coworkers clips their nails at their desks, boss micromanages us when we work from home, and more

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

1. My coworkers clip their nails at their desks

I’m in an office where lots of people like to clip their nails at their desk. Sometimes you hear just one or two clips, which I could let go, but other times it’s a full set. And it’s multiple people, sometimes on the same day. I’m trying to figure out how annoyed I should be. On the one hand, eww! I believe that hygiene is to be done at home or in the bathroom. But on the other hand, I get that sometimes you don’t want to walk to the bathroom for a quick fix. My good friend who sits a few cubes over from me is equally annoyed/grossed out, but we’re not sure if we should say something, and if so, how?

One option is to email our cube group as a whole and request that all nail clipping be taken care of in the bathrooms and not at desks, but my coworkers mentioned that emails like that always come across passive aggressive. My other option is to walk around when it’s happening, find out who it is, and ask them to stop, though I worry about embarrassing them since people around them could hear me calling them out specifically. (Even though I’d be super nice about, it still feels like unnecessary embarrassment).

My range of rapport with the group ranges from friendly hellos in the hallway to good friends who hang out at lunch. So overall I feel comfortable saying something. It’s just a matter of what and how. But I should also note one of the offenders is my grand-grand boss. Should I just get over it and chalk it up to weird office behavior? I know this isn’t the Worst Office Problem Ever, but … still. Help!

Yeah, quickly fixing a single broken nail is one thing, but clipping a full set of nails at work — why? And if for some reason it can’t wait until the person gets home, that’s something to take to the privacy of the bathroom, like flossing or other grooming tasks that’ll take more than a few seconds.

I wouldn’t send a mass email about this — it’s not really mass-email-worthy (and you may even be the outlier on this — if most people around you are fine with all the public nail-clipping, you don’t necessarily have the standing to call for its end in that format). The next time you hear it, you could try walking around to see if you can find the culprit and then say, “Ah, it’s you! That noise is like nails on a blackboard to me. Would you mind doing that in the bathroom?” But since it sounds like lots of people are doing it, you’d need to repeat that so many times that you risk looking weirdly focused on it.

Some offices (maybe yours, maybe not) have the kind of culture where the next time you hear it, you could just call out, “Whoever’s clipping their nails, could you take that to the bathroom?” and your message would reach multiple offenders.

But the fact that so many people around you are clip-happy means headphones may be the path of least resistance.

Read an update to this letter here.

2. My boss micromanages us when we work from home

I recall reading a post you answered where a reader asked what to do about a manager who insisted on pre-approving what work they will do on their work-from-home day, and then needing tangible proof that it was indeed completed that day.

You advised that the reader oblige, and then consider pushing back if it’s still happening months down the road (after the manager had some time to get comfortable with the idea and seeing that it was working out fine). Do you have any suggestions on how to tactfully push back once it’s been happening for an extended period of time? My manager believes this pre-approval and requiring proof of work (even small administrative tasks) is his duty as a manager, no matter how long employees have been there for or how high performing they are by other measures. Unfortunately, this process places a mental burden on me, and has me dreaming of greener pastures with a company that trusts employees to be equally or more productive than they are in the office, as research has shown. I have brought up that the process places a mental burden on me and have shared my reasoning, but there doesn’t seem to be room for negotiation.

Aside from this, does your manager seem generally happy with your work? If so, I’d say this: “You’ve been asking to pre-approve my plans before I work from home and to see proof that I’ve done the work I report on those days. Have I given you cause to doubt my honesty and integrity when it comes to working from home?” He’ll presumably say no and you can say, “Would you be willing to allow me to manage my work from home using the same systems we use when I’m in the office? I think I have a long track record of reliability, and it’s tough to feel like I’m being asked to prove I’m not dishonest over and over.”

But if that doesn’t work, or if you’ve already tried a version of this, then you just have a crappy manager who’s not going to change, and the only way to get out from under it would be to change jobs.

Read an update to this letter here.

3. Coronavirus is ruining my job search and my relationship

I live in the “epicenter” of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. with my boyfriend in a tiny studio apartment. I lost my job a few weeks ago and am actively job searching. Right after I got laid off, my boyfriend’s employer ordered all staff to work from home because of the virus. Being locked in a 500 square foot apartment all day and job searching while my boyfriend works means neither of us get anything done.

I had a Skype interview for a job today (the company I’m interviewing at is also remote at the moment) at the same time my boyfriend had a meeting. He had to take it on the phone in the bathroom (the only door in the apartment) so my interviewer couldn’t hear him. This kind of thing happens almost every day, where I’m trying to call a recruiter and he’s trying to have a loud video meeting. Even if I get a job, it looks like we’ll both be working out of this space for weeks to come because of business closures. I wish we could move, but without an income for me, we can’t afford to break our lease. I wasn’t expecting to be two adults quarantined in a studio apartment together 24/7! How can we handle this??

Could you construct something that mimics office cubicles? Not that you’d actually build two full cubicles in your small apartment, but using that as inspiration, is there a barrier you could construct that would give you similar benefits?

You could also check out the suggestions for headsets designed to block out background noise in this comment thread.

What other suggestions do people have?

4. I’m annoyed by this rejection phone call

I interviewed for a position for which I was a great fit. After a phone interview and an in-person interview for which I traveled a considerable distance, I was not chosen for the job. While this was a disappointment, I was also bothered by the way I was informed.

A company rep emailed me to set up a phone call for the next day. I was cautiously confident that it would be an offer. It was not; during this call, I was told that my references were glowing, I fit the role in terms of skills and experience, but they chose the other candidate because they were local and locally well-connected. The rep then explained how these connections will help the company in future. I was invited to stay in touch because they could see me working there (of course, this was followed by the caveat that at this time, there were no upcoming roles, but the company rep said “we are growing” and that “in a year or two” they may next need another role filled). When I was asked if I had any questions, I said no and thanked the person for their time.

What bothers me is that the whole phone call was over eight minutes long. I feel an email stating the company was going with someone else would have sufficed, and I certainly did not want or need to hear more about the other candidate. While I understand the rep’s wanting to clarify the decision, there was literally no feedback for me on how I could have done better. They said that what tipped the balance in favor of the other candidate was being locally connected; being from out of town, I could never have met that requirement, and if I had known that that was important to them (it was not in the job description and did not come up in either of my interviews), I would not have wasted my time applying in the first place. Am I wrong to think they wasted my time? Should I have done something differently in that phone call?

There’s no reason to think they wasted your time. It’s not uncommon for an employer to end up choosing their new hire based on something extra the person brought to the table that wasn’t a requirement but which ended up being appealing. That doesn’t mean you weren’t a serious contender. You very well could have been the hire if that person hadn’t been in the mix.

But yeah, I agree email rejections are a better option. Candidates often hate rejection phone calls, where they feel obligated to respond gracefully on the spot to disappointing news (made even worse by the fact that the phone call got their hopes up). But some people prefer phone calls, and when you get a hiring manager or recruiter who’s a phone person, sometimes that’s what you end up with. It’s annoying but not an egregious offense. (Sometimes, too, it’s a phone call because the company genuinely wants to stay in touch with you and thinks a call will convey that better than an email will.)

5. We can’t use sick leave for check-ups or to care for family members

I work at a large (40K+ employees) organization. The vast majority of employees are governed by a sick time policy that states that sick time is only to be used for the employee for non-routine medical needs. That means two things: 1. You can’t use sick time for a check-up, but more importantly, 2. You can’t use sick time to take care of someone in your family. (Note: We are permitted to miss work for those reasons, we just have to use vacation or personal time.)

I’ve never seen this kind of sick time policy before! Am I wrong in thinking this is an awful policy, or is this more standard than I realize? As you can imagine, in such a large company, some managers simply disregard the policy and openly allow their staff to use sick time to care for children. This makes it tough for me as a manager who currently follows the policy to the letter (following the direction of my boss, who is a “play by the rules, even if you don’t agree with them” kind of a person). As a parent of young kids, I also feel like it creates a world where employees may feel inclined to lie about who is actually sick when calling out, which is also not the environment I want.

I have little hope of changing this policy, given the size of the organization, but it would be reassuring to have some perspective on whether this is as strange as it seems to me.

Yeah, it’s a terrible policy. It’s not unheard of, but it’s awful.

Most companies let you use sick leave for medical appointments and to care for family members. Most companies want you to use your vacation time for actual vacation (not for your colonoscopy or to take care of your kid with the flu) because taking real vacations is good for productivity — employees do better work when they’re rested and refreshed.

{ 558 comments… read them below }

  1. cheluzal*

    1: Who…does this? I would never think that was acceptable. But I do find that sound very grating for some reason, even when my husband does it in the bathroom….oof, I would be in misery.

      1. Shramps*

        “ offensively disgusting” is a overreaction. We’re mammals. We have nails and hair and bodily functions and sometimes they overlap with work. Show some grace.

          1. Shramps*

            I realize this tone may seem harsh, which is not my intent. I ask that we offer coworkers a little breathing room for flaws oversteps of our own personal preferences and try to remember we may be gross in our own ways to them.

            1. DiscoCat*

              I’m as human as you are, but I still control my IBS- induced gassiness, try not to drool, sneeze, cough all over and contain 99% of my routine personal grooming to the bathroom and generally show some consideration and decorum in these matters… Because aside from being human, I’m also an able bodied adult.

              1. Shramps*

                Right, but I’m sure you slip. You’re not perfect 100% of the time in all ways. Perhaps there’s something about you that your coworkers deal with or get BEC about. We all have quirks and people respond to them differently.

                On this issue, I think OP may be outnumbered.

                1. Database Developer Dude*

                  And because fifty people do a really crappy thing, and one person objects, it doesn’t make the fifty right and the one wrong.

                  There are things that cross lines, and grooming like that at your desk is one of them. If you’re making excuses for that, you need to take a long hard look at your attitude with respect to workplace norms.

                2. SheLooksFamiliar*

                  People who clip their nails in public are not slipping. They aren’t quickly attending to an uncontrollable body function like a sneeze or cough, they are choosing to groom themselves in public, and they leave their effluvia for others to find. That’s not quirky, that’s rude and icky.

                  Seriously, would you floss your teeth in public? Clean your ears with a cotton swab and inspect what you removed? Snort nasal spray and expel the excess?

                3. DiscoCat*

                  Never claimed to be perfect mate, but in certain settings and situations I at least try my best. You’re making too many excuses here…

            2. Mockingjay*

              Quietly trimming a single broken nail is fine in an office setting. A full manicure? Nope. Go get one on your lunch hour if you need grooming that badly.

              It’s the same reason I don’t fix makeup at my desk or brush my hair. That is done in the restroom. I have a desk at work, not a vanity.

              1. Joielle*

                Yeah, I’d say a nail repair requiring one or two clips is fine, but anything more than that you at least have to go in the bathroom.

        1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

          I agree with Shramps. I’m always confused by the intensity of the reaction when this comes up, as it does with some regularity. It’s not on the same level as, say, eating boogers.

          1. pancakes*

            I don’t think it has to be on that level to be objectionable! It’s self-absorbed to do this at one’s desk rather than go to the bathroom.

            1. Dust Bunny*

              Okay, one problem is that for some of us, it’s easier to do sitting down for stability reasons, and the majority of office bathrooms don’t have chairs, and may have those wall-mounted trash cans that aren’t easy to stand over (as you block all the light you need to keep from clipping your fingers instead of just the nail). So I totally understand why people clip them at their desks where they can sit down and see what they’re doing. I wouldn’t leave the clippings, though. But everyone in my line of work washes their hands all the time so it doesn’t seem gross, just a little messy.

                1. Noblepower*

                  Which in our bathroom is very poorly lit- so while I’m not a fan of nail clipping either, I understand taking care of a nail or even two if someone needs to attend to a break. All of their nails? Shoulda done that at home.

                2. KayDeeAye*

                  You can’t clip your fingernails while sitting on the toilet in a public restroom. You need to sit or stand right over the trash can, which is extremely difficult to do in most of the public restrooms I know of because (as Dust Bunny noted) of the prevalence of those wall-mounted trash cans.

                  Look, I get that it’s annoying to some people (and I have an office with a door, so when I need need more than a tiny snip or two, I close the door). But come on – they are fingernails, which are hardly an intimate or particularly gross part of the body.

                  If it were just one or two coworkers, the OP might indeed be able to just ask them to do this in the bathroom, and if they’re nice people, they probably will. But if she is one of the few it bothers, I don’t see a solution here aside from learning to put up with it.

                  BTW, it never occurred to me until I started reading AAM that anybody could be so annoyed by this. I get that people are, and I apologize for myself and for all my fellow not-sensitive-to-clipping people. But for those of you who are sensitive to this, try to remember that nobody is clipping nails *at* you. They are simply performing a minor grooming task in your hearing. I mean, aside from the clippy noise, is it really that much worse than, say, brushing you hair?

                3. Barely Human*

                  Ugh. I work in an office sized for 2 people but there are 5 of us crammed in here along with tons of office equipment. We each have less than 9 square feet of our own space (triangle partial cubicle desks). Two of my coworkers do this, and one literally clips ALL of her nails EVERY single day. (Tiny little slivers, but makes sure to do all ten fingernails, and, if we’re lucky stops there and doesn’t also do her exposed toes during the summer). Another office-mate and I cringe every day when we start hearing the “clip! clip!” over there because we know it will go on for 5 minutes and our headphones DO NOT cancel that sound out. I don’t walk over there because TBH, I truly don’t want to know if she clips them into the waste bin or just all over the carpet–she is the only one who gripes about the quality of our custodian’s weekly vacuuming job under her desk and also is the only one who walks around barefoot in the office, so you can do the math. I used to work at a car dealership where a salesman would clip his at the client waiting table up front and just let the clippings fall everywhere, in front of everyone, saying that’s why we had a janitor. This guy also sad at the very same public table/lounge area with customers present and verbally/loudly use his cell phone to order refills for his name-brand, well-known genital herpes prescriptions, and laughed about never washing his hands after using the restroom–and my desk was right in front of the private men’s room, so I can vouch that he never once did wash…ever. I finally ripped him a new one (waiting until no customers were in the showroom), asking him what the hell made him think he was so far above our dedicated, awesome building’s night janitor that it was okay to litter the CUSTOMER WAITING AREA at 9 a.m. with his herpes-infested nail trimmings which would sit there all day unswept if no one saw/addressed them before night. I thought I was going to get in trouble for laying into him so loudly and passionately. Instead, the rest of the sales team ordered me lunch. Haha.

              1. Sam.*

                Ok, but why not just do it *at home*?? I genuinely can’t fathom why you would be clipping nails in any sort of public space unless you broke one or something. Do it at home and everyone wins.

                1. Lanna*

                  I can’t type if my nails get too long. I try to do it at home but occasionally when I’m typing I just need to do it quickly or it’s slowing me down.

                2. KoiFeeder*

                  Yeah, that’s what gets me. I’m not particularly grossed out by fingernails, but even if you broke a nail, there’s not that much urgency. It can wait.

              2. pancakes*

                I don’t think it’s gross / unhygienic so much as rudely self-absorbed. In my experience it isn’t common for bathroom stalls to be as poorly-lit as another commenter mentioned, so I don’t see why an extended clipping session—more than a quick trim of a nail or two—shouldn’t happen in a stall if it absolutely has to happen at work. If the lighting in the bathroom is exceptionally lousy that’s a fair issue to raise with a supervisor. People don’t tend to have cars in my city but in other places most do, and I’d think the car would be a good place for nail clipping if the bathroom is unsuitable.

                1. Double A*

                  But if you’re sitting on the toilet and clipping your nails, where are the clippings going? Just all over the floor? And they you need to pick them up off the bathroom floor or leave them there? There’s not usually a trash can in the stall, except for sanitary products which… is not really conducive for clipping nails into, generally. All options are gross.

                  I’m not really bothered by nail clipping, but it is gross if the clippings are on the floor, so to me the most important thing would be that you clip nails over a trash can. If your bathroom isn’t conducive to that… what should you do?

                2. pancakes*

                  Clip them over the bowl. People who can’t stand long enough to do so can maybe balance a couple paper towels on their lap, and fold them up and discard them in the trash when done. The idea that one’s desk is the only possible place for extended grooming still doesn’t make sense to me.

          2. kittymommy*

            Same. I am truly baffled at the visceral “eww, most disgusting thing ever” reaction to clipping nails. I mean I get that it’s not appropriate at work but gross? There’s no bodily fluids anywhere and I assuming the clipper isn’t going around dusting everyone’s desks with the clippings. Of all the disturbing and icky things I’ve seen people do in an office this doesn’t even break top 10.

            1. Clisby*

              Same. I put it in the same category as combing/brushing hair, or putting on lipstick. Yeah, I’d rather people did all that in the bathroom, but I don’t see anything gross about any of it.

            2. Lynn*

              Nails are actually more disgusting than you would think. The tips of your fingers touch EVERYTHING and germs just collect under the nail. I always do this at home, and wash my hands before and after. Especially right now, this poor hygiene, and it is 100% avoidable.

              1. pentamom*

                That’s not affected by clipping nails, though, that’s affected by HAVING nails. There’s nothing more objectively unhygienic about a nail that is being clipped than one that isn’t.

                Along with others, I agree that it’s certainly not something people should do in front of others if avoidable. But I also don’t get the visceral reaction.

            3. RussianInTexas*

              That is all and great for you, but the noise of nail clipping makes my skin crawl.
              I don’t hear people brushing hair or putting on lipstick

            4. lilsheba*

              Yeah same here, I don’t see a big deal. It’s way more disgusting when someone does that awful horking noise to move phlegm around through their nose, but never actually blows their nose. YUCK. That makes me want to hurl. Clipping nails? whatever I don’t care.

            5. TardyTardis*

              I hear you. After raising two teenagers, it has to be blood or fire to get me worried (of course, I also used to be a nurse’s aide in college, so my toleration level for grossness is probably skewed).

          3. aebhel*

            Same. I mean, I absolutely think it’s rude, but I’m always a baffled by how revolted people are by this.

            1. OP#1 - Not Into Your Nail Clippings*

              OP#1 here–I think this is just one of those things that isn’t gross for some, but is for others. For me, the sound of it gets my gag-reflex going. Whereas putting on lipstick or a quick hair brush wouldn’t bother me.

              1. JimmyJab*

                I’m with you OP. I think it’s grating and I then imagine little fingernail scraps everywhere. I just can’t think of a good reason one needs to do this at work.

                1. KayDeeAye*

                  There are lots of reasons why someone might need to do a quick clip job at the office – if you tear a nail and it’s really jagged, what else are you supposed to do? There aren’t a lot of good reasons to clip all of your nails, of course.

                  I don’t get the revulsion either. I don’t deny that people feel it – I just don’t get it.

                2. Respectfully, Pumat Sol*

                  It’s actually really easy to clip right over the trashcan. Nothing goes astray and it all ends up where it belongs.

                3. Jojo*

                  I have a public nail clipper in my pocket and a private one in my lunch bag. The mechanics at work need one occasionally. And if they don’t clip it they could have a bloody finger that could get contaminated by hyd fluid, oil, other chemicals. Nail clipping does not bother me. But then, i work in a male dominated field. Nail clippers are way better than adjusters or butt scratches.

              2. Lora*

                OP1, for what it’s worth, I’m right there with you. I’d rather find a dead mouse on the floor than nail clippings. I don’t know why, I know that keratin is one of the most inert substances on the planet, but it just…..eeeeeeuuuuuurgh. For me it’s not the noise, it’s like finding someone else’s armpit hairs or something in the office area – these are just things you should do in the bathroom and it’s an abomination unto the lord or something to do them anywhere else.

        2. No Calculators Here*

          Can we agree that it’s offensively disgusting if they leave the nail clippings in a pile under the desk? Because that’s what my coworker found when he moved to his new desk this week.

        3. Elizabeth West*

          Tell that to the vendor at OldExjob who whipped out a nail clipper and started to clip his nails OVER THE CARPET IN THE RECEPTION AREA and got mad when I asked him to stop.

        4. rebelipar*

          Totally agree. Vomiting is gross. Coughing on hands is gross. Pus is gross. Those all carry the potential of carrying a disease. That is why they are gross. Nail clippings are… not gross. They’re inert pieces of keratin, like hair. I’m sometimes bothered by them (and I do hate nail clipper noises), just as I absolutely hate it when a stranger’s hair touches me in public. But that’s my idiosyncracies, not actually a measurement of how gross something is.

          But I also don’t get why microwaving fish at work is bad. I have to smell everyone’s
          supert unpleasant hot cheese smells when they have mac n cheese, but I just accept that it’s a communal microwave that sometimes smells bad to me.

      2. The Other Dawn*

        I wouldn’t call it “offensively disgusting” (unless it’s toenail clipping going on), but it’s really not something that needs to be done at work at your desk. Take it to the bathroom or outside.

        1. Leisel*

          My boss was in a whirlwind one day when it was busy and he and I were walking down the hall talking, walked into his office where he sat down behind his desk and I sat down in a chair in front, all while continuing the conversation. Absent mindedly, he pulled nail clippers out of a drawer and started clipping his nails over his trash can. Then he stopped, looked up at me and his cheeks go really red! He was so embarrassed! He said, “Wow. I can’t believe I just did that. I’ve had this one nail that’s been bothering me, and I just start clipping away without even realizing I was doing it.” We had a good laugh and I told him it was okay as long as he keeps his shoes and socks on because I would leave the room if he started on his toenails. It’s been a running joke for a few years now to watch out for that!

          1. The Other Dawn*

            Sounds like he gets it. :)

            I have no problem with someone clipping a problem nail–it happens to all of us at some point. But if someone is sitting down to do all their nails (like a former co-worker, several times per week), they should be doing that at home or elsewhere in the building.

            Someone had mentioned elsewhere in this thread that offices vacuum just about everyday–not in my experience. My current company vacuums something like once a week, if that, and bags are not changed in the waste baskets at all unless we signal to the cleaners to do so by tying up the bag (no, we don’t have filth laying around in piles, nor do people toss food in the waste basket at their desk). Previous company was several times per week, but only the open areas, not the offices (I found that odd since all the doors were open and we were paying them to clean–I only found out when I spilled the hole punch reservoir and asked about the cleaning schedule). The job before that I think was twice per week. If someone is clipping their nails and those fall on the floor, they probably will stay there until the next vacuum, which could be anywhere from that night to the following week.

        2. turtle turtle turtle*

          oh hi, I had a coworker who clipped her toenails (!) at her desk on a regular basis, and it was indeed gross.

          1. Don't Know*

            I did, too. My boss used to regularly remove his shoes and socks, prop his feet on his trash can and clip his toenails during his lunch hour.

        3. NotAnotherManager!*

          This is where I am. Personal grooming needs to be done in the ample bathroom space our organization provides. Our restrooms have an anteroom and the room with stalls, so you don’t even have to go into the toilets to brush your hair, do a full face of makeup, clip your nails, or whatever.

          More than one member of my team was clipping their nails in our space. I’m pretty flexible, and I just could not abide by that.

      3. Sacred Ground*

        I’ve never been disgusted by anyone’s fingernail clipping and was never taught that anyone considered it gross at all until I was in my late 30s. I’m considerate about it now but for many years I wasn’t because I didn’t know there was a thing to consider.

        This isn’t exactly universal, iow.

      1. No Calculators Here*

        True story from just yesterday: My company did a cube shuffle this week, and my team moved into new cubes that another team was vacating. One of my coworkers came to his new desk to find a pile of the previous occupant’s nail clippings on the floor under the desk. We don’t know who used to sit here (I could probably find out) but I am comfortable declaring that whoever it was is a terrible person.

      1. mercedenne*

        One of my cohort trimmed his TOENAILS in class and (apparently still does this) in meetings. He also once placed beard hairs on my classmate’s desk as a…power play? Weird flirtation? Lord knows. I don’t work directly with him anymore, thankfully.

      2. The Great Octopus*

        Or my boss in our open bullpen, literally 3 feet away from me. Her nail clipping once got in my bag and I very nearly lost my cool about that. She now only trims them slightly, over her trash can, instead of where ever her feet take her even if she’s standing over you (which is as gag worthy as it sounds) because of the bag incident where I had a lot to say about that to her

    1. Viette*

      I’m one of the (minority of?) people who don’t find fingernail clippings in and of themselves unhygienic*, but I don’t think ANY such grooming is desk-appropriate. It’s not cool to trim your hair at your desk, either. In both cases I’m so with Alison here: there are almost no good reasons why a person can’t wait to clip all their fingernails, or trim their hair, at home.

      *I think maybe because people have to keep their fingernails clean in my workplace?

        1. Julia*

          At work? My former office mate clipped and painted her nails at work (and would not allow me to open the windows!) during work hours. Please don’t do that.

          1. Jojo*

            I would have told her if i can’t open a window then she can’t paint because the fumes are hazardous.

      1. hbc*

        Yeah, to me this falls in the category of “We’ve decided it belongs in private, and therefore we’re grossed out by it.” There is simply no evidence that clipping nails, putting on makeup, brushing hair, or flossing puts a significant amount of germs or detritus in the environment compared to eating a snack at your desk or all the normal excretions and shedding that we can’t control.

        I suspect that this team had one person doing it, someone else who was all “Oh, good, this isn’t totally forbidden here” and now OP is working in a little sub-culture that’s normalized desk nail clipping.

        1. OP#1 - Not Into Your Nail Clippings*

          OP#1 here: yeh, I definitely think that one person did it one day, and everyone else just took it as permission to do it themselves as well. I wish I could go back in time when it first started, but I’m pretty sure they’ve been doing it for plenty of years before I even started here.

        2. Viette*

          Right? I’m not out here suggesting people get over it, because as you’ve said it’s not appropriate to do in public in our society, but for me at least it’s not viscerally disgusting. There’s nothing grosser about it than a lot of stuff that’s very acceptable, socially.

          In fact, I wouldn’t recommend using the “that’s revolting and gross” argument to get people to stop, because that’s not universally agreed upon. It is agreed upon that it’s not polite, though.

    2. J. R.*

      I do! My nails are incredibly brittle no matter how many supplements I take or oils I massage into them; I have some unfortunate genetics in that regard. They *shatter* with an appalling regularity. I do my best to keep them well-groomed, filed, and shorter than the length at which they are more prone to shattering in the comforts of my own home bathroom.

      However!! I type all day. My magically shattering nails are under constant pressure and do not wait for convenient times or places to do so. It’s much easier, quicker, and less of an interruption to my productivity if I quickly clip the offending nail and put it straight in the trash can.

      I’ve never had someone complain about it and would probably be willing to come to a compromise if they did, but there’s nothing disgusting about it. My nails are clean, just shatter-prone. I’m shocked so many people find it disgusting. I am sympathetic to the sound being annoying, but offices are FULL of annoying sounds and headphones are the only solution I’ve found to that problem. Frankly, I feel like nail clipping is way more hygienic and the sound is much less unpleasant than blowing one’s nose at a desk. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone ask someone to go to the bathroom for that. Nor would I want them to!

      I’m team headphones and leave it be. Obviously, my personal situation informs that, but I figured the perspective could be helpful.

      1. allathian*

        I hope that the OP would be more understanding if there was a medical reason for somebody to clip their nails at their desk. But if it’s just a habit, or worse, a tic, then I would be annoyed too.

        I must say, though, that I find filing more offensive than clipping, mainly because filing leaves nail dust in the air that smells like burned hair to my sensitive nose.

        1. WellRed*

          There’s no medical reason to clip nails at your desk. I do fall on the it’s annoying side, not the omg, gross side.

      2. Jen*

        I think there is a big difference between clipping one nail that broke and routinely clipping all 10 nails at your desk. The first one happens – the second one requires planning, and if you planned for it, can’t you do it at home?!

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Repair one, fine. Trim all to match? No please, it goes on a very long time.

        2. Chicken Situation*

          Agree. I have no problem with a quick fix if a nail breaks. However, we have someone who clips all 10 nails at her desk a few times per week. Do that crap in the bathroom or, better yet, at home. The sound drives me nuts.

          1. Leisel*

            One clip you probably wouldn’t even notice. It’s a sound you’ll hear across the room, but probably not even register. 9 more clip clip clips would be really annoying! Kind of like when someone won’t stop clicking a pen… Just don’t do that kind of stuff in open office spaces. Have a heart!

        3. Veronica Mars*

          Exactly. No adult should ever, ever be taken surprise that every single nail is in need of a trim. And if they are, like, is that really so emergent it can’t wait until you get home?

          But repairing a broken nail is fine, stuff happens. Still maybe do it over the trash or in the bathroom though.

        4. J. R.*

          I definitely don’t clip all of them. I do think that’s something that should be done in a bathroom at work or at home. Quick fixes are one thing, full trim is quite another.

      3. JDC*

        I promise you someone is bothered by it. It’s truly not something to do at your desk. Please go to the bathroom.

      4. OP#1 - Not Into Your Nail Clippings*

        OP#1 here: thanks for this perspective! I definitely understand how typing makes it more apparent. I think our biggest offenders at my office are the guys who aren’t in the office typing for the majority of the week. So maybe when they get back in on a Friday morning and start in at the computer they realize “Oh, these are long, let’s trim them!” Almost as if coming into the office is like coming home to them and they feel more nested here. But either way, the sound makes me gag, so if there’s a nice way I can ask them to stop, I’d hope they’d be willing to comply.

      5. Miss Canuck*

        I’m with you. My nails tear all the time in the winter and if I don’t take care of it ASAP, they constantly get snagged on things.

        I use scissors rather than clippers though and quietly file them. I’m not sure if that’s preferable but no one has ever complained.

        Honestly, I don’t see the big deal. They’re fingernails – we all have them and I wasn’t aware that anyone thought of them as taboo.

        1. Leisel*

          I just commented on it above, but it’s the repetitive clipping that bothers me. I think what you’re doing is fine because you’re taking care of it quickly and being discreet. I’ve filed an offending nail at my desk plenty of times. No clippers, though!

      6. The Great Octopus*

        it’s also the offending nail, not all fingers. I file my shattered nails real quick over the trash when it happens, but it’s a quick one and done not lets do all my nails

        The gross part is all of them. Why are you clipping all your nails at your desk? It’s the equivalent of flossing your teeth while talking to a coworker, and not just digging something out of your teeth, doing a full floss. Normal reasonable hygiene just not at your desk – my hang up is this only applies to open or shared spaces, you wanna floss or clip your nails in your private office go wild just not in shared spaces.

      7. TheFacelessOldWomanWhoSecretlyLivesinYour House*

        This may seem weird but Rainmaker hoof strengthener may help.

        1. J. R.*

          It does seem odd, but, having tried what feels like *everything else,* I’ll look into it. Research hurts nothing! Thank you!

    3. Heidi*

      Those piercing little snaps are surprisingly loud. Just to clarify, these coworkers are just doing fingernails, right? If it’s toes, I’d get ready to go to war.

    4. MJ*

      People clip toenails on the train. Some folks don’t regard personal grooming as a private thing.

      1. Slothy Coffee*

        I’ve experienced toenail clipping on the train too! First of all I noticed a strong, cheesy smell before hearing the noise, and had no idea what was going on. Not a fan!

      2. allathian*

        Yuck, that’s gross. I also hate it when people apply makeup on the train. I get it that some people are really not morning people, but even so…

        1. Julia*

          The make-up only bothers me if it’s the person sitting right next to me who can’t move their arms without elbowing me in the side, or if powder particles etc. are blown through the air.

        2. TechWorker*

          I feel like this is not in the same category (I totally agree nail varnish is a no due to smell), but otherwise, it’s worth thinking about *why* make-up bothers you… it’s not inherently unhygienic or messy. If the objection ends up being that it’s ‘personal’ that quickly veers into territory of ‘women should look perfect and it’s weird to see that process’ which I struggle to really have any sympathy for.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Roaches & carpet beetles eat fallen pieces of human hair & nail so I do think this is unhygienic. It’s easy for an errant nail clipping to miss the wastebasket. And few offices do deep cleaning.

            1. Seeking Second Childhood*

              Sorry, I shouldn’t have answered before coffee, I missed your switch away from the original issue.

          2. Chicken Situation*

            Except it often is messy. Powders spread no matter how careful you are trying to be, liquids and creams can spill, etc. When I took mass transit, I ended up wearing other people’s makeup more than once. It gets even more annoying when someone is taking up an extra seat on a crowded bus or train for all their stuff (which doesn’t always happen, but does sometimes).

            1. aebhel*

              Yeah, the makeup bothers me if I’m sitting elbow-to-elbow with someone because it’s liable to get all over me, but otherwise I don’t care. I’m pretty unbothered by most public grooming, though, so I’m probably a bad test case for that.

          3. KoiFeeder*

            A lot of make-up has perfume/fragrance in it. If someone’s doing their make-up in the enclosed train, even mascara with perfume/fragrance as a minor ingredient is going to make my lungs try and crawl out of my chest and make a break for the exit.

            Fragrance + almond/coconut oil, and I’m probably going to involuntarily barf on someone.

      3. Anonapots*

        I think it’s more about not having as much time in your day to do these things. I cannot fathom clipping my toenails on the train, and I don’t get the mindset that thinks it’s okay, but I also realize a LOT of people spend a LOT of time in commutes and in their minds they could be doing something productive (I guess?) instead of just sitting on a train.

        Fingernails are not that big a deal to me. I would rather not hear my coworker clipping his, and I can, but we also have private offices so it’s not as in my face as cubicles, but we spend most of our days at work at our desks. It’s really the longest stretch of time you spend anywhere during the week, so to me it makes a little bit of sense that they’re thinking, “I’m here and I need to do this” so they do.

    5. Seeking Second Childhood*

      The guy who used to sit on the other side of the wall did this. I asked him to stop, he got …aggressively defensive.
      I wasn’t the only one to ask him, either, but he changed jobs before it stopped. And now he’s a manager.

        1. Jdc*

          No way you managed to toss every single nail clipping which means you are making others live with them. They should be bothered by it.

          1. Traffic_Spiral*

            Okay, firstly, most nail clippers have cases on them that hold the clippings; and secondly, most offices sweep/vacuum their floor regularly, so neither of those are very good reasons.

            Look. I have random things I irrationally hate as well (people playing cell phone videos out loud) so I get it. If it really bugs you, it’s the sort of thing you could try bringing up with HR to see if they can arrange a compromise. However, you’re not going to get very far in life by being utterly baffled by the fact that a majority of people don’t share your personal pet peeve.

            1. Chicken Situation*

              “Okay, firstly, most nail clippers have cases on them that hold the clippings…”

              Some, maybe, but definitely not most.

            2. Jojo*

              I have rarely seen a nail clippers with a catch case on it. And those that do are ridiculously expensive. I get mine from the dollar bucket at the pharmacy.

          2. Anononon*

            I mean, if people are doing it at their desks, it’s highly unlike you’d encounter a clipping or two that fell on the ground. Don’t you wear shoes?

            1. Jdc*

              I truly won’t even bother debating why your nasty nails shouldn’t be strewn around an office.

          3. Anonapots*

            You are going to be REALLY freaked out when you find out what most dust is made of.

            We are all going to die in the apocalypse.

            1. Jdc*

              I’m well aware of what dust is. Doesn’t mean someone’s fingernails need to fling around. We live with skin flowing around let’s not add fingernails eh? This isn’t an activity you’re being paid to do.

    6. Marny*

      I’m an attorney and there was a judge I used to appear in front of who would clip his nails while he was on the bench. You’d hear that little clip sound through his microphone while witnesses were testifying or lawyers were arguing. It was terrible, but who’s going to tell the judge to cut it out?

      1. WinStark*

        Were you on Ally McBeal? lol. These seems about on par with the judge who decided cases based on a client/lawyer’s teeth! :)

      2. Kaaaaren*

        OMG Imagine you’re on the stand, trying to testify to some crime that was committed against you or something, and as you speak you hear the *clip* *clip* *clip* sound of the judge cutting his nails? Not only is it gross, it’s also disrespectful. But, yeah, who is going to tell him to stop?

    7. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

      I always find it a bit befuddling when this comes up here. It would not bother me at all. I keep a nail file and clippers at my desk at home because I’m most likely to realize that my nails are getting too long when I’m typing, and it really bothers me for some reason to have one nail shorter than the others. But in an actual office I’d probably do it in the bathroom or something because I know that other people are much more squeamish than I am.

      1. Lance*

        Ultimately, it’s a consistent, repetitive, rather hard (for many) to ignore or miss noise that just causes a needless distraction.

    8. OP#1 - Not Into Your Nail Clippings*

      OP #1 here: thanks for everyone’s comments! I know this isn’t the biggest issue in the world, but who knew it was so controversial! I appreciate hearing everyone’s thoughts about it though. And yeh, quick repairs are fine. But the constant full-set clipping that goes on for several minutes at a time? Ick, it makes me gag at my desk. I will try Alison’s line of “nails on a chalkboard” next time I hear it to see if that gets him/them/whoever to stop.

      1. inoffensive nickname*

        I can deal with nails. The person in the might-as-well-be-a-cubicle office next to mine has asthma, sleep apnea, and year-round allergies, and spends the greater part of her morning snorting and hacking up who knows what. She can’t help it, but every morning, it’s a gross serenade, starring Peggy Pflegming.

    9. Roy G. Biv*

      The clipping noise does not bother me. Finding nail clipping shrapnel everywhere makes me livid. Clip over a trash can, outside, or use a clipper that has a catcher on the back. That is all.

    10. Slow Gin Lizz*

      Musician here! We have to clip our nails on the regular to make sure that they are short enough to play our instruments, and many musicians will in fact clip our nails in front of each other during a rehearsal break or before a concert when we suddenly realize that our nails are too long. (Though I’ve never noticed any of us doing it anywhere except into a trash can and I guess most of us are immune to the sound since it’s often done while other musicians are still playing around us and we don’t hear the clipping noise.) It may be a weird thing, but it does sometimes happen quite suddenly. One minute you don’t notice your nails and then the next minute suddenly OMG I HAVE TO CUT THEM RIGHT NOW. This has carried over into my day job where I’ll be typing and then suddenly realize that my nails are really bothering me. Once or twice I did cut them in my office when my officemate was out, but someone complained about it so now I am careful to wait until I get home (but ohhhhh, it’s difficult when I suddenly realize they’re TOO LONG AAAAA; if I get really desperate I will go into the bathroom to do it but so far this has not happened).

      Also I don’t know who complained and I found it a bit strange that someone did since everyone wears headphones and couldn’t possibly have heard me clipping, but I guess someone saw me do it? I don’t know. I didn’t realize at the time that it would bother anyone but now that I do I will just use the bathroom if needed.

      Anyway, just wanted to say that not everyone has a visceral reaction to fingernail clipping in the office, as long as it’s done into a trashcan. Toenails on the subway, though? That’s pretty disgusting, IMO. For one thing, you should not have your bare feet out on the subway.

        1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

          Me too. My nails have a tendency to get tiny little rips that snag on every darn thing and often lead to the whole nail ripping off very painfully so I have a tiny set of clippers and a file in my bag all the time. Failing that I will find a handy brick or stone wall, or similar abrasive surface, and file off the rough bit.

        2. Anonapots*

          Also, handy for strings hanging off your clothes and assorted other non-fingernail related things.

          People really are baffled by carrying nail clippers?

          1. KoiFeeder*

            I keep scissors with me, but no nail clippers. It’s a priority thing, I guess. Also, you can’t defend yourself with nail clippers.

            1. Jdc*

              I have a keychain sized leather man I keep in my car. Comes in handy often. Also a decent coworker gift. Every person I’ve ever given one too has eventually said it got them out of a jam.

      1. BadWolf*

        I have one for quick fixes — like a broken jagged nail or sudden hang nail. But I only do 1 clip, not a full set of nails.

      2. Saxyrunner*

        I carry clippers and a file in my purse. I can’t deal with having a nail or hangnail snagging things, so I clip it right away. The snagging distracts and annoys me to the point that I can’t focus on work. If the snagged or broken nail is wildly shorter than the rest once it’s fixed I’ll bring the others down to match.

    11. Lucy P*

      We have someone in our office who does this (as well as flossing at their desk with those wand-type flossers). Years ago the person in the cubicle next to them complained. The only thing management did was to ask the offending person to direct their clips away from their neighbor.

      Apparently people that have jobs where they sit back and wait for the computer to generate graphical information need something to do while they’re waiting.

    12. Annastasia von Beaverhausen*

      Years ago a receptionist temp in the office cut her toenails at her desk using someone else’s scissors.

      So, yah.

    13. ampersand*

      My former manager did this. Her office was across the hall from mine so not only could I hear it, I could see it. It was not good.

    14. SaffyTaffy*

      Not for nothing, it is completely normal in China for people to trim their nails in public.

        1. SaffyTaffy*

          Jdc I lived in China for years and never saw a child poop in the streets. I saw that several times during the 6 months I lived in Spain, however.

    15. 30 Years in the Biz*

      At a previous company there was a guy who scraped under his nails then trimmed with a small pocket knife before meetings, while we waited for other attendees. This was a regular occurrence. I was ready to say something after the second time, but the meetings changed and I didn’t see him any more. What a relief!
      I’ve also seen people brushing teeth in a communal kitchen – I said something both times and they stopped.

  2. Mindy*

    #3 – can you use a co-working space? Or find a one-month sublet somewhere? Air b&b? The apartment of a friend who’s in Florida for the winter, or stranded in Italy??

    1. AcademiaNut*

      A coworking space (or coffee shop) can negate the good effects of working from home, and make it harder to track contagion, because you’re coming into contact with different people every time.

      But I’d see if you’ve got friends who either aren’t working from home, or who have a spare room, explain the situation and ask if you can spend some of your time working from their home to keep your sanity intact. Or see if there are people who need house sitting or pet sitting.

      1. Julia*

        That’s a great idea! I was gonna suggest setting up a cubicle divider wall to make it look like OP works in a regular office so she could explain the boyfriend’s voice as “my co-worker is on a call” – but I guess she could still do that?

      2. Mameshiba*

        Yes! Hello I am also in a center of the epidemic in an around-500 sq ft apartment working from home with my partner.
        Please do not go to a coworking space or coffee shop during this outbreak. The point of making everyone work from home is not just “the virus is in our office, so if you’re not in the office, you’re safe.” It’s to keep people apart from each other. If you are going to coffee shops, coworking spaces (aka offices…), public libraries, etc. then you’re close to just as many people, just different people than your coworkers. The goal is to stay home as much as possible so that you are minimizing your chance of exposure/spread. And I’m sure it was a joke but please do not go to airports or travel around right now if you don’t need to. It’s up to all of us to help contain this, and that means putting up with a little discomfort so that we can save lives and keep people healthy.

        Here is what I recommend, based on what we are doing:
        -Stick to your routines as much as possible. This helps keep a feeling of normality and helps lower your baseline anxiety that makes it hard to concentrate. We try to get up, eat lunch and stop work at the same time as usual. I get dressed into non-PJs, I get changed at the end of the day. You could go for a walk around the neighborhood instead of commuting. Don’t forget food, exercise, sleep, and self-care for both of you.
        -Try to shift your mindset from “at home hanging with my boyfriend” to “working mode”. Pretend he isn’t there and don’t interact with each other until break times.
        -Use headphones when possible. Try to be generally aware of the noise level you make (do you talk to yourself? Hum? Stomp? Smash your keys/click a lot?)–this is good if you normally work in an open office.
        -Set up your “office space” so that you’re as far apart as possible, facing different directions.
        -Set a designated area where each of you will take phone calls. If he is on a video meeting, sounds like he needs The Room. If you’re just on the phone, maybe take the call and pace in the hallway or right outside your apartment door.
        -Start some really good books so that you have something to talk about with your boyfriend besides “how was work”. It can be tempting to talk about work more since that’s what you’re doing now, but it’s important to keep the same level of work/life balance to keep your conversations interesting.
        -Don’t forget to care for your relationship. Maybe spend more time than usual on your independent hobbies during your free time. Maybe instead of watching a show together on the couch, you take a long hot bath and he watches a movie you hate. And when you come together, make it extra meaningful and romantic.

        We can get through this!! Good luck!

        1. Geneticist*

          Wise words and thank you to OP and bf for doing their part to isolate and #flattenthecurve. You might consider one of you going outside and sitting in a park if it’s not raining. Your bf.s coworkers will understand. We are all in this together.

          1. Ice and Indigo*

            This is something that strikes me about the interview aspect: any company that you might actually want to work for will surely understand if you say, ‘I’m sorry about the background noise; my partner and I are both having to work from home because of the coronavirus.’

            It’s not your only issue, of course, but I’d treat it as a useful opportunity to get a feel for the company culture. If they can’t accept that an epidemic will cause some temporary inconveniences, they’d be pretty terrible employers.

            Stay safe and well, everyone. xxx

            1. Working Mom*

              Yes, this! If you’re concerned about background noise, just call it what it is and don’t stress about it. A lot of us are in this boat right now. I can’t imagine having to continue a job search during this – so kudos to you for doing everything you can!

              I wonder about adjusting your furniture temporarily to create some partitions. Do you have a bookshelf you could use as a partition? May not be a complete visual barrier, and definitely not a sound barrier, but a psychological barrier at least. Hang in there!!

              1. selena81*

                bookshelves, table, fridge, bed, empty boxes, tv-monitor, sofa: is there anything standing against the wall that could help build a temporary wall?

                And make sure to arrange your respective work-stations facing away from each other

            2. GreenDoor*

              This is what I came here to say. You’d mention it matter-of-factly at the start of the interview. It’d be no different than something like, “I apologize if the eye patch is a distraction. Nothing like a toddler poking you in the eye!” Or “Forgive me for not shaking your hand. Unfortunately, I fell and broke my wrist and I’m still healing up.” Just keep it upbeat and any reasonable employer will understand. And if there’s any way to coordinate with your partner so that you’re not setting up calls at the same time he has a meeting….or if one of you can sit outside to take a call that could help keep noise down.

        2. Just Another Techie*

          These are such great recommendations! I just started WFH full time today. My husband has been WFH for the last week. We don’t have a studio, but our condo is open plan, so the only private space is the bedroom. And living/dining/kitchen area echoes like a bowling alley. The bedroom is fine for brief phone calls, but I worry about the optics of taking a video call in there (even though I’m sure people would be understanding, I still don’t want my coworkers to see what dresser I have in my bedroom) and it’s super un-ergonomic for longer meetings or pair programming sessions.

          We’re thinking of hanging some extra thick curtains from the ceiling to divide the living into “cubicles”

          1. 40 Years in the Hole*

            If space/budget permits, what about portable, flexible room divider(s), or free-standing, folding decorative screen(s)? Gives (the illusion of) separate spaces, provides some sound attenuation, and visually shows a neutral backdrop during video chat.
            We did something similar in an unfinished basement, to create an “office” away from the rest of the house/family traffic.

        3. HarvestKaleSlaw*

          This is all great advice. There are a lot of us in the same boat, right now. It’s tough, but we are in it together, and we are protecting the most vulnerable among us.

          Admittedly, it’s easier for me to be heroic about this as a lifelong, confirmed introvert. :)

          1. selena81*

            Admittedly, it’s easier for me to be heroic about this as a lifelong, confirmed introvert. :)

            Welcome to the club… no wait.. leave me alone ;)

      3. Anonapots*

        The LW isn’t the one working, though. They’re looking for a job, so they don’t actually need to stay at home all the time. They could use a library for job searches/interviews.

        1. Spreadsheets and Books*

          But that doesn’t negate the fact that going outside isn’t encouraged. The point of staying at home during COVID-19 is to actually, physically stay at home. Social distancing isn’t effective at the library.

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            Not only that, but OP’s boyfriend was sent to work from home because his employer wants them to not get infected and/or pass on this virus to others. If OP goes to a library or coffee shop, that defeats the purpose because she could be exposed and then come home and expose the boyfriend, who will go back to work in a couple of weeks, potentially exposing others.

        2. datamuse*

          Also, if they’re where I think they are (and if so, we’re in the same city), public libraries are restricting use of meeting spaces and such to help slow the contagion.

        3. Mameshiba*

          No no no you have misunderstood! The need to stay at home is not because people do or do not have to work! It’s so everyone can be physically separated and slow the spread of contagion. LW doesn’t need to literally quarantine but starting using an out-of-home office because their boyfriend has been asked to WFH means his sacrifice is undone by their exposure. We need a net total of more people at home, not swap out people at work for people at libraries and cafes.

    2. There’s probably a cat meme to describe it*

      Build a cubby house in the living room?

      Seriously – the blankets will help deaden the sound.

      Plus you could put a sign that says “KEEP OUT – no boys allowed”. That one might be a sanity saver for the relationship.

    3. Ina*

      There are analysis that going to Coworking spaces or alternatives such as a library are worse for the spread of the disease than just going to your regular office. The spaces are often open concept, not well cleaned, and full of people whose risk level is unknowable. The users are also more difficult to track if there is exposure.

    4. RC Rascal*

      Is there an unused area of your apartment building or complex where you can go & make a phone call? I’m thinking a dead end hallway, building furnace room, etc? Not sure if your building offers a fitness center but those places are frequently filled w 2 broken treadmills & just used so the landlord can charge more rent. Can you make a call in your car for privacy?

      None of these substitutes for an office but could be used for phone interviews or a few calls.

    5. A person*

      Do either of you have a car that you can park somewhere quiet and sit in for scheduled calls? Not ideal but I’ve done many phone interviews this way.

      1. Lucy*

        I’m WFH with my partner in a small space right now, and suggest keeping each other in the loop about any planned meetings/calls, to the extent that is possible- either with a shared calendar, or morning check-ins. At least that way you can put on headphones/try to schedule around each other.

    6. AnonAnon*

      What about a local library? I’m sure they would be all booked up, but my library offers small rooms you can reserve for things like this.
      I also think due to the circumstances that people who are interviewing you would expect this to be the case.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Again – if the point is to stay away from public spaces to cut down on the rate of this virus’s transmission, a public library is the absolute worst place OP or her boyfriend could go. They need to stay in their apartment building.

        1. Working Hypothesis*

          And probably in the apartment if possible, since the building is used by a lot of different people, who are unknown quantities surrounding where they’ve been and with whom. Down the hall is better than out to the library, because at least it’s a limited number of people who have been there recently, touching all the surfaces. But in the apartment is better yet, if you can.

          From my own immediate experience (I live in the Seattle area too): I’ve had simultaneous meetings as my husband by headset from the same room, and it’s done pretty well due to a combination of noise- cancelling headsets and lowering our voices (while raising the volume on the headsets or the computer we’re using for the call, to compensate). That way, the person were talking to hears us, but we only have to hear each other a little, and the people one of us is talking to don’t hear the other at all. If a stray voice comes briefly through on rare occasions (usually when somebody forgets not to laugh loudly at a joke), that’s when we bring out the “I’m sorry; right now because of the Coronavirus pandemic we’re all working from home and there’s not much room to spread out here” schpiel, and I haven’t yet had *anyone* be unsympathetic to that. But it’s usually not been needed. Noise cancelling headsets and a little bit of awareness of what’s going on around us has helped a lot.

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            Yeah, staying in a 500 SF studio all day every day with another person is practically impossible. I get what you’re saying, but they should at least be able to move around their own building (and may have to anyway if they don’t have in-unit washers and dryers or to throw out trash).

            1. Diahann Carroll*

              Hit submit too soon – OP and the boyfriend just have to make sure they don’t touch communal surfaces and they wash their hands thoroughly every time they come back in the apartment. If they have disinfectant sprays on hand, they can spray the air in the area where they go (common rooms, lobby, laundry room, storage rooms, etc.) and make sure to take off any clothes they had on in the communal areas at the door and wash them ASAP.

    7. JustaTech*

      As the weather improves (not today, obviously) could you take a call from a park? There are a lot of little “pocket parks” all over the city that are usually empty or have one dog walker or one person reading a book. It’s not an ideal spot to take an interview call, but it’s a better place for social distancing than a coffee shop.

    8. AnotherSarah*

      Yes–I woulnd’t suggest spending money on a place, but what about using a friend’s place? Even if a friend is WFH as well, maybe you can borrow their living room background when you have an interview?

  3. Eng*

    LW 3, would it be financially feasible for one of you to use coworking spaces on occasion? If by epicenter you mean Seattle, there’s lots of them around and I think drop in rates are often in the low 2 digit range and have free trials. Obviously not negligible but might be worth it for those meeting-overlaps-interview days. I used one recently and it was pretty empty so personally I felt like I was still Social Distancing plenty.

    1. Ina*

      Coworking spaces defeat the point of working from home and are likely worse than having everyone go to their regular offices.

      Home means home – you’re or some one else’s

      Public spaces w open concept and unknown cleaning processes are likely to spread the disease.

      It’s also much harder to track disease vectors in coworking spaces than in workplaces .

      This isn’t simply a “don’t go to work at your office” situation, it’s stay home unless being in public is necessary.

    2. Rache*

      Coworking spaces are worse for the spread of disease than going to your regular office.

      Home means home – yours or someone else’s. The point is to avoid public spaces.

      As someone who is immuno-compromised, I ask everyone who is frustrated by being asked to stay home unless doing essential activities (e.g. Grocery shopping), that your life may not depend on swallowing inconvenience but mine does.

      This will only stop.when we break the spread. That will require those who are health enough to worry to also stay home. even where that drives them nuts.

      I am sorry it’s a PITA, but people’s lives are at risk

    3. Liane*

      They are both working/job searching from home ***because there is a serious disease outbreak & people need to stay home and away from others to slow/stop the transmission! *** Not because, oh, partner’s office is being remodeled.
      AcademiaNut and Mameshiba covered why this is a bad idea.

      1. Anononon*

        I think Alison needs to make a standard disclaimer about this in any quarantine letters. The same suggestions were coming up in the last letter about a husband being potentially quarantined following travel.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I agree. I’ve seen three or four instances of this suggestion already. It’s a fine idea during normal times but not in the middle of a pandemic.

    4. Mike C.*

      Why do people keep posting this? We’re all supposed to avoid public places as much as possible and this doesn’t help!

    5. Working Hypothesis*

      This is a terrible idea. Going to work would probably be LESS of a problem than using one of these spaces… at least you’d only be running into the same people over and over again, so you could form something of a closed community, while the shared spaces have a different set of folks pass through every day. The need is to stay **away from other people**.

      Alison, can you possibly post something at the top about not doing this? I don’t want folks taking bad advice and spreading this thing unnecessarily further!

    6. atalanta0jess*

      I was going to suggest similar, because actually we are NOT all being asked to stay home except for non essential outings. I am CURRENTKY LOOKING at the King county public health recommendations for Seattle and they do NOT say that people without other risk factors should be staying home as much as possible. We are asked to avoid large gatherings, etc. The other comments here are I believe a misrepresentation of the guidance currently being given.

      I would try to find some non-crowded public spaces to work in, if possible. Library, coffee shop, etc. If you’ve got any wipes, clean it before you start and before you leave. Practice good hygiene. But I don’t think anyone official is suggesting we be trapped in our tiny houses until we totally lose it.

      1. Anonapots*

        Thank you for this. Governor Brown just announced no large gatherings and I think we are going to start seeing the freak out begin here.

      2. Mike C.*

        No one is saying “trapped”, they’re saying “minimize”. Going to a WeWork isn’t minimizing anything, it’s stupid.

      3. Eng*

        Seriously, thank you! I live in Seattle and my company is encouraging WFH when possible because otherwise we’d be hundreds of people at the same office. My working in a small coworking space with like 10 other people max (when it could fit 50 easily) is not more dangerous than riding the bus or going shopping or sitting at a cafe, which are all things that local government has NOT specifically discouraged for people who are non suspected or confirmed to have COVID-19. Everyone should feel free to live at their own comfort level but I don’t appreciate people who think others’ comfort level should be the same when it’s not backed by official guidelines.

      4. Atalanta0jess*

        It always feels nice when you put your typos in all caps so that everyone can see them VERY clearly. :D Oh well.

      5. Mameshiba*

        The US official guidance is really behind on this though–that’s why everyone is starting to panic.
        Of course there’s no reason to stop going to restaurants and grocery stores and so on. But swapping out offices for libraries and coffee shops is not effective for containing the pandemic. Large gatherings=all the people in the library or coffee shop who have touched the door, chairs, tables…

        As someone in a country about 2 months ahead pandemic-wise, I guarantee that you will soon see the official statements change.

      6. Glitsy Gus*

        San Francisco is the same. All events of 1000+ are cancelled, and it is strongly recommended cancelling events of more than 250 people.

        Schools are closed, Offices are encouraged, but not required, to let anyone who can work remote to do so. Folks over 60 and those with existing conditions should try to avoid any non-essential trips out of the house. City buildings and museums, along with most live theaters, have closed.

        The library is open (planned events are cancelled, though), the YMCA is still open (though they have lowered the max occupancy of the building and classes), a lot of shops and restaurants are still open for now.

        I mean, you need to make judgements here based on your own comfort and health situation. But if going to the library for an hour to have a Skype interview makes sense for you guys, that is still well within recommended guidelines for social distancing.

  4. Tata*

    Op1…I’m just gonna say it. I’ve clipped a few nails at my desk….hang nails, nails that broke etc. My nails are long enough that I’ve torn below quick before at work. I also have a lot of anxiety which results in hang nails, tofn up cuticles & nails. I’ve clipped a few nails but not five or more though. If you came to my desk, I would tell you to mind your own business & leave me alone. The crap I deal with at work, the toxic environment, my department is closing down, etc, this is last thing I would worry about. Just another perspective from anxious women successing in world of work.

      1. Emma*

        So someone should spend 3-5 minutes on a trip to the bathroom instead of taking 10 seconds at their desk? That’s unreasonable. I believe Dear Abby’s advices is that any grooming task that takes 15 seconds or less is generally ok to do in public as long as it’s not objectively unsanitary.

        1. Princess Deviant*

          So someone should spend 3-5 minutes on a trip to the bathroom instead of taking 10 seconds at their desk?

          Yes? It would only happen once a day or so. And I can’t imagine that it would take more than a couple of minutes

          1. Desk-Nail-Clipperer*

            I can’t speak for others, but for me it would certainly take more than 5 minutes. I would have to finish what I’m doing in the software I use (if I leave it idle too long it logs me out and I lose my work), check my co-worker is around to answer my phone as coverage is important, lock my computer, walk to the other side of the building and up a flight of stairs to the bathroom, clip my nails, then walk back down the stairs, through the building back to my desk, log back in to the software, and then take a minute to mentally re-focus to carry on with my next task. And that’s assuming I’m not stopped on the way there/back by co-workers with questions.

            Or I can pull out my nail-clippers from my desk drawer, snip the offending hangnail, replace the clippers and resume my work within 10 seconds.

            I know which is much less distracting to myself and my co-workers.

            1. Angelinha*

              Can’t you do it during another bathroom trip, where you are already spending more than 5 minutes?

              1. Taura*

                Have you ever had a nail split below the quick before? It can get very painful and very bloody real fast if it gets caught on something before you clip the trailing edge. It has to be taken care of ASAP. Sure, you could wait to neaten up the repair until your regular bathroom trip, but you can’t continue to type as normal with a torn nail so the clippers have to come out.

                1. neeko*

                  Folks, the question is not about quick fixes. It’s already acknowledged that those are fine!

          2. Emma*

            What makes you so sure it would only happen once a day? My nails are brittle, and split and peel on a regular basis. I can go days without an issue, or I could tear a few in a matter of a few minutes. Leaving a rough nail unattended drives me CRAZY. If I have to clip them, I do so over the trash can. But I’m just not going to save my work, lock my computer, and walk to the bathroom, to complete a task that takes seconds. That’s just stupid.

      2. Another anxious woman*

        I’ve clipped my nails at my desk here and there before too. I kind of didn’t realize how much of a social faux pas it was before, so I’ve since stopped. But as a former extreme nail biter who has (mostly) kicked the habit – during stressful times at work, I would always be tempted to bite my nails if they weren’t fully clipped. And being really stressed and busy also correlated with not wanting to lose my focus and go to the bathroom and back to clip my nails. I’m not excusing this behavior because I understand it can be really annoying/gross to people (even though I personally am not bothered by other people clipping their nails), but I’m also offering perspective on why people who are nail biters might want keep their nails clipped all the time, and thus do it at their desk sometimes.

        1. another former nail biter*

          Thank you. Yes, the annoyance of a nail that needs clipping brings the impulse back, and it’s hard to push it away without taking care of the problem. Any chance those of us not perfect could get a little kindness? I probably just shouldn’t read these threads, I always feel so horrible when I see people going OTT about how disgusted they are.

        2. anon for this one*

          As someone who has been trying for decades to kill a nailbiting habit, and one facet of that is immediately clipping anything I can’t resist the temptation to gnaw on: OP, would you rather listen to them clipping or to them chewing on their nails and potentially getting saliva everywhere?

    1. Sleve McDichael*

      I have no problems with people doing this, but I do have a question. How on earth do you trim your nails at work without the pieces flying everywhere? Or is that just a me thing? I’ve been hit in the eye by a flying nail clipping once, I wouldn’t trust myself to do it at work!

      1. Traffic_Spiral*

        Well, apparently no one here uses the nail clippers that have a plastic case to hold the nail clippings?

        1. Lily Rowan*

          I have never heard of or seen such a thing (but after googling, I now know what you’re talking about….). Just curious, are you in the US?

          1. Virginia*

            Not the Original commenter but I’m in the USA and I’ve NEVER heard or seen of such a thing. Maybe it exists in the USA but not aware of it.

            1. Constance Lloyd*

              I’m in the US and I have one- made by revlon, purchased at Target. They don’t look very different at all when they’re hanging up in their packaging, but I do see them all over the place.

          2. Traffic_Spiral*

            Sometimes – I travel a lot for work. But my parents were expats so maybe they picked up the habit abroad and brought it back with them, along with indoor shoes.

            P.S. Seriously, the rest of the USA doesn’t do this? Goddamn, y’all! Why would you not? Those thing’ll fly everywhere!

            1. Quill*

              I’ve had clippers like that (with the case: I’m in the US) and the drawbacks were signifcant. The ones I had made cutting toenails impossible (based on getting the blades positioned correctly for my toenail shape) got my fairly sturdy nails caught in them and ended up not closing right because of it, and didn’t have the little scoop/file thing attached, which is a dealbreaker for me when it comes to clippers.

              I do have some ludicrously sturdy nails though.

            2. Sleve McDichael*

              I’m not from the US and I’ve never heard of them. I’m from an island which makes postage prices for online shopping absolutely exorbitant but I’ll have a look around and see if I can find some locally. They sound like a great idea! I promise not to take them in to work.

        2. londonedit*

          You can get these from Muji! I’d never heard of them until I read a piece in the Guardian where the columnist (Sali Hughes?) recommended them.

      2. Emma*

        I do it within the boundaries of my trash can (which rarely has more than a couple pieces of paper in the bottom). I hold my hands a few inches below the rim. I can usually hear them hitting the bag so I know they didn’t go flying around the room.

      3. selena81*

        i use either a nail file (i have a metal one with a sharp point to clean the dirt under the tip of my nails) or use my specially bought sharp&strong kitchen-scissors

        i never use nail-clippers: they are not strong enough to cut all the way though and they cut only tiny amounts of the nail

    2. JDC*

      You don’t really get to tell people to go away and leave you alone when they bring up ALDI concerns at work. And how does anxiety cause hangnails? Nail biting?

      1. Colette*

        How is it valid? I mean, it’s fine not to like it, and to believe that grooming should happen in private, but nail clippings aren’t more of a health risk than the nails that are still attached to the person.

        1. Jdc*

          It’s as valid as someone asking them to turn their music down. It’s work not your living room.

        2. AnnieG*

          And hair isn’t more of a health risk when it’s an unattached strand vs. still on someone’s head, but I bet you’d be grossed out if you sat down at a restaurant and there was a hair on the table or your napkin.

    3. Traffic_Spiral*

      Meh, I personally don’t care about where people clip their fingernails (also I have my own office so it’s moot) but I hate other people’s music and strong smells, while some people think that’s ok so… maybe we all agree to not do the thing we think is NBD but other people hate, and in exchange other people agree not to do the thing they think is NBD but we hate?

      Part of living in close contact with others is that we all make adjustments on behalf of others.

    4. Mel_05*

      It sounds like what you’re doing is what Allison said is fine. I’ve trimmed the occasional hang nail at my desk and I doubt anyone could even determine the quick noise they heard *was* a nail clip. The problem is when people are doing their routine nail trim at the desk.

    5. J.B.*

      Once to there was a boss who clipped his nails while stressed. I mean, all ten when the person next door was stressed too. One or two quick fixes is one thing. All of them? In open plan? Euugh. This is one of the awful side effects of open plan.

    6. CheeryO*

      You’re fine. The issue is people (face it, probably men who are more likely to have thicker nails) who routinely clip all 10 fingernails at work. I have a coworker who does it every couple weeks, and you can truly hear the noise across the room, and something about the rhythm of the CLIP. CLIP. CLIP. is really disturbing to me, and I am generally not easily grossed out.

      1. Sue*

        I’ve had to ask people to stop nail clipping in Court numerous times. It was always men. And they always seem surprised..

    7. CupcakeCounter*

      OP mentioned that she completely understands a quick repair job, which is what is sounds like you are doing.

  5. Princess Deviant*

    LW5, our sick leave policy is generous, but totally dependent on manager’s discretion (and ditto for working from home! I love Alison’s script for LW1 btw). This is really unfair, if you have a manager who doesn’t like you using sick leave for medical appointments, while a colleague in another team gets this time off.

        1. Princess Deviant*

          If you have to use your vacation time for medical appointments, then you end up with less vacation time than those people who have been able to use sick leave for medical appointments.

        2. XKCD*

          You…. have to use vacation time for medical stuff… so you don’t get as much actual vacation time.

          Seems pretty obvious, so I’m wondering if I’m missing something about your question?

    1. Anon-a-souras*

      LW, have you checked state laws to make sure that your sick leave policy is complaint? I had a friend who works in CA and their company was bought by an employer who had that policy. Turns out it’s against the law in CA.

      1. Observer*

        Yes, there are a lot of localities where this policy is illegal. So, check the laws of your state and city.

        1. Land of Lincoln*

          Yes, your employer may be legally required to allow you to use a portion of your sick time for family members. This is the case in Illinois for the past couple years, under the Employee Sick Leave Act.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Good point. There’s a small number of states (and some cities) that now require paid sick leave, and where those laws are in effect, they often state that the leave can be taken for the employee or for the care of their family. And then there are states like Illinois, which doesn’t require paid sick leave but says that if you provide it, it must be usable for family medical needs as well. The majority of states still don’t address this, but it’s worth checking to see if you’re in one that does.

        1. LW#5*

          Hi, I’m LW #5. We are in a place that recently passed a law mandating paid sick leave while taking care of family members. When I started here and learned about the policy, I thought: Surely this sick leave policy must violate the law! Because I am a squeaky wheel kind of a person, I took it up through HR, where it was explained to me as such: The law mandates that employers offer paid time off for employees to take care of sick family members. However, the law does *not* mandate what bucket of time that people get paid out of. Per my employer, since we are allowing people to be out of work and we are paying them for that time, we are in compliance with the law. I was also “reassured” that, as one of the largest employers in the area, we were actually part of drafting the law. Aka, they wrote it so that they could keep the policy as is.

                1. EPLawyer*

                  Yeah even they drafted it, that might not be how courts have interpreted it. See if there is an employent law hotline in your area where you can check the validity of this.

                2. Wintermute*

                  Bingo! I trust HR to give good legal advice about as much as I trust a fox to give me good tips on building a secure henhouse.

                  It’s not ONLY because of ulterior motives, it’s just not in their domain of competence a lot of the time, and they have a vested interest in their interpretation, even if it’s not reasonable.

                  Trust, but verify. Talk to someone qualified to give legal advice to veryify anything you’re told.

              1. Wintermute*

                Sounds like time to start calling and writing legistlators. Also, verify with someone actually qualified to give legal advice. Legal advice from an HR department is quite often shockingly wrong.

          1. Not a Blossom*

            That is so, so gross. Ugh.

            Part of me would be tempted to bring up how the policy is applied inconsistently, but the likely outcome is that they try to lock down everyone into following the letter of the law. Even then, some people will still allow exceptions. I don’t know that it would help.

            What’s stupid is that this is going to result in more unplanned callouts than necessary. If you don’t have a lot of vacation left or have the time scheduled, you’re more likely to call in the morning of a scheduled doctor’s appointment and fake sick than to let people know ahead of time and put a plan in place to have coverage. They are really shooting themselves in the foot.

          2. Still trying to adult*

            Oh, dear, the ‘one of the largest employers in the area’ gambit. And ‘actually part of drafting the law.’

            Well, just because they are, doesn’t make it right. I’d start doing some background research on their claims. Because they may just be blowing smoke up your skirts. Not directly lying, but laying down words that imply they are right, when they aren’t.

            Why are there so many *ssh*ts running companies, he asks.

          3. Thornus*

            You might want to consult with an employment attorney in your area. Many plaintiff’s side will offer a free initial consultation. There’s a sizable chance that what they’re doing is still illegal.

          4. Galahad*

            Thats… not great. I had a similar policy where I worked for 10 years. It was a mega retail store chain with lots of hourly employees, and this sick leave policy was for all the salaried / corporate office staff. Scheduled surgery could not be booked with work in advance, you had to plan vacation or have someone call in when you were in the hospital / on out patient days. They did allow you to take 1/2 day sick time for unavoidable medical appointments as most doctors don’t work past 4pm weekdays. Routine dental was to be done during off hours, only major dental would be sick time.

            However, the average vacation time allocated was 4 weeks (some long term ee’s had 6 weeks), plus 10 federal days, plus 10 sick days, sick days would also roll over to next year at 50%.

            Since I left there, the local law guaranteed that you could take up to 5 days a year (not on FMLA) to take care of a child’s or dependent parent’s needs. These were unpaid days, but you could not be fired for taking them.

            I was so suprised when I left for another employer and saw managers taking sick time to go to the dentist, routine appointments, etc.

          5. Jojo*

            I would see if FMLA covered time to take dependents to doctor if company pulled that. Of course, that would be unpaid.

        2. not really a lurker anymore*

          I’m not permitted to use my sick leave time for care of a family member. I can apply for FMLA and use the SL to cover that time so I’m paid. But I can’t call in to use a sick day because my kids are sick. I work for my local gov’t and it’s actually written into the City Charter/Rules of Ordinance.

          1. CL Cox*

            Yeah, FMLA only kicks in at the five-day mark. One or two days’ absence isn’t going to get covered, unfortunately. But if a family member has a chronic condition, I’d highly recommend intermittent FMLA. It’s a thing and it’s wonderful – I have a few co-workers who use it for themselves and family members and it is such a relief for them to not have to worry that they’re going to be disciplined for taking too many days off.

        3. KayDeeAye*

          One thing I didn’t quite understand from the letter is that the OP mentions vacation days, sick days and personal days – three different categories. Does that change the picture any? If personal days are accrued separately from vacation days, and if the OP gets a reasonable number of personal days, maybe this might not be so bad? I don’t know – I’ve never worked anywhere that differentiated between vacation days AND sick days AND personal days. What are personal days supposed to be used for?

          1. Galahad*

            In my region, the personal days used to be called “Y” days. As in “Y” not use them? These were for mental health days, taking your car to the mechanic, picking up parents at the airport, going to see a kids’ recital. Typically 3 days a year were marked as “Y” days, plus (average) 3 weeks vacation, plus 7-10 days of sick time (to be reserved for when you were actually ill).

            1. Galahad*

              Sick days over 1 days would typically require a doctor’s note or some other “proof” that the employee was sick.

        4. Liz*

          I’m not sure about all the ins and outs of my state, but we do now have mandatory sick leave, and my company, while we had it before, it wasn’t any set amount of time, and it was kind of a gray area as to whether it was “allowed” to use it for our own dr. appts, or for family members.

          now it is. Which is nice as my elderly mom sometimes needs another set of eyes and ears at the dr., and i don’t have to use all my vacation if I need to go to the dr.

    2. Fikly*

      If your sick leave policy is totally dependent on manager’s discretion, it is not generous.

  6. many bells down*

    #3 my daughter’s in the same boat. She just got an apartment with her boyfriend in northern Washington and she can’t get a job. She was okay moving up there without one because she’s an experienced retail worker and there’s always openings but… not now.

    Can you maybe do a shared calendar thing so that your online meetings/calls don’t overlap? Just scheduling them so you’re not simultaneously trying to chat might help. I know it was distracting enough when my spouse and I were having simultaneous video meetings on different FLOORS of our house.

    1. MissMeghan*

      +1 I was going to suggest a shared calendar too! It probably won’t avoid every instance, but it should cut down on a lot of conflicting meeting times.

      If either of you has a car that’ll work in a pinch. Not the most fun but at least it’s quiet.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Shared calendar is a great idea.

      I’d also take the calls in my car if possible. I had to do some phone interviews when I was hunting while still working, so I’d just excuse myself to take a break in my car. The same kind of thing works.

      I’m sad your daughter went up there without a job. The places who are closing down or limited hours/staff are eligible for unemployment :(

  7. Diahann Carroll*

    Re: OP #3

    Does your apartment building have a common room with wifi you could use during the day while your boyfriend works in the apartment? I currently live in a studio as well and work from home full-time and with just me, that works (even though I work from my dining room table due to lack of space for a real desk). But if I had someone living with me who also needed to work from home right now, I could use my building’s common room and wifi or even go sit in the lobby and work (there’s wifi there too).

    If your building doesn’t have that amenity, could you ask your property manager (if they are actually on-site) to maybe let you use their office, at least when you have a call you need to make? It’s an unorthodox request for sure, and they may say no, but it doesn’t hurt to ask. I’ve had to ask my current leasing office to print and scan from their computers because I don’t have a printer or scanner in my apartment, and I needed to get a one off authorization form over to a hotel for a business trip, and the leasing manager was kind enough to print the form and scan it to my personal email address for me. (I did something similar at my last apartment too and was given permission.)

    Outside of buying noise canceling headsets for the two of you, I’m not sure what else would make sense. You probably don’t want to go to a coffee shop because of the virus threat and the potential for interruption/noise, and with you being out of work, you probably don’t want or can’t afford to rent a seat at a co-working space.

    My sympathies to you, OP, because this sounds awful.

    1. Emelle*

      I wound up using my apartment complex *gym* for an interview last year. My wifi went squirrelly about 20 minutes before and my plan for my kids went to hell because rain and the only device that worked was the TV because it was in the only room the wifi was working in. Thankfully no one was in the gym and there was a place I could sit that didn’t look like I was at the gym… But I would have 100% begged the leasing office for space for an interview if I needed to.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        The gym, if OP has one, may be a good idea if they have wifi in it and no one is using it for its actual purpose when she needs it. The laundry room may also work if no one is washing at the time OP needs to make a call.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Our complex shut down our gym and if there’s any other common space, they’d shut that down too!

      They def wouldn’t let you in the office because of that fear as well :( But if it was any other situation, these would be great ideas.

  8. Cat lady*

    For letter #3, can you look into getting a hot desk at a co-working space? That will usually entitle you to a certain amount of time in a private meeting room when you need to make calls.
    Also, the Croissant app allows you to buy a monthly plan to hop to different co-working spaces as needed . It might be less expensive than committing to a hot desk.

    1. Mary Richards*

      No offense, but both hot-desking and co-working sound like germ central at the moment!

      1. Mameshiba*

        Yes, also you have no idea who else has been using it–please everyone actually isolate! There’s no point in working from home if you go to a coworking space or coffee shop instead.

        1. Cat lady*

          For many companies, they don’t want all of their employees getting sick at the same time. That’s the A team-B team contingency planning.
          (I’m assuming no one has an actual stay-home notice.)
          So having some people working at different locations prevents everyone from getting sick.
          Co-working should have already stepped up their normal cleaning routines. And this is something you can ask about when you visit.
          You can also make sure you don’t sit near anyone and that you frequently wash your hands.

          1. Anononon*

            But the point isn’t for employees of a business to not get sick at the same time, but for the entire population not to get sick at the same time. Flatten the curve!

          2. Mike C.*

            A-team/B-team is also incredibly stupid because you’re just forcing everyone to go out and be exposed anyway.

            Why do managers keep insisting that they know more than actual epidemiologists?

            1. Eng*

              I could also ask why all the “stay at home” commenters keep insisting they know more than actual local health officials who have not made any such declarations that no one should leave the house.

              1. Mameshiba*

                No one is claiming that everyone needs to barricade their doors. But global health officials around the world are recommending social distancing measures which means stay home, try to avoid public spaces and prolonged exposure to sick people. “Please work from home” means stay home, not “work at a different office space.”

    2. Ina*

      Most advice from doctors and experts expressly say stay home and to not use coworking spaces, libraries, cafes, etc. The whole purpose is to limit contact w others! coworking spaces defeat the point of the work from home approach and are likely worse for spread of disease than going to work.

      I know it sounds crazy, but if it’s a short call,
      I’d go sit in my car or in the yard (weather permitting).

    3. Mike C.*

      This is literally the third top level comment not only saying the same thing, but going against all public health advice.

      Did you all just race in here to talk about this new invention called “a desk you can rent”?

      1. Anonapots*

        Don’t be so rude. This whole thing blows and considering in a lot of places information is pretty shitty, nobody actually knows what’s appropriate and what isn’t.

      2. Extroverted Bean Counter*

        This comment was posted within 15 minutes of the very first comment. Chances are extremely high all of the top-level comments making this suggestion were posted without seeing the other ones, since comments do not automatically refresh if you leave your browser open.

    4. Saxyrunner*

      This would defeat the purpose of working from home, where there is a greatly reduced chance of exposure to covid-19.

    5. Betty (the other betty)*

      The point of social isolation is to keep people isolated, so co-working spaces aren’t a good choice if we are trying to control the spread of disease. And we should be. This illness is easily spread even by people who don’t exhibit symptoms and can cause very serious symptoms and death, especially in vulnerable people such as the elderly.

      Even in healthy times, co-working spaces are terrible for phone calls, unless there are private spaces for calls. If the space is noisy, the person you’re calling hears background noise. If the space is quiet, the caller is annoying everyone else who is trying to work in the co-working space.

  9. Princesa Zelda*

    OP3 — your situation SUCKS. I would go completely bananas in your shoes.
    The Are you explaining to interviewers that you’re quarantined with your partner, who is working from home, and you apologize in advance if they hear him in the background? I’m sure they’ll be more understanding than usual, especially if they’re in Seattle.

    You probably already thought of this, but I have my WiFi box next to my outside wall so that when the weather is nice and I chill in my walkway, I can still be connected to the internet. Have you tried having one of you in the walkway or hallway outside of your apartment?

    1. MistOrMister*

      OP3 what about one of you taking calls outside? I assume you dont have a balcony, but is there somewhere close enough to your building that you could still access the wifi but not be in too high traffic an area? Or if you have unlimited data, would you be able to use your phone as a hot spot and say go to a park or somewhere? I have taken phone interviews on a bench outisde my office building and sometimes the traffic or wind can be annoying but interviewers seem to understan when I explain where I am. Of course, doing a video call, that could feel more odd.

      I also like Alison’s suggestion of putting up a curtain or something so you wouldn’t be visible on each other’s screens. If you’re both speaking at a normal volume, I would think it would just sounds like regular office background to the person on the other end.

    2. Lily Rowan*

      I agree that people in Seattle especially (but anywhere, really) should be understanding about this!

    3. Count Boochie Flagrante*

      This was exactly my thought. The interviewers are, it sounds like, also remote-only at the moment — so a quick “I’m sorry, my partner and I are both having to work from home at the moment, so you may hear him in the background,” at the beginning of the call seems like it would be completely unremarkable and unobjectionable. It would make the call itself a little more difficult, even so — just from noise interference — but that’s what a good headset or a divider would be for. Even something as simple as a folding screen can do a lot to deaden sound, as can facing away from each other.

  10. Heidi*

    Letter#4 reminds me of a past post where the writer had received a long angry email from a rejected applicant about how unhappy she was that she was rejected by email instead of by phone. I totally think email is the way to go, but it’s obviously not how everyone feels. I can honestly see how the hiring manager might have thought they were being nicer by calling.

    1. Professional Straphanger*

      Having been on the receiving end of one of those phone calls, I think it’s more likely that the hiring manager was trying to make herself feel less awkward.

      I applied for a position in house and was on vacation when the decision was made. I was in another state visiting family and after hearing “not you,” which was all I needed to know, I had to listen to another five minutes of the HM going on about “the depth and breadth of everyone’s experience and so much unique talent in the applicant pool that it was hard to make a decision, blah blah blah…” and it got awkward. I’m a big girl, it wasn’t my day that day and I can handle that but send an email, I’ll see it when I get back. Phone calls are for good news.

      1. valentine*

        It seems OP4 got what a lot of people want: detail about the rejection and advice on improving their candidacy. The recruiter seemed to be saying both, “Reapply when you’ve been in the area longer” and “You were great. They edged you out.”

        1. Liane*

          I think that although OP would’ve preferred an email, the real problem wasn’t so much that it was a call. First, scheduling a rejection call got OP’s hopes up. Worse, it sounds like OP’s time was wasted by the hiring manager just singing the praises of their new hire.

          1. Harvey 6-3.5*

            I agree that the scheduling was probably unnecessary. The recruiter could just have called directly.

            But, I think the OP did get two useful pieces of information. One, that if the other candidate drops out early for some reason, she may be contacted to get the job. Two, local contacts matter in at least one job area that she is interested in, so she may want to develop these sorts of contacts.

            1. CL Cox*

              I don’t think that local contacts were important to them, but rather that both candidates were equally good, but the other candidate also had local contacts and that was what tipped the scales in their favor. I got my current job because of one extra thing – my boss was trying to decide between candidates, I emailed him a thank you note and that’s what tipped the decision to me. It wasn’t that he required a thank you note, it was that little bit extra that made him say, “this one.”

          2. KayDeeAye*

            Yes, that’s one of the big problems with phone rejections – they really do get people’s hopes up that an offer is coming. Way back in the days before email, I did get some phone rejections, and they totally suck. The only alternative was a letter, which was slow but at least I didn’t have to act gracious and chipper as I read it.

            1. selena81*

              I suppose phone rejections did make sense before email: a letter takes longer and doesn’t allow the candidate to ask questions.

              But nowadays it seems companies are using the phone mostly because nobody ever told them not too: they learned in their hr-training materials that calls are the way to go, so that’s what all new hr-hires keep doing.
              Which leads to many missed calls, because a lot of young people keep their phone on silent-mode all the time, and thus the practice of using email to set up phone-meetings

              If only they ever bothered to ask their candidates how they feel about it instead of going with old prejudices over phone-avoidant people being ‘socially maladjusted weirdos’

      2. MassMatt*

        I think email is the best method also, but there’s no great way to deliver bad news, people are always going to be at least a little hurt by it. There’s no pleasing everyone, we’ve seen complaints here about basically every means of informing rejected candidates.

        If there’s any consensus, it’s that just NOT informing them at all is the worst thing, especially for positions above entry level where interviews have taken place. The more of a candidate’s time that has been taken, the more personalized the rejection should be, IMO.

        1. selena81*

          Yeah, that’s a good thing to keep in mind: rejections pretty much always suck and people tend to blame the messenger

    2. RC Rascal*

      I am interviewing & receive many of my rejections by phone. It’s more likely when you are a finalist for a higher level role & they have invested time in your candidacy.

      The misleading thing here is that she made an appointment to give you a rejection. Appointment phone calls usually come with offers, not rejections.

      There was nothing you could have done to change the outcome on this one. I got the same phone call yesterday on an opportunity where I did 9 interviews plus a reference check. Chosen candidate has direct industry experience & lives near a business unit whereas I would have been working remotely & have related experience from earlier in my career.

      You don’t win them all.

    3. Mockingjay*

      I think the message matters more than the transmission method. Rejections should not extol the winning candidate. They should simply state that another candidate was selected, thank the ‘rejectee’ for applying, note a strength they were impressed with, and close with “we hope you’ll apply for future opportunities with us.”

      Keep rejections short and courteous. Don’t apologize or put a bunch of emotion in it. Employers don’t need to justify their selection. Applicants can certainly ask what would have made them a stronger candidate; responses should speak to the applicant, not the winner. “We are very impressed by your overall qualifications; however, you don’t have the extensive experience in X skill that we are looking for.” Indirectly applicants will know that the position was likely won by someone with more experience in X, but this doesn’t rub salt into the wound.

      1. CL Cox*

        I don’t think they were extolling the virtues of the other candidate, merely explaining why they chose the other candidate – they were local already and had local contacts. It’s the only feedback OP got because it’s the only difference between them.

      2. selena81*

        I don’t think there is any need to be coy about it: if the other person had better papers or lives closer (any kind of difference that is not discriminatory) you should just say so.
        It’s rude to gush at length about how GREAT your chosen candidate is, but there is no reason to leave the rejects puzzled and confused over what they did wrong.

    4. Elizabeth West*

      I mean, I can see that; a company recruiter called me to reject and she is a very nice person, the kind whom I could see doing it to soften the blow. But regardless, I had a hard time staying neutral. I expect offers to come via phone, not rejections. When I interviewed a second time for a different job, I said she could just email me if it wasn’t good news.

      Well it wasn’t, and thankfully, she did. My answer via email was far superior to anything I could have said over the phone and on the spot.

  11. Nita*

    #3 I used to work from home while living with my husband (and later, a kid) in a 500-SF studio. It’s every bit as hard as you describe, but there are a few things to make it easier. We had to accept that yes, sometimes the bathroom is going to be someone’s “office” if the other person is on a call, or it’s lights out time. For room dividers, we used shoji screens that got moved or folded up as needed. Work that could wait until after regular business hours sometimes got done late at night, when it’s quiet. And we’d take a break in the middle of the day to just eat dinner together and not think about work, because the stress of working in a less-than-ideal environment adds up otherwise.

    1. ehhh*

      Acoustic tiles might help as well if one of your problems is echoing and bouncing sound from calls. But investing in a good headset is also a start.

  12. FriendlyCanadian*

    I would feel the sick leave policy might violate the ADA? I have a severe chronic illness and often need surgery/appointments/etc. This would be a significant barrier to being a normal employee and being able to do my job

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Under the ADA, they’d generally need to work with you to give you the time you needed (as long as there was a reasonable way to accommodate it) but they could have you take it as personal time, vacation time, unpaid time, etc. The law is concerned with you getting the time, but generally not with how the employer categorizes it.

      1. CL Cox*

        This. My employer requires (as in, you can’t opt out, I’ve checked for a co-worker) that you first use any available sick time, then personal time, then vacation time. After all of that is exhausted, it’s unpaid. Because FMLA doesn’t mean you get paid the whole time, just that you can’t lose your job or face consequences for the time off.

        They also require that you’ve been employed with them for at least a year and have worked a certain number of hours in the fiscal year before you can use it. We have a teacher right now who’s part time and broke their leg. Their FMLA just got rejected because they didn’t have enough hours in. They’ve worked for the district for several years, but they’re only half-time, so they can’t get FMLA protection. Usually teachers in these positions are half time and two different schools, so they add up to full-time, but this one doesn’t. Luckily, our district really tries to accommodate these things, but it is difficult for the employee to have this legal uncertainty whole they’re trying to get better.

  13. Observer*

    #2 If your boss concedes that your work and work ethic is fine ask him what exactly is it about wfh that requires this level of pre=-planning and documentation?

    If there is some way to do this, point out that the push for more wfh, especially now with Covid-19, it’s to the company’s benefit for there to be maximum capacity for remote work. But these requirements reduce capacity.

    1. LW#2*

      Agreed! Luckily we are wfh with covid but nothing has changed. The reasoning is based upon being able to prove that we are using our time wisely/not taking advantage/being accountable if someone external who relies on our team were to inquire about how wfh is working out for us. I’ve asked about doing just an end of day proof (skipping the work plan) but that doesn’t seem like it will be enough :(

      1. EPLawyer*

        Because of course everyone uses every second of the work day wisely while they are in the office. There are no breaks, no casual chit chat, it’s just work work work.

        Honestly a good manager should be able to tell if your output drops when you WFH versus in office. If they can’t, the problem is the manager not the worker. The solution is not to micromanage the work from home but figure out how the manager can pay attention better.

        1. LW2*

          That’s exactly what gets me! For my type of work, it’s not realistic to expect a concentrated 8.5 hours of work each day – sometimes emails/maintenance of a certain big project will take up half my day and not look like a lot of work, but it more than pays off for that project in the long run. When I’m at home, I feel the need to rush through it so I can get to other ‘real’ deliverables to show proof of, which doesn’t always make sense for my role. I’m soooo tired at the end of my WFH days haha.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I used to be tired on mine because they always seemed to happen on days when there was very little to do, but I still had to be available. I had to turn on the TV to stay awake because I was so used to having conversations go on around me in the office.

          2. Glitsy Gus*

            Ugh. Could you maybe suggest creating a Toggle report or something similar to show your time breakdown rather than counting deliverables? It would still be really annoying, but at least you can show that even if you don’t have X number of documents, your time is accounted for. Don’t forget to put at least 30 minutes down for “Documenting work output and creating deliverables report.” Maybe seeing that you are wasting almost 3 hours a week on this would help make the point.

        2. selena81*

          This: a good manager should focus on output instead of time spend, and should understand that breaks and ‘unrelated tasks’ are a normal part of a healthy productive workday

      2. Mike C.*

        Christ, your manager needs to be slapped. There are more important things in this world than paperwork masquerading for proper management.

    2. old curmudgeon*

      I work at a governmental agency, and implementing widespread WFH policies are relatively new (since covid-19 became a thing), at least in my work unit. Our bureau director provided a long list of requirements, including but not limited to emailing the supervisor when checking in and out, regular updates about what tasks we are working on and other such rules.

      In my case, I don’t terribly much appreciate it since I have a well-earned reputation for working hard – BUT there are two individuals in my unit who have well-earned reputations for doing as little as they can and for getting away with as much as they can. So I see requirements like that being more due to those two people than to any particular micromanaging by my boss, and I suspect that our HR area told the boss that they can’t single those two people out for special rules when they work from home, but instead have to apply the rules to the entire unit.

      That may not be the case in your situation, of course, but it is possible that the rule has more to do with a “problem child” in the work unit than it does with you.

      1. LW2*

        Thank you for this perspective! I thought about this as well – whether there is someone currently or has been someone in the past that made it awkward for them to instill new requirements, so they decided to require strict rules for everyone at all times. I asked if we could do an end of day plan and then start doing the pre-day work plans if the end of days look like it wasn’t a full day of work, to no avail (I think he thinks that would be awkward to have to tell you you’re not doing enough work and would just rather have us send him everything pre and post, but I don’t think he realizes how much time this takes or how hard it is – I’m quite administrative and work plans can get complicated, then I stray from it anyways, making sure it’s still a full day of work, due to the natural flux of the day – he’s fine with this so I ultimately don’t think the work plan makes sense as a requirement if our end of day plan can be different anyways). I will carry on best I can with the situation!

        1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

          When you’re in the office, does your boss stand over you all day and make sure you’re working? Because that’s basically what he’s doing virtually with all of these requirements for working from home. I would point that out (in a non-snarky way of course) along with Alison’s advice.

          1. LW2*

            This is exactly the disconnect for me! My office work is not monitored which I really appreciate about my job – I feel trusted and empowered to do great work as a result. My manager himself has brought up that it is what’s ‘funny’ about his duty as a manager to keep tabs on us from home (that he doesn’t have to when we’re in the office). I’ll definitely keep reflecting on this advice and hopefully as things progress there will be more opportunities for him to realize the system doesn’t have to be so strict for the purposes he wishes for it to serve (making sure he has something to prove it’s OK that his employees WFH).

            1. Glitsy Gus*

              Ah, so with that it kind of sounds like maybe he’s receiving a directive to do this (or at least be able to provide solid PROOF of some kind) from his boss? If that’s the case it’s still really dumb but he may not have a lot of room to maneuver himself.

              1. selena81*

                Sounds like he is aware of how stupid the policy is, which kinda implies that change won’t come from convincing him but from giving him enough arguments to convince his own boss (such as pointing out that it wastes work-time to do this)

        2. Alston*

          He doesn’t realize how long it takes? Put it in the plan.

          AM spent 30 minutes doing work plan for boss. PM spent 25 going over completed work for boss. Show him how much time his bs is taking

          1. LW2*

            I think I will have to start doing this. Or even ‘unable to get to last part of workplan – needed last 45 minutes of day to make work plan and going over completed work.’


      2. doreen*

        This may or may not apply – but are there positions in your company that work outside the office? The reason I ask is that most of the positions in my program require field work- and those positions have required twice daily phone calls to supervisors and pre-planning the work to be accomplished on any particular field for the 31 years that I have been in this type of work. ( mostly for safety reasons) I could totally see someone imposing this on non-field staff if they were allowed to work form home- less because of a lack of trust than simply because that’s what they’re used to when staff is working out of the office

        1. LW2*

          Ahh, this is interesting, but unfortunately does not apply for us! We are all admin-type desk workers who are either at our desks or at home. Good to think about context, though, and what managers might be used to for a larger/more diverse group of staff!

      3. WellRed*

        “I suspect that our HR area told the boss that they can’t single those two people out for special rules when they work from home, but instead have to apply the rules to the entire unit.”

        Your HR sucks.

        1. Person of Interest*

          Plus what HR said about needing the same rules for everyone probably isn’t even true. The manager should absolutely have the discretion to have different monitoring plans for people he trusts more than less. It’s called managing.

        2. old curmudgeon*

          Well, it’s state government, which ought to explain a lot. In the private sector, problems with a poor performer can be addressed by a good manager on their own without HR’s intervention. By contrast, in some units of the public sector, you can literally be caught red-handed stealing from your employer and it’ll take 12 to 18 months on administrative leave and a whooooole lot of legal negotiations before you’d actually be terminated.

          It’s extreme, I realize, but it’s a result of the backlash from decades ago when each newly elected crop of politicians would fire every state employee from top to bottom in order to dole out the “cushy state jobs” to their cronies. While I don’t appreciate being dragged down by the lowest common denominator, I prefer that to being terminated because I didn’t vote for the political party currently in power.

      4. Mike C.*

        Yes, because making sure one or two lazy employees work is so much more important than listening to public health officials.

        1. Observer*

          Well, technically, people can work from home. They are just being stupid and obnoxious about it.

      5. Glitsy Gus*

        My manager is remote from me, so I do kind of make a habit of finding a reason to email her towards the start of the day and then before I leave. It isn’t a requirements at all, more just a habit I adopted from an old (more toxic) job. This way, if anyone ever did actually question me on my time, I do have receipts.

    3. I'm just here for the cats*

      I would also track the time that the LW has to pre plan for her work from home and the time she has to document what she did.

      And there’s probably a snarky response i.could think of like, well at home I don’t get interupted by Jane 10 times a day for no reason.

      1. JustaTech*

        For a while my department had to track all our time (because research and development are really amenable to intense time tracking) and after a while I put “fill out time tracker, 15 min” on my sheet every day.

        Thankfully the person who wanted that time tracking moved on to a different snit and we got to give it up.

  14. Ludo*

    Once I was talking to a co coworker and he took his shoes and socks off and started clipping his toenails over a trash can :( when he saw my face he was like “you don’t mind do you?”

    A hangnail or something painful, sure, but please don’t subject your co workers to public grooming if you can help it

    1. Jean*

      Oh my God, dude. Fingers are one thing – annoying, but not horrible. Toes is a whole different thing. If you have to take off an article of clothing/shoes to do it, it needs to be done in private, not at a business meeting.

  15. Jay*

    OP#3, is I’ve spent a lot of my life in very small apartments/rented rooms. I’ve managed a couple of strategies to cope.
    What are your actual WiFi needs? Can one or more of you do without for extended periods of time? As in, do your work offline and upload in batches. If so, that person has some options. Weather permitting, in those situations, I’ve worked on fire escapes, rooftops, boiler/utility rooms (sometimes I’ve had to pay an extra small fee to a landlord to get permission to work in one of those), parks, parking lots, and anyplace else I could set up a folding table and chair out of the rain.
    If one or more of you has a phone that doubles as a WiFi hotspot, can you use this from one of the places mentioned above?
    As you are currently unemployed, would this be a good time for an extended visit to the parents? As long as they have room, and you are on good terms, of course. Because my parents basement was most definitely a place of refuge for me for a couple of weeks at a time (sometimes longer) when I was young and just getting started out. They had things like a desktop computer, a printer, a real phone, and broadband internet, when I didn’t even have access to dialup and my phone was one of those pre-paid things.
    Do either of you have a car? Because most cars, especially newer models, have at least some sound proofing. If you drive someplace relatively secluded it will be quiet enough to handle phone calls (although rather awkward and cramped). I’ve gotten a surprising amount of work done with a laptop desk in my car while traveling on business (I have been doing field work most of my life, often in very primitive conditions, so a motel room was not in the cards, or I just couldn’t afford one and was spending the night in my car in a rest area or something).

    1. Geneticist*

      Be careful visiting parents with health conditions or who are over 60! And you’d want to isolate from them after traveling if you cannot drive there on your own.

    2. RC Rascal*

      +1 for the car. I used to knock out a lot of administrative work in company cars early in my career when I was running territories.

    3. CupcakeCounter*

      I have done nearly every phone interview of my life in a car. Video interviews, no, but I can only think of 2 out of 100 or so that were done either in a secluded space or in my house.

  16. Be positive*

    #1 – I wish I have your problem. My coworker full on shaves his stumble with an electric razor….at his desk

    1. Myrin*

      I had to read this three times because I kept stumbling (ha!) over the stubble-stumble typo and my brain somehow arrived at “he shaves his pubes” and I was about to upend my laptop in horror.

      1. Be positive*

        So sorry for my typo! Okay, you made it better, at least he is only shaving his FACE

      2. Eng*

        Omg I’m glad I’m not the only one who somehow read it that way at first. I have no idea how that’s what it became in my mind but it did!

  17. JJ*

    OP3, just focusing on the conference call aspect of this, I don’t think you need to worry too much about your interviewers or meeting attendees overhearing your boyfriend on his calls all that much. Everyone is working from home right now, and so there’s a LOT of leeway for people who don’t normally do that not having an ideal setup. If both you and your boyfriend are using headphones to talk (because you say his video chats are ‘loud’ it makes me think he is not using them?? omg boyfriend USE HEADPHONES), and you both are speaking at a normal volume, it shouldn’t be all that distracting to your call. It could even be a great ice breaker to commiserate over the unideal circumstances. A lot of folks I have video meetings with get a good chuckle when my cat decides he need to be IN MY FACE NOW. Good luck!

    1. Rich*

      I agree with all of this. Everyone should have headphones on, and everyone on the other end of the call is likely to be understanding, given the current situation. A quick “I apologize if there’s background noise. Everyone in my household is working from home these days, and it’s not a huge space” if your conference schedules overlap will buy the patience you need from your interviewers, and plenty of free “could you please repeat that”.

      It feels very frustrating, I’m sure. But when people are expecting that you’re working/interviewing from home, background noise and cross talk is expected. I’m in a position where 100% of the people in my role work from home. When I’m interviewing a candidate, a solid majority of calls are interrupted by a background talker, doorbells, traffic noise, barking dogs (so many barking dogs — sometimes mine). It is officially no big deal.

    2. iantrovert (they/them)*

      Honestly, as someone who regularly ends up on calls with remote coworkers, I can’t imagine not using headphones on conference calls when home, even just to be able to hear all parties well. Hell, my only housemate has a tail, and I still use headphones for calls, not even a fancy headset, just $10 headphones. This still uses the laptop mic but there’s no speaker feedback, even incidentally when I unmute to speak on the call.

  18. Mike B.*

    #5 – I don’t often say this, but…lie. Lie shamelessly, baldly, and without regret. What are your employers going to do about it? Call your doctor to verify that you didn’t have a *preplanned* appointment? Call your kid’s school to make sure they weren’t also out that day? In the unlikely event that they got their hands on evidence suggesting that you’d misused your time, they would have no way of proving any kind of misconduct.

    This is your employer trying to throw its weight around and convince its employees that it has more power than it actually does. Operate discreetly and you’ll be fine.

    1. KR*

      Yup, this is what I’m thinking. It’s just a coincidence that OP gets horrible diarrhea on the same day the dentist takes last minute bookings. Can’t imagine why.

    2. Mark Roth*

      I was going to say the same thing. “Sorry, I can’t come in because I don’t feel well..” can mean “because my kid is sick” or “because I have a doctor’s appointment” if I really want, and need, it to.

    3. Rebecca*

      I totally agree with lying to use the benefit your company provides. My first job had zero sick time, nothing (this was back in the mid 80s through the 90’s). Vacation time was paltry, as in, 10 days per year, and 4 of those were taken by a mid year shutdown. I had a small child. I was not allowed to take unpaid time off, and got dinged for attendance points when I did, so I lied about being sick myself to care for her, and went to work sick when she wasn’t sick. I had to be careful not to rack up 12 attendance points in a rolling 12 month period so I didn’t get fired. It was a terrible situation, but I did what I had to. I’m happy to say this employer is now out of business.

    4. Knitter*

      Yeah, that’s what I did when I had an employer with that rule. I could see the signs of a bad migraine coming on… or maybe I had to pick up a sick kid at school.

    5. Washi*

      Is a reason even necessary? I would probably just tell my employees not to give me any information on why they need to use their sick time and leave it at that.

      1. Regular Going Anon for This*

        In another twist on this sort of crappy sick leave policy, my former employer (Huge southern grocery chain that really likes the color green) only allows employees to use sick leave for their own illness and they must state a reason to their manager. And they get dinged on their review. Only full-timers receive paid sick leave, and they only accrue 48 hours per year.

        1. Senor Montoya*

          Yeah, one of the long time part time staff at our local Huge Green Market had a college age child dying :( of cancer, could not get paid time off to help care for child in hospice, neighborhood took up a collection and also gave what-for to the manager of the store AND up the corporate foodchain about just how crappy this policy is. (We understood that the manager could only do so much, but still…)

          1. Regular Going Anon for This*

            There was something of a scandal in my city several years ago because the company collects a crapton for the United Way and there was a provision that some funds were set aside to assist employees in need (but the funds would be disbursed through UW). When an employee who was a contributor later needed funds for something similar and was denied, there was a HUGE to-do. I don’t think anyone ever owned up to who denied her request, whether it was the UW or store leadership, but it was the first time there’d ever been major resistance to the strongarm tactics the company uses to get UW contributions.

    6. LW#5*

      As a manager, I kind of want my employees to do this. Except that I hate that the policy encourages lying! I genuinely believe sick time *should* be used for family sickness. And I want to have the kind of team that can be open. That said, I certainly don’t require any sort of explanation from my staff about why they are out sick.

      As an employee, well, I am unfortunately an *awful* liar. I’m grateful to have a spouse with a better sick leave policy, so she is unfortunately on primary sick day duty with our kids.

      1. Shirley Keeldar*

        My sympathies; I am also a terrible liar. But “I need to use a sick day today” is not a lie! And maybe you can discreetly spread the word among your employees that they don’t need to explain their sick days to you. I don’t mean sending a formal memo, but if someone is frantically explaining that they really do have terrible diarrhea today, you can say gently, “All I ever need to hear is that you need a sick day. They’re yours to use however you need them.”

        1. LW#5*

          I like your language for how to talk to folks and help hammer home that I don’t need to know.

          For myself, however… we’ll see. When I say I’m a terrible liar, I mean, I do not do well with concealing truth, even by omission. It’s legitimately less stressful for me to just have my wife do the time (thankfully, her sick time policy is much better!), but with all the COVID-19 stuff, that may change…

          1. Nita*

            It may not be less stressful for your wife though! She probably has a lot of catching up at work afterwards. This ridiculous situation is not your fault, but maybe being less than straightforward with your boss so you can take sick time is the lesser of two evils :)

          2. Smithy*

            While I totally understand that you feel comfortable doing this for your employees but not yourself… does send a message to your employees that it’s “not ok”. Because if it was ok, you would be doing it.

            It may be worth practicing with a doctor’s appointment like an allergist where while it’s a maintenance visit – it can also include phrasing like “my allergies are being terrible, so I need a sick day to see a doctor and feel better”.

            There are always going to be issues like working off hours and not expecting direct reports to respond, but when it comes to a bad policy that encourages lying…. I’ve worked places that had policies that encouraged lies of omission for sick days and it was no big deal. I’ve also worked for places where there was an overall toxic environment, and staff really were being micro-observed for time in and out of the office. Encouraging employees to lie by omission while you don’t effectively tells them that it’s still a bad behavior. Or only ok behavior if your boss directly tells you it’s ok and will defend you.

          3. Mary*

            >> It’s legitimately less stressful for me to just have my wife do the time

            Well—yeah? It’s nearly always less stressful to have someone else deal with the hassle of an unplanned day off with a sick child. I’m not sure this is a you-thing—your wife might well feel it would be less stressful for her if you sucked it up sometimes!

            1. LW#5*

              Thanks for your concern about my wife. But I promise, she and I are a team and we make these decisions together.

          4. KoiFeeder*

            I get you on the “real trouble with concealing truth” thing. Somedays I can get around it by telling myself that it’d be way more harmful to say something than to just keep my mouth shut. Somedays I can’t. I think it’s a practice thing, but, well, I try to avoid putting myself in those situations, so the practice doesn’t happen.

      2. Mavis*

        „I‘m going to the doctor today and won‘t be in.“

        „I‘m staying at home today due to illness.“

        Sufficient, truthful information. No more, no less.

        Also, as you start gaining clout in management, work on challenging the System. If you can show how bad this policy is *for the company* in financial terms (lost productivity, increased insurance costs, good employees leaving for jobs with better benefits), the PTB may see the light. Good luck!

        1. Miss May*

          I like the “Staying home today due to illness.”

          It doesn’t specifically say that its YOU that’s sick, and if they make that conclusion, that’s on them.

      3. Observer*

        Don’t tell people to lie. But stop asking people why they are taking the day. Just do it and keep it up unless your boss makes you change that.

    7. Angelinha*

      Yeah, OP says her manager is a stickler so she feels like she has to be too. I think the ethical thing to do is let your employees use sick time for any sick reasons, including routine appointments and a child’s visit. I would get them together and tell them you personally feel that way, but the policy doesn’t, so going forward you want them to just request/use sick time without specifically telling you why. I’ve always appreciated reasonable managers who don’t just parrot inane rules from above. I get it may feel like being deceiving, but you noted other managers use their discretion, and I think it’s fine for you to do that, too.

      1. doreen*

        I don’t get the feeling from the LW that he would be comfortable telling employees that he disagrees with the policy – I certainly wouldn’t. I would, however, let people know that I don’t need specifics- if you’re calling in sick today, saying I’m taking a sick day is enough and so is “I have a medical appointment Tuesday” which could be a check-up or a non-routine yet non-emergency procedure.

        1. LW#5*

          LW here. Please note: I use she/her.

          And yeah, I can’t openly flaunt the policy. My boss would get wind and she is not on board with doing anything against it, even if she doesn’t think it’s a good policy.

  19. Kella*

    For OP#3, I feel like a lot of the suggestions regarding finding another place to go are ignoring one of the key reasons this is happening in the first place: It is heavily encouraged that people avoid public spaces as much as possible to reduce the spread of the virus, and Seattle is bad enough that they could go into quarantine, in which case they wouldn’t have any other choice except to stay in the apartment.

    So, my first piece of advice: Hash this out with your boyfriend. Acknowledge that this is super frustrating and not what you want but it’s what you have, and that you both have work needs that you need to find a way to meet simultaneously. If you’re starting out with acceptance and understanding, it will be a lot easier to problem solve, and you’ll spend less energy feeling stressed or annoyed by your partner.

    Is there any amount of scheduling the two of you can coordinate? It won’t be possible with everything, but find out if you can stagger phone calls more often, even if you can’t do it every time.

    I would also just be very honest with each other about what makes this the hardest and keep an open mind about what flexibility you can offer each other. If it’s a team effort, it might feel less stressful.

    1. allathian*

      Lots of good advice here. Talk to your boyfriend. If you’ve just moved in together, this is the time to adjust to each other’s habits and to learn to compromise where necessary. This is a tough start for you, but if you handle it well now, I’m pretty sure it’ll make life easier for both of you in the long run.

      And good luck on the job hunt!

    2. Rewe*

      Yes, this. I feel that if you both aknowlwdge the situation it is going a long way. And it sounds like there are no meetings and interviews all day everyday. If needing to take the call in bathroom due to both being on the phone, then that is totally fine. Also headphones help and a lot of companies are understanding at the moment so being honest with them about the reasons for background noise or bathroom wall will be fine aswell. (I’m someone who has never lived in such a large apartment so this is how we handle working from home. Also I refer to the one corner of the bathroom as my yoga studio)

    3. Mameshiba*

      Yes to all of this. Do not go to another place, and definitely acknowledging that this is hard and being honest about what you need from each other. And being patient with each other and yourselves.

    4. I'll say it*

      I came here to say this! My idea, and what I use when my husband is home too (I am a permanent remote worker) is to basically use our home office as I would a conference room. When we have conflicts for phone calls, one of us reschedules. It works probably 80% of the time. If we can’t, one of us moves. In a tiny apartment that’s not really feasible, and I saw above where someone said to take a call in the car. I’ve done that PLENTY of times and it works like a charm!

    5. theletter*

      I’m wondering if it might be worth it to invest in headphones with microphones attached, which would better control the sound that gets picked up.

      +1 to the suggestion of taking calls in the hallway, if you can. I’ve found I’m much better at phone screens when I’m in a plain dead hallway.

  20. BrazilianGuy*

    Off-topic. Reading this blog and all the comments from everyone here makes my day lighter, under this circumstances with COVID-19. I feel like crying because of the tension here at work and at my hosting country (European, new cases, alarm from government and such), and it is really a relief to be able to step out of these problems coming alight and focusing on day-to-day, down to work issues. I am terrified by the way my coworkers are dealing with the situation (I am the first one under self-isolation from a +5K employees company) and although I am being supportive to answer their questions, I feel it is a lot of pressure to put on my side while: 1) I am not a native of the country but I read all information possible within language barriers and Google Translate can help and 2) I feel they are themselves not reading internal and external trustful sources of information (intranet, minister of Health, and others). Thank you Alison and all readers for this blog – without it, I think I would be having less light on my work day. And sorry for the off-topic outburst.

    1. Mameshiba*

      Hang in there friend–this is an international traumatic event and so so so many of us are stressed out of our minds. I cried again yesterday because I bought too much food and cleaning supplies. We are all feeling the stress and nobody knows what will happen–Remember you can always step back and tune out. And it is only a matter of time before they figure out a vaccine or treatment–the best teams all over the world are working on this. We will get through this!

      1. Jaid*

        That stuff will get used up eventually! Of course, you may be spending way too much on some supplies because of price gouging, but hopefully that’s the worst of it.

        *hugs to the both of you*

    2. Senor Montoya*

      I;m so sorry! Don’t know if it helps, but you’ve got a virtual support group that understands and cares.

    3. BrazilianGuy*

      I am happy to see your comments dear colleagues :-) I got a bit under the mood yesterday as it was a lot to absorb, but after avoiding reading stressful news and focusing on my work and hearing some good mood songs, I got back to my normal self, at least for now. I appreciate all your thoughts and I am happy to belong to this community :-) Hugs for you guys

  21. Uldi*

    LW #3:

    Any way to partition the apartment by hanging curtains from the ceiling? If so, you can try sound dampening curtains.

    1. Sleve McDichael*

      Tension rods? I’ve used them to partition space with curtains in a rental before. Unfortunately they’re not good for very the heavy curtains that are best for noise-blocking, but a mid-weight would be ok.

  22. QCI*

    My plant has “EV days” in addition to vacation and a point system for absenteeism. The great thing is, they don’t care what your reason is, EV’s are paid, and they don’t care what you use them for. They don’t even ask. My wifes job is like OP #5, sick days only for being sick, and it’s a pain in the A to schedule time off.

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      One person’s “that’s gross/drives me crazy” is another person’s “no big deal”. For me, unless she was peeling off her nail polish and letting fall into an area where common items are used (like sugar packets or something), it wouldn’t bother me. But the continual nail clipping by multiple people would probably annoy me. Either way, it’s best to let these small things go, unless it’s causing you to not be able to get work done (like something loud) or is a health hazard.

      1. Risha*

        Agreed. It actually took me a bit to figure out why Janis Mayhem would be bothered by that, but I was eventually able to twist my mind around it.

        You just can’t make any assumptions that anyone but you is grossed out by anything not actively infectious.

      2. Smithy*

        Agreed. If we’re talking gel nail polish – I wouldn’t do while in a conversation or a meeting, but sitting at my desk….sure. I also think that in these cases, once it’s a thing that’s done – getting everyone to stop is hard.

  23. MistOrMister*

    OP4, I feel your pain. I had an interview that I thought went ok and got the “when can I call you?” email. Which turned into a rejection, which I think was mostly based on the fact that I was asking for the upper end,of their pay range which they really didn’t seem to want to pay (but which is what I was already making). It was such an awkward phone call!! Lots of, as we grow we’ll keep you in mind. Ugh!! Even if that’s true, an email is sufficient. I’m awkward enough on the phone with strangers when it’s good or neutral news, bad news just makes it a whole other level of crappy.

    1. Gobbly Gook*

      I hate that! I actually had a “rejection meeting.” I thought I did pretty well in an interview with a great local company- the director’s admin emailed me two weeks later asking for a 30 minute phone call or meeting. I went to the meeting (thinking I was getting an offer) and she opened with “do you know Blahbiddy Blah Blah? He just accepted our offer yesterday.” She wanted to offer me feedback, which I appreciate, but I could not concentrate through the rest of the meeting. I would have much preferred an email that said “we’re not hiring you but have some feedback if you’re open to it.” It all left a bad taste in my mouth…

    2. Calina~*

      I’d rather a call than ghosting though. That happened to my husband after he went for a second interview which was over 6 hours long where he had a tour of the entire facility, and “meet & greets” with current employees, etc.

      The way he found out he wasn’t hired was when one of his buddies at his current employer told husband that he (the friend) was hired for that position. They never called, mailed, nor emailed that he wasn’t chosen.

      They cost him a day & a half of vacation time [four for the 1st interview & eight for the 2nd as his company only allows time off in 4 hour increments.]

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Uggggh. I put companies like that on my I-will-never-reapply-or-answer-a-recruiter’s-email-from-you-ever-again list.

      2. Elitist Semicolon*

        This happened to me for an academic position. They flew me in for a campus interview and I never heard anything again. They hired one of my colleagues – then, six months later, I was on an elevator in our conference and the doors opened to reveal the search chair standing there. He stepped in, saw me, and hastily backed out again. That was in 2008 and I’m still waiting for the rejection letter.

  24. Rebecca*

    Relating to #5 – my hope is in light of the current coronavirus issue that the USA has a long, hard look at sick leave policies. Hopefully the OP could bring this up to their manager, and the managers in the company, because I can almost guarantee all the sick days being used are not because they employees themselves are sick. I know in my case, I get 5 sick days per year, I rarely need them for actual sick time, but use them instead as mental health days. We’re only supposed to use them for true sickness, but I don’t know one person who doesn’t use all 5 days, sick or not.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      Agreed – the problem is not that you can’t use “sick days” to care for dependants and attend routine medical appointments, but that you don’t have enough PTO or flexibility to care for dependants and attend routine medical appointments.

    2. LW#5*

      I agree with you that I hope that COVID-19 forces the US to reexamine its sick leave laws. Unfortunately, I am in middle level management in a huge organization; it’s pretty unlikely that I can have any direct impact on the policy. And my über boss 100% would not give a crap about any of this.

      1. Amy Sly*

        It’s already starting to! Tennessee is considering a bill right now to require all employees, regardless of hours worked or tenure, to get paid sick leave for Covid-19 absences, if nothing else.

        1. LW#5*

          Although I worry that the same loopholes could persist here — most paid sick time laws are focused on hourly employees and making sure they literally can take time off and be paid. The laws are generally less concerned with what time bank the paid time comes out of, as long as paid time is available.

  25. Sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

    Even my super generous sick leave days are for the employee only – for appointments or being sick – and not for caring of family members. We also get a separate leave for sick kids/daycare issues but not for parents, or spouses. I don’t think I’ve ever worked for a company that said sick days could be used for a non-employee, but I’m sure some did so.

    I’m trying to remember how I handled doctor’s appointments in past jobs and I can’t remember. I think the time was made up or there was a time code for it for those days when every half-hour was accounted for for billing.

    Years ago, I had six sick days a year. Good thing I didn’t have kids those days. If you have more than one or two medical appointments and limited sick days that could be used for appointments, you’ll run out of sick time quickly.

    1. Silly Valley*

      Same – I can’t recall ever having an employer that let us use sick leave for caring for others. That would have been vacation or personal days. And some discouraged using them for regular medical appointments, although I think if you pressed the issue they would have probably given in. But if you had flex time or vacation hours left, you were expected to use that first.

      I’m honestly glad to read that this has shifted for many of the readers. I’ve been freelancing/part-timing for a while so I’m out of touch with sick leave norms.

  26. Forsyth County*

    #5 OP I know you said it’s is a big company but that’s not a reason not to try and improve a policy that is obviously important to you. Policies don’t change until someone changes them! Talk to your employees so you can say “my staff members have these specific needs” instead of a vague “hey this is a bad policy”. Network with other managers so you can show that it would benefit a large number of employees. Especially with the coronavirus situation, show that it would actually benefit the company if people with sick family members stayed home instead of caring for the family member and then coming into work and potentially spreading the illness.

    This could even be a bullet on your resume potentially or something you talk about in an interview later on, showing as a manager you were able bring about a policy change that benefited staff and company alike, preventing $X in work hours loss.

    1. LW#5*

      I would like to do this. (And I promise I am normally a pretty squeaky wheel about things like this.) But it is a really, really big organization, and I am squarely in middle-level management. And HR’s point is that we generally have pretty generous PTO, so folks are absolutely able to take time off to be with sick family if they need to, they just have to use vacation or personal time. (Which I think is crap.)

      That said, I am also relatively new here, so as I grow and have more institutional credibility, changing this is definitely on my mind.

    2. Union rep*

      Our workplace has family-related leave, for medical appointments, sick days, and weather-related school closures. It can be used to take grandpa to his optometry appointment, sister to her cancer specialist, and son when he stays home sick. It’s great!

  27. Shramps*

    OP 1, you two may be outnumbered! Prepare for pushback, this seems like a culture divide.

    I don’t think nail clipping is the worst but I can understand how it can make others uncomfortable.

    1. OP#1 - Not Into Your Nail Clippings*

      OP#1 here: who knew this was such a controversial topic! The comments have definitely been eye opening.

      1. nona*

        It similar to the discussions on whether its okay to ask guests to take off their shoes when they visit your house.

        1. nona*

          To clarify – everyone believes their own stance is correct and there are variations on rude and gross, and ultimately all ends up to be local custom.

  28. babblemouth*

    (Unrelated to these question)
    Alison, could we have a special COVID19 open thread? As more and more regions and countries around the world are going on semi-quarantine, I’d be really interested to hear how different cultures and workplaces are adapting, and how individuals are handling the rising anxiety at work.

  29. James*

    LW #3: Is there any way to explain the situation to the people you’re interviewing with and schedule a time when your boyfriend isn’t working? Under normal circumstances this may raise some red flags, but a quarantine for a pandemic is anything but normal circumstances. If you say something like “I’m sorry to ask for [after hours/lunchtime/super-early/whatever] interview, but my boyfriend and I are under quarantine and due to his meeting schedule it would be difficult on my end to conduct the interview during normal hours” they should understand. (I’m no wordsmith, so if anyone has a better script, use theirs!!) My wife and I have had to schedule meetings and interviews around each other’s schedules in the past, and it worked well for us. If nothing else, it shows the potential employer that you’re capable of looking ahead and identifying potential problems before they arise.

    Alternatively, could your boyfriend reschedule his meetings? I know it’s not always an option (especially if he’s not the one to set up the meeting), but if you know you have an interview at the same time as his meeting, it’s worth him asking. I’ve had to reschedule a lot of meetings because someone had personal business that made the scheduled time not work.

    1. James*

      Another thought occurred to me as I was getting coffee: If you’re willing to make a somewhat outside-the-box suggestion, the website Discord allows for voice chat. This system can be set up with a push-to-talk feature. You assign a key, and you have to hold down the key in order to trigger the microphone. I use this in my weekly D&D game, and it works out pretty well; we’re mostly folks with spouses and children, and this minimizes random noises. You can explain at the beginning of the interview “Sorry, due to the pandemic my boyfriend and I are quarantined; I’ll try to minimize the disruptions on my end, but I wanted to be upfront in case my responses are delayed.” (Again, not a wordsmith.)

      There may be similar options on other programs. I simply don’t know. But it’s an option to look into.

    2. CupcakeCounter*

      I was going to suggest something similar but in the opposite direction. OP should get access (or a copy of) boyfriend’s calendar so she can try to schedule around his meetings. Then once she books the interview, he needs to clock that time off as unavailable/head down work.

      1. Paulina*

        Yes. And if the meetings aren’t being scheduled sufficiently in advance, they should be; both workplaces need to understand that dealing with COVID by going to WFH is more than just sending everyone home and changing all interactions to videoconferences. It’s protracted WFH in spaces not designed for it and not dedicated to an individual’s work, so there needs to be a much higher reliance on scheduling and understanding of the home situations.

  30. Over the Barrier*

    For the studio apartment in need of a “barrier:”
    1. Put up a shower rod (the kind with the tension spring).
    2. Buy some cheap polystyrene insulation (available in 4 x 8 sheets at major home improvement stores).
    3. Put holes in the styrene, attach it with string to the shower rod.
    4. Hang two cheap (but heavy texture) curtains on either side of the styrene, using shower curtain clips.

    Had to do this with an office mate because we were both on the phone constantly and the noise bothered us both. It isn’t pretty, but it worked well enough. The styrene comes in different thicknesses and its pretty light and easy to work with.

  31. Ali G*

    #5 – I may be misinterpreting, but the OP mentions both Vacation and Personal Time. IME, Personal time is the bucket you use for non-sick appointments (so check ups, regular eye and oral visits…). This bucket of time is typically for non-full days of time out of the office. So you need an hour or so to get an RX renew and your Doc makes you come in 1x a year or whatever. So that is actually not a bad thing to have, as it saves both your sick and vacation time from those things, especially if you don’t have particularly flexible working hours.
    I would however, push back on caring for a sick family member, because those should be full days and you should be able to use sick time for that, if that’s what works for you.

    1. Just Jess*

      Yes, this. LW#5 responded that their organization’s HR is quite savvy with sick versus personal versus vacation time. Although, apparently there isn’t consistent enforcement across the board by managers… I’ve yet to encounter that “personal time” bucket and it sounds reasonable on paper.

    2. LW#5*

      I agree that personal time can be used for lots of things, including routine medical appointments. That said, many folks (including me!) use personal time for things like attending school functions, religious holidays, etc. It would be nice to have sick time be for keeping yourself healthy *and* dealing when you or others are sick.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        I use my personal time (2 days worth) to get my hair done usually – this year, I ended up using one full day to take my mom to oral surgery.

  32. Arlo*

    #1: There are several people in my office who do this. The woman who comes in to vacuum often complains that one of my coworkers dumps all his nail clippings on the floor. I have another coworker who files their nails Every. Single. Day. They’re just stubs at this point, what is left to file?! So gross.

    1. OP#1 - Not Into Your Nail Clippings*

      OP#1 here: Oh gross! Yes, there’s a woman here who files her nails about once every two weeks. It’s gross, but she just does quick fixes, so I’ve told myself to let that one go (even though I imagine little nail dust particles floating around and it grosses me out). It’s truly amazing how different everyone is on these basic little grooming habits!

      1. nona*

        There is so much stuff floating around in the air anyway (dust is mostly dead skin flakes, all the hair that people shed without even combing) that I don’t think the nail dust adds that much. Most of it gets caught in the emery board.

        And filing the nails is likely to prevent the need to use the clippers (smooth out the edges before the nail gets caught on something).

        1. IEanon*

          Yes, I keep a file in my desk drawer and will file before they get ragged and snag on clothing/tear.

          I would never consider clipping my nails at work (mostly because of the noise), but if my nails do end up tearing, I tend to bite them down until I can get home and deal with it. Which is gross, and unhygienic, and exactly what I’m trying to avoid with the filing!

  33. LGC*

    LW3, is there somewhere else in the building one of you could go? I’m not sure what restrictions you’re under, but I don’t think you’re confined to only your apartment, right? Plus, if he can do meetings in the bathroom and you’re making calls, I think both of you can do what you need to do out of the apartment.

    Wishing you the best. This might be my future.

  34. HailRobonia*

    On of my previous coworkers would clip his nails at his desk. I was never around when he did it, but my team members in the neighboring cubes mentioned it several times.

    When he left, the person that replaced him found nail clippings in and under the keyboard, behind the monitor, etc. Gross, right?

    Also he left a pair of underwear in the desk drawer.

    1. OP#1 - Not Into Your Nail Clippings*

      OP#1 here: HE LEFT UNDERWEAR IN A DESK DRAWER!?!? Oh heavens…

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I’ve worked with someone who’d kick off their sandals, put their bare feet on their desk in such a way that they were protruding into the aisle and were visible from everyone else’s desk, and happily work like that all day. I also worked with two separate people (not at the same time) who had a habit of sticking their hand deep down the back of their pants when talking to people, visibly exploring something inside their pants/butt for some time, then taking the hand out and using it to touch people’s keyboards, shared plastic utensils and so on. I thought I’d seen it all. But never have I ever worked with someone who’d left their underwear in their desk. I have so many questions. Did he take the underwear off before putting it in their desk drawer, or was it a spare? was he their desk when he took the underwear off? how clean was the underwear when it was found? And then he quit and took all his personal items home, but somehow not the underwear? The mind boggles!

      The nail clippings everywhere reminded me of a pet chinchilla we had, who had a free run of the house. We gave him away for adoption, and cleaned the house of all the chinchilla stuff after he left. Obviously regularly cleaned the house after that. I moved out two years later, took the kids and the dog, cleaned out the kids’ rooms and the spare room that I’d been staying in, took all furniture from those rooms with us so all that was left was bare walls. And the kids still told me later that they were finding chinchilla droppings whenever they went to spend the night at their dad’s; ten years after Mr Chinchilla had left the building. I somehow imagine the guy involuntarily dropping his nail clippings everywhere and leaving a trail of them anywhere he went, like a rodent.

    3. Lore*

      After working through 9/11 and the blackout, I keep spare underwear, socks, and a clean top in my desk alongside sneakers. Less urgent now because my partner lives closer to my office than I do and I have stuff there too, but better safe than sorry.

      1. Joielle*

        Yeah, I have a spare gym outfit at work, including underwear and sport bra, and spare tights/skirt/shirt/sweater. You never know when you’re going to want to go to an impromptu lunchtime yoga class, or (speaking from personal experience) spill coffee down your whole front. I’d be REALLY careful to take it all with me when I left, though!

  35. LGC*

    LW1: not only that, I’d question the legality depending on what state you’re in! For me, we HAVE to let people use sick time for family care under state law.

    I’ll admit that I’m not an HR guy, and I’m not fully versed in sick leave law. (I know in my case, I don’t get a separate bucket of sick time because I have a bucket of all purpose PTO that exceeds state mandates for sick time.) But it is worth a look, I think.

      1. LW#5*

        Hey! Yeah, I think that based on what I’ve read of the law and what the HR folks have explained to me, I don’t think they are in violation (in fact, they were at the table when this stuff was created as one of the biggest employers in the area, so I feel fairly confident in that). However, someone upthread suggested seeing if there is an employment hotline to check to confirm, and I’m going to think about that.

  36. Jedi Squirrel*

    #1: How annoyed should you be?

    Not very much.

    Seriously, I’m guessing OP#1 does not have much going on outside of work. But add in soccer practice for a kiddo or two five days a week, or a second job, and certain grooming tasks can easily be ignored until you sit down and try to type and your fingernails get in the way.

    Honestly, OP makes it sound like the entire office is playing the 1812 overture on their nail clippers all day, every day. No, this is not something you send out an email for. No, this is not something you walk up to people and ask them to stop doing. No body fluids are involved. No clothes need to be removed. I don’t like it either, but if this is the very worst thing about your job, you have a LOT to be grateful for.

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I think the bottom line is that some small things annoy some people and others don’t think it’s that big of a deal. Unless it’s affecting your ability to get your work done (like someone is listening to music loudly at their desk with no headphones), then you need to let it go.

    2. OP#1 - Not Into Your Nail Clippings*

      OP#1 here: Thanks for you comment! It’s definitely not the Biggest Office Thing Ever, but the repetition has gotten to me, and the sound makes me gag, so other lifestyle scenarios aside, it’s grating on me. I’ve really appreciated everyone’s perspectives here! And yes–I do have lots to be grateful for, especially at my job!

  37. CupcakeCounter*

    I totally sympathize but I wonder if it has to do with your PTO breakdown? At an old job, we had “unlimited” sick leave but it could only be taken for when WE were sick. However, we had a fairly large bank of personal time (7 days) that was intended for unplanned illness of family members or appointments. It was more flexible and could be taken in 1 hour increments but sick and vacation (10 days) were 1/2 or whole days only.
    If that isn’t the case at your work, it sucks.

    1. KayDeeAye*

      I wondered about that, too. I’ve never worked anywhere that offered vacation days AND sick days AND personal days – three different categories. If personal days are accrued separately from vacation days, and if the OP gets a reasonable number of personal days, maybe this might not be so bad? I don’t know – what are personal days supposed to be used for?

      1. LW#5*

        Hi! Personal days can be used for virtually anything — from religious observances to attending school events, to serving as bonus vacation days, etc.

        I actually think overall our PTO totals are good. I just really balk at the idea that someone isn’t supposed to be able to use a sick day when their kid is sick.

        1. Mrrpaderp*

          I think most people just fudge a bit on this. If an employee has to leave work at lunch to pick up a sick kid, then the 1/2 day PTO comes from vacation. But if they have to stay home with kid the next day (which they do if the kid had a fever), they call in “sick” and the manager sort of looks the other way. Frankly, if you’ve been exposed to an illness and are likely contagious then I don’t want you in the office! I’d rather have you come to work on the back end of your cold (when you’re no longer contagious) than on the front end.

  38. Re'lar Fela*

    OP 3: I’ve not read the comments, so my apologies if this is a repeat! Does your apartment building have any sort of business center or meeting area or even a fitness area? That assumes a complex of some sort and I imagine if such a thing were available you would have used it. But it’s a thought.

    If that’s not an option, could you and BF attempt to schedule calls around one another? Perhaps alternate hours of availability for calls and do non-call/video work in the interim?

    My brother and SIL are just outside of Seattle and suffering similar woes, so I feel for you! Good luck on your job search.

    1. Miss May*

      I like this suggestion! Many apartments offer a “clubhouse” that is free for individual use, and a small fee for parties. Mine even has free wifi!

  39. Rebecca*

    #2 – I like Alison’s advice here – and it applies in so many cases – “you have a crappy manager who’s not going to change, and the only way to get out from under it would be to change jobs.”

    I read your post with interest, as with the current coronavirus issue, and being assigned a laptop so I can work from home if necessary, and I have issues with micromanaging managers as it is (like, I get an email, and one of them will pop up in my office 2 minutes later and start asking questions). And since they’re not reasonable, and won’t change, I’m really dreading working from home if we have quarantine measures here. Glad to have Alison’s scripts – they are spot on and I might just print some of them off and keep a cheat sheet on my computer desk if I get into a phone conversation about this.

    1. LW2*

      Glad to hear you’ll be able to WFH with the coronavirus! We’re currently doing the same so I felt it was time to ask the question on AMA officially (I’ve been stirring over it for a while but have been able to manage since it was sporadic up until now). I agree that Alison’s scripts are always spot-on :) – best of luck dealing with this similar situation!!

    2. KayDeeAye*

      My boss has a lot of problem with WFH – she knows that it can be a legitimate and helpful thing, but she’s just such a control freak that the entire concept is difficult for her. I can definitely imagine having to turn in daily reports if I ever get approval to regularly work from home.

  40. Scott M*

    I have never understood the squeamishness about clipping nails in public. I mean, it doesn’t have anything to do with body fluids, or exposing intimate parts of the body. As long as the clipped nails are not flying into others personal space, I don’t see what the big deal is. Compared to blowing your nose, where you’re essentially expelling a huge amount of snot into a piece of paper, clipping your nails is one of the least offensive personal grooming actions

    1. James*

      For toenails I can see it being an issue–foot fungus isn’t uncommon. But fingernails? I mean, I wait until I’m home, and I’d consider it rude if they started in the middle of us chatting, but unless they were obnoxious about it or something hit me I’d simply ignore it.

      It’s a fairly common fixation for folks with OCD and the like, too. OCD, like many mental conditions, is a spectrum, and I know a lot of people on various parts of the spectrum. It may be what LW#1 is dealing with. And as far as OCD ticks go, again, pretty inoffensive.

  41. Ajps*

    OP #1: is it possible that the (some?) clicks you hear are from people fidgeting with a pen? I kept hearing what sounded like nail clipping in my office and thought “how in the heck are so many people trimming their nails, and so often?” I took a walk around one day and saw a person flicking the clip piece of their pen.
    (Still grated to hear it though, thanks misophonia)

    1. OP#1 - Not Into Your Nail Clippings*

      OP#1 here: YES–there was one that I found out was a pen clicking (thank goodness–but also, kinda want to offer that person a new pen haha), so I’m trying to tell myself that ALL of them are pen clicking. Unfortunately, I’ve seen actual nail clipping with my own eyes, so I can’t fool myself indefinitely. Womp womp.

      1. Jdc*

        I’ll also happily tell people to stop clicking their pen. I will say none of this compares to my old cube mate who cleared her throat every three seconds. I couldn’t Once. I swore one day i was going to take a pen and clear her airway. Oh and it was a work thing only. We were friends outside of work and she NEVER did it.

        1. Jdc*

          Counted. My phone seriously is being special lately. Maybe because my hands are so cold recently. Who knows.

  42. always in email jail*

    #2, is it possible someone above your boss wants it this way? I fought very hard for my team to telework occasionally in my previous job, but my boss (who was in charge of the whole organization) wanted me to do exactly what was described here. Of course I didn’t not trust my team, but I had to prove to people higher up than me that people could still be productive while teleworking, what kind of work my team did that could be accomplished from home, etc.

    1. LW2*

      That’s definitely a possibility. I don’t think it’s actually the case (his boss is very busy and very flexible), but I do suspect my manager is ‘worried’ that if anyone ever questioned it or asked if they knew exactly what their team was doing, he would be safe having our records on hand. Thanks for bringing this up – it’s nice to hear from a manager who has to do this but wish they didn’t have to. As an employee, I think it would be more acceptable to me if my manager said they knew it was a bit excessive, but that they hoped we understood it was a requirement for that reason. It makes it a bit more annoying to me personally being told that it is ‘proper management’, but your perspective makes me realize he could just be saying that whether he agrees with it or not. Thanks!

    2. JustaTech*

      I’m seeing this at my work. The manager of one site is notorious about not trusting people to do their jobs correctly, so now that some people at that site have to work form home they’re doing all kinds of weird and annoying things to make sure that there is a paper trail of their work, even though their direct boss hasn’t asked them for it (and doesn’t care).
      It’s a lot of stuff like “why is Fergus insisting on submitting this ticket himself? Oh, right, he’s making sure he can prove he was working, even though he still has to do the work of the ticket, which is the actual proof of work.”

  43. Senor Montoya*

    OP #4: I’m running a search right now, so here’s my perspective.

    Originally we were hiring for one person, then it was for two people; I’m waiting to hear if we’re going to get the funds to hire a third (at a state university! amazing!). That is not something I can share with candidates — I can’t even share it with my colleagues; I can’t yet share it with my search committee. So don’t assume the employer is just blowing smoke. They said nice things about you, they stated they hired the person with a characteristic you don’t have, they want you to know that they will probably have more openings. I agree, way too much about the person they hired, but you know, human beings — this strikes me more as klutzy than deliberately cruel.

    It’s unfortunate that you didn’t take the opportunity to ask questions — but I think you could call them back, or email them, with some questions: Thank them and express disappointment, pleased that they are keeping you in mind for a future opening, ask about the timeline, ask if they’d like you to check back in with them, ask any other questions about the job that you might otherwise have asked. Check back in with them in 6 months or whatever fits their timeline, if they said “we’d love to hear from you”.

    As for why did they even interview you if you weren’t local: our postings have minimum requirements and preferred requirements. And then when we meet candidates, we discover they have other skills and experience which we were not looking for, but which we think will bring something extra for our office. Also, sometimes we have several candidates who would be excellent, and we have to figure out a way to rank them–we can’t offer the job to two or three people if there’s only one position. That’s when we go to things like: what’s the extra unexpected skill or experience? which one did a key employee like a lot/ express doubts about? which one do we think could start sooner? and so on.

  44. Case of the Mondays*

    I was certain a coworker was clipping her nails too and it turned out to be a weird clicking noise our kitchen toaster oven made. Her office was across from the toaster oven.

  45. Miss May*

    For LW5: Could you just use the sick day without telling them its for family/an appointment? I know its slightly duplicitous, but when people are unreasonable…

    1. LW#5*

      I totally could. I just have no poker face and lying (even by omission) is incredibly stressful for me, so I won’t.

  46. Vic*

    LW5 – My company eliminated sick days years ago. Instead, they increased the number of PTO days everyone has by the same amount and stated in the policy that you should use it for anything you want. I like it much better. When there were two separate buckets, I never used up my sick days. Now, my company sends out memos in the last quarter to remind everyone to use their remaining PTO.

    1. Barely Human*

      Gosh, I love this. I work at a state university and our sick/vacation days are separated, and as I work in the highest admin branch of the campus, there is more strict enforcement of keeping up appearances re: “vacation days are approved in advance, as they are planned except in emergencies, whereas sick days are allowed to be taken with moment’s notice.” I have bopped all over this campus in different units in the last 15 years, and the general consensus is that if you can AT ALL find a way to make your personal day a sick day, you DO IT. (Working in previous, laxer units in other parts of campus earlier in my career, if you were just cranky from a crappy morning or had something you wanted to get done but were trying to conserve what accrued vacation days you had–which always disappeared faster than sick days–you just glanced knowingly in your boss’s doorway, made eye contact, did a hilariously fake cough, and they grinned & held out their hand for your absence slip for afternoon “sick time” hours. Mileage varied by department, but is abused/lied about pretty universally outside of top-brass units, often with supervisory blessing because they hate the policy, too. It would be amazing to be able to combine all PTO. Because it’s public-sector governed by legislation, longevity of employment dictates increasing accrual over the years of vacation days, while sick day accrual remains 1 day/month but since we have 4 difference payment schedules based on type of employment, it is broken down by decimal on your accrual reports. Since no one’s sick time accrual is ever allowed to increase past the initial 1 day per month (divided by whatever pay-period/decimal system your position dictates–civil service exempt, civil service non-exempt, A/P, Extra-Help, etc.), it stands to reason that allowing employees to just add that decimal amount to each accrual slip and combining them would be so much more humane, keep far fewer people from deceiving management/government, and help everyone. Sadly, I know the real reason they don’t do this–it’s because when you retire, you get paid out your unused vacation days but eat all those racked up sick days (and over 30+ years, they seriously rack up more than vacation/personal days–the big reason people, particularly in their last 5 years pre-retirement, come up with more and more deceptive ways of preserving those vacation days they can trade in for extra pay at the end and use sick time instead even when it’s usually known widely they aren’t sick. “Mental health days” aren’t addressed via policy/legislatively for us, so unless we have an actual therapist appointment or something, it’s personal (vacation) time, and even then, if you have a non-contagious (non cold/flu-like sympomatic) issue, which most overworked/underpaid staff here have (various mental/social barriers like depression, anxiety, etc.) and need a day to clear your head for your true well-being…there goes a vacation day. If you have an appointment with a therapist for that day or something, but understandably don’t feel like driving straight to work, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed after having started the day off with an intense psychiatric/therapy appointment, you are expected to only use the time at the therapist’s office as sick time, and must call the remainder of the day vacation hours. I understand why, given the retirement thing, but it really does cause a lot of problems and undue stress in an already stressful environment and the plan you describe that your company adopted would boost morale in ways unimaginable around here. I hope more private-sector jobs adopt your company’s policy, because it sounds excellent.

      1. Vic*

        It’s really nice. I imagine they did it this way to standardize the process because my organization is so large. I work for a U.S. financial organization with over 250,000 FTEs. So, having one bucket is easier to manage. From my personal perspective, I no longer feel guilty about taking time off when I get sick.

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      We had this at OldJob. (Which was also when I started getting flu shots every year – didn’t want to dip into my PTO bucket more often than absolutely neeeded.) I know this is controversial and the majority of people do not like this, but I miss having everything in one bucket.

    3. Scion*

      The problem with combining everything into a single PTO bucket is that it heavily incentivizes people to not take sick time if they or a family member is sick.

      If you have separate buckets, then there’s no real downside to taking time off for illness.

      If you have a combined bucket, then taking time off if you’re sick results in you having less vacation time to use for the holidays (for example).

      1. Vic*

        Actually, they increased our PTO days when they put it all in one bucket. They also increased the number of holidays we have as well. Last year, they added 2 personal holidays, which we can take for anything we want. New hires start off with 18 PTO days and 12 holidays. That number goes up with your years of service. Plus, they send out multiple reminders to take all of your PTO. We can carry over 5 days if we want to. But, that’s all. So, we are expected to use it up.

  47. Mockingdragon*

    I….clipped my nails at my desk at my last job =/ I never considered clean nails to be that gross, I’m sorry all. In my case I was trying to stop biting, and I’ve found the only solution is to clip instead when I feel the need. It genuinely never occurred to me that it could bother other people.

    1. Jdc*

      With the news having to actually remind people to wash their hands regularly what’s under ones nails isn’t as clean as you may think.

      1. Jennifer*

        I am floored by how many people don’t know the proper way to wash their hands that are outing themselves now. I’m starting to understand why so many people refuse to shake hands, even under normal circumstances.

        1. Nail biter*

          Oops, I accidentally posted this as a separate comment but meant to reply here. I second KayDeeAye – it’s not like other people are going to be touching the nail biter’s nails so honestly not sure why the cleanliness of the actual nails is relevant here? There are tons of other things at work that are germ-filled (phones, keyboards, door handles, etc. etc.). It does make the actual habit of nail biting gross though so kicking that habit is a good thing!

          1. Jdc*

            Omg just don’t cut your nails at work. That’s not what work if for. If I catch an employee of mine doing that I’ll happily let them take that time off to attend to what is clearly more important. This is so dumb. Many people find it gross so don’t do it. Work at work. Shocking. Right.

            1. KayDeeAye*

              Humans do all kinds of dumb stuff at work. If work is only for work…what, you’re not allowed to brush your hair at work? Go the restroom? Put on some lipstick? Change the bandage that’s covering the cut on your finger? Put on lotion because your skin is dry from all the hand-washing?

              I agree that extensive nail trimming at work is silly and not a great idea, and anything more than a few clips should be done at home. I even agree that yes, some people find trimming nails gross, and that’s unpleasant for them.

              But you know, people find bandages gross too, and many find other people’s loose hairs gross – me, for example. I work with humans, though, and just as humans sometimes need to clip a jagged nail or use the restroom, they also need to brush their hair sometimes, and when they do that, they generally lose a few hairs.

              So as a fellow human, what I have to do is…put up with it. Putting a *minor* bit of nail trimming into a special category of extra grossness is illogical and unproductive. To work with other human beings, you have to accept that they’re human beings, which is to say Producers of All Sorts of Unpleasant Byproducts.

  48. DoctorateStrange*

    #3. Check your local library’s study room policies. Where I work, we have plenty of patrons that use them for interviews. They have neutral wall colors so it looks almost like you are in an office and while I wouldn’t say they’re sound proof, they still muffle out most sounds.

    No public library is the same though, so check the study rooms out first personally. Also, if you are doing an online interview, please, please, please make sure you have all your equipment to run it. I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve had patrons set up an interview in one of the study rooms and automatically assumed we loaned out laptops with webcams, so they brought nothing. Call and inquire how a study room is reserved and what technologies the library can provide for you.

  49. Jennifer*

    Re: nail clippings

    Ew. I think headphones are your best bet. I’ve noticed more and more people seeming to blur the lines between home and work and doing things at the office that should always be done at home, or at least in the bathroom. If multiple people in the office are doing this, I’d say it’s too late to fix it. They have taken over! But solidarity.

    1. Jennifer*

      For the record – I don’t think fixing one hang nail every so often is that big of a deal, but regularly clipping all your nails at your desk I don’t get.

      1. Jdc*

        Right. I totally agree about a little fix, I keep a little nail kit in my purse, but how are you not taking care of these basic grooming tasks at home? I could even go into how you are not being paid to do your nails at work.

  50. V*

    Kind of funny how divisive the issue of nail clipping is. I actually had this same thing happen to me, I occasionally had to file down a broken nail (I have naturally long nails so if one of them breaks it can be jagged and painful). One day my coworker spun around and all red faced asked me to do that in the bathroom and I was literally floored. Had no idea people thought it was weird or gross, so her request was pretty jarring. I was literally like, how do you file your own nails if you think it’s so disgusting?? Bringing your nail file or clippers into a communal bathroom to me is equally as weird/gross. People are so weird, I agree with the comments along the lines of calm down about it.

      1. V*

        That seems super extra to me tbh, like how do you function in society if something that small bothers you that much?

        1. RussianInTexas*

          You grin (while screaming internally) and bear it and always wear headphones. Also, never eat with anyone in silence ever.
          Signed, a fellow misophoniac.

    1. 1Potato2Potato2Potato4*

      I think filing or clipping an odd nail when it has broken is no big deal. My brother tells the story of when he worked in NYC and took the LIRR (Long Island Railroad) from Long Island into work. People on the train would do all kind of weird things. But one of the worst things he described was when a man actually took off his shoes and clipped his toenails on a packed train. My brother said you could see them flying around. Ick!

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Sometimes it’s literally just the act of others doing it more than if they do it themselves. Since you can get yourself into a mindset and work around your issues when you’re in direct control.

      But really, I would have probably let out a nervous laugh of “LOL WUT” kind of reaction if someone reacted so passionately about the noise to me. My response is a casual “no, I’ll do it here, it’s a two second break to fix this nail and I’m still actively available to someone who may need to ask questions or who is looking for me.”

      Like hell I go to the bathroom for anything other than to use the restroom for what it’s intended to be. Or perhaps if I have extra gas because it has a smell you know. I’m not clipping or adjusting my hair in the bathroom. If you want to think I’m a barbarian, you’re welcome to! Are you in charge of my paychecks, raise and trajectory? No? Okay then I don’t care what you think if you’re going to act so extra about it.

    3. Atalanta0jess*

      Not everyone actually does file their nails. I clip only, because of the filing sound/feel.

  51. Panthera uncia*

    #5 All my office jobs have had this same policy–sick days are for unexpected illness for the employee only, PTO is for appointments/procedures and for child illness. That’s standard stuff, in my experience.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Yup, it’s terrible IMO but we also have it. Ours is like yours, so more restrictive than the LW’s – “sick time should only be used for unplanned illnesses”. I haven’t used up my entire allowance of 3 sick days/year in, oh, ever since this policy went into effect 4-5 years ago. I had to take vacation to have a medically required outpatient surgery a couple of years ago, because it was not a last-minute, emergency one, so, not unplanned. Took a personal day for the colonoscopy (which I’d been putting off for several years, because I did not want to waste a personal or PTO day). None of the people who worked in HR at the time this policy was put in, work here anymore. They put it in and left for other places that do not have this policy, and we are living with it. Yeah I’m pretty peeved. This was the first time I’d seen or heard of this policy in my career though. Don’t know how widespread this is.

    2. JustaTech*

      That’s really interesting. Both of the places I’ve worked with sick leave it’s been “sick leave is for when you are sick, when you are taking care of someone (human) who is sick, when you have an appointment, or when you need to take someone to an appointment.” No, you can not use sick time for your cat.

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Whereas many of us haven’t had this as their procedure ever.

      Sick time = doctor time in my experience. So if you are going to the doctor for your physical, that’s sick time. If you’ve got standing appointments with your doctor, sick time.

      Nobody has ever policed it so feverishly. You are allotted X amount of time for that and just use it. But i also tend to work places that treat us as trustworthy adults and not naughty children gaming a system.

      But this is also me being from an area with mandatory sick time and laws that make it so they can’t even ask what the sick time is for. So you’re just setting yourself up for more call ins than pre-planned absences when you’re so uptight about how you use it. Way to cut off your nose to spite your face! I’d rather know that you are going to be out on Tuesday for an appointment that you’re using sick time for than just having you go “oh dear, I’m under the weather today, I won’t make it in.” because I’m too controlling to let you use your paid time off the way you see fit.

  52. Another worker bee*

    LW 3, second the advice for a headset with a directional mic. I used to live right by a light rail line, like….50 feet from the intersection, and for about 6 months the city diverted actual freight trains on this line. So every 10 minutes during the workday there was a train blowing it’s horn RIGHT OUTSIDE my house. My boss paid for me to get a set of headphones (about $100 on Amazon) with a directional mic and no one on my video meetings could even hear the train.

    Also, could you and your boyfriend use a shared google calendar to keep track of your meeting times in the interim? I know scheduling is not always 100% under your control, but it would help to cut down on the overlap.

    1. Jennifer*

      Yeah his meeting times may be set in stone, but she does have a bit of flexibility for times she schedules phone/Skype interviews.

  53. Mrrpaderp*

    LW 3 – There’s some great advice here, but if all else fails, do you have access to a car? I’ve taken many many interviews/calls from my car when I didn’t have another quiet, private alternative.

  54. Half April Ludgate, Half Leslie Knope*

    OP4, I once got a rejection from a major corporation after the recruiter interview, and he had one of the best practices I’ve ever experienced. He sent me an email rejection, but then asked if I’d like to set up a 10-15 minute chat so he could discuss potential future opportunities/interests with me. On that call, he took notes for his HR system to set me up as a potential hire option when they have future roles.

    I didn’t think much of it, and I don’t expect I’ll ever get a future request for interview from that, but it felt like they truly cared and wanted to keep in touch with me, but also wanted to respect my feelings (not calling me with that news, letting me have the option to continue talking).

    I hope other employers start doing this down the line!

  55. SaffyTaffy*

    OP1, I mentioned this in a reply but I want to bring up that it’s completely normal in China for people to clip their nails in public. If there’s any chance this might be a cultural thing, it would be a kindness to mention it to the clipper so they can knock it off.

    1. V*

      This was one of my immediate thoughts as well – reinforcing white/waspy standards of “cleanliness”?

  56. DataSci*

    OP4, a rejection phone call? If that were normal that would be the sort of thing that would make it incredibly difficult for me to job-hunt (which is already challenging at the best of times!) The jarring interruption of phone calls is bad enough without adding the possibility that it might be a rejection. Why would anybody do this? Just to rub salt into the wound? I would 1000% rather a company ghost me as a candidate than that they call me up just to disappoint me. I have to disagree with Alison here – I don’t care if the recruiter / hiring manager is a “phone person”, they need to show some basic human empathy. Keep the phone calls for good news.

  57. CL Cox*

    My employer just announced (among other measures) that they are suspending “good attendance” award/programs for students and not sending out attendance letters for students who are over the threshold of days absent for the period, in an effort to encourage parents to keep their sick kids home. But they have yet to institute something similar for employees. For certain types of employees, our online absence system will reject the absence if there are no days available, so i figure it’s only a matter of time before I’m calling our central office, asking what they want me to do for an employee who is out of sick and personal days but is sick enough that we don’t want them coming in.

    I also think it’s just a matter of time before we have to close our schools – we don’t have a WFH option for our students, most of our families can’t afford computers at home and we can’t send our laptops home with them.Either we will be extending the school year well into the summer or (more likely, I think) we will receive a waiver for the number of days legally required for the year. A lot of graduating HS seniors all over the country are going to be negatively affected, I think. SATs/ACTs/APs are not offered online.

  58. HospitalAnon*

    I work in a hospital.
    1. We can only use sick time once all vacation is exhausted.
    2. Sick time can only be used for yourself, no family care.
    3. We get dinged if we take to many “unscheduled” pto days (i.e. sick days).

  59. Engineer*

    The nail clipping may not be nail clipping. I almost confronted a coworker because I kept hearing him clip away at his nails…like 20-30 times in one day. No one can clip their nails that much in one day., Ya…turns out he was snapping the clip on his pen, which made the same exact sound.

  60. Buttons*

    As everyone has said, clipping or filing a broken nail is fine, but clipping both hands is basic hygiene and grooming. That should be done at home. Hands are dirty and nails are the collecters of most of that dirt and bacteria, so having little bits of gross flying around the office and piling on the floor is gross. To me, it would be no different than picking your nose and wiping or flinging boogers all over the place.

  61. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    If a random coworker emailed or spoke to me about clipping my nails, I’d just internally roll my eyes and continue to do whatever I felt like whenever I felt like it. But sure you can try to make rules up and pass them around, it may cause you more harm than good though depending on how the person feels about being given directions by someone who isn’t their boss. Either get someone to make an actual rule about it or get someone higher up on board if you want this to have any traction, since it’s not just a one off person, it’s multiple people who clearly don’t find it to be an issue!

  62. TootsNYC*

    Yeah, quickly fixing a single broken nail is one thing, but clipping a full set of nails at work — why?

    Do people really have to so little imagination that they can’t understand why people would do this?????????

    One nail split or suddenly causes problems. So they clip it–but while they are looking at their fingernails, they realize that there are others that will soon create similar problems, so they deal with them now, while they have the clippers out.

    How hard was that?

    If what you want to say is, “I wish people wouldn’t do it where I can hear it,” OK fine.
    But don’t say “why?” That’s bad communication, and you are focusing on the wrong thing.

    So say to your colleague, “Can I ask you to do any nail clipping where I can’t hear you? I find that it bothers me.”

    I will also tell you, as someone who is NOT bothered by it AT ALL, and who only goes to another room to do it because I know that it bothers others, that part of me doesn’t understand why it does bother you—OK, the sound, that I get, but the “ick” factor doesn’t compute for me.

    Body fluids are not spraying around. Germs are not being spewed. In fact, it is far less germy than blowing your nose on a tissue.

    Personally, I sweep up my clippings and put them in the trash along with my banana peel and my used tissues.

    So I go in the other room to clip my nails, just because I believe in being considerate of other people’s quirks unless it’s really, really inconvenient (and this is inconvenient).

    But that doesn’t mean I truly get the “ick” factor.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I just clip over my garbage can usually!

      But I agree, the “gross” part doesn’t make sense to me either.

      If people are washing their hands properly, it’s no different than watching someone eat “finger food”, their presumably “nasty” nails are touching or at least very close to their food that they’re actually putting into their mouth. But we’re okay with shoveling fries, chips or a piece of pizza into your mouth with that grubby mitt but heaven forbid you fix a snagged nail that could actually become worse. If it breaks all the way down and takes it into the nail bed, it can bleed then, then you’re talking about an actual hazard.

      This is one of those “manners” things. Like how some people freak out if you brush your hair in public because “omg hair is nasty ew, nevaaaaaa touch it outside of a restroom.”

  63. TootsNYC*

    there was literally no feedback for me on how I could have done better. They said that what tipped the balance in favor of the other candidate was being locally connected; being from out of town, I could never have met that requirement, and if I had known that that was important to them

    Maybe there was nothing you could have done better.
    Maybe there was not the slightest thing wrong with your application.
    Maybe they didn’t know they’d end up with a candidate who happened to have such good local connections

    People have lost jobs I was hiring for because someone else edged them out. There’s nothing they could have done better. In those cases, I am normally quite clear to them during the rejection email (which I do because I think a phone call makes them think they’re getting an offer) that they had a great candidacy and that I want them to think of themselves as a qualified candidate and to feel strong when they pursue other roles. And I will say, “I’d love to work with you someday.”

    I can also totally see them calling you because they felt they owed you an in-person rejection, and them trying to be nice about it, and that a short email would be disrespectful.

  64. learnedthehardway*

    OP#4 – the ONLY reason that recruiter made the call to you was because the company liked you VERY much, and the recruiter wanted to let you know that. Basically, they wouldn’t waste their time unless they felt that there was a good possibility that another role would come up that would be a fit for you, or that the hiring manager wants to keep in touch with you as a candidate. They weren’t wasting your time – they were trying to explain that they think you are great but that they didn’t have a choice on who to hire right now. (I mean, maybe the local person is also great, but they went out of their way to explain that the “localness” was the overriding factor. It’s even possible that the hiring manager feels the local candidate is NOT great, that they will flame out, and wants to be able to come back to you when they are finally given the go-ahead to hire non-locally. Of course, they can’t actually SAY that.)

    Now, they may be over-confident about their ability to hire you in future, but take it as a compliment that they really liked you. I would send a note thanking them, and would make an effort to stay in touch (eg. send the hiring manager and recruiter a LinkedIn invitation), and let them know that you continue to be interested in the company.

    Also, handling these situations graciously is a good thing, and will weigh in your favour if/when another opportunity comes up.

  65. Wilson Fillups*

    An old boss of mine left the job without cleaning out his desk. I took over his office, I found a pile of nail clippings in the desk drawer! All the spare change he left in there didn’t make up for the disgust that I felt. Ugh!

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      OMFG there’s more than one of those people out there?! I swear I have heard this story somewhere else and I don’t know if you were the OG…but I just have this feeling this is a “thing” some people do.

      Now that, that has no excuse what so ever.

      Seriously, do they not have a garbage can?!

      This is some “My Strange Addiction: I save my nail clippings” stuff.

    2. TootsNYC*

      THIS part of the “ick” factor, I agree with.

      And even though it’s not that germy, really, I also don’t want to find your comb with stray hairs in it.

  66. PLM*

    I’m going to guess that people consider their desks/ cubicles as their personal space like an extension of their home space and don’t even think that clipping nails at the office would be an affront to others. I’ve not done so myself, but personally don’t take issue with it. It’s rather interesting to me that so many commenters are going full on ballistic over this activity.

  67. Anonymous!*

    For OP #4 – At my company, we are required to call candidates to reject them as it’s just part of the policy here. I definitely wish we could reject through email as I don’t like having to make these types of calls to candidates. I was on the receiving end of one once and I thought it was a job offer so it left me just feeling sad. That being said though, I would never take the candidate’s time to go through in scheduling this type of call! I usually call unannounced and if I get their VM, I leave a VM and that’s the end of it. Just wanted to weigh in, in case the company OP applied to has the same requirement!

    1. TootsNYC*

      Do you suppose you could send an email to say, “I’d like to speak with you by phone to update you as our hiring process has come to its close” or some other generic wording that implies “we aren’t actually offering you the job, we’re just telling you that everything is over,” and then that gives them the idea that they’re NOT getting the job, and then you officially, actually “reject” them by phone?

      1. Anonymous!*

        That’s a great thought that I will keep in mind. I was worried that it might drum up more anticipation if I schedule the call vs. just call them. But I don’t think there is any procedure around whether we do or not so this might be a good way to soften it instead of the info coming so abruptly. Thank you!

  68. As annoyed as OP5*

    OP 5, my organization has the same policy. It sucks. In fact, we can’t use sick time for any pre-scheduled medical appointments or procedures, so if I had to have planned surgery, for example, I’d have to use a vacation day for the surgery. I wouldn’t get to use sick time until I was in recovery.

    We do get two ‘float’ days on top of our vacation bank, which are intended to cover routine appointments and sick kids etc, but who (especially people with little kids, which a huge portion of our organization has) is going to only need two days?

    1. Stormy Weather*

      That is the total opposite of what I’ve had in jobs with sick time. We were always strongly encouraged to schedule them well in advance.

  69. Batgirl*

    The clipping issue has given me a flashback to when I shared a house with a schoolmate. A schoolmate who took the kitchen scissors to trim her toenails, and then BROUGHT THEM BACK TO THE KITCHEN. Only mentioning it in passing some days later.
    We sat her down to explain why this was a bad, awful and terrible idea. We did not of course use the word ‘disgusting’ with our bewildered friend, but we explained that it was unhygienic and bothersome.
    She was most surprised. Apparently it had been customary to not care about this at her (pretty nice) family home. I can imagine her not batting an eyelid about clipping her nails at work and I don’t think she would be too careful about the clippings either.
    Some people just didn’t get the memo.

  70. Nail biter*

    I second KayDeeAye – it’s not like other people are going to be touching the nail biter’s nails so honestly not sure why the cleanliness of the actual nails is relevant here? There are tons of other things at work that are germ-filled (phones, keyboards, door handles, etc. etc.). It does make the actual habit of nail biting gross though so kicking that habit is a good thing!

  71. BasicWitch*

    I had a coworker who used to go into other people’s cubes to clip his toenails.

    If that made you throw up in your mouth a little – me too.

  72. Anonymous!*

    That’s a great thought that I will keep in mind. I was worried that it might drum up more anticipation if I schedule the call vs. just call them. But I don’t think there is any procedure around whether we do or not so this might be a good way to soften it instead of the info coming so abruptly. Thank you!

    1. Anonymous!*

      Yikes sorry this is literally one of my first times commenting on here and it’s clear I don’t know how to lol. I meant this as a reply.

  73. Jeff*

    LW5 – my guess is this is a longshot, but if you’re in California or governed by California laws, they legally can’t deny your use of sick time to help other family members. Even if your company has a sick policy that is “grandfathered” in, it still have to have the minimum requirements of the California sick leave policy, including being able to use it to care for sick family members and doctor’s appointments. Here’s the actual text from the California website:

    “You can take paid sick leave for yourself or a family member, for preventive care or diagnosis, care or treatment of an existing health condition, or for specified purposes if you are a victim of domestic violence, sexual assault or stalking.

    – Family members include the employee’s parent, child, spouse, registered domestic partner, grandparent, grandchild, and sibling.
    – Preventive care would include annual physicals or flu shots.

    The employee may decide how much paid sick leave he or she wants to use (for example, whether you want to take an entire day, or only part of a day). Your employer can require you to take a minimum of at least two hours of paid sick leave at a time, but otherwise the determination of how much time is needed is left to the employee.”

    Source here:

    If nothing else, that hopefully gives you at least a starting point for negotiation if you and fellow coworkers want to try to fight to get your company’s policy changed.

  74. MegaMissyStar*

    Am I the only person out of 500+ posters who believes you should instead be doing work? At work? Instead of debating the levels of grossitude, or whatever?

  75. Ms. Ann Thropy*

    Nail clipping in front of others at work is a disgusting offense. There is never a nail clipping “emergency” that cannot be taken care of in a bathroom, preferably your own home bathroom. Just thinking about the sound is making me enraged.

  76. Bowserkitty*

    Late to the party, but there are SO MANY PEOPLE in Japan who do this and it is just so gross to me. I have at least two offenders in my department alone. I heard a theory that this is based on an old legend that you should only clip in the daytime, but still. aghhh

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