my office is moving … to my boss’s house

A reader writes:

I work for a small company with two full-time employees, two part-time, and a weekly bookkeeper. My boss is wealthy, mercurial, and often out of the office or traveling. Recently, he announced that he has decided to move our office from our (already small) space into his duplex apartment, which is supposed to be quite luxurious. I am extremely wary of working out of his apartment and the lack of division this would create between personal and business space, not to mention that we are expected to work nine hours (or more) a day and are discouraged from taking more than 20 minutes outside of the office to get lunch. But he wants to save the money and it seems like his mind is already made up.

I really want to express my reservations about the move, and I’m already looking for other jobs. How do I frame my concerns so that they sound professional and not just personal – i.e., that I don’t want to be in his house all day? I’m dreading this move and I feel it will make our company look less legitimate.

I answer this question — and four others — over at Inc. today, where I’m revisiting letters that have been buried in the archives here from years ago (and sometimes updating/expanding my answers to them). You can read it here.

Other questions I’m answering there today include:

  • Can I use troubling info one employee gave me about another?
  • I’m not getting the training I was promised when I took this job
  • How can I tell if a job applicant is detail-oriented?
  • Rejected candidate keeps contacting me

{ 108 comments… read them below }

  1. Foreign Octopus*

    OP1 this would really concern me too. I would hate having to work out of my boss’s personal space. It would feel strange and boundary blurring to me. If he has a family, will they be there having breakfast and getting ready for school when you turn up?

    My dad had an employee work from our home once and it was weird from my point of view as the child. I always felt like I couldn’t relax properly whilst she was there. I’m sure she didn’t like it either.

    1. Who the eff is Hank?*

      One of my freelance clients had me work from his home once a week. He’d set up his basement as an office so it wasn’t *too* weird, but the bathroom was on the first floor and I’d sometimes bump into his wife or son. His wife was nice, she made me tea once.

      Though one day he asked me to bring a finished report upstairs to him when I was done. When I came up, he was eating lunch with his family in the dining room. I stopped at the top of the stairs and almost didn’t go in, but he signaled for me to come over and sit down. We talked over the report while his son ate his sandwich next to me. That was a little weird.

      1. Gorgo*

        I was having premonitions of LW being kept even longer than her (already long) hours with “you don’t have to go, you can just stay for dinner and then keep working.” Terrifying stuff.

      2. antsmarching*


        OP1 – I definitely would be uncomfortable with this, especially since based on your description of lunch it seems like your boss is already not interested in you having any personal time (or space) away from work. It seems like you should definitely ramp up the job search.

    2. Nonprofit worker*

      This makes me think of the episode of The Office when Michael starts the paper company out of his condo. OP, is it even legal for him to run a business out of his home? I’d maybe check what the local rules are and that might shut the conversation down quickly.

      But also, would this open up an opportunity to work remotely at your own home (if this is something that you want to do)?

      1. jotpe*

        I was thinking of Johnson’s new business on Peep Show in the “recession residence”… eep!

        1. mrs__peel*

          “No one should see under the duvet!”

          Yeah, that was exactly what I was thinking as well. Almost certain to be a nightmare.

    3. Long Time Reader, First Time Poster*

      Story time! I worked for a similar very small company some years ago. We didn’t have dedicated office space, we primarily met in coffee shops and then did the rest of our work remotely and used Skype a lot. The hours were very flexible and it was fine.

      My boss asked me to come to his house (about45 minutes away) for a working session. Okay, sure. I paid for a sitter (didn’t usually need childcare b/c of the flexible hours) and drove to his house.

      I got there and he was acting… weird. Just laughing at not funny stuff, etc. He seemed distracted and was openly IMing with his brother about clearly non-work related topics.

      Then I spotted next to his computer… a lighter and a bowl. Dude was baked!!

      I am not in any way opposed to recreational marijuana use, but I was soooooo pissed. The entire trip was a waste of my time. He was high as a kite, and we got NOTHING done. That was the last meeting I agreed to at that boss’s house!

      1. Traceytootoo*

        This reminds me of a story. Many years ago I briefly worked for an attorney whose office was in an old house. She worked downstairs and lived upstairs. This was back when the Oprah Winfrey Show was fairly new and on in the mornings. She would go upstairs, watch Oprah and get stoned. After that, we went out to for really nice, long lunches that she paid for. It was an easy job, but I was always uncomfortable. She rented out rooms too, but that’s another story…..

  2. Chrome Aardvark*

    For 4. the work-related exercise has a lot of other benefits we’ve seen when we started using it as part of our interview process.
    We have the exercise happen before the main interview and it is carried out by one of the staff who will be training the new role (with an agreed script) – good candidates use the opportunity not only to show off their skills but also to ask questions about the job so that they are then better able to tailor their answers in the interview.
    Naturally this also gives candidates a much better idea of what is involved in the role and whether they would be happy in it.

    1. Lil Fidget*

      Ugh but please be on the lighter end of that 30-60 minutes. Most job seekers are not going to feel able to push back, but an hour’s worth of busywork really adds up if every place you’re interviewing with has the same idea.

      1. A Nickname for AAM*

        Yes, this.

        My work sometimes uses a “working interview” for part-time customer facing staff, to see how they handle the job. I was once in a training where they were going over the concept of a working interview and how it’s helpful, and some of the supervisors said they were having the candidates work *an entire shift* of about 4-6 hours as their interview. Another supervisor heard this and said, “Hey, couldn’t we just do a lot of interviews so we can save money on budget?” They all nodded in agreement as I looked on in horror.

        Not only is this wage theft, I’m the boring safety person and hello liability! Someone in a working interview isn’t trained in the facility’s Emergency Action Plan, isn’t background checked, isn’t covered by worker’s comp, isn’t trained in cash handling or handing confidential personal information.

        1. Observer*

          I hope you pointed out the legal issues (although probably more useful not to call it wage theft – even though it is!)

        2. TootsNYC*

          I once was hiring at a place that had a couple of evening shifts at the end of the week. I took my top 3 candidates and hired them to work some of those shifts, so I could assess their work.

          It was a try-out, and we paid them our normal wage. (None of our freelancers got those safety trainings either, so that wasn’t really an issue.)

          1. TrixM*

            Not to be rude, but since Alison and you have both done it now, I wonder when “training” stopped being a non-count noun.

            Ok, I’ve heard “learnings” being perpetuated recently as yet another form of corporate language wankery (and I like to use it humorously myself – “great learnings from that massive cock-up, everyone!”)

            “None of our freelancers get that safety training either” is perfectly intelligible, has been for decades, and requires less typing.

            I’m not having a personal go at you (or Alison), but I really wonder why certain phrases get invented when they don’t seem to add any particular shades of meaning beyond the original phrase.

    2. hayling*

      I agree that doing an exercise is extremely illuminating regarding a candidate’s skills. I have a particular detail-oriented task that I give to candidates (it’s similar to something they’d be doing at this job), and it’s really clear from their output how detail-oriented they actually are.

      That said, I would never do this before the interview! It’s a lot of work to ask of someone before they even know if they really want the job (or if we want them).

    3. CM*

      Agreed, I like to do a short exercise and budget time for it as part of the interview (40 minutes of talking, 20 minutes of exercise+discussion about it). It tells me so much about the person’s skills that I don’t get from just talking to them, and it’s helpful to hear about their thought process. I agree that it also gives candidates a good idea of the type of skills that are needed for the person in this role.

    4. selena81*

      because i’m terrible with the usual resume-interview process i like it when companies give me a task or test: just because i’m not good at bragging doesn’t mean i’m stupid.
      (of course anything that takes longer then 15-30 minutes should be reserved for candidates that are in the top5)

  3. Turkletina*

    For most of my childhood, my father worked as a bookkeeper out of his boss’s basement office. It was a little weird (they had a dog who was… not super friendly), and definitely boundary-violating. The boss would listen to political talk radio and try to convert my father to his political orientation — the kind of thing you could address in an office, but it’s hard to feel like you can tell your boss to turn off the radio in his own home.

    1. Bea*

      Ah alas you can’t bring it up in an office either if he’s a sole owner. Been there, did that. My boss still has no idea I’m a liberal but I did school him in some mental health education when he started freaking out that someone close had disclosed they were suffering from depression.

      The boundaries in a owner as your boss is mega blurred and not for everyone.

      1. selena81*

        sounds like hell to me: blurring between job and private space is exactly the reason i never ever considered working for a tiny company, no matter how ‘cool’ that supposedly is.
        (other people seem to dig it though: good for them)

  4. Close Bracket*

    Re: Letter #4

    What kind of positions were in mind for this approach? I’m an engineer, and that requires extreme attention to detail. I would be taken aback and slightly offended if I were asked do you do something like this. Having been on many interviews, I can tell you it is *way* outside of professional norms.

    1. Turkletina*

      Is it normal to have any kind of technical assessment, either as part of the interview or an independent exercise?

      I’ve done this kind of thing several times for data analysis and technical project management positions, and I’m sure attention to detail is one of the things they’re looking for (in addition to the actual technical skills).

    2. logicbutton*

      My job involves a lot of technical editing and candidates for it have to take a short proofreading test, for example. Whiteboard problems for engineering jobs would also fall under that umbrella.

      1. Lil Fidget*

        I’d just throw in that I greatly prefer the ones that you do right there in the office (“walk me through how you’d solve a problem like X here on the whiteboard” or, “here, proofread this paragraph I’ve printed out and am handing to you right now”) versus being sent home with 60 minutes of homework to do on my own time. Write a short memo or letter, sure, but half the time it feels like a lot to ask somebody you’re not making any promises to.

    3. Artemesia*

      I’m surprised an engineer would not be doing tasks as part of hiring. I know software engineers usually have to stand at a board and solve complex problems (after probably doing something similar during the phone screen). Showing competence is just part of it. When I hired college teachers, we always had them do a research presentation to faculty and also teach a class, (we would find an undergrad class where their specialty was relevant and let them know the parameters of what they needed to cover enough ahead of time that they could prepare; two or three faculty would observe the lesson. ). Plenty of people in any profession are better at clucking than laying.

      1. EBStarr*

        I’m a software engineer and I would be taken aback if I were offered a position *without* either a take-home exercise or a whiteboarding session. Moreover, I’ve done take-home exercises as an interviewee and I prefer it –
        – I appreciated getting the chance to show what my work product would actually be like, rather than something I thought up under pressure and wrote by hand at a whiteboard.

        But maybe it’s different for other types of engineering where you have to take an exam before calling yourself an engineer at all? There’s no universal standard for who gets to call themselves a software engineer so you can’t just take people’s word that they’re competent.

        1. selena81*

          i think he meant it in a way of ‘my skills are proven by a diploma it took me years to get, those quick tests are only relevant for potentially-clueless interns’

      2. TrixM*

        Software engineering is not a chartered profession like actual engineering. Yes, you can get a degree in it, but you don’t need to be certified by an independent body to write software. You do need to be certified to build bridges or pressure vessels, etc.

        I’m a systems administrator, and have been for 20 years, and I can count on one finger the amount of times I’ve been asked to do a practical demonstration. Which took less than 5 minutes to execute.

        However, in my former life in the print and then publishing trades, I certainly did have to do practical demonstrations of my copyediting skills.

        From my systems admin point of view, and as someone who’s done a lot of staff interviewing, you don’t need to ask someone to show you how to install RAM into a computer or even write code. It’s very easy to sort wheat from the chaff by asking maybe three questions: describe a leading piece of technology that’s relevant to the position; describe how they would approach troubleshooting X problem; what is an example of a difficult situation they’ve encountered at work, and how did they solve it? The last is a cliche, but it’s an effective one. The other two are incredibly revealing in how people approach their answers, beyond just technical correctness: did they describe how to put together a a web page on Wix, or did they describe how the Kerberos authentication protocol works? Was their answer structured well? Do they understand the actual complexity of the job and come up with an example that is at the appropriate level?

        I think for writing (software or content), it’s important to get samples of someone’s work. For technical jobs, I think there are better approaches.

    4. McWhadden*

      As an attorney I was pleasantly surprised when asked to do a quick memo for a job I was applying for. Pleasantly because I was able to show my ability in a more objective way.

      But that was not very typical for my position. However, I don’t know anyone in a technical field who doesn’t have to do something like this.

      1. Sunshine on a Cloudy Day*

        I love when employers have these sorts tests. I’m not a great interviewer (though I have improved quite a bit thanks to AAM!), but I’ve been called back in for every job I’ve ever interviewed at that involves a skills portion. I’m good at my job and good at communicating in writing, even when nervous.

      2. Liz2*

        I would love that! Unfortunately one time someone decided to throw a “logic puzzle” my way and I was so thrown I stumbled badly. If he had actually had me walk through a typical job challenge I ACTUALLY would have, I’d have loved it.

        1. Technical Writer*

          Yeah, it has to be relevant. Not like that jackhole who tried to make me solve double-variable equations for a WRITING job.

          1. selena81*

            Yeah duh, for a general impression of your intelligence your resume and interview-conduct should suffice. A test should be about something highly relevant that people may brag about (the kind of thing that could have gotten them fired from previous jobs, and that they’d try to cover up)

    5. Judy (since 2010)*

      I’m a software engineer, and I worked as a mechanical engineer before that. I’ve always had questions that allowed me to demonstrate my problem solving and thought process in interviews.

      “If I were to ask you to develop a tool to groom llamas, what is a high level overview of the steps you would take?”

      “If you were given code that hasn’t been updated in 5 years, what would be your first steps in evaluating the feasibility of changing from OS1 to OS2?”

      Those questions generally also give you some ideas about the problems they have to solve.

    6. Newt*

      I’ve taken short, simple tests or assessment for certain jobs before. At Previous Job I had to take a short test of my maths skills, despite having A-level maths, AS-level further maths and having studied physics at university, because while my qualifications proved I could handle the algebra etc, they specifically wanted to test my ability to perform simple sums under time pressure. I’ve also taken short grammar and spelling checks during interviews – usually a single page document with a request that I highlight all typos and errors within a 10-15 minute time-frame. And again, the existing qualifications I already had on my CV surpassed what the test covers.

      It is a little annoying not to have your clear work record and qualifications taken seriously, especially when someone who lacked a maths A-level at minimum would never have even been offered the interview for Previous Job, but I can understand why employers might want a consistent measure to compare applicants against.

      1. Another person*

        Honestly, that math test makes sense to me though, because for instance, I am great at upper level math (Calculus, I love you…) but my ability to perform simple sums under time pressure is legitimately awful. (I mean, it might just be awful in comparison to my other math skills, but there is a definite disconnect in abilities). I’m sure I’m not the only one.

    7. designbot*

      yeah it would be extremely weird for me too. It’s accepted though not entirely normal at a very junior level in my industry, but for a senior designer it would just not be done.
      Instead, we ask questions like how many projects a person is used to handling at a time, and how deeply involved they are in each of them. We ask questions to draw out stories about how they get things approved on a big team, or about difficulties working with fabricators. The candidates that are detail-oriented almost can’t help but really dive into these stories, and eventually say something like, “sorry, I didn’t mean to bore you with all the technical details” as a way of backing out of that rabbit hole, but that’s exactly what we were aiming for. Basically we lead them to going off on a technical tangent, because that shows us that they get really involved in that side of it.

  5. Dame Judi Brunch*

    Is it the Michael Scott Paper Company?

    I’d be super uncomfortable. Hope you can convince your boss that this is a crazy idea!

    1. Luna*

      And as Michael Scott found out, it is not always legal to operate a business from a residential home.

      1. Dame Judi Brunch*

        Very true! Maybe that could be something that could nip this in the bud. If the boss lives in a PUD or HOA, the writer could ask if running a business out of his home is ok with them. Michael Scott was in a condo, but plenty of other properties types are under some kind of association.

      2. Breda*

        Although that wasn’t *illegal*, it was against the HOA rules in his condo complex, which is different. (Why yes, I just rewatched a bunch of the show.) Still worth asking about!

  6. Cochrane*

    I had a client at a hedge fund move his staff into a pool house on his property converted into an office space. An actually detached space wouldn’t be odd where working mere steps away from where the boss sleeps and does god-knows-what would be weird.

  7. SJPxo*

    I used to work as a PA for a celebrity who’s (very large) house we used to work in, although we were in a tiny room. Not too long after I started, about 3 months, our outside office in the courtyard was finally finished. Much larger, created a detachment from their house and it’s ‘personal-ness’ and was much nicer.
    I can see why you’d dislike this so if you can push back on this, I would! It’s weird cause you feel weird for using their bathroom, their kitchen (we couldn’t heat up food and lived a good 20 minutes from town so no hot food) and that sort of thing. Plus my betting is your boss will end up hating this set up!

    1. LouiseM*

      +1 to this. People always think that any work involving celebrities must be so glamourous, but there’s also a lot of ickiness that people don’t think about. In one job I had dealing with a household name’s personal effects (not quite PA, but a lot of tedious grunt work) I started to wish I could wear one of those face masks like surgeons wear, LOL!

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        I imagine it’s a bit like being one of the servants on Downton Abbey. Though hopefully without moving any dead bodies.

        1. SJPxo*

          It’s definitely not so glamorous, long hours, hardly any thank you’s and yes, grunt work. Never ever again!

  8. Spooky*

    Oh nooooooo. I had to work out of my boss’s home once, and it was the worst job I’ve ever had. It’s a huge red flag that this person will not respect ANY professional norms (or you, really). I’d be out of there in a heartbeat, and probably even without another job lined up.

    1. Ama*

      I think I’ve told this story on here before, but many years ago I was interviewing for a job where part of the interview included talking to the hiring manager’s staff. They happily talked about how “sometimes we just go over to her apartment and bring her work, or pick up her dry cleaning” (neither of these were standard duties for the position, which was listed as a university office admin position, not an EA). I had had some bad experiences with previous boundary pushing bosses and I think the fact that I did not think that was such a “fun” aspect of the job was pretty obvious, because they wrapped things up fairly quickly after that, and I was not surprised at all when I didn’t get the job (I was actually glad because I was young enough then to not know how to turn down a job gracefully).

  9. Kelly*

    The only acceptable job I can think of is being a personal assistant, where the at home set up wouldn’t be weird.

    1. SJPxo*

      Nope, it’s definitely still weird. See my comment above..
      Nanny I think is the only one (I can think of)

      1. Kelly*

        Oh yeah, nanny too. I guess in the personal assistant for a celebrity realm is what I was thinking, just average Jane Doe, not so much.

      2. ExcelJedi*

        I have friends who own a (small, historic-style, organic) farm, and their interns and farm hands generally work outside but come into the farm house for the facilities, have lunch in the kitchen, etc. It’s weird to see them there when I come over, but it makes sense for what they do.

  10. Happy Temp*

    OP1, I’m wondering (overthinking?) about calling it a “duplex apartment.” Does that mean he owns two adjoining apartments and is converting one into the work office? I can see how that is… less creepy than working directly out of his living space.

    I’m also about the “working more than nine hours a day with one, 20-minute break for lunch” because isn’t that illegal? Or are you all exempt employees?

    1. Happy Temp*

      Oops, I’m also curious ABOUT the “working more…”. I swear I’m detail-oriented. Heh.

    2. Gorgo*

      If not illegal, then at least fantastically counterproductive. Burnout is generally bad for business.

    3. Bea*

      It appears that the 20 minutes is “outside the office” time, that’s not saying that they’re not given 30 minutes technically or that they don’t take coffee breaks. They’re just discouraged in leaving the premise. Which sadly is a thing I’ve heard of but thankfully never met a boss who acted that way.

      1. Anonymous72*

        I used to work for a partner at a tiny law firm, and we got screamed at for going out to lunch. We worked in an urban downtown area rife with cool little grab-and-go restaurants but were discouraged via emotional abuse from ever going to them. When the partner was out of the office, one of us would go out and quickly grab lunch for everyone to eat back at the office – but hell would rain down if the partner decided to call you with a question about a case and s/he found out you had left the office. In four years of working there, I took a sit-down, out-of-office lunch twice: once when the partner was on vacation, and once when a few of us went out after the office closed on New Year’s Eve (so it doesn’t even count). Every other time, I scarfed down a cold lunch in my office but, invariably, the partner would call me into her office whenever s/he saw me eating…and so I gave up eating lunch. Four years later, three years at a job where no one freaking cares if I leave the office, I still have to force myself to eat lunch at work and have anxiety if I leave campus during work hours.

        OP: Run. Run fast, run hard, run quickly.

    4. Someone else*

      Yeah, it read to me like the boss owns 2 units. If, say, the office unit is downstairs and boss lives upstairs, it might be sufficiently separated. Although I’d also wonder if the office unit were actually renovated to feel office-ey vs like…two employees working out of a bedroom, the rest in the living room, and it feeling like they’re in a random apartment.Plus potential zoning issues. But if it is a separate unit it might be separate-ish so that no one would ever be working in the boss’ actual living space.

    5. RB*

      Yeah, seriously. Nine hours with a 20-minute lunch? I don’t think so. Why are people still working there? Is everyone just silently putting up with this? Your realize that’s not normal, right?

  11. Bea*

    I trained for a hot minute in an office that was a detached building next to the owners house. There were duties that required using the house. That was the least of my worries but it was also in a weirdly rural area so an outside office would be a hardship. They needed area to house the equipment so it made more sense.

  12. clow*

    Yeah, I would quit. I would nope out of that job so fast.
    for the fifth letter, i feel like someone gave that person crappy “gumption” advice.

    1. selena81*

      yeah, probably just a kid who doesn’t get the difference between ‘show that you really want to work there’ and ‘stalking’. explaining his mistake is the best way to help him.

  13. Mel*

    I applied for a job and didn’t realize it was out of my boss’s house until I showed up for the interview. I took it, and it worked out fine (we have now moved into office space which is definitely much better). However: 1) she lived alone 2) she didn’t have some of the concerning traits your boss seems to have 3) it was definitely a much more informal environment, and that has carried over to the office environment. It worked for me, but it’s definitely not for everyone.

    1. Ayla K*

      Glad to see this comment. My first job out of college was a 4-person company, so we worked out of my boss’s house. He also lived alone, and after a few months he was okay with me working from home instead (he had 3 cats and I am very allergic.) We would all usually work at the dining table in the morning, then he would drive us all to a local coffee shop in the afternoons. He kept the house stocked with food and we had full access to his kitchen and snacks.

      The set-up worked for me, but then my professional goals took me elsewhere. I’m still in touch with him regularly, but I agree that this arrangement is definitely not for everyone, and can heavily depend on the boss. Your boss sounds like he would quickly move into an abuse of power, so I’d say you should be on the hunt for a new job ASAP.

  14. Arya Snark*

    I work for a small company as well and when I first started, my interview and all of the training, as well as a few meetings, took place in his house. It WAS weird, especially when the kids were home and his cleaning service came around, but it was only temporary. I have worked from home since but we do have a membership at a co-working space that we utilize for our mail drop, meetings, interviews and the occasional work day when internet goes down at home. One of the bigger reasons he got the membership was because he came to realize that potential clients were googling our mailing address and were put off by seeing it was a house.
    If working from home is an option, I would shoot for that but it also might help sway him if you point out the mailing address issue.

    1. selena81*

      I believe in ‘if you do not take your business seriously then neither will your customers’. Hiring an official-looking office space is sooo important in maintaining a minimal level of professionalism (if only to show ‘we have enough revenue to pay for this’).

  15. Newbie*

    The thing about #1 at this point is that several of the #MeToo articles, Charlie Rose for one, referred to having to work at the boss’s house and his behaving inappropriately in that setting.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      Yuuup. I’ll bet that’s especially common in jobs that involve going into people’s homes. *shudder*

  16. Nephron*

    For OP1, you might be able to convince him this is a bad idea if you focus on ways this will be bad for him.
    First, how is his home zoned? You say apartment, but even if it is a free standing structure it could run into residential zoning laws and he could get in trouble. An anecdote about a news story you recently read could assist in why you are concerned. (You just happened to search for horror stories of zoning enforcement, but you did read about it then.)
    Second, you mention the short lunch break you have. Can you check out if there are food places near his home and argue that the employees would of course need longer lunch breaks to accommodate the new location with few if any food options. You could also stress that physically leaving the building helps you re-focus during the day, so ordering delivery or making things in his kitchen are not a solution as you don’t want to lose focus in the afternoon.

  17. I'm Not Phyllis*

    I worked as a graphic designer early in my career, and worked out of my boss’s house, in the basement which was set up like an office. It wasn’t awful, but it was definitely a different experience from working in an actual office. The only weird thing that happened was me showing up one morning and letting myself in the back door (which I did every day) only to have to overhear my boss having a huge shouting match with his wife upstairs. Awkward.

  18. Turquoisecow*

    OP3, if you can point to specific deficiencies as a result of the lack of training/certification, this might help make a better case to your boss. Like “we keep getting these reports sent back with errors – if people had the proper certification, they’d know how to get the job done right the first time,” or “We have to have someone oversee these tasks because our employees aren’t certified to complete them, and that seems like a waste of time.”

    You could also try for something related to your personal professional development, ie “I would like to have certification in X because Y,” but unless Y helps directly benefit the company, I’m not sure they’ll care as much.

    Basically, just point out to them how actually certifying their employees will make things run better, and they might take you seriously.

  19. Phoenix Programmer*

    #2 One aspect that is frequently over looked in these dynamics is the importance of also digging into the reporter. There number of times I have seen a star performer bullied by this type of pot stirring is insane.

    In my short 7 year career I have seen:

    reporter specifically tells new employee to do A then runs to boss complaining star employee is doing A despite clearly being told numerous times B is process.

    Reporter tells star not to take notes that they will send process documents. Then complains when star has follow up questions loudly to coworkers and boss that star should have taken notes!

    Asks new employee to cover item for them. Then goes to boss “confused” that new employee is doing item and why are they ignoring bosses clear division of labor?

    Honestly I have seen this dynamic so much that it’s hard for me not to assume the “reporter” is the issue. Regardless the answer is to dig dig dig.

    1. essEss*

      Oh, I’ve seen this far too often. I worked with a group of nasty women once….. They took backstabbing to whole new levels. Arya would complain in our team meetings about how Cerce was doing everything and not sharing the work with others and that Arya would be happy to take on some of Cerce’s work if she would just let her know when she needed help. Manager would tell Cerce to make sure to ask others for assistance when she had a lot of work to do. The next day Cerce asked Arya for assistance in some task and Arya told her “No, that’s not my job. You need to do your OWN work instead of trying to get others to do it ” and then Arya came running to me all happy and bragging that she made Cerce ask her for help so that she could turn her down deliberately.

      Cerce would pull the same thing on others as well so she wasn’t an innocent victim either. She went running to my boss about how EVERYONE in the department was complaining becauseI would go pick up the mail from the central mail office too early in the day to distribute to our staff so everyone was missing important interdepartmental mail that was arriving at the central office later in the day. We had a department of 150 people so my boss was concerned about how much important information was getting missed. She tried to pin down exactly how many had complained to know how badly this was impacting the office…. When kept pressing Cerce to tell her WHO was missing mail, Cerce finally admitted that no one had actually complained and she just assumed that we would be missing important mail (just trying to get me in trouble because I refused to change my work duty schedule to her specifications even though we are on the same level and do completely different jobs). So my boss and I set up a test (without telling Cerce) to have me go get the mail at my usual time and then go again in the very late afternoon and I had to record what new mail was there in the afternoon. After 2 weeks, we showed that there was a grand total of 1 letter that arrived after my normal pickup and it was not time-sensitive. So next time she started to create a giant scandal about our “missing mail” we had documented evidence to shut that down.

      I would do the payroll for our student employees and we legally had to have them punch the timeclock in and out for lunch so that we paid them exactly what they worked. I sent a memo out to all our staff reminding them of the legal requirement for this. The next day I caught her stopping each of our student employees at the timeclock (her desk was next to it) and telling them NOT to clock out for lunch because they were young and poor and we “should” pay them for their lunch.

  20. Office Drone*

    Nope. Nope. Nope. To working at someone’s home.
    I worked for one day for a computer company that was being run out of a home. I was supposed to be doing their bookkeeping. But since I was the only female on staff (also uncomfortable), the wife decided that I would be happy to watch her child while she went out for a couple of hours. Needless to say, I told the owner at the end of the day that this was not going to work out and that I would not be back for another day.

    1. WellRed*

      Does anyone that gets asked to watch children like this ever just say, “I don’t like children.”
      I like to think I would ; )

    2. Bea*

      I’m so used to owners bringing in their kids to the office that the fact this was a home office setting doesn’t even blip on my radar. I’ve never been asked to watch them except a couple weird times when I was sent to pick them up. Ick.

  21. Chaordic One*

    I previously took a temporary assignment for a small company run out of the owner’s apartment. The living room had been set up as an office and was full of desks and computers and file cabinets. I was only in the living room and bath room (which was extremely neat and clean, no toothbrushes or personal care items laying around).

    I never entered the kitchen or bedrooms. I later learned that the owner had a dog that was kept in one of the bedrooms, but I never heard a sound and never knew it was there. The people who worked there were all very professional and a bit formal. It worked. Of course, not every situation is going to be like this.

  22. ReBecCa from TribeCa*

    I went through a somewhat similar situation a few years ago when there was a fire in an upper floor of our building and we had to relocate to the bosses house for 6 or so weeks as they made the repairs.

    The downside was it was in a somewhat rural area, but there were plenty of upsides as well. She put his large 12 seat dining room table into storage and set up 5 desks in the dining room. There were no convenient restaurants so her wife (a pro chef) cooked for us most days. The dress code was totally dropped and a no shoes rule was added and we were asked to work in our sock feet, and we all got 10% bonuses and a shortened work day to accommodate for the extra commute. It wasn’t perfect, but it worked out pretty well.

  23. JanetM*

    I worked for a year in my boss’s home — he was writing a book, and I did the word-processing, diagrams, and spreadsheets. He worked on the main floor, and I worked in the basement. I would join him for lunch and we’d talk about not-work. It felt a little weird at first, but I got used to it quickly, and nothing untoward ever happened.

    I don’t know if it makes a difference that this was through a temp agency, but I’ll mention it in case it does.

  24. Archaeopteryx*

    #1, regardless of the home situation, if you’re being pressured to work that long with such a short break, you definitely need to start applying elsewhere. They clearly don’t have your best interests in mind.

  25. Crystal*

    OP #3 As a fellow city employee, yes write a letter. If the certifications are in the job specs, attach a copy. Being very formal is the only way this is going to happen, sorry Allison.

  26. Manager Mary*

    OP 1, I’d ask a lot of questions about the plan for the work space set up. I used to be an assistant for a hot-shot communications exec who telecommuted (as it was called in the olden days). Her company gave her a stipend to cover the cost of renting an office space, getting computers, etc., and at first, we had a real office and the job was just a regular job, except that all our colleagues were far away!

    Unfortunately the company just gave her the money with no concern for how or IF she spent it. So after a while, she decided it would make more sense to keep the money for herself and work out of her home office. In her home. Where she had a grouchy husband who didn’t want her working at all and who definitely didn’t want her working full-time from home and who definitely didn’t want *me* there at all. She also had two small kids who were constantly interrupting, because why send the kids to daycare when you’re going to be home after school? She was surrounded by temptations to answer the home phone, deal with their ongoing kitchen remodel, run a few loads of laundry, etc. Or, even better, make ME do those things.

    Suffice it to say it was a nightmare and I quit after a few months of it. I ended up spending more and more time handling personal tasks and seeing WAY too much of my boss’s family and her personal drama and I hated it!

  27. Free Meerkats*

    For #3, are the certifications required by any outside body like the state or Feds? If they are, there’s your leverage to get the training. Or you could go directly to the regulating body and clue them in. Nothing like having the Feds ask pointed questions about certifications to get the training fast-tracked.

  28. anyone out there but me*

    9+ hour days and a 20-minute lunch break?? I would have already quit and run…. irregardless of where the office was. :(

  29. RB*

    I did a part-time evenings gig that was out of the guy’s home. He had a large room for his home office and the kids and dog usually stayed out of it. The boss was usually out of the house in the evenings doing stuff with his kids and wife but he would check in on me once or twice to make sure I hadn’t got stuck on a project, so it worked out ok.

  30. Tacos are Tasty*

    9 plus hoirs and discouraged from lunch. What an asshole. Does he underpay too? He’s an entitled rich dick user. Get out of there.

  31. AdamsOffOx*

    I’m picturing Zapp Brannigan smirking as he says, “Your new office is . . . my bedroom!”

  32. only acting normal*

    As a student some friends and I temporarily worked out of someone’s pool house. They’d put a floor over the pool – it was springy and noisy. Their 4yr old had free run of the office – dashing about shrieking while we were on call centre type phonecalls. And their very territorial Alsatian patrolled outside – it bit my boyfriend *twice*, ripping his trousers and drawing blood.

    So, yeah, add me to the side of “working in their home is bad”.

  33. Drama Llama*

    #1: I just interviewed an applicant who was leaving her current job exactly for this reason. While she explained in a diplomatic way, she was obviously stressed out with having her boss’s three kids and husband constantly in and out of the “office.” She said it didn’t feel like a professional environment to be working at her boss’s house.

  34. willow*

    If he has a duplex apartment, it could be that the office will be in one of the duplexes and he will (continue?) to live in the other. That is best case scenario. But it still sounds like really cramped quarters, with SOOOOO many ways to go wrong. And the 9 hour days and the 20 minute lunches is starting to demand a lot of your “me” time. Yeah, a new job may be in the works.

  35. SaltTooth*

    OP2; is this city job union? There were city departments in the metro I previously worked for that purposefully didn’t give their employees required training so they could use it as a way to do mass firing of union employees. This happened in multiple city government departments and it was a huge scandal. In my own department they were lying to the state library department, saying that they were handling certification in-house, and lying to us about what certifications were required for our job (mainly for paraprofessional positions). It came out that hundreds of staff needed years of college credits to be qualified for their own jobs and had to get into compliance at their own expense, which the union has been fighting tooth and nail.

    Demand the training. If you are in a union, get your union to demand the city get everyone certified asap and extend the timeframe for employees to be in compliance.

  36. ZucchiniBikini*

    I worked, early in my career, at a small educational publishing company that had offices above a bakery. Part of that job involved me working closely with textbook authors – days on end of sitting with them as we edited, reshaped, in some cases rewrote, and discussed texts.

    Most of my authors were happy to come into the office or meet at a coffee shop to do these days of work, but I did have three who insisted that I come to their homes. In two cases, they were perfectly pleasant, if vague, muddle-headed professor types. One … wasn’t, but that’s a story for a different day #metoo.

    Even though it was a matter of a few days or a week at a time only, I never liked it, it always made me feel weird and uncomfortable, and if it had been my fulltime working environment, I would’ve been out of there in a New York minute. I have several friends who’ve worked in employers’ homes (as nannies, PAs, admin assistants, book-keepers etc) and with the exception of the nannies, no one speaks well of it as a working environment.

    And just endorsing what was said upthread by others – this totally includes those who are assistants to celebrities! One of my friends was PA to a major Australian celeb (one famous enough that I think USians would have heard of them) for about 8 years and loved the job AFTER she nearly quit at the 9-month mark because the stress of working out of her boss’s home was wearing her down. Fortunately, when she made this clear, the celeb – who is, apparently, a very nice human – understood and arranged space in a local office for her.

  37. ElPaiz*

    #OP1 – i think it really really depends on your boss and his family to some extent.

    My first ever job was working for a small company (a married couple and myself), i stayed for 2 years and it was not a pleasant place to work.

    Things that happened while i was there:
    First day – his wife went into early labour, left me alone with 0 training to do all of the work. Being my first job i had no idea where to even start.

    Boss 1 being so tired from looking after the baby at night, i had look after their older child in between very long naps.

    We did finally move to some offices which happened to be on a farm. So yes there was regular horse noises while on calls which i did sometimes get asked about.

    Being paid minimum wage. Not so bad but being told regularly i was earning more than boss 1 and boss 2 while they just brought a new house and 2 new cars..

    While in horsey offices which were a 20 min drive away, they would go back home, boss 1 wouldnt do any work, then when coming back to relieve me for lunch would often delay for reasons such as ‘i brought a new pair of shoes’

    Not allowed to eat in the offices when i was pregnant/leave my desk to do so.

    Not provided with basic legal things such as a source of clean water, effective heating etc.

    Forced to share personal sensitive documentation over an insecure network.

    Both bosses have hot tempers. Regular screaming matches take place. Also road rage.

    The list goes on! Personally the 9 hour days and 20 min break would already be a deal breaker for me.

  38. KayEss*

    My mother is a doctor and moved her practice into her home about ten years ago, after the partner she was sharing office space with had to move out of private practice due to personal circumstances. The nurse she employed to assist her stayed with the practice when it moved, and I honestly never considered what the nurse must have thought of it… I was too caught up in “it would be pretty hecking weird to get an intimate medical examination in a suburban family home.” Kind of want to call mom and ask, now!

    (For anyone curious, I believe she did lose a few patients due to the change in location and environment, but a LOT of them stayed! She was at a point where it made sense to start winding down her practice toward retirement, and this has worked out very well for her and she’s quite happy with it. I had also long since moved out when the decision was made, though you’d better believe I milk the “my bedroom is now a gynecological exam room” story for all it’s worth.)

    1. Arya Snark*

      My husband’s (then boyfriend) then stepmother had her psychology office in their home. It had a separate entrance and they had a live-in housekeeper who took care of the kids and dogs so everything was very separate. It worked for her in that setting (a rural area) but I think it would’ve been weird otherwise. A medical office though…?

  39. g*

    I actually worked in my boss’s house and it wasn’t so bad. I even had fun! I think the thing that made it work was we had a separate entrance and doorbell to our office so didn’t have to ever enter his living spaces. If I was working late he could go ‘home’, and his home life never overlapped with our work.

    His family had pretty good boundaries (we were really more of an inconvenience to them than vice versa). Often his kids would be playing outside which could be noisy, but I just put in headphones if it was distracting.

  40. Kasia*

    My dentist is in a house (I assume he lives with his family there). The office is completely separate from the house part. His employees have all been there for more than ten years so it must not bother them.

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