I’m supposed to sleep in the office when I travel for work

A reader writes:

I have a question about lodging for a work trip. I work for a very small company (about six of us total) that has been aggressively trying to reduce expenses for the last six months. I work remotely for the company and fly up to the headquarters about once a month. While I am there, I stay in the office (on an air mattress) during my stay. It is not a very comfortable situation, and the offices are also incredibly loud on the street outside and during the winter typically very cold (large windows, not a lot of insulation).

I am flying up next week and someone else will be staying in the office so I assumed that I would be staying in a hotel. However, instead I will be staying at the CEO’s apartment while he will be staying at another property he owns. This happened one other time before, and he would text me in the morning after I left so that he could stop by and get his things and get ready. I am a woman and generally uncomfortable with this situation, but also a recent college grad so unsure as to what is normal or not in this situation.

This is not normal! None of it is normal!

Being expected to sleep on an air mattress in the office is especially not normal.

The part about staying in the CEO’s apartment isn’t normal either, but if he’s not going to be there while you’re staying there, it’s slightly less egregious … but the part about him coming in once you’re at work moves it back toward pretty weird. When you’re traveling for work, it’s reasonable to expect that you’ll have some privacy in your off-hours, not have someone coming into your space, even if you’re not there when it happens.

I get that they’re trying to aggressively reduce expenses, but if they can’t afford to put you up in a basic hotel when you travel, then they can’t afford to have people traveling for work.

I know it’s easy to say that in theory and harder when the response to you could be that it’s a requirement of your job, so you’ll have to decide how willing you are to push back on this. But for for the record, it would be reasonable to say, “I understand we’re trying to save money, but I’m not well rested when I sleep in the office. I’d like to start booking an economy-priced hotel instead.”

With this next trip where you’re supposed to stay in the CEO’s apartment while he stays in another place he owns, is it feasible to switch that so that he stays home and you’re staying in the property that isn’t his home? (That obviously won’t work in all circumstances, like if there are other people living in the second one.) Or you could just say, “I’d prefer not to stay in Bob’s house. Last time he kept needing to come by to pick up his things and get ready, which wasn’t conducive to have a comfortable, private place to stay in. I’d like to book an economy hotel instead, and will keep the price as low as I can.”

Ultimately, if they’re strongly opposed to paying for hotels, you’ll have to decide how much capital you’re willing to use to push back … but please know that being put up in a hotel during business travel is a very basic, very normal expectation, and you aren’t being high-maintenance or overly squeamish by having a problem with what they’re doing. They’re the ones being weird and out of sync with business norms here, not you.

Read an update to this letter here.

{ 421 comments… read them below }

  1. Murphy*

    What the hell? In an office on an air mattress? That’s awful. (Do they even have a shower there?)

    1. Fuzzy pickles*

      That’s what I was wondering too, where does she clean up? You know once I moved on from being completely stunned, that is.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        See, I was thinking that at my husband’s old research job they had a little apartment for visiting speakers, and so just possibly it was this and OP wasn’t comfortable with the lack of separation from work. But, no, OP, air mattress on the office floor is not business-norm.

    2. A Person*

      So much awful in that letter! My office building has a kitchen and a shower on every floor, but security staff will escort your butt out the door if you don’t leave by a certain time at night due to security and liability concerns.

      1. JustaTech*

        The one time I’ve chosen to sleep at work (I had a 3am timepoint in the lab and I don’t think I’m a great driver at that hour) I made sure to tell the security guy so he wouldn’t be surprised by me. And I chose a room with no windows and a door with a deadbolt.

      2. Contracts Killer*

        That is a good point. In many lease agreements of commercial properties, you have to agree that it will not be used as lodging. Her staying overnight may be a lease violation.

        1. Abby*

          I was thinking this too. Aren’t there stipulations that you can’t be living out of your office, or try to rent out office space as lodgings?

      3. Lou*

        My old office was a startup and they had to learn to do security the hard way when a guy secretly lived in the office for a year. He would hide a sleeping bag in the cupboard, head out in the evening and come back at night. He wasn’t struggling by the way – he said opening that he left a perfectly good flat to live at the office so he could ‘save up for a mortgage’. Bright spark, that one. Can’t believe OP’s office makes staying there compulsory.

          1. Silicon Valley nerd*

            It is not uncommon in Silicon Valley for people to live in the office or their car due to the high housing costs there.

            Another place this is common is DC, among elected reps (senators much less so), some of whom will try to sleep in their offices to save money.

      4. A Person*

        Now I see the OP has commented down at the bottom and says this “office” is actually someone’s old apartment that was converted to office space. So there’s a shower, but this still makes me feel even sadder for the OP, who is being encouraged to feel like any bit of this is normal by the other five people who work for the company.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Every reaction I had was expletive-laden, so I’ll try this: Holy #^%#@!, OP, what fresh hell is this??!! (There are not enough interrobangs for this situation).

      OP, here’s another negotiation point: in some states, requiring you to stay on premises could be construed as an on-call shift requiring wage compensation. They really need to put you up in proper lodging where you can have privacy. And if the CEO knows you’ll be at his place, he needs to get his crap before you arrive. If you plan when you travel, he can plan, too.

      I will note that when I worked for a rural nonprofit, it was common to stay at a colleague’s home. But that was because: (1) there wasn’t other lodging (i.e., no hotels/Airbnb’s, etc.), and (2) we were a freaking nonprofit. If there was lodging available, they paid for it.

      I want to smack your employer’s senior leadership upside the head.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        A friend’s mom, now that her kids have moved out, started hosting visiting artists for the university community. It boosts things up a bit that you can come to the small town, do 2 or 3 events (rather than all that travel for just one), and stay in your own bedroom with a charming hostess who is a good cook. It’s like the local arts group runs their own tiny airbnb.

        I don’t think “air mattress on the floor” would work as an incentive.

      2. ReanaZ*

        Right? I actually have a job I sleep at regularly–and I get a pay bonus (“sleepover allotment” is what the award agreement calls it), a private locking space with a queen bed, proper curtains, and ensuite bathroom. Plus overtime if anything wakes me up!

        I have also been involved start up/indie things where people crashed on each other’s couches when work traveling in the initial phase, but by the time you have actual paid employees you need to pay for appropriate lodging.

      3. Silicon Valley nerd*

        we were a freaking nonprofit.

        I don’t see why this is an excuse. If it’s wrong for a private-sector business that is bleeding cash, it’s also wrong for a non-profit.

    4. Gerta*

      I have seen a client’s office that had sleeping facilities – but that was a large international group where it wouldn’t be unusual for employees would to fly across severeal timezones or have international conference calls at odd hours of the night. They had small basic single rooms on a seperate floor with showers in case anyone needed to crash for a few hours – but they certainly paid for hotels too. And those were nice facilities, I used the showers after travelling overnight myself.

      Air mattresses – the only time I heard of anything similar to that was some colleagues who were from the Philippines, where I assume OP is not…

      1. Not really a lurker anymore*

        Some 911 Dispatch Centers keep a couple of air mattresses, for emergencies when the Dispatchers cannot get home. Admin brought them in a few years ago in preparation for a blizzard. I don’t believe they’ve been used.

    5. Bea*

      Sorry, gotta cut costs, sponge baths only and bring your own paper towels and bottle of water for that luxury.

      1. Bea*

        Most things are legal unless it involves children or elderly people who cannot just book their own room and say “lol ef that.”

        1. Tuxedo Cat*

          It doesn’t matter that it doesn’t involve elderly or children. I know some places have strict rules about letting people sleep in their offices (people who are willing to do so).

    6. paul*

      God, the thought of not being able to shower for 2-3 days while on work travel is horrifying. I need my cleanliness!

      OP, this is way past penny pinching. I’d be worried about solvency if they’re being *this* miserly.

      1. boo*

        Yeah, I’m curious, OP, how long you’re staying! It doesn’t make it better if it’s only one or two nights, but it sure makes it worse if it’s a week!

      2. Happy Lurker*

        The solvency of the company was my first thought. Then I read the boss stays at his second property…my eyes rolled so far in my head that it hurts.
        OP keep your eyes open for other opportunities and get out as fast as you can. Good luck.
        Bring a door stop. Wedge it into any door in the closed position to give yourself some privacy while “traveling” to and for this company.

          1. DorothyP*

            I worked for a company where the people at the top were horrible money managers and while some had (or seemed to have) money themselves, the company didn’t so they cut costs hugely. I got out within 8 months and am shocked that I even made it that long.

      3. Sacred Ground*

        Right? The CEO can apparently afford to own multiple homes in the city, but the company can’t afford a cheap motel room for a night?

  2. Observer*

    Being put up in a hotel is SO basic and normal that I’m questioning what else the company it skimping on.

    If they won’t put you up, start looking for a new job. If anyone asks you why you are leaving, you can say with perfect honesty that you noticed some signs that made you concerned for the financial viability of the company.

    1. Anastasia Beaverhausen*

      And this dude has a rental property? He can’t be doing that badly that he can’t afford an economy hotel room once a month!

      1. Mona Lisa*

        I wouldn’t use this as a barometer for the company’s health. The property could be explained by any number of circumstances (pre-dating his employment here, originally owned by a partner or other family member, etc.) that have nothing to do with it.

        It’s ridiculous that the company refuses to pay for a hotel room, especially since there are so many discount booking sites where one could find something cheap, but the rental property isn’t something that should factor in to the OP’s assessment or argument.

      2. a1*

        And so not the point, but why can’t he take his stuff with him when OP (or any travelling coworker) uses his apt? Bring your clothes, toothbrush and whatever else with you, you moron.

        1. TootsNYC*

          actually, I think that *is* a point!

          If that were what was offered all the time, and the guy moved out and didn’t go back while the OP was staying there, it wouldn’t be so bad.

      3. a1*

        And so not the point, but why can’t he bring his stuff with him when a travelling coworker uses his apt? How hard is it to bring his toothbrush, clothes, and whatever else he needs with him?

    2. Allison*

      Maybe people think hotels stays are extravagant luxuries for wealthy, spoiled people who wear diamonds and satin ball gowns and eat avocado toast every morning, and that when most people travel they just find a place to crash with someone they know.

        1. Specialk9*

          Is “kooks” ok to say without stigmatizing mental illness? I feel like a kook can be mentally healthy, so it’s not a rude term, but please help me get this right if I’m off.

          1. Washi*

            I’ve always assumed kook came from cuckoo, which definitely feels stigmatizing, but kook less so, maybe because it’s one step removed?

            idk, I’m trying to remove words like crazy, etc from my vocab, but I also tend to reach for them in outrageous situations like this and struggle to find a replacement!

            1. boo*

              I think “kook” tends to describe actual symptoms of mental illness as if they’re personal choices, and is therefore pejorative, but I tend to overthink word choice-“kook” brings to mind conspiracy theories and tinfoil hats for me, I guess.

              That said, there are some circumstances where what is happening is legitimately being driven by someone who is not making rational choices and it’s not wrong to take note of that and call it what it is. If the company has plenty of money and the CEO just thinks hotels are for people of weak moral character… that strikes me as a non reality-based belief.

              I think the problem about “crazy” synonyms is that there’s not really a lot of satisfying terms that express, “this person, without apparent mental incapacity, is making choices that are bizarre, arbitrary, or otherwise inexplicable,” which is really what we’re trying to say a lot of the time.

              In other words, the craziest part is, that person isn’t crazy.

              In replacing the word “crazy” I try to drill down to the most specific descriptor I can find, which tends to yield things like, “willfully ignorant”, “arbitrary, bizarre, or otherwise inexplicable”, “cruel”, “stupid”, “selfish”, “choosing to ignore reality”, “willing, nay, eager to sacrifice the well-being of others for personal gain”, and sometimes, “actually, for real, something is wrong and this person has mental health issues and needs some help.”

              1. Mad Baggins*

                Thank you for the suggestions! It’s tough because words like dumb, idiot, and stupid have (may have?) roots as pejoratives or legal terms for the mentally disabled. I just looked up “idiot” and apparently it legally meant “one who has been without reasoning or understanding from birth, as distinguished from a lunatic, who became that way.”

                I need words to describe people doing weird things without comparing them to people with disabilities (or who are gay, or women, or other minority), so I don’t end up like Michael Scott: “You don’t call r— r—ed. You call your friends r— when they’re acting r—-ed.”

                1. StrikingFalcon*

                  I’m a fan of “inane.” It works as a replacement for stupid in a lot of situations, without connotations of intelligence.

            2. Sam Carter*

              This might make me seem weird (true I guess) but I thought kook was a reference to a kookaburra. So a kook is someone who isn’t any smarter than a bird with all the other kookaburras laughing at them. I have no factual reason for that assumption, it’s just what my brain decided to make up.

          2. Kate 2*

            As a mentally ill person who says things like “crazy” and “coocoo for cocoa puffs” about sane but badly behaved people I hereby bestow on you permission to use it.

            Seriously though I have never ever heard crazy or anything like it used in these times to describe mentally ill people. It would be stigmatizing if it was used that way, but it isn’t.

            1. Autumn anon*

              I have definitely heard people still using ‘crazy’ etc as ways to refer to mentally ill people, and the stigmatising part comes from people calling not-mentally ill people ‘crazy’ – ie ‘crazy’ as a perjorative term – so honestly I’m still against it (saying this as another mentally ill person with a different perspective).

              1. soup, or art?*

                Oh, I’ve also heard “crazy” as a pejorative term when referring to mentally ill people; I’m not a fan in general. There’s about one person (besides me) who can call me crazy without pissing me off, and it’s only partly because we’re the same kind of crazy.

                I mean, language evolves in fits and starts and I’m not gonna be too mad at people who mean well, but at this point I think “has a mental illness” is the current, inoffensive way to say crazy when you actually mean crazy.

          3. SimonKitty*

            Actually I remember kooky from the 50’s shows in conjunction with beatniks and it meant eccentric or different. I think it has nothing to do with mental illness.

            1. Calpurrnia*

              “They’re creepy and they’re kooky, mysterious and spooky, they’re altogether ooky, the Addams Family!”

          4. Pomona Sprout*

            I don’t see how it’s any different from “loons,” which Alison has used plenty of times .

            Fwiw, as a person with mental health issues and a family in which mental illness doesn’t run but gallops (to paraphrase Arsenic and Old Lace), I’m not offended by either term, or by crazy, nuts, bonkers or any of the other common euphenisms for not having all of one’s marbles (to use another euphemism, lol).

        2. Thursday Next*

          For many years after their immigration to the U.S., this is how many parents and their vast network of friends/acquaintances handled personal travel. Hotels, and flights, were extravagances, and if you traveled within the U.S., you drove there and found friends to put you up. And you put up any friends, friends of friends, or relatives of friends who came your way.

          They weren’t kooks. They were desperately trying to save money to buy tickets for themselves and their children to visit their families back home.

          I agree that the situation the LW describes is beyond inappropriate, and that work travel should allow people safe, private accommodations that are not an air mattress on an office floor. And I recognize that my family’s practices were outliers in comparison to dominant U.S. culture, but commenters in this site tend to be interested in minority experiences, so I thought I’d share.

          1. SweetTooth*

            That completely makes sense and is a good perspective. My non-recent-immigrant family is similar, though perhaps limited to closer relatives and friends in general. The difference here is that it’s strictly for work travel, which makes this a completely absurd situation.

          2. TootsNYC*

            I also think hotels used to be more expensive (just as long-distance phone calls used to be prohibitively expensive, even back in the 1980s, and now aren’t). And there were far fewer of them.

            I remember in the late 1970s when my family went on a vacation and stayed in a hotel, instead of with relatives. It was a major, major splurge.

            Also, some companies may think they have to pay for “business-class” hotels instead of budget places.

            1. GreyjoyGardens*

              I remember those days! A hotel was a splurge if there were relatives nearby with a guest room. Nowadays, I don’t know many people with a guest room that is for *guests* as opposed to a home office or a room rented out via AirBnB.

              Also remembering the days of expensive and rationed long-distance calls, with parents who went over the bill with a fine tooth comb and WHO was I calling and WHY and DON’T YOU KNOW THAT COSTS MONEY MISSY WRITE LETTERS INSTEAD. I love my cell phone and being able to call and text without thinking of expense.

              1. IDontRememberWhatNameIUsedBefore*

                Back in the days of expensive long distance, when one of my parents was making a long drive somewhere & wanted to check in with the parent at home to let them know they made it safely, and without putting a long distance charge on the bill of the person who’s phone they were calling from, they had a trick they devised where they would call home collect and ask for their own name. The parent at home would get the operator asking “I have a collect call for (other parent)”, know other parent was safely at their destination, and decline the call.

          3. IDontRememberWhatNameIUsedBefore*

            My parents/grandparents/etc we’re not immigrants, but all grew up in or lived through the Depression, and a hotel/motel was a luxury reserved for times when you traveled somewhere you did not have relatives or close friends to put you up.
            My parents only took us on two family vacations ever- the first one they drove their gigantic 1970s station wagon & pulled a tiny vintage travel trailer behind, the second they didn’t want to spend the gas money pulling the trailer so on the nights we weren’t staying with family we slept in the giant station wagon. This was my parents, my grandmother, my adult older sister, my brother & I (about 13/14 and tall for our age) and three small dogs. And no, we weren’t poor, we were somewhere between solid middle & low upper middle class, and could have afforded cheap motels on those nights…there were just many ways my parents still chose to ‘live poor’ due to how they had to live growing up. (And not knocking it- it was invaluable to me when I was on my own & was struggling to survive while handicapped by both my known chronic physical illnesses and my serious, undiagnosed executive function, learning, sensory, and other disorders that kept me from getting well paying jobs.)

            1. IDontRememberWhatNameIUsedBefore*

              The vacation incident I am talking about happened around 1980, lol.

      1. Rookie Manager*

        Ah yes, us entitled millenials. Always demanding safe and warm accomodation when teavelling for work in addition to avo toast. It worries me the CEO may just believe young people having hotels is entitled and unnecessary.

        1. BenAdminGeek*

          You kids these days just don’t realize that sleeping on an exposed sewer grate is what makes you a better worker. I can’t believe they are coddling her by letting her stay indoors!

            1. Tuesday Next*

              Wearing shoes handmade from recycled printer paper. And carrying the boss’s avo toast on a silver platter.

              1. Hera Syndulla*

                And don’t forget the champaign for the boss either. It needs to be cold as well, but that wouldn’t be too much of a problem when walking in the snow…

      2. LBK*

        This sounds like less like someone who thinks hotels are an extravagance and more the typical “part of working here means you’ll do whatever it takes to make the company successful” startup/small business culture.

        1. Crystal*

          Yes, this screams start-up and if it’s only 6 people I’m assuming everyone else is doing this too (right OP, RIGHT?!)

      3. Bea*

        No. They’re just slashing expenses. Next up is giving everyone a 50% wage decrease at this rate. The LW travels once a month, that’s a measly 1300ish cut. If they’re scrimping that hard they’re just bad at business.

      4. Falling Diphthong*

        I am now picturing Jeff Probst standing over OP’s air mattress yelling “Dig deep, woman!”

      5. zora*

        There are people who think that, in my circles it is called “lowbagging”.. but it is a VERY small subset of people, and those specific people would never be the “CEO” of a company. Because they don’t “believe” in corporations and capitalism.

      6. IDontRememberWhatNameIUsedBefore*

        What is the deal with avocado toast? My Depression era parents both ate it & fed it to me when I was a little kid in the late 60s/early 70s. Why is it suddenly associated with millennials & luxury?

  3. Detective Amy Santiago*

    That sound you just heard was my jaw hitting the floor.

    I have nothing to say other than please provide an update!

  4. Aunt Vixen*

    and the offices are also incredibly loud on the street outside and during the winter typically very cold (large windows, not a lot of insulation).

    And not zoned residential, for sure. I’m not an expert but I can’t see how that wouldn’t be an insurance nightmare.

    1. Amber T*

      And probably illegal? I mean, I’m not sure how it’s enforceable, but I’m pretty sure you’re not allowed to stay overnight in commercial zones.

      1. Xarcady*

        I know in my state it is an issue.

        My old company was housed in an office park, in a two-story building. We had the ground floor and a small 2 or 3 person company had the second floor. We realized at some point that someone was living upstairs–his truck was covered in snow at 7 am, for instance, and it did not change parking spaces for days.

        They did have a shower up there, and he brought in a microwave to be able to heat up food. Once he realized that we knew, he begged people not to tell anyone because it was not allowed by the office park lease. And zoning did not allow it, either, so the town would not have looked kindly on him. He was staying there because of a divorce, and not having enough money to pay the mortgage on his old house and still rent an apartment.

        He ended up selling his company to a much larger firm for many millions of dollars, and we hoped that he finally was able to afford a better place to live.

        1. Who the eff is Hank?*

          Before I started at my current job, one of the employees lived in the attic for a few months while going through a divorce. There is a couch in the attic and we have a small kitchen and a gym with showers onsite. Apparently everyone knew and was ok with this.

        2. Bea*

          We had someone rent an industrial park unit in our complex my boss owned. We knew they lived in there but turned our heads to it. My boss was such that this person ended up owing thousands in back rent but he wouldn’t press it. His wife finally had to evict the guy…

          So the two of us went over there to see the wreckage afterwards. They had built a shower and other assorted rooms within the space. It was creepy as hell, I felt like I found someone’s secret dungeon. That was just on the other side of where we conducted business every day.

        3. Only here for the teapots*

          A former boss & husband stayed in their warehouse while their house was being built. There was a large bathroom with shower since the former occupant was a paint shop with lots of chemical work. This couple was extremely shady though, and bragged about scamming everyone from top clients to US customs, so risk of discovery wasn’t on their radar.
          It made for a terrible work environment though. They were both slobs, but hubs was a bathroom hog & napped on the only breakroom couch during the day.
          Red red flags.

        4. Betsy*

          An international student at my university lived in the art studios on the top floor for several months before security noticed. The other students noticed earlier because there was a small alcove between studios with a microwave and we’d see things like a large carton full of eggs turning up there. I was quite young at the time, and I think we just saw it as a kind of sad but interesting quirk, but looking back I wish I’d known how to get him some help.

          1. Fieldpoppy*

            In my early career we discovered the art director in our agency was living in the office. We did not have a shower or any appropriate place to sleep — he kept his clothes in the darkroom and crashed on the couch in the CEO’s office. He was in gambling debt apparently. In other words, sleeping at the office is usually a Bad Sign.

        5. Emilie*

          Seven students from a danish university actually moved in to an empty classroom that they discoverede, which noone used, to save money on rent in order to develop a computer game (they’re called BetaDwarf, and have been pretty succesful since). They stayed there for 7 months (!!!) before someone accidentally found them. The room was set up with beds and an impromptu kitchen and everything.

          1. Cousin Itt*

            It was something of a running joke at my uni that you could save on accommodation fees by living in the campus library – it was open 24/7, had a canteen and there were showers on one floor, plus people were always falling asleep at the desks.

        6. rear mech*

          My mom lived at her work for nearly a year after divorcing. The building had been designed to be a home, though. And it was a nonprofit run by one of her best friends. Pretty much everyone who worked there had been through periods of poverty for various reasons, so it didn’t seem odd to have such a sweet and conscientious person living there temporarily.

      2. Engineer Girl*

        There’s all sorts of ways it’s a problem. It could violate the lease agreement, it could violate zoning and building codes, and it could violate city ordinances on short term habitation.

        OP, you may be able to push back by questioning the legality. Phrase it as wanting the company to avoid trouble and fines. If you get pushback then you have additional data about your boss. And it would definitely be time to search for another job.

        1. Engineer Girl*

          I forgot insurance. If there’s a problem the insurance company may refuse to pay based on legality.

      3. ANon*

        This was my thought, too! But is there a legal difference between someone living there versus shaving omeone stay overnight roughly one night per month?

        1. Antilles*

          I don’t think there would be a difference here because this is pre-planned by the company. It’s not a one-time emergency situation where weather shuts down the roads or every hotel in the county is booked due to a convention or something, but a regular occurrence that they know about in advance and could have easily prevented.

      4. Antilles*

        Given that the company has made no provisions about it, they are probably in knowing violation of at least one of the following things: (a) local law, (b) building lease, (c) city/county business license, (d) zoning codes, and/or (e) the terms of their business insurance policy.
        You can arrange it so employees can sleep at the office, but it requires a lot more than just tossing down an air mattress and saying “there ya go”.

    2. Triumphant Fox*

      Yes! My immediate thought was security. So many businesses aren’t properly secured and you don’t have the layers of protection you do in a hotel. Also, businesses are targets of evening crime in a way that hotels just aren’t.

      1. Rachel01*

        Another consideration is over time pay if she doesn’t have freedom to leave the building. I would be afraid I couldn’t get back in if I left for dinner.

    3. Hey Karma, Over here.*

      That’s what I wanted to add. I wanted to change my hours to work one hour later than others and my boss said it was a no go for security. The lease states that everyone must be out at a certain time (there are exceptions to normal business needs) and you sure as hell can’t have people LIVING THERE.

    4. Ann O'Nemity*

      Oh yeah, totally agree about the insurance part. I remember management at my last job coming down pretty hard on people for sleeping at work, even when they were doing it by choice*.

      * Back in the day, data collation and analysis programs took all night to run. If it hit an error, you wouldn’t realize it until the next morning. And the computers, which we needed to work on during the day, were basically unusable while the program ran. One of my office mates opted to sleep on a couch so he could periodically make sure the report was still running. It’s funny to remember that this was even “a thing,” because that type of collation and analysis now takes a few minutes at most.

    5. Safetykats*

      This violates the fire codes in every state, assuming that the fire detection system was not designed for a residential propriety (which is highly unlikely, in an office.) In particular, sleeping quarters are required to be equipped with smoke detection. This is because the sprinkler system WILL NOT activate in time to keep you from dying of smoke inhalation in your sleep. So – creepy CEO and crappy air mattress aside, requiring employees to sleep in the office is illegal and could result in citation by the Fire Marshal and a requirement to upgrade the entire premises to residential-compliant detection systems.

      OP, please point out to your employers that this is unsafe, and please look for another job ASAP. These people are either stupid-cheap or on the verge of bankruptcy anyway; you need to be out the door before you come in one morning and find it locked because they’ve been evicted.

      1. whingedrinking*

        I was thinking that myself. If there was an emergency and nobody expected a person to be in there, it could delay sending the right kind of help.

    6. Bea*

      Most leases also are specific to what you can do and specifically state there is no authorization to use it as housing. Otherwise people rent office space and don’t have a home…yeah I’ve seen that first hand.

    7. Glomarization, Esq.*

      Came here to say something like this. The scenario raises red flags for me regarding insurance and zoning laws/ordinances if LW is in the U.S. — and personal safety if in the U.S. or anywhere.

  5. Justme, The OG*

    There have been times when I have joked about sleeping in my office. But that’s just inconceivable that it’s the one option for you when traveling.

    1. Amber T*

      I’ve joked about camping out when the weather got back and making a fort under my desk. But yeah, huge differences between joking when Mother Nature is being a jerk and being forced to stay at your office because your company is a jerk.

      1. sam*

        Yeah – our office in Atlanta made specific provisions for folks who got stuck there during one of the ice/snowstorms, and invested in emergency supplies in case something like that happens again, but I’d call that a very specific situation that is more about making sure that our folks are taken care of if they get somehow trapped at the office, rather than an expectation that they actually “stay” at the office – I mean, when I travel down there for work, I stay in a hotel!.

        1. Amber T*

          That’s what a company SHOULD do! “We don’t want you to have to stay here, but if crap hits the fan and you have no place else to go, here are these emergency supplies.” That’s a good office.

          1. whimbrel*

            We have that at our office! We occasionally get multi-day blizzards that shut my city down. It consists of a large plastic tub with various canned food, bottled water, a light, and other emergency supplies. I think there was a copy of the board game ‘Sorry!’ in there too (which is totally what you want to do when trapped in a building with your coworkers…).

            I’ve been here seven years and to the best of my knowledge no one has ever had to make use of it, but the OHS committee checks it regularly and it’s reassuring to know it’s there.

          2. sam*

            Yep – and it’s certainly better than ending up in a ditch or sleeping in the Home Depot, which is what several people I know ended up doing during that storm a few years ago when all the roads got completely bollixed.

        2. JessaB*

          I mean we camped out at the answering service for four days during a double hurricane in Florida because A: we owned the building B: we were critical services (we answered for five board up companies, two cable companies, 1100 doctors AND the City ELECTRIC.) And it was a special emergency and we had generators and power and running water. I had my van that had gas cans in it and we used that to pick up people cause heavyweight van and I had gas. But that was SPECIAL. Not normal. Boss came in with his truck and provisions, day supervisor brought her inflatable bed and it was a party in the warehouse.

          But we travelled, he got hotel rooms.

      2. Allison*

        In 5th grade I had a teacher who kept saying things like “it’ll be fun! we’ll have a sleep-in and order pizza” any time we were expecting a blizzard, or one time when our bus was running late getting back from a field trip and some of us were worried about missing the bus. I still don’t know if she was joking, or actually thought kids would enjoy being kept at school overnight, because that was my nightmare and I always freaked out when she made comments like that.

        1. Kelsi*

          To be fair, I was the kid that WOULD have loved that. The Baby Sitters Club book about the blizzard was one of my favorites.

          (Then again, my mom was a teacher, so schools during closed hours were more “playground!!!” than “liminal space” to me)

          1. Allison*

            Huh, I don’t remember that one. I do remember having an intense fear of not getting to go home in general, probably due to an incident I witnessed when I was super young.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      I used to work in a materials testing lab and the owner would sleep in the office when he came to town (he lived in another state). The lab building had a shower and he had a Murphy bed thing in his office. I’m sure his wife would have preferred they stay in a hotel when she accompanied him, but he was too cheap. The business only had ten or so employees. I don’t know what the zoning laws are here. He owned the building.

      What annoyed me the most was that he would sit at my desk and use my computer, instead of using the one in his office. He would move all my stuff and I’d come in and have to rearrange my desk every morning while he was there. He was an okay guy, just a little weird, LOL. His wife was a lovely person. She passed away while I worked there and we were all devastated.

    3. Falling Diphthong*

      Openly setting up a nap site under your desk takes gumption on the employee’s part. Openly setting up a no-leaving-ever sleeping space under their desk takes gumption from the employer.

  6. Anonymous Poster*

    This is so not normal! Even in businesses that are really trying to cut costs, the most I’ve seen is that person being put up in something like a Motel 6 or Budget Inn. Not an expectation of staying in someone’s private residence or sleeping in the office on an air mattress.

    You aren’t out of sync, OP, the business seems to be.

    Another option may be to push on whether you really need to come to the office in person. You could try suggesting Skype or some other collaboration tool that’s cheap/free. Also, have you communicated the problems you’ve had staying in the office and your concerns about staying in a private residence? It’s really awkward to have to do that, because it’s where the CEO lives day-to-day. Maybe that would help them know that this is not a reasonable expectation?

    Good luck.

    1. KarenT*

      This. A company that can’t spring for a cheap hotel or airbnb needs to get really good at video conferencing, really fast.

    2. K.*

      Yeah, if you expect me to sleep in the office, I’m not coming to the office. Fight me. Or fire me, whatever.

    3. WellRed*

      Our local motel 6 is unsuitable for business travel, what with the prostitutes, drug deals and the woman found murdered in a car in the parking lot.

      1. Anonymous Poster*

        There was a Days Inn near where I used to have to travel for work where it was a regular occurrence for people to be propositioned for all sorts of interesting and illegal services and products.

        Still, I wasn’t told go sleep in that hanger over there.

    4. Ainomiaka*

      The videoconferencing is where I would try to push this. Staying in the office is absolutely not okay. If they really can’t pay for a hotel, you shouldn’t be traveling. I also have questions about long term viability.

    5. The Cosmic Avenger*

      It’s funny to think that a lot of us would find sharing a hotel room at a decent hotel a big red flag. I think part of the reason I love this blog is that it keeps me from taking my wonderful employer and coworkers for granted.

      1. Bob*

        I used to work for a division of Kraft Foods and we had to share hotel rooms at our yearly sales convention so it’s not just small companies. That all stopped when they realized a bunch of married men together for the weekend got in more trouble than it was worth for the company. They soon started allowing – and strongly encouraging – spouses to attend.

    6. Breda*

      My own experience with companies like this suggests the headquarters are somewhere like NYC, where budget hotels don’t really exist and the cheapest ones don’t have private bathrooms.

    7. Bob*

      Many will scoff at this suggestion but if travel was minimal and I really wanted to keep the job, I would actually consider going out of pocket for the room. It all depends how much you want the job if they won’t budge on getting a motel room for you. I wouldn’t be willing to drop $500/month on my own motel but I could handle $150-200/month if it meant not not sleeping in the office and not showering.

  7. AdAgencyChick*

    This has to be a small business, right?

    Not that that makes it okay. Sorry this is a thing, OP.

    1. rear mech*

      I work at an even smaller business, and the amount my boss spends buying us impromptu breakfasts and coffees would pay for at least one basic hotel room per month..

  8. CatCat*

    Yikes!! I’d be concerned that the company is in financial distress if this is how extreme they are going. I’d push back, but I’d also start looking for other jobs at companies that look more stable.

    1. Lala*

      This. If they need to save money that badly, I wouldn’t trust that my job was secure at all.

    2. Anonymous Poster*

      I agree, this would be my other major concern. I guess this is one of those it-depends situations. So, if they’ve always been clueless about this and always had people stay in the office, then that’s one thing, but if this is the result of a cut back, then I’d be very concerned about what would be the next thing that would go – like my position.

      So strange about paying for the air fare and then bailing on the hotel/motel cost… I’m guessing they must fly you up on Spirit or Frontier at this rate.

    3. Former Retail Manager*

      Just agreeing with everyone else. This level of “cost savings” is alarming.

  9. Amy Farrah Fowler*

    Wow… yeah, that is NOT NORMAL at all. I think this is potentially harder because you’ve done it their way before. It’s easier to just look at something and go “no, that won’t work.” But even though you’ve attempted there way, you can stand up for yourself and say that though you gave it a shot last time, you weren’t able to perform to your normal level of productivity and that you need proper sleep to recharge for work.

    1. 42*

      I think you hit on an excellent point which may help the OP feel more confident when pushing back: OP can say look, I tried it your way in the past, and it’s not working.

    2. Thursday Next*

      This is a good point. OP, you tried it their way—which revealed the shortcomings of their arrangements. It’s really not reasonable for them to not book you a hotel. This site has had discussions before about industry norms regarding sharing hotel rooms—but the fact of hotel rooms was always a starting premise! You need a private, residential space with appropriate residential bathroom facilities and security. Any negotiations about picking up stuff (if you’re staying in your boss’ vacant apartment) need to be made in advance so the space is private while you’re there. Good luck!

  10. AvonLady Barksdale*

    *shudder* I’m having flashbacks to my last job, where there was talk about setting up a bedroom for visiting colleagues. I mean, there was a kitchen! And a shower! (The office space was originally built as an apartment.) Wouldn’t it be great to have a bed in there too? No. No it would not. I would be very uncomfortable sleeping in a work space, where all of my co-workers had access, where I couldn’t keep anything private. People need downtime and privacy.

    This business about staying in the CEO’s apartment is also nuts. I’m really surprised that he doesn’t open up his other property to the OP if it’s available and empty, because that’s the only way I can see this arrangement working. Alison’s advice is excellent. And no, OP, this is decidedly NOT the norm.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Your downtime is a lot cuter than mine. Mine involves scratching and belches.

      1. Natalie*

        I mean, unless the CEO is independently wealthy, the company pays for that apartment one way or another.

    1. aka Duchess*

      It makes me wonder if the CEO is just saying “Oh, well I will just stay at my other property.” but in reality it is actually his Mom’s house or a friends, but wants to save face or is just too prideful to say that.

      1. Breda*

        Eh. Having had bedbugs: if they were in the office, you’d know it from being there during the day. (Ask the people who get bitten from two hours in a movie theater.)

    2. HS Teacher*

      In my last corporate gig, our CEO had a condo in the city where our second office was located. It was right across the street from the MLB stadium, so it was in a prime spot for a baseball fan like me. Still, I hated staying there, even though it wasn’t his full-time residence. I need more separation between personal and work. When I returned from that trip, he asked me if I thought his bed was comfortable. He didn’t mean it to be a creepy question, but it totally creeped me out. I told him if I were going to be required to travel there again for work they’d have to get me a hotel room.

  11. K.*

    “While I am there, I stay in the office (on an air mattress) during my stay.”

    I literally burst out laughing. Please know, OP, that I am not laughing at you – I’m laughing at the audacity of requiring an employee to sleep on a f*cking air mattress on the floor IN THE OFFICE. It’s absurd. When you leave this job (even if you don’t leave because of this – and I would, by the way) and you tell folks at your next job this story, be prepared for dropped jaws. This is not normal, and it’s also not acceptable.

      1. K.*

        And that’s standard operating procedure! They’re like “Welcome to the office. The air mattress is all set up for you.” They have more than one remote worker and this is the procedure for those people! WHAT?

  12. Hey Karma, Over here.*

    Just so this is crystal clear. Nope. Not normal. That’s great they want to reduce expenses. But to do that, they eliminate travel and use digital communication. They do not have you crash on an air mattress in an office – which probably violates the lease agreement.

  13. Snarkus Aurelius*

    Not only is it inappropriate, but they’re definitely violating fire and safety building codes when you sleep there. That is not okay.

    If you can’t pay for hotels, then you can’t pay for travel. Period.

    1. Dawbs*

      I was pondering this safety aspect.

      It’s a commercial building. If it’s on fire at 3 am, fire fighters shouldn’t risk their lives for “stuff”…but they’d have no way of knowing they’re supposed to brr making the “person sleeping”call rather than the”stuff”call.

    2. Antilles*

      If you can’t pay for hotels, then you can’t pay for travel. Period.
      This also applies to sharing rooms – if you can’t afford the extra $100 or whatever to give each employee their own hotel room, you can’t afford to send multiple people on the trip.

      1. Thlayli*

        Agree. Instead of paying for flights once a month, OP could suggest that they pay for flight+hotel once every two months.

        Also OP, if you are going to suggest alternatives to your boss, it might be good to do that as a group along with the other employee(s) who sleep on the air mattress from time to time. Things to suggest:
        – less frequent travel with a hotel
        – use of Skype or similar
        – staying in a (nice) hostel or airb&b or othervidget accommodation

    3. Kara Zelle*

      I work for a small business, and sleeping in the office is illegal here in Scandinavia unless there are dedicated sleeping sections. The tax issues alone is the least of your worries, fire hazards and other requirements for living facilities, insurance… Yeah, not great at all. I live under an hour away from my workplace and if a customer gig has me early in the office, my manager has given me carte blanche to expense a hotel even next to our office. I never take advantage of the offer because I can easily get home and I prefer my own bed.

  14. Wannabe Disney Princess*

    I think the cherry on top is that the CEO isn’t organized enough to take the things that he needs with him when he’s staying elsewhere. Honestly. That sums this whole letter up.

    I would definitely push back on this. And maybe decide to start looking elsewhere for a new job. This is bonkers.

    1. Memily*

      That is EXACTLY what I was thinking when I read this. I mean, does he not pack a bag or something? So weird!

    2. AKchic*

      The first time is *one* thing, but multiple times? I think that says “I want to be able to snoop” or “I was invading my tenant’s space and they felt they couldn’t say ‘no’ to me crashing in their personal space that they rent from me while you use my personal space”.

      Either scenario is abhorrent. Both scenarios are abhorrent. One is just more creepy personally for the LW. Both show a continued disregard for other people and the lengths the CEO will go to pinch pennies in order to continue lining their personal pockets.

    3. the_scientist*

      RIGHT? You can’t pack an overnight bag?!

      I agree that this one fact sums up the entire state of the company. Look for a new job ASAP.

    4. k.k*

      The facts that the CEO doesn’t think to pack a bag and is cool with his employees makes me think he’s living in his own reality. If the office is this far out of touch with norms, there is no way this is going to be the last issue OP runs into.

    5. Gung Ho Iguana*

      Or there isn’t really a second property and he’s staying in his car. No matter what it is, it’s bad.

    6. Kate*

      Right? Presumably the OP had to pack a suitcase for however long she is there. He could not do the same? And since it’s his own property, why does he not have things there already? Seconding the suggestion for looking for a new job. If the company is this out of touch, I have concerns about how they will handle the push back. But the OP should still definitely push back on this. This is totally not normal.

  15. The Bill Murray Disagreement*

    How disgusting is it that the CEO can afford to have two properties to live in but cannot pay for an employee to stay in a hotel while traveling for work?

    1. Xarcady*

      Well, maybe that second property is an investment property, not a second home. Or it is his mistress’s apartment, or the home of the second family his wife doesn’t know about.

      1. Hiring Mgr*

        My problem was telling my wife about my second family. In hindsight, that was a mistake.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Or it’s a relative’s home, or he inherited it when a parent died, or all sorts of other things. I don’t think we need to get into class warfare in order to tell the OP that what her company is doing is unacceptable, period.

      1. here goes*

        Wouldn’t selling it be an option still though? Though I agree OPs company is nutty either way.

        1. 42*

          >>Wouldn’t selling it be an option still though? <<

          But then where would the CEO sleep when the OP is coming to town? :^D

        2. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

          C’mon. This is an absurd situation, but the CEO isn’t obligated to sell his property to run the business more effectively.

        3. Zip Silver*

          Not a great option. Personal property is protected when a company goes under (assuming you didn’t put it up as collateral). If it got to the point where you’re about to sell one of your two homes to keep the business running, I reckon it’d be better to have the rental income from the second home than trying to buy whatever time you can for the business with the few hundred grand you get from the sale.

    3. Cols*

      Ehh, you can’t really make a judgment on this. Maybe he inherited his mom’s condo when she passed, or he has an investment property he rents out to his cousin, so he can stay there when he needs to. But even if he has a palatial vacation estate in addition to his primary residence, his personal financial situation has no bearing on the company’s financial situation, necessarily. He shouldn’t pour personal, possibly pre-existing, money into a business if it’s not profitable.

    4. MK*

      The CEO might not be the owner of the company. And having two properties doesn’t necessarily mean they are stinking rich and are maintaining two homes in the same city for the heck of it.

    5. AnotherJill*

      If he has to come by his apartment to get his things and get ready, he may well be sleeping in his car.

    6. Biff*

      I’m just not willing to chew the guy out, for all we know, he has a property in an affordable area that is a very long commute away, and a small apartment in the city that he uses during the week to reduce commute.

  16. Higher Ed Database Dork*

    This is not normal!!! I’ve worked in higher ed all my career, and it can be notoriously cheap. But we will pay to put someone in a hotel, even if they are traveling once a month!! In fact, my CIO was an interim and lived out of state for 2 years before being hired on permanently, and he was flown in almost once a week and put into a hotel.

    It is not reasonable or considerate to have employees sleep in the office. I hope that you can successfully push back, or get a new job. And if anyone asks why you resigned…you can be honest and say it was because they made you sleep on an air mattress in an office building!!! Most future employers will be as horrified as we all are.

  17. Natalie*

    someone else will be staying in the office

    So, they can somehow afford multiple long distance employees, but hotel rooms are beyond their abilities? Sure, buddies, sure.

    This company is off the damned deep end.

    1. Who the eff is Hank?*

      I wonder if the long distance employees live in lower cost of living areas and are paid less? My last company used to do that. The headquarters is in a high cost of living city and employs about 100 people, and then there are about 300 people working remotely from low cost of living areas. The salaries being paid to some of those remote employees would barely cover a year’s worth of groceries in the headquarter city.

    2. Bea*

      I also would love to see if their remote employees are being treated as employees or contract labor. There is so much going on here that I just want to peak at those books for twenty minutes.

  18. Artemesia*

    I’d be wondering how else they were saving. One thing I would want to check for sure, every month, is whether the health insurance is being paid. Sleeping on the floor of an office is also very unsafe. Are there cleaning crews at night? Who else might have access? Is there anyone else around? As a young woman I would be quite nervous about sleeping in the back of a commercial establishment, not to speak of the privacy issues.

    1. Higher Ed Database Dork*

      I’m also thinking of pests. I’m sure the employees have food with them, and even if they don’t, pests can still be a problem.

      1. Wannabe Disney Princess*

        Bedbugs crossed my mind. I know they can be picked up almost anywhere, but why give them a comfy place to stay and infest all the coworkers? I mean, I love sharing as much as the next person but that’s where I draw the line.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      The company I worked for that wanted people to sleep in the office (never actually happened, as far as I know) didn’t have company-paid health insurance. So… there’s that.

    3. Allison*

      Same here! You’d basically have to give me a room with a door I can lock, and be able to assure me that absolutely no one else would possibly enter while I’m there, otherwise I wouldn’t feel safe. I’d also worry about there being enough heat overnight.

  19. Potato*

    In no way is this normal. Not at all.

    How about someone from the office swaps with you when you visit so you can stay at their house and they can sleep on the floor – after all you are the guest …

    Nope. This is crazy. Surely such a request can only be met with incredulity. There is scrutiny on expenses and then there is taking the utter piss.

    Please don’t feel you have to do this to keep your job. There are many places that will drag you all around the country/world but will provide a warm bed and a shower in small recompense

  20. Guy Incognito*

    If they make you stay on an air mattress in the office, double down. Just wake up and start working in your pajamas. Maybe loudly eat a bowl of cereal.

    (Don’t actually do that, follow Allison’s advice, but we can bring some levity because the whole thing is hilarious.)

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I like the direction you were going, though.

      Brush your teeth/gargle mouthwash during meetings! Set up a blanket fort in the hallway!

      Seriously, if I were desperate/dumb enough to try to save money this way, I’d at least invest in: a room with no windows and a deadbolt on the door; a real bed or at least daybed/sleeper sofa; minibar-style amenities (microwave, a set of dishes, mini fridge, etc.). You could probably recoup your costs after a week or two of use (based on what you’d save on hotels).

      Not that this would excuse the imposition, much less the code violations and all, but it really bugs me that they’re not only being jerks, they have given their plan almost zero thought!

    2. Mike C.*

      I would kill to loudly pour a bowl of Captain Crunch during a meeting. Maybe drink from the milk carton as well.

    3. Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain*

      “Bathe” in the break room sink with a washcloth and bar of soap. And blow dry your hair in there too. Everyone loves hairballs in their coffee, right?

  21. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

    If they’ve gotten to this point in reducing expenses, I’d have to wonder how close they are to not being able to make payroll. Or cover healthcare. Or even keeping the lights on.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        If you really cared about the success of this company, you’d be willing to use the treadmill-powered computer.

    1. AnonEMoose*

      I’m wondering about that, too. OP, if you can, I would be stepping up a job search about now.

      Which I know isn’t the question you asked. In answer to that question – NO, this is NOT NORMAL. And as others have said, it’s not safe and may not even be legal (although you’d have to check local ordinances and so on).

    2. Ann O'Nemity*

      Yeah, this is past Guacamole Bob’s level of cost savings. So far past. Like, red light flashing, alarm blaring – Not normal! Not Normal!

      1. Pebbles*

        Heh. And we thought saying no to a $2 side of guac was penny-pinching! (It is, but holy cow. At least that poor guy got a hotel room!)

    3. not really a lurker anymore*

      “I’d have to wonder how close they are to not being able to make payroll. Or cover healthcare”

      Or if Payroll taxes and any retirement funds are being paid.

  22. Helpful*

    OP, I’d bet your company is doing extremely poorly and you need to be ready to jump ship. Polish your resume and talk to your network and get yourself a new job ASAP. Sorry you’re in this unreasonable situation.

    1. aka Duchess*

      Second this. Even if they aren’t doing extremely poorly *yet* – they are making you sleep on the floor. That would be reason enough for me to leave.

  23. Katniss*

    I really am sick of companies pretending that because they need to cut costs, they should be able to force employees into awkward and unacceptable situations to do so. If a company is so desperate to cut costs that it can’t even do the basics of business (providing housing for travel, providing health insurance, paying a fair wage, etc) than maybe it doesn’t deserve to exist in the first place.

  24. Ophelia*

    Yeah, this is 100% not normal. I work for a largish company, and some other offsite co-workers and I talk sometimes about whether to ask that they do a consistent rental on an apartment that people could come stay in so we don’t have to always be in hotels (and they’re open to us using AirBNB, etc., which is often a good choice when hotels in our area are full and/or we are staying for more than a couple of days so having a kitchen is a bonus), but I mention this to demonstrate that there are reasonable professional options apart from hotels, not that ANYONE should expect to sleep on an air mattress in the office!

    1. Engineer Woman*

      This just isn’t “not normal”, it’s on the super insane side of abnormal!

      OP, please push back! As Alison and others have said: “…if they can’t afford to put you up in a basic hotel when you travel, then they can’t afford to have people traveling for work.”

    2. Oxford Coma*

      Yes, this. Companies with habitual travel to the same place make long-term arrangements for it. My company bought land and built an elegant guest house. The house partially pays for itself through renting out the fancy rooms for meetings and receptions.

  25. aka Duchess*

    I would bring ideas and pricing of different hotels and AirBNBs (if you are comfortable with staying in them). At the very LEAST I would be telling that CEO “Yeah, I’ll stay at your house, but take your shit with you so can get ready where you are staying.”

    Ugh. I feel for you. I don’t even like spending the night at a close friend’s house, I cant imagine sleeping in an office or a coworker’s home. I would constantly feel like I am being watched.

    1. BadPlanning*

      Or immediately blamed if something goes missing — either in the office or CEOs home.

  26. Adlib*

    Alison’s comment: “…if they can’t afford to put you up in a basic hotel when you travel, then they can’t afford to have people traveling for work.” ALL of this. That’s really all there is to it.

  27. Government worker*

    Yeah, I work for a barely-funded state, and we’re always trying to find ways to save money, especially on travel. And even to me, this is so far from normal that you cannot even see normal from here.

    1. BadPlanning*

      Yes — when we’re trying to save on travel, they stop all travel unless it meets super specific priorities. They don’t start dancing around, we’ll pay for the airfare, but you have to walk to the customer site and sleep in a tent.

  28. BadPlanning*

    So they’re happy to fly you there, but not pay for a hotel? Seems like they’re penny pinching in the wrong direction.

    In more baffling questions…the OP can’t sleep in the office next time because someone else is sleeping in the office already? So this is shared air mattress? Who is cleaning the bedding?

    1. Parenthetically*

      Who is cleaning the bedding?
      Who is cleaning the bedding?
      Who is cleaning the bedding?

      *shuddering for days*

      1. BadPlanning*

        Even if someone is cleaning the bedding, it probably means that they have to haul it home, wash it at home and then haul it back to the office. The absurdity is everywhere.

      2. CubicleShroom#1004*

        Takes nothing to hose off an air mattress.

        OP is probably balls up their coat for a plow and uses their coat as a blanket.

        At least it isn’t a dirty futon mattress on the floor. My research assistant lab job had that wonderful perk. Or the stained couch. No lice on bed bugs on plastic. (don’t ask)

    2. Rusty Shackelford*

      You’re assuming they provide bedding. “So, um, you brought your blanket, right?”

        1. Ann O'Nemity*

          There’s paper towels next to the restroom sink, which by the way will also serve as your shower during your stay at Office Hotel.

      1. Mockingjay*

        I surreptitiously swiped a discarded blanket from the first class section as I exited the plane.

  29. stitchinthyme*

    Look at the bright side, OP: at least they’re not making you share a room with someone who screams in her sleep. :-)

  30. tango*

    I’d be looking for a new job. You’re a remote employee and if they can’t afford to have to your come to the office and stay overnight in a budget hotel once a month, they may decide they can’t afford you period and replace you with someone local who doesn’t even cost them a budget hotel room once a month.

  31. ThursdaysGeek*

    Now I want to know other ways to save money. Like food. Is the company letting her buy groceries and use the company microwave, or is she required to go to a co-worker’s house for dinner and breakfast? There must be other ways to cut costs too.

  32. Lumen*

    OP: If they can’t afford to put you up in a hotel for a night when they require that you travel, RUN FAR, RUN FAST. This is not normal, and it’s not okay. It doesn’t sound safe to me to be sleeping in the office when you travel and it’s an absolute minefield to be staying at your CEO’s place (even if he weren’t using it during the same period, imo).

    Unless they hit the brakes and reverse position completely, get out of this job as fast as you can. That’s ridiculous.

  33. Grits McGee*

    Unless you are a member of Congress,* it is 100% not normal to be asked to sleep in an office.

    *Yep, turns out this is a thing, and it’s exactly as problematic as you might think it is.

    1. Teapot librarian*

      Well, the members of Congress who sleep in their office do it of their own volition, not because someone has asked them to. So I’d edit your comment to take out that first phrase entirely. It’s just 100% not normal, period.

      1. President Porpoise*

        And apparently, it’s a potential warning sign that those congressmen may be involved in some concerning behaviors. Or so I read somewhere.

    2. Student*

      More than half of Congress are millionaires. They have a $174k annual salary. They are choosing to sleep in their offices, rather than commute or pay local housing costs, but could afford any of those options. They have a host of other options – including passing legislation to use taxpayer dollars to set up a congressional hostel.

      1. Kara Zelle*

        Wouldn’t they cause safety violation concerns sleeping at the office? I mean, I think it’s illegal in other offices from comments I see in this thread. What if there was a fire?

  34. LBK*

    Oh, gross. I’d be job hunting, I can’t imagine this is the only way in which the business practices here are completely insane and it also doesn’t bode well for the financial stability of the company. Get out now before you’re laid off.

  35. Victoria*

    Just reading that letter made me supremely uncomfortable. I can’t imagine going through it.

  36. Millennial*

    A little surprised no one has brought up the question whether its even legal for you to be sleeping overnight in the office. Where I live, buildings have to be coded for residency/overnight stays. So unless they have you sleeping in a very specific room that has been coded as such in the city planning – which it sounds like they don’t since they have you sleeping on an air mattress – you could have that to push back on as well. Also sounds like they took advantage of you just being out of school and not knowing professional norms. Best of luck, hope you get your own hotel room soon!

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      Actually, several people brought that up. ;-) And yes, it’s definitely something I’d mention when I explained why I wasn’t going to sleep on an air mattress in the office.

      1. Millennial*

        whoops I must have missed y’all! Glad I’m not the only one in that line of thinking though!

  37. Nita*

    People regularly sleeping in the office may end up more trouble than it’s worth for the company, as it could well be a violation of the lease and/or the building’s Certificate of Occupancy. If the landlord finds out, well… the boss might have problems.

    And sleeping in the CEO’s apartment? No. Just no. Do you even really know that he wouldn’t “forget” something and drop in? That there aren’t cameras in the bathroom? I hate that my mind is going there, but this is such a huge overstep of what’s appropriate that I can’t help it.

    If the company is in such poor shape that it can’t pay for your accommodations, would you be able to shoulder those expenses yourself? Also, depending on how you feel about this job/the company overall, job hunting may not be a bad idea.

  38. Naptime Enthusiast*

    Serious question: why does OP need to visit the office every month? Our remote employees visit once or twice a year at most. Can the trips be once a quarter instead, both to cut back on travel for a remote employee and make the trips more efficient and useful?

  39. Hiring Mgr*

    Sure it would be nice to stay in a fancy hotel with room service and Egyptian cotton on the sheets, but not every company can afford generous perks like Google or Apple. If the firm is in cost cutting mode, you need to do your part and chip in. Perhaps someone needs to look up the definition of “team player” in the nearest dictionary. /s

    1. Kyubey*

      I think they are very generous to allow her to sleep in the office, it could be worse for instance they could have not provided an air mattress to save even more money or even charge her for renting out their office for the night.

        1. CubicleShroom#1004*



          They could have said shove two chairs together and make a cot. At least an air mattress doesn’t roll.

        1. That Would Be a Good Band Name*

          It’s bound to be. It’s clearly for personal use, as they don’t pay her to sleep.

    2. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

      If you want a promotion, you agree to do your work for free. After all, the show must go on, right?


      1. Hiring Mgr*

        The only conclusion I can draw is that the OP is one of the entitled millenials who grew up with participation trophies and safe spaces so now every time they want something they think they should get it with no questions asked or no work involved. Well sorry to be the bearer of bad news but the “real world” doesn’t work like that.

        1. Betsy*

          I know. In my day we’d have been happy with an air mattress and blown it up ourselves. None of this self-inflating business. Since she’s already in the office early anyway, she might as well make everyone a cooked breakfast. She’s lucky to have such a short commute. Plenty of hotels have industrial decor these days and she gets to experience it for free.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            Now, she said nothing about the air mattress being self-inflating. There’s no reason to insult her by assuming she’s THAT entitled.

  40. Hedgehog*

    Huh. I’ve worked jobs where something like this would be fairly normal — on-site housing was provided as part of the job, there’d be times when it was all-hands-on-deck and it would be totally reasonable to nap in the office or a storage closet rather than going aaaaaaaaaall the way up to your room (and so that people could easily wake you up if you were needed), if someone super-senior was visiting we’d make actual arrangements for them but if it was someone junior then, yeah, you’re sleeping in a store room or temporarily borrowing someone else’s hastily-reshuffled room.

    But I feel like if you were working a job like this, you’d really really know it. (For example: in one of my jobs, “on-side housing” meant “hammock in the rainforest”.) If you’re working a normal office job in someplace like the US or the UK, then heck yeah, when traveling for business you should get a private room in a place actually designed for people in sleep in.

    I guess potentially one of your conditions of working remotely might have been that you’re responsible for travel expenses? In which case you’d have that in writing somewhere? idk. I’m sorry that you have to deal with this, OP.

    1. selina kyle*

      I think there’s a big difference between on-site housing and having someone sleep in an office.

    2. Nita*

      Or hospitals. This might be normal in hospitals.

      Also, a hammock in the rainforest sounds like the best sleeping place ever. Especially if it comes with a bug net.

      1. LBK*

        Assuming Grey’s Anatomy is accurate, on-call rooms at a hospital are still separate rooms with actual beds designed for sleep. You’re not napping on an air mattress in the corner of the OR.

        1. ThatGirl*

          Yes, basically all hospitals have on-call rooms with real beds and showers. Grey’s is not the most accurate show, but that part is.

        2. IDontRememberWhatNameIUsedBefore*

          Exactly. I used to work at a 24 hr veterinary clinic, and the overnight vet had a separate room, with a locking door, that had both a desk & a small, plain daybed. And an intercom system for communication as well.

          1. IDontRememberWhatNameIUsedBefore*

            We also had showers, as emergency veterinary work can get messy at times ANYWAY.

    3. LBK*

      Being expected to crash on the floor of your office on an air mattress does not qualify as “on-site housing”.

    4. Rusty Shackelford*

      Huh. I’ve worked jobs where something like this would be fairly normal — on-site housing was provided as part of the job, there’d be times when it was all-hands-on-deck

      Okay, but you realize this isn’t that kind of job, right? She’s not sleeping in the office so she’ll be available at a moment’s notice. She’s sleeping in the office because her employer is too cheap to put her in a hotel.

    5. FieldBiologist*

      I suspect you were also in academia or somewhere just adjacent, which tends to have different standards. Though ultimately comparing field jobs to office jobs is a bit odd, corporate field work is definitely more into professional norms.

      1. Hedgehog*

        Eh, series of not-for-profits with both domestic and international work, but it’s the same point. If the OP were in a field where this was normal, she’d know. (For example: there’d be tons of people sleeping in the office, not just her!) Typical corporate office job? Not so much. OP definitely deserves to stay somewhere that’s properly zoned, with a door that can lock away any potentially-creep CEOs!

        1. FieldBiologist*

          Ah, that makes sense. :) And you’re right, she’d know if it was normal!

          Yeah, I’ve definitely been in some weird situations as a field biologist, nothing that was unilaterally against me! Weirdest interview question I’ve had: “How do you feel about snakes? We let a python live in the field house (aka middle of nowhere field shack) to get rid of the mice.”

          1. Hedgehog*

            Day 1 in Panama I saw a fer-de-lance and accidentally got waaaaaaay closer to a caiman than I ever again want to be. I’m generally cool with most wildlife (hence the “taking a job that required a few months of camping in the rainforest”), but I would have preferred a gentler introduction to the plethora of things trying to kill me.

          2. Lontra Canadensis*

            I’d be asking “Oooh, cool, what kind of python? Do you see him often? Does he have a name?”. I’d prefer a python roommate to mice any day.

            Err…ummm…why yes, I *am* a reptile geek…

            1. RemoteDreams*

              You know, I do think I might’ve asked if they named him….

              But if you’re a reptile geek, pick an otter username? ;)

    6. Bea*

      Sleeping there because you choose not to go to your room is also different than not being given a room at all!

      I can see this being a thing to happen on the off chance things go sideways and you’re stuck at the office. Nothing like flying in your remote worker and plopping them on an air mattress in the office!

  41. Earthwalker*

    It seems like this makes OP, a young woman, easily accessible to the CEO when she’s sleeping. The thought creeps me out. Doesn’t he have keys to both the office and his place, and wouldn’t she be alone asleep there?

    1. Observer*

      This is a major reason why I’m not sure that the CEO is “too disorganized” to make sure he has all of his stuff instead of coming back to the apartment.

      1. Cambridge Comma*

        Yes, why doesn’t he pack for the time away like he would if he were going on holiday? Or is the other property actually his car?

    2. Indie*

      I thought I was the only one getting a skeevy vibe. If I was the OP I’d be checking for home or office cameras (even unintentional security cameras could be kind of a whoopsie).
      I’d also be mentally reviewing all those ‘why do you THINK she was in the house of her boss overnight’ stories where sexual harassment is dismissed because the victim was asked to go somewhere odd. Even if there’s nothing to that, women think about this stuff.

      1. Lady Ariel Ponyweather*

        Definitely not just you. This whole situation is disturbing. I really hope he’s just clueless, for OP’s sake. I really do. But the skeeviness is off the charts.

  42. AZ*

    You may inquire about insurance. We once had employees sleep in a building due to a snow storm and later discovered we were NOT covered for such activities. I think you can make a strong business case this is a bad idea for so many reasons, among them the liability to the company.

  43. Jadelyn*

    Do…do they not realize Skype is a thing? GoToMeeting? We live in an age of connectivity and there are many ways to work with someone even when you’re not physically in the same space! If a company can’t afford a few nights at a hotel, they need to put those cost savings toward their videoconference setup, rather than making employees sleep in the freaking office.

    1. Anonymous Poster*

      Yeah, and at this size there are tools they could use that are free, if they need to go that route. It’ll save the travel costs outright and not cause these sticky situations, if they’re that desperate.

      I get that in some cases it’s very valuable to have an in person meeting. That’s very true, and video conferencing can only cover so much of a gap. However, given that the company right now believes it cannot afford a hotel for people that are traveling, they may have to forego the benefits of in-person meetings – for the time being – until they’re once again in a financial situation where they can cover these sorts of costs.

      I know I’m giving a lot of benefit of the doubt here to the company, and it could just simply be misplaced priorities. But if the company is reasonable and this is their last gasp to stay afloat, then they need to reprioritize more appropriately and know of other, not costly, solutions out there.

  44. Arya Snark*

    My old office building also only ran heat/AC during just past normal business hours. We could get it turned on if a bunch of us had to be there for a project but not for just a handful of people on different floors. I’d occasionally go in on a weekend and it would be either sweltering or freezing and that was during the day. I can’t imagine how cold it would be in there on a winter night! There’s no way I would spend a night there, with or without heat/AC.

  45. I'm Not Phyllis*

    No. No, no, nope. This would be a hard no from me. All of it. Agreed with Alison – if they afford to put people up in a basic hotel, they can’t afford to have people traveling for work.

  46. Bea*

    My mind is breaking because the CEO can SLEEP somewhere else but can’t pack an overnight bag and has to get ready at home the very next day?
    I’m imagining him having a rental where he sleeps in his tenants shed because it’s def not his second home if he can’t shower and dress there in the morning. My imagination is now running away from me.

    This is horrendous and as a person who has seen shady money saving ways for years, it’s a huge flag that they’re so starved for capital they won’t pay for a hotel. They’re cash poor or someone is extremely wealthy off all your sacrifice. Neither is okay.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      I’m imagining him having a rental where he sleeps in his tenants shed

      Somewhere, someone is asking another advice columnist about this. “My landlord insists on sleeping in the shed when one of his employees is using his apartment. Is that legal?”

      1. Bea*

        With all the slumlords out there, it feels like a thing that isn’t too far of a reach. Especially if you rent to people who don’t know their rights or have no ability to fight the creep!

    2. Naptime Enthusiast*

      Off topic but when I was interning, another intern was describing his housing situation, and we figured out he was living in a semi-converted shed. I say semi-converted because there was electricity and running water for a sink, but no shower or toilet so he still had to go into the house for that. And to, you know, cook and eat.

    3. Ann O'Nemity*

      I wondered if the CEO was sleeping in his car. If an air mattress in the office is a substitute for a hotel, then a car is like a second property, right?

      1. Bea*

        I could see that happening too. Or at his parents house, a friend’s couch, etc.

        Or in the garage……….omfg OP does he have a detached garage………

  47. Cautious Callie*

    Is this some garbage wanna-be start-up? I can’t imagine this being any normal business’ protocol.

  48. Countess Boochie Flagrante*

    OP, this is a level of bananas we very rarely even see here at AAM. (And that’s saying something!) I strongly echo what others are saying about have your exit plan ready as of yesterday, because this level of penny-pinching looks an awful lot like the last red flag before your paycheck bounces. This office is full of Very Evil (also broke) Bees!

  49. Breda*

    A slight counterpoint: I work in an industry full of tiny companies like this (my own is three people), with plenty of employees who work remotely and on commission. I’ve heard enough stories from people who stayed in their bosses’ homes during the occasional trip to headquarters to find it not egregious, though of course it’s not great. But I certainly wouldn’t take it as a sign that the company isn’t paying for health insurance, for example.

    BUT. Staying in the office on an air mattress is RIDICULOUS.

    1. eeeeeee*

      Yes ! I know it is super weird, but I am a remote employee and when I visit HQ, I stay at my CEO’s house in a guest bedroom. Definitely not my preference, but it just ends up being a weird quirk of the job.

      Although there was the one time that the CEO forgot to set an alarm, so I was stuck at her house with another employee waiting for her to wake up to drive us to the office. The CEO later asked why neither of us knocked on her door/came into her bedroom to wake her up… I know the lines are already blurry when sleeping at your boss’ house, but I wasn’t going to cross that line!

  50. OxfordComma*

    No. This is not normal.

    The only time I can see you maybe having to sleep in an office is if there’s some sort of blizzard/weather issue that precludes you leaving.

    If they can afford to fly you out, they can afford to put you up in a hotel.

    I think you could push back on any number of grounds, including but not limited to: personal safety, cleanliness, convenience, productivity, insurance, or zoning.

    OP: update us on this, please

  51. Lady Phoenix*

    OP, if you can not push back on this issue, then you need to get out ASAP.

    What the are doing is so off and so illegal that I don’t think it is safe nor wise to be in their employment. They will get caught and pubished, and you don’t wanna be there when the metephorical crap hits the fan.

    And yeah, this company is crazy. Who knows what other batsh1t insane things they will do for whatever reason because how NOT NORMAL their norms are.

    This is one of those cases I think Allisons’s “stay until you have a new job” does not apply. I fear of OP’s safety.

  52. Healthnerd*

    Is this becoming a thing with small companies now? One of my childhood friends was a sales rep for a small outdoor gear company. If she was traveling with her boss, they shared a hotel room (both females) but then if she was travelling on her own, the company would tell her to stay on people’s couches. Like stranger’s couches! Apparently these were people the owners knew and to cut costs, they would couch surf during business trips. My city was in her territory so I ended up giving her a key to my apartment to stay in when she was in town. She only was with the company 6 months. But my lord, I feel like a simple hotel room (or AirBnB) is a basic necessity if your company requires you to travel for business.

    1. Bea*

      No. There has always been shady nasty creatures who set up these kind of bare bones rickshaw businesses and get people to think maybe it’s normal or new.

      They’re essentially scam artists making their money off the backs of honest hard working people who took a job to feed themselves.

      1. rear mech*

        I’ve never heard the term rickshaw businesses before. What is the origin? Or, why do you use that term? I don’t find it ridiculous, as the rickshaw companies in my town tend to f$k over their employees, oops, I mean, independent contractors

  53. AnonForThisReply*

    I actually have done this for my company too when I had to go to HQ. Stayed there for several weeks (14).

    There was this tiny little room (literally the bed touched both walls) off a meeting room. The meeting room had a ‘fridge, so I could keep a few things like yogurt or bottled water or soda in it. The bathroom off the other side of the meeting room had a shower, but during the day other people in the company used the meeting room and bathrooms. Most people went home after work — I think only once did I go back to that space when I was done at the end of the day were there still people in a meeting — and they were just finishing up.

    It was okay, I guess. I didn’t have to worry about getting to work, no matter what the weather. I just got up and walked downstairs…

    1. AlwhoisthatAl*

      And what did the company do in return ? I would have expected a massive and a promotion for that. 14 weeks of being kept like that.

      1. AnonForThisReply*

        Yeah, kind of. But like the OP said for their company – it saved the company money. I heard they used this space for many employees who had to come to HQ for training or meetings, or even offered it to employees short-term (like if they were moving for the company and had a week or two after their lease was up but had not been relocated to the new company site elsewhere.)

    2. Agile Phalanges*

      Until you said you walked downstairs (from the living quarters), I thought you must have worked for my old employer. We had guest quarters set up very similarly, and sometimes used by employees of the company who traveled from other locations or their home offices.

      It, too, had a tiny bedroom that barely fit a queen sized bed, with a door that locked from the inside. Then a large space that was used for all sorts of things–meetings, yoga over lunch, storage, etc. Had a TV and a couple couches. There was a door that locked this “living room” off from the employee kitchen, and a door to the outside that employees COULD open with their key fob, but no one regularly used that entrance, so I don’t think anyone ever accidentally walked in on a guest, but they totally could have. There was a bathroom off the “living room” as well, with a shower and stackable washer & dryer. However, the kitchen didn’t lock from the rest of the office, and apparently one employee/guest didn’t realize that some employees came in as early as 6:00 a.m., so he was getting some breakfast together in his boxer shorts when the first employee rolled in that morning. Oops! I don’t think we had many guests stay after that…

      1. AnonForThisReply*

        Set-up sounds similar, I agree. This bed was a twin, though. No TV and no washer/dryer, so I did have to walk to a nearby laundromat. Also it was just a “fridge” and hot-water pot (plug-in) so I did have to go out for every meal (except breakfast).

  54. MLB*

    Not only is this abnormal, but it is extremely inappropriate! You should not be sleeping at the actual office, or at the CEO’s personal home. That would make me very uncomfortable. Not only that, but if I’m travelling for work, I need my own space for down time. If I were you I’d push back hard on this one and start looking for a new job. If they’re not willing to put their employees up in a hotel while travelling, what other expenses are they skimping on?

  55. ArtK*

    This is an example of cost-cutting that comes under “penny wise/pound foolish.” The loss of productivity, not to mention the stress on the OP and the risks to the company are not worth saving a few dollars a month. I agree with PP — get out as soon as you can. This is a sign of poor financial management that isn’t likely to improve.

    1. ArtK*

      In a similar (but far less creepy) vein, my current employer won’t spring for the $18/mo for me to have my own Go To Meeting account. I have to coordinate with three other people who share the same account

  56. Bea*

    Also OP, since this is your first job out of school and it’s for this tiny micro sized company, do not think this is because if size. Do not let them feed you that lie if they try to. They have a piss poor business sense.

    It reminds me of my first job ever where the office was just an industrial warehouse they rented and built a tent out of tarps on one end for the office.

    At 19 I sure didn’t know that wasn’t a normal set up. I gradually upgraded through the years thank God, no more tents or office supplies I had to buy myself.

  57. Delta Delta*

    I’ve stayed over in my office before. A couple times I was working on a Big Thing and got so tired it was safer for me to sleep there than to drive. I know some coworkers did the same.

    But this was pretty rare (I did it maybe 3 times in 15 years) and it was by my own choice. I wasn’t flown in from elsewhere and made to sleep on a floor. That’s shady.

    I’ll also say that where I was, I know it was okay to do this. There were no overnight cleaners. Nobody else came in to the building at night. The neighborhood was quite safe and nobody would be any the wiser that someone was inside the building at night. So, you know, a pretty narrow set of circumstances that made this work occasionally on a totally voluntary basis.

  58. KR*

    Hi OP! Like others have said, this is awful. Try this in an email “It has come to my attention recently that sleeping in the office and CEO’s house for business travel is really not normal, even in the face of cost cutting measures. I have identified three different low priced hotels near the office. Please let me know if these will be acceptable, otherwise I will not be able to make the upcoming trip and will need to Skype or conference call in.”

    1. Observer*

      That’s too much explaining and asking.

      “I have identified there low cost options for lodging the >next time I’m in the officeplatform of your choice<."

      You simply don't want to give them a chance to argue the premise.

      1. KR*

        My thinking was if OP doesn’t have a company card, she might be on the hook if her company doesn’t reimburse her or says it’s an unauthorized use of the cars if she has one. I would feel strange charging something to my business without the express permission of my manager (and I work in purchasing!)

        1. Observer*

          Oh, I don’t think that the OP should front the money. I’m saying that she should just state her expectations without extra explanations.

  59. Middle School Teacher*

    Every time I read a letter like this I think, I wish colleges and universities offered classes on what’s normal. Ex: occasional weeks of 14-hr days, bringing work home with you, spending your own money on your place of work? In teaching, pretty normal. In other industries, not normal.

    1. Bea*

      I wish it was that easy. These kinds of lessons are impossible. They seem outrageous and fictitious until you are in the thick of it.

      Even millionaires are taken by scammers and in the end it’s all about people learning to trust their gut.

      It’s hard to truly convey that someone who “owns” a business or a CEO of a company would ever do something illegal or unethical. They’re like the boogeyman, set up by adults to scare us!

      That’s why blogs and communities like this where they can ask for insight while in the thick of it or on the outlying borders of something going down are essential to really help in the end.

      Also we don’t all get to go to college. So there is still that huge group who get screwed over.

    2. The Bill Murray Disagreement*

      True, but then you have the letters from students/recent grads who talk about their university employment programs & those tend to demonstrate how out of touch universities are.

  60. Lauren*

    This is not normal. My boss is a cheapskate (when it comes to everyone’s travel except his own), but even he wouldn’t sink that low.

    What do your coworkers think about this arrangement? Is the CEO you supervisor? If not, I’d loop your supervisor in on this situation (Especially if they don’t even know!)

    Also, I’d venture to say the office building/space is not zoned for doubling as a hotel/airbnb (though I’d use those terms loosely with a stinking air mattress!

  61. anon for this*

    Sadly, I’m in a similar situation to the letter writer here–I’m an off-site worker who’s required to come to the main office on occasion, and when I do, my choices are basically to sleep in the office, find a coworker to stay with, or pay for my own accommodation. When I was living locally, I was also sort of unofficially required to put up visiting coworkers. It’s kind of representative of how the company operates in general.

    1. Bea*

      If you itemize your taxes, assuming you are US, I hope you write that shht off at least! The only reason to be that cheap is extreme cash flows issues, it’s all written off, it’s vile that they put it on their workers.

    2. IDontRememberWhatNameIUsedBefore*

      I would flat out refuse to have strangers in my home, PERIOD. FULL STOP. END OF STORY.
      This would be a hill to die on for me, absolutely.

  62. Caro*

    OP, they’re paying for your flight/train ticket/gas mileage, right? This isn’t a situation where you have to spend hundreds of dollars of your own money to sleep on the floor of the office?

  63. OP*

    Wow – thank you for the advice & for all of the comments! Appreciate the kindness & humor in this thread!

    A few points of clarification, since people have asked. Yes, the CEO is fairly wealthy and owns or rents ~5 properties in the US (that I know of). I believe the office is zoned as an apartment since I know it was originally built as one and served as apartments for the original owners and has since been converted to offices.

    There is a shower and washer/dryer (adding slightly to the weirdness I do have to do the laundry bedding at the end of my stay, or I at least put it in the wash and my manager finishes it off — fairly strange).

    Also complicating any pushback, one of the managing directors who no longer works there did this for years I believe (although in those days there was an actual pull out couch in the office — truly a luxury).

    Lots of things to consider from Alison’s advice and the comments, thank you everyone!

    1. chica*

      WOW! the fact that he’s wealthy makes it way worse IMHO. What a tool! Maybe not going bankrupt then, but certainly a cheapskate!

    2. Observer*

      At least you know the sheets are clean >roll eyes<

      Seriously speaking, nothing you mention makes any of this remotely ok. When you push back you should totally ignore the fact the prior manager did this – it doesn't make it right. If the CEO (or anyone else) brings it up, make it clear that just because a manager did something so inappropriate, you need to continue.

      Also, if the other person (people?) who are staying at the office are also employees, talk to them and see how they feel about this. Perhaps you can even point them to this thread. As Allison often mentions, acting as a group often has power. At minimum, you'll help to "de-normalize" this insanity.

    3. Wannabe Disney Princess*

      ………….this makes it even more insane. Which I didn’t think was possible.

      Just because someone else did it before you, doesn’t mean you have to. Especially since this is so off the wall bananas. They are counting on you being young and naïve. Do not let them. Stand strong. Push back on this – HARD. And look for a new job.

      None of this is okay. Don’t let them sucker you into thinking it is.

    4. Bea*

      I so want to audit your CEOs records and find every screwed up thing he does.

      He’s a scumbag and if I were a few sheets to the wind, I would fight this guy for you. He’s a disgusting dumpster fire of a human.

        1. whingedrinking*

          One I stole off a friend is, “In an infinite universe, all things are possible.”

    5. Anonymous Poster*

      I think the CEO being wealthy is irrelevant. If the business is struggling, it would be a bad investment to pump more money into it. It also is all a business expense, so ultimately all of this would have to come from the business, not the CEO’s personal pocketbook.

      My workplace has a shower, generally intended for people that bike to work. The whole situation though is not normal, though, since this is a whole new level.

      It’s also irrelevant that a past managing director did this. Standard business practice is when you travel for work, they put you into a hotel. There may be some industry that is an exception, but I can’t think of any.

      I highly suggest asking about videoconferencing and eliminating these trips, especially if finances are the reason for this. That would also cut out the need to fly or otherwise incur travel expense.

    6. Frank Doyle*

      I believe the office is zoned as an apartment since I know it was originally built as one and served as apartments for the original owners and has since been converted to offices.

      This probably doesn’t matter. Zoning laws vary from state to state, but in New Jersey, for example, you can have one use on a property; just because you’re in a zone that allows two uses, that doesn’t NECESSARILY mean that you can have both of those uses be active at the same time.

    7. Nita*

      “I believe the office is zoned as an apartment since I know it was originally built as one and served as apartments for the original owners and has since been converted to offices.” Okay, this might be a legal problem for the boss, just like using an office for a living space. It’s either permitted as an office, or as an apartment. Likely not as both at the same time. Yes, people have home offices in their apartments – but these are informal offices just for them, not actual locations of businesses.

      Also, a wealthy CEO who can pay to fly you to the site, but can’t shell out $100 for a cheap hotel? The sketchiness is getting sketchier with these additional details. This is how sexual harassment cases start. He may be taking advantage of your inexperience with the workforce, and unwillingness to make waves. Don’t give him the opportunity. Find an AirBNB if you have to, but don’t go to his apartment…

  64. chica*

    I worked for a company once that went bankrupt. the largest red flag is asking you to delay cashing your payroll check until next day/monday, (this was a long time ago with actual paper checks), or ever having any unexplained “issue” with the bank where your direct deposit does not hit on time (modern weasel version).

    I also found out, later, that they had not made any of the required payments to the IRS for quite some time. As in, they showed taxes and social security and medicare were being withheld, but they hadn’t sent any in for a while. I found this out much later when I got a statement from social security that showed I made MUCH less that year which was way incorrect! I don’t know if there’s a way to check with the IRS about that? But when they start doing that, it’s only a matter of time.

    They did actually still put us up in hotels though.

    Other advice — turn in expenses and request to get paid for them immediately and do not every charge ANY large amounts on your personal cards. (as in, have them book airfare and car rental with a company card, do not front it). Because if they do go bankrupt you are out of luck on all that.

  65. OP*

    Additionally, one last thing — I don’t pay for any part of my stay. The company pays for my plane ticket & all traveling expenses.

    This arrangement (although seemingly normal to everyone else in the company?) is not the only thing that has given me pause about the financial health of the company.

    1. LizB*

      Meh, the fact that this arrangement is seemingly normal to everyone else in the company doesn’t really mean much, since “everyone else” is literally five people, right? That’s not a big sample size at all, and there are plenty of weird as heck things that at least five people will agree are totally normal & cool. You are not the weird one here.

    2. Wannabe Disney Princess*

      Toxic environments can warp the ideas of what normal is. Don’t rely on your coworker’s reactions.

      If there are things that are giving you pause about the financial health, starting looking for a new job yesterday.

    3. Observer*

      I can’t say I’m surprised. The good thing here is that it gives a perfect explanation for why you are looking for a new job. You don’t want to get into the nitty gritty too soon in the process, if you can avoid it. It’s not fair at all, but it’s just a level of drama that could overshadow your genuine qualifications.

      You want them to think of you as the “one who does awesome design” not “Oh, you mean the one who sleeps at the office?! What a CRAZY story!”

    4. Bea*

      I could give you a book of BATSHIT things people thought were normal at dysfunctional companies. That means nothing, they’re abused and many victims of abuse think their situation is normal and okay and don’t understand why anyone would tell them to try to leave.

    5. CanadianEngineerLibrarian*

      Them paying for tickets and expenses is normal. The way you say it is like they are going above and beyond by paying for tickets, etc.

      They should be paying for meals, taxis, hotels, snacks, phone charges, beverages, tips, car mileage, etc. etc. every penny of it.

    6. Lady Phoenix*

      To quote the age old adage: If everyone was jumping off the bridge, would you join them?

    7. mugsy523*

      OP, with business travel, you’re not supposed to pay for any part of your stay. Your flight, transportation to and from the airport (either Uber or you get your mileage reimbursed), parking, hotel, meals, etc. are all a part of normal business travel expenses.

      The only time you’d pay for any part of your stay is if you’re doing entertainment things in the evening that are not required for work. For example, my husband is an avid baseball fan and likes to go to the stadium in each city he visits. That’s on his dime, but everything else is your company’s responsibility.

      I know you’re new to the working world, but I hope your company isn’t insinuating that you should be grateful that none of these travel-related items cost you out-of-pocket!

    8. Rusty Shackelford*

      Additionally, one last thing — I don’t pay for any part of my stay. The company pays for my plane ticket & all traveling expenses.

      Well, no, they don’t. Because your lodging is a travel expense, and they’re not paying for that. But if they did, it would be completely normal. Business travel isn’t supposed to be a personal expense for you.

    9. The OG Anonsie*

      You’re not supposed to pay for any part of your stay when doing work travel. Don’t let them sell that to you as some sort of perk they’re offering in consolation for making you sleep on an office floor. They are giving you well below the basics here.

    10. Anonymous Poster*

      If you’re concerned about the financial health of your company, I’d suggest starting a quiet job search. It’s very normal to be able to say in an interview when asked why you’re leaving, “I’m concerned about the future financial viability of my company.” It’s dispassionate, not a put down on your prior place of employment, and wildly understandable as a reason to move on.

      Good luck!

    11. Robin Sparkles*

      You not only should not pay for any portion of your travel and stay but a normal financially viable business should pay for your hotel. By the way- if they agree to the hotel but then try to finagle sharing the hotel room (I have worked for places that tried this) -make sure you EMPHASIZE the need for privacy and space as a part of your downtime and ability to work. I hope this works out for you. Just to pile on- THIS IS NOT NORMAL!

    12. UKDancer*

      I’d agree with people you’re not supposed to pay for any part of your stay. When I travel on business I expect the company to pay for my hotel, food, expenses etc. This is part of normal work practice. I like to go to the theatre or go to dance classes while travelling and those things I pay for myself.

  66. Narise*

    The concern I have with this situation is that some offices have security cameras in place, outside of bathrooms of course, but still in common areas. I don’t think this is reasonable for OP to be recorded in her off hours. I also don’t think workers comp would cover any accidents that happened after hours and if the company can’t afford a hotel for a night they probably don’t have proper coverage.
    Before you are scheduled to travel again let your boss or CEO know that you will be booking a hotel and will turn in the receipts for reimbursement. If they balk let them know you are not safe in the office after hours and you are not comfortable staying at CEO home. I would not want a coworker or a boss walking through my home or hotel room after I’ve stayed, its just too much of a boundary to cross. I would spend a lot of capital on this and start looking for another job, this company has major money problems and can’t be sustainable.
    Of course the other option is to stay at CEO home and then let him know that you are sick and won’t be in that day but will be spending the day in his home recovering. And no he may not come by to pick up his things. Maybe that will make him think twice.

    1. Bea*

      Workers comp would most likely cover it but coverage would be in jeopardy when they found out it was off hours. You pay by wages and hours reported. They’re not paying her but she’s there, that’s fraud but they’re still liable. This is why most places don’t let you loiter and have clear hours set up.

  67. CanadianEngineerLibrarian*

    nope Nope NOPE
    Nope right out of there.

    At any place I have worked, over many many years, even sharing a hotel room is not expected.

    1. KH*

      The only time I was ever required to share a hotel room on travel was when the company was so generous as to fly the entire office to a sunny island for a weekend of team building. The nerve of them!

  68. okie dokie*

    This move away from hotels to other random living situations for business travel is really annoying. Even the trend towards using Air B&B for business travel is a bit weird as you really never know what you are going to end up with. Call me old fashioned but this is a job where you should expect professionalism and while cutting expenses is a worthy company goal expecting employees to stay in dodgy locations to save a buck is silly and not professional at all.

  69. GRA*

    As someone who does a lot of personal travel (so I’m always looking for cheap yet safe hotels!), you can find a hotel for less than $100 pretty much anywhere in the USA. Even large cities. If your company can’t afford $100 (or less) once a month to ensure your safety and comfort, this is NOT a company you want to continue working for.

  70. The OG Anonsie*






    I’m not laughing at or mocking the LW at all, but something about this is so mad as to be freaking hysterical to me. This poor recent grad working their first white collar FT gig, sleeping on an air mattress in the office and wondering if she’ll seem out of line if she asks for an actual bed. This is so classic, too: A completely whack company asking recent grads to do wildly unreasonable stuff and knowing they won’t protest because they don’t know if they should. $5 says if she does protest they’ll but very upset that she’s not “grateful” for the “opportunity” she’s being given.

    This has rocketed up near the top of my list of favorite letters. What a barrel of nonsense. On Skull Island, all employees will always sleep on air mattresses in their open office floor plan. Absolutely brilliant.

    1. RVA Cat*

      This. Whackadoodle companies hire new grads for exactly this reason. The CEO’s apartment bit is making me side-eye them as well, as sexual harassment likes to ride shotgun with the other abusing-young-workers crap.

  71. Jaguar*

    So, it’s worth mentioning that sleeping in the office on an air mattress is used to be (still is?) normal practice during “crunch” times in software development, particularly for video games. I don’t mention this to endorse the behaviour, but rather to suggest that there are instances where it’s considered normal, or at least not as unthinkable as a lot of the comments here would suggest.

    1. Snark*

      Yeeeeeaaaahhhhhh, but that’s a real edge case, and not pertinent to work-related travel.

      1. Jaguar*

        I bring it up to give some perspective. This isn’t something many people would view as unthinkable. It does happen.

        1. Snark*

          You’re not discussing busness travel. It’s not the same thing. This particular thing, not covering hotels for business travel? Yes, that is unthinkable.

        2. Observer*

          Actually, it’s not all that typical even in software development. And, video game dev is a notoriously toxic. So, to the extent that this is providing perspective, it should tell the OP what kind of toxicity this kind of thing generally means.

    2. Mad Baggins*

      Yeah there is a difference between “I worked all night and had to stay over until the next morning” or “there was an earthquake and I had to sleep at the office” and “I’m traveling to a destination and have not planned a place to sleep (because my company does not think employees deserve a bed in a room with a door)”

  72. Daria Grace*

    Might be worth pointing out to them that were there to be any kind of incident or accident while you stayed in the office, their insurance likely wouldn’t cover it as the building is not meant to be used as accomodation

  73. Chriama*

    I honestly doubt their long term financial viability if they think this is normal or acceptable. People who can’t accept normal costs of doing business often end up out of business — either because the business model was flawed to begin with, or based on an unrealistic expectation of expenses, or because they’re so bad at financial management that the crazy cost-cutting is a last-ditch effort to bail out a boat with a hole it it.

    But OP, maybe you could ask for an AirBnB? That’s suitably “bootstrapping it” without actually being insane.

  74. UKDancer*

    This is completely out of line. Nowhere should make you stay on a mattress in the office. If they can’t afford even a basic hotel room, you shouldn’t be being asked to travel. I’ve never worked anywhere where I had to stay in the office as opposed to having some more normal accommodation.

    In my previous job, the company was based in a large, old house in the country. All the llama herders had to work shifts. They had about 4 small single rooms in a separate building and if you worked a shift finishing in the middle of the night, or one starting in the middle of the night, you could book one of the rooms for the remainder of the night rather than travel home at night. They were fairly basic rooms but clean and comfortable and the chef did a mean bacon sandwich for breakfast.

    My current employer doesn’t have shifts and the only time anyone stays at work after hours is when there’s a major crisis. (In my career this has happened twice in 10 years) In that case the head llama herder books rooms at a cheap chain hotel down the street from us for anyone who is needed around the clock. Again, not plush but safe and comfortable.

    Everywhere I’ve worked we’re expected not to spend wildly or stay at the Ritz but under no circumstances would people be expected to sleep in dangerous office conditions. If they can’t afford a basic hotel room, they shouldn’t be expecting you to travel in my opinion.

  75. Ruffhouse*

    This is very abnormal – and depending on your company you may need to point it out as such. I worked at a 7 person company, and when preparing to go to my first conference they wanted to AirBNB a boat (!?), and wanted us to each pack a week’s worth of PB&J sandwiches in our carryon so that the company did not have to pay for any meals. I had to sit down the president and let them know that this is just not done, and if we cannot provide basic accommodations, we can’t afford to do any travel.

    1. Bea*

      Like 3 PBJs a day for 5 days?! Lmao I can’t even imagine checking 15 sandwiches at the gate.

      This is where you just give people a per diem for meals so that you can easily control meal costs which fluctuate the most.

  76. I'd Rather not Say*

    Add me to the chorus of No’s. In addition to all the other reasons stated, if something were to be misplaced or broken at your boss’s home, I wouldn’t want to be accused/responsible.

  77. Middle Manager in Cray Cray World*

    I agree with the general craziness of sleeping on the office floor but I have to wonder: what expectations had been set up around working from home? In my world, agreements for telecommuting could indeed include an expectation that the employee would pay for the travel to the main office (somewhat equivalent to the cost of commuting to work). And if that was the expectation here, was sleeping in the office simply an offer to save $$ for the employee (not the employer)?

    1. Bea*

      The OP confirmed they pay all the travel costs. It’s just the extra $100 a night for a hotel that they’re skimping on.

      Unless you have an up front agreement to pay travel to HQ, it’s very rare any company has remote workers who are required to travel there at any time on their dime.

      It’s not simply work from home here. She’s flying in. She’s that remote. Not at all reasonable to have that as a commuting cost.

      1. Middle Manager in Cray Cray World*

        My experience is with a public university that is not fond of telecommuting agreements. They considered all travel to “HQ” as being an employee cost unless negotiated differently at the start. That included people flying in from across the country.

        1. The OG Anonsie*

          That’s an unusual approach to take, and one that I would argue is not appropriate. Some businesses don’t cover travel costs but it’s more typical for any such costs incurred to be covered by your employer. Most places will just not have people travel if they don’t want to pay for it.

          Universities do all kinds of weird things that wouldn’t otherwise be considered a good practice in non-university settings, IME they tend to be little vacuums of… Kind of crappy treatment, honestly.

          1. Nicole*

            +1. I work from home and travel to HQ roughly once per quarter. My employer covers all travel costs, and I would be baffled if they expected me to pay my own way.

  78. Noah*

    I know several people who have been asked to sleep in the office, although there were more appropriate sleeping scenarios in each of those — such as “couch rooms” that were not crazy places to sleep (and likely places people DID sleep who worked in those offices). That always seemed shocking to me — I wouldn’t want to do it — but I think it’s more common in multi-office startup culture than Alison suggests.

  79. Ashleigh*

    I would like to add that with Airbnb and other type options you can get a private room on the cheap. Also, there are plenty of women who host as for her to be more comfortable.

  80. Jeff A.*

    For what it’s worth, Alison is answering from the perspective of traditional large and medium-sized employers. Having spent 10 years after graduating from college working for a small family owned business (and with many of our vendors and customers also being small family businesses) I’d say this is actually quite a common occurrence. When traveling, I spent many a night in awkward shared space or sleep on couches/air mattresses/etc. Maybe not “normal” in the sense that it’s something most white collar workers would be willing to accept and put up with, but I think Alison isn’t acknowledging that small businesses are often an entirely different beast and what the LW is describing is well within the range of standard behavior in some small companies and industries.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      Sharing a house or apartment or something… maybe. But making people sleep on the office floor on an inflateabed? No. Where are they supposed to shower even? I mean, it’s work not a hostel.

      1. Jeff A.*

        I’m not arguing that people should find it acceptable. But I do think it’s worth pointing out that small businesses are often far removed from what Alison and most AAM readers consider normal. I think Alisons answer should have emphasized more that the LW needs to determine for herself whether it’s a condition she’s willing to accept, rather than focus on how not normal it is (because I think it’s quite common for small cash strapped businesses to have policies like this…or at least more common than Alison and readers are suggesting)

        1. Observer*

          I disagree with you. Making people sleep on an air mattress in an unheated office is NOT normal – even in small businesses. The AAM commentariate is a lot more varied than you give them credit for. There are a lot of things that are “uch, but not uncommon”. This not one of them.

          Also, the actions of the CEO when the OP has to stay at his place are also utterly not normal.

  81. Kat*

    I find it suspicious that the male CEO wants a young female to stay at his house while he stays elsewhere — but doesn’t take what he needs so he has an excuse to come around and has a key and full access. And, while some of you may think this goes overboard, I’m reminded of the multiple Airbnb properties that had secret cameras hidden in the bedrooms.

    Not only is this arrangement unprofessional, as a female, I find it skeevy.

    1. Observer*

      I don’t think most of us think you’re going overboard. Several people have mentioned this stuff.

    2. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

      Agreed, skeevy and unacceptable. I would never agree to sleep at a co-worker’s home in lieu of staying in a hotel for business travel. There are just so many potential problems with that. Staying overnight anywhere without privacy, without being able to lock a door for privacy and security, is sooo unacceptable in a business context.

    3. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

      Also, I have to say, this OP’s situation set off all my warning flags. If this was my daughter, I would be worried.

  82. MissDisplaced*

    I could maybe see if the CEO has a 2nd property (like a city apartment) and wants people to stay there to reduce costs MAYBE (like if it really is an unoccupied apartment)… but sleeping on an air mattress in the unheated office is just so wrong and so cheap.

  83. KH*

    This is ridiculous. They should put a moratorium on travel and/or figure out how to do remote work better and/or make more money so they aren’t looking like the Beverly Hillbillies of whatever industry you are in.

  84. Mr. Bob Dobalina*

    Whoa. I’m sure others have also suggested this, but I think the OP should be looking for a new job , and in the meantime, shouldn’t agree to any further weird sleeping arrangements. OP, please do not sleep in a co-worker’s private residence or on the floor in an office, at the request of your employer or for business purposes. These are not reasonable or professional requests from your employer. You do not have to do whatever your employer tells you to do. I understand that small companies may be a lot more casual and cash poor, but there are limits!

  85. Jake*

    It sounds as if this company is a sinking shape. I say it’s time to jump off before it sinks entirely!

Comments are closed.