are likely similar to what ER charges would have been at home. You wouldn’t be asking them to pay for your ER bills if you’d taken ill at home, right?

    My employer has international travel insurance for employees – so if I got sick or hurt on a business trip outside of the US and had to seek medical care, it would cover those costs. If I got sick on a business trip to Florida and went to the ER, I’d be on the hook to pay for my portion of the bills (unless it was a work related injury, in which case it would be a worker’s comp issue).

    Our insurance has a $7K deductible and $13K out of pocket max. Our first step is almost always urgent care or our PCP’s extended hours clinic because it’s much cheaper to go there than to the ER, and if the ER is truly needed they’ll send us there.

  53. pomme de terre*

    For the temperature war folks, my office recently installed Comfy app, which allows you to pin your workstation and control the temperature.

    I am not super-sensitive to temperature so I didn’t even set mine up but the people who are seem to like this tool.


  54. Kix*

    Oh, the air conditioning wars! I’m in a corner interior office where the air conditioner doesn’t seem to reach as well as my immediate neighbor, whose office is so cold, she could rent it out as a meat locker. If they turn the thermostat up enough to warm her office, mine turns into the Sahara Desert. Since I can’t take off my skin and sit around and work in my skeleton, we’ve compromised. I have a small fan at my desk and she has a jacket that she wears if she feels too cold, and the thermostat is set at around 73 degrees.

  55. overcaffeinatedandqueer*

    If people are really warm, they can’t take off more clothes- and I have an idea for cold people!

    I have been sailing on Lake Superior with my parents since I was three weeks old. And we would start going around Mother’s Day and end the first weekend in October, when there was a local festival. Needless to say, COLD early or late in the season. And windy. The boat has one space heater, which didn’t hear much, and a propane heater- which works great but not all through a night; you would die of CO poisoning, and my bunk was right by it, so would be hot.

    I’m thus queen of layers! My best tip: wear a tight but breathable “base layer,” i.e. a tank top under your shirt and sweatshirt/blazer, tights or yoga pants under jeans. As tight as it can be without restricting movement. Just make sure the base layer doesn’t make you sweaty; the moisture then makes you cold.

  56. cheeky*

    I don’t think it’s reasonable to expect your company to pay your hospital bill. It’s unfortunate that you got sick on the trip, but it probably wasn’t the cause of the pneumonia. If it were me, I’d just pay it.

  57. Beth Anne*

    I don’t get why the people that are hot just don’t move to the cooler desks. That is what I would do. They are making this WAY too complicated!

    1. Kyrielle*

      I’m going to bet from the letter that the windows aren’t terribly near the AC, and that people don’t want to move away from the windows who have those seats. Also, they may be near their boss, near a break room or bathroom, near people they have to interact with regularly or equipment they have to use….

      I also wonder if it’s a case of the people who are too hot would like to move to a cold desk, but feel like they’d be “ejecting” the person already at that desk, and thus don’t want to create a fuss. A general survey of who would like hotter/colder desks (and what they are and aren’t willing to give up in terms of windows, desk type, and/or nearby coworkers), use of thermometers to check temperatures, and a coordinated moving plan would solve that…and eat up a ridiculous amount of staff hours to work out. (And probably there would still be people who couldn’t get everything they wanted, because that’s life.)

    2. abra*

      Depending on the way the HVAC system works, the desks that are cooler in summer may also be hotter in winter. If the heat comes from the same vents as the AC, they might have learned to flee those vents / post up near the windows in hopes of catching a cool breeze.

    3. cheeky*

      In my office, people aren’t allowed to just move to new desks. That’s a full-0n effort requiring professional movers and involvement HR and corporate real estate. It’s not that easy!

  58. WellRed*

    My boss runs cold but she’s in the minority and doesn’t fuss. However, she was wearing a summer dress and sandaks, bare arms, legs one day and said I wasn’t dressed appropriately for the temps (jeans, top, cardigan as needed). I said “I’m dressed appropriately for an air conditioned office, not a picnic in the park.”

  59. Scarlott*

    #1 Yikes, another temperature wars post. No, the temperature wars will not be solved for a long time. At my previous workplace they actually banned space heaters claiming it was 1. breaking computers by overheating them 2. messing with the temperature sensors for the HVAC system (and made us sign a memo that if we did and the HVAC system broke, we were liable). I run hot, very hot, so much that I sweat like crazy at night if the temperature is too warm. 77 degrees (I had to look up what that is in Celcius), wow, that’s warm. I would be in the camp that’s NOT happy. For people that have cold hands at 25 degrees Celcius, I have to think there’s some reason other than the temperature that your hands are cold at that temperature, but I would never understand, so to you I sympathise. I have a desk fan, because inevitably the temperature goes up when the AC breaks or gets maintenance.

    As for the question asked, what changes should be made? Honestly… offer desk fans and space heaters, and try to have everyone who runs hot sit together, and everyone who runs cold near the warmer parts of the building, because space heaters don’t just heat your own space, but everyone around you. If there’s resistance by one side, move the temperature scale in the other side’s direction. Perhaps consider banning space heaters and fans until this is agreed.

  60. MT*

    The office temp should be set to the dress code. If some people are expected to be dressed in business formal, then a cooler temp should be selected. If its business casual then a middle temp is fine. If its just causal then maybe a warmed temp could be called for.

    1. Zip Zap*

      The annoying thing about this is that, as a huge generalization, men are more sensitive to warm temperatures and women to cold (yes, lots of individual exceptions and variation). However, business attire for men is generally warmer than that for women. People get hot in suits and cold in skirts. I guess you could require everyone to wear business attire for the opposite gender. That would be a fun office to work in. But, barring that, I think more formal offices will need to go farther to accommodate people’s temperature needs.

  61. HRish Dude*

    At old job, the CFO passed away suddenly over the weekend.

    On Monday, maybe 2 hours after we found out, we already had an internal person asking about his job.

      1. HRish Dude*

        Negatively might be an understatement. We were still processing/people were still being notified and a line cook from the cafeteria (nothing against a cook, but cook to CFO is generally not a direct step) came to ask if his position had been posted yet.

        Obviously the position would need to be filled, but the first reaction on a coworker dying isn’t “This is going to be bad for turnover metrics.”

  62. Zip Zap*

    #2 – Assuming the insurance is through the employer that requires the travel, do you get to choose your policy? Do they have one with better coverage for out of network providers? If so, is it about the same cost? Or would they subsidize it for employees who travel a lot? If the travel is routine, it seems like they should make sure you have the option of getting an insurance policy that covers you adequately while you’re out of town. Maybe they could look into revising the policies they offer or working with a different company.

    I think advocating for change is more realistic than expecting reimbursement, but you could definitely make a case for it.

    1. CmdrShepard4ever*

      OP #2 was covered by insurance while they were traveling and went to an in-network Hospital/ER. ER’s in general are expensive to discourage people from going to them with issues that could be solved by a PCP or Urgent/Immediate care facility. Most Urgent/Immediate care facilities are not open 24 hrs but are usually open later around 7/9 pm. Many insurance policies wave the ER visit co-pay if you end up getting admitted to the hospital.

  63. casinoLF*

    It’s 69 in my office right now and I am hot and have a fan turned on me. I am wearing a thin dress already. I can’t put on less. Bring a sweater and/or a blanket to work if you’re cold in the summer, people. Jeebus.

    77 in the office are you MAD?!?

  64. Wren*

    OP#2. I just hope you don’t get surprised by a second bill down the line from the doctor, because they turn out to be a contractor. Happened to me when I was travelling and had to go to an ER, also for scary respiratory issues. I’d forgotten to buy travel insurance (I was new to online booking, and had never booked travel without the assistance of a travel agent before.) I got the ER bill from the hospital, paid it and though that was it, and then a few months later got phoned by what turned out to be a very sketchy collections agent, posing as a rep for the doctor’s agency. He harrassed me repeatedly to give my credit card over the phone, claiming that bills he sent were getting lost or I was lying about not getting them (because if he actually mailed me anything I’d know he wasn’t directly representing the doctor.) The doctor apparently looked at my non-US address and figured I was never going to pay, and sold the account direct to collections without ever attempting to bill me. I was pretty pissed since, as I’d evidently paid the hospital bill immediately on receipt. (I’m still pissed 15 years later.)

  65. Aurion*

    I feel like the cold people (I am one) should all just get electric heat pads. I’m not sure how much electricity they use compared to a space heater, but they get heat directly to the person that needs it so they don’t have to struggle with the AC/other people when they warm up the air. And those who use it don’t have to look unprofessional with sixty million sweaters.

    Plus it’s a lot harder to forget to turn it off when you’re sitting on it (and most have timers anyway).

  66. Czhorat*

    OP4 – do you know that Pope Benedict got his last job the exact same way?

    Joking aside, it’s wonderful to be sensitive but life does carry on. If you want to be considered, you need to make that known before the powers that be decide on a replacement plan. As hard as it is, they’ll be looking sooner rather than later.

    Good luck and condolences to those in your office.

  67. Weight Loss Contest Drama*

    So I’m the chair of the fun committee at work. Recently another member of the committee sent us a literally 12 page treatise the HR intern made about why we should have a weight loss contest. It included “that all employees lose weight” as a goal of the contest. I have a history of disordered eating, but in general I thought it was inappropriate on many levels. I sent an email to the committee (not including the intern) saying hard pass, because of its impact on people with body issues, the fact that employer based initiatives like this don’t even work, and that it violates what I believe to be important boundaries between employer and employee. It was firm but necessary imo.

    Anyway, the vice chair of the group (who btw is a man and I’m a woman) literally spent 15 minutes on Lync just now lecturing me about my tone in the email. I refused to apologize, because what is the point of me being chair of this voluntary thing If I can’t put the kibosh on stuff I believe to be truly harmful? Anyway, I’m pissed now lol.

  68. Snark*

    The office thermostat debate makes me endlessly glad that I live in an area that’s so dry and so relatively cool that A/C really only runs strong for about three weeks of the year.

  69. Yet Even Another Alison*

    This is a bit off the question about the emergency room, but applies to the healthcare system in the US. I came off a horse and hit my head on the ground. I was wearing a helmet (I compete frequently and never get on a horse, my personal mount, or any mount, without a helmet). I felt fine but on advice of my father, I could have a concussion so I went to the emergency room. They checked me out and I was fine. My insurance company took care of the bill minus my co-pay. About nine months later I get a call on my cell phone from a caller identifying themselves as quality insurance company hired by my health insurance company to examine claims paid. The way the caller described their function was to find out if the claim was really my insurance company’s responsibility or should it be the responsibility of another party. They immediately asked me why I was in the emergency room – and my antenna went up. I thought that if they were REALLY contracted by my health insurance company, then they had my records, were covered by HIPPA and this was a silly phone call. The mentioned something about a horse, and then I finished with having come off the horse and wanting to make sure I had not had a concussion. They then asked me for the name and contact number of the owner of the horse, and the name and contact number of the owner of the property were I had come off the horse. I told them I did not know the owner of the property (this was true as I was exercising a horse as a favor to my trainer) and told them that in my county we all ride on each others’ property – and unless I had a GPS with me, it would have been impossible to know EXACTLY where I was. The caller told me that I was not cooperating – and that she would recommend that the payment be reversed to the hospital. Then, I let her have it. I told her that the health insurance contract I was covered under did not exclude horseback riding accidents, the state where the accident happened does not allow recovery for horse riding accidents – you ride at your own risk. It is well known by all in my state – the equine business practitioners lobbied for the laws. I told them to go to their corporate lawyer and look up the equine laws of my state. Then I told them that if they reversed the payment to the hospital, I would immediately call my senator and representative in congress. The equine industry is big business in my state. I hung up and called my insurance company and warned them they were treading on very thin ice and to tell them to call their quality insurance subcontractor off – explaining the state where the accident happened and the laws. I never heard another word from the quality insurance folks or my insurance company about the emergency room visit. I imagine that someone the was meek or easily intimidated when have had different results. Makes me sad to think about that.

    1. cheeky*

      This is a very common (and legal) practice by insurance companies, for all kinds of insurance. They’re determining fault like your car insurance company would if you got into an accident. It may be annoying, but it keeps insurance costs down by determining which party has liability.

      1. Yet Even Another Alison*

        Threatening to reverse the payment after being told that I did not know the owner of the horse, while maybe not illegal, is harassment. Yes, I am familiar with the practice – it is known as Subrogation.

  70. Janelle*

    77 would be torture to me. I’d be sweating like a pig all day, fan or not. That being said if you refuse to move to the more comfortable desk areas then shut up. If you aren’t willing to do the minimal to solve your own problem (the employees not LW) then your opinion is no longer valid.

  71. Nanook of the North*

    Ah, the a/c wars. It’s hard to find a good compromise for everyone, with our differing bodies and comfort levels. But I learned at one job long ago that sometimes it seems to have as much to do with with our minds as our bodies. In a small company in a major southern city the a/c was down to 65 in the summers. 65! It was 90+ in the mornings coming into work in the morning sometimes. I’d come to work dressed for the heat, arrive and put on a long sleeved blouse followed within a couple hours by a sweater. Mind you, these people dressed in cotton/polyester/linen in the summers and they laughed at my need for a sweater. Come winter, with the sun low enough to beam steadily in my office window, these same people dressed in wool – and set the thermostat at 80. 80! So in the summer in lightweight clothes they set it at 65, in the winter dressed in wool they set it at 80. So I dressed for the weather to come to work, and by afternoon was down to a sleeveless blouse because in my light filled office it was 90. Bundled back up to go out after work.

    They thought *I* was nuts, and dubbed me Nanook of the North. The good part is that I’ve never had such extreme approaches to hvac in an office since.

  72. Xarcady*

    #1. Has anyone checked the humidity in the office? Very dry air will make you feel cooler, while higher humidity will make you feel warmer.

    We have the opposite problem in the store where I work. Everyone, and I mean everyone, complains about the temperature in the summer. It’s too hot, even for the people who are always cold. And the customers complain as well, saying the store is too hot to try on clothes.

    Well, I brought in a little electronic weather station I have, and it turns out the temperature was okay–74 degrees. But the humidity was around 65-70%. Once the store manager found this out, she was able to get the HVAC system overhauled and retuned, and the humidity has dropped to 45-50%. Still not great, indoor humidity in the summer should be between 35-45%, but it is a heck of a lot more comfortable.

    So I’m wondering if the humidity in the OP’s office is really low for some reason? Because 77 degrees seems warm to me. If the humidity is low, then the system might be fixed, or a humidifier might help.

  73. TravelBug*

    WRT medical emergencies – I was in a similar situation, except that I ended up being admitted to a hospital in Hawaii for five days. I had contracted some type of food poisoning that after three ER visits resulted in my needing to be admitted and treated with Cipro and other antibiotics over five days. The hospital I was admitted to was a private room only hospital ($$$). While my company was kind enough to pay for the flight I missed and the new flight when I was finally able to fly home as well as the hotel room extension for the days while I was in hospital and the days until I could fly off the island, they did not compensate any of the medical costs. The out-of-pocket costs ended up being over $8000-$9000 when all the bills trickled in (some took months after the fact to be sent to me). I was told “that is what insurance was for” and “this is why everyone should have savings, because things like this can happen.

  74. Kickin' Crab*

    #1 really resonates with me. I share an office with two other people. Our office thermostat is broken (has been since long before I got there, calls to facilities management have done nothing), and the A/C is always blowing even in the dead of winter. So … lots of layers + a space heater brought in by a previous employee and now co-opted for general office use.

    Our new office-mate, though. She continually complains that she is cold, but she refuses to bring layers! She wears minidresses or T-shirts and capris (both allowed by our company dress code), then sits there whining about the A/C. Or she’ll turn on the space heater and shut the office door (her desk is closest to the door, and she says she feels a draft from the hallway); this is very inconsistent with our office culture, where a closed door signifies that someone is having a private conversation. The result is that the room very quickly gets hot and stuffy — and then instead of agreeing to turn the heater off or open the door, she’ll open a window for “breeze.” It’s driving me bonkers, not to mention is bad for the environment! We tried switching desks so she wouldn’t be near the door/drafty hallway, but because of the way the VOIP phones are set up and because of how dysfunctional my workplace is, that isn’t an option without getting a signature from the CEO of the company.

  75. Matt*

    The hot and cold thing is also about medical issues. When I was obese and hypertonic in my 20s, I was always hot. When I started to lose weight and take blood pressure medication, I was always cold. Nowadays I’m more in the hot section again …

  76. Janelle*

    LW3: why does simply walking into your bosses office for a meeting cause you to blow up. I truly don’t get it. This is literally not an issue. If my employee “blew up” at me for having to walk into my office for a meeting I’d be blowing them out the door.

    1. #3*


      It’s not his office – it’s his + 15 other people’s office. Why is it acceptable for me to disturb 15 people during their workday? If you were one of those 15, would you be ok with that? Imagine everyone in the office does it this way, that’s potentially 20 people running in and out of the office on daily basis, most of which have nothing to do with you. And this in an office where you are supposed to do a lot of focus-requiring work.

      Also, you don’t strike me as the type who would hesitate to cancel a meeting. Different bosses, different problems.

      That being said, then I spent a lot of time wondering if it was time to get a new job after this. But instead he has changed his ways and I am trying to change those of mine that he mentioned. So sometimes a good blow-up can do wonders to clear the air!

  77. C By The Sea*

    OP #4 here, thanks for the feedback. Still haven’t asked about the job yet. I’m guessing now it’s because I don’t know the best way to bring it up…
    But I can tell now that my boss is super stressed trying to handle the work load for two people. She just came back from vacation so thinking of bringing it up on Tuesday…

    Any advice on how to approach?

    1. Harryv*

      TLDR the comments. I think just asking to speak to your boss and asking how her vacation was. You can start by bringing up some memories of the colleague who passed and lead into the job. How you been thinking about it and thought you can do it. Make the conversation about mutually solving the problem rather than an opportunist. I think you will be fine.

  78. Harryv*

    This is why engineering in my company locks the temp in the facilities and outright ignores any request to change it. Now I know why.

  79. Elle Kay*

    I have a green ‘snuggy’-type sweater/blanket thing that I’m the 3rd inheritor of from other perpetually cold office members! In the winter I have a plug in foot-mat heater to keep my toes from freezing.
    The key in office temperatures is compromise and flexibility. Clearly, the green snuggy isn’t within dress code but it’s also not like I wear it to meetings. Realize that people have to be willing to make some compromises, (the 77 degree agreement is a great first step!), and then buckle down and make them live with it.

    You could invest in one of those covers for your thermostat so people can’t turn it on/off on their own.

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