how the hell are we supposed to work now?

As you might imagine, coronavirus has overtaken my inbox. I’m hearing from people whose entire companies have gone fully remote overnight and people whose companies are acting as if nothing has changed and still expect everyone to show up as normal every day. I’m hearing from people whose virus-related questions are pretty light (“what’s up with my coworker who’s openly vaping at home during video calls?”) and people whose queries are much harder (“will my industry ever be hiring again?”).

At New York Magazine today, I answered some of the questions in my inbox right now, including:

  • How can I ask to work from home?
  • Is anyone hiring right now?
  • How much is reasonable to expect people to do from home?
  • How do I tell people I’m just sneezing from allergies?
  • Will my new job fall through?

You can read it here.

{ 177 comments… read them below }

  1. Vermonter*

    Bless the manager writing in to ask how much is reasonable and thank you, Alison, for your measure, realistic, and humane reply.

    1. beanie gee*

      The small company I work (from home) for had a company wide virtual happy hour last week and the head of our company admitted it was one of his most unproductive work weeks he’d ever had. I think the whole company let out a collective sigh.

    2. Massive Dynamic*

      Yes, thank you so much for this, Alison. It turns out that I can be a employee, preschool teacher, and 2nd grade teacher all at once, but I’m below-average at all three important jobs right now.

  2. Ranon*

    I would add to “how can we ask to work from home” – if everyone is set up to work from home a “stay at home” order, if one does come through for your area, will be much much less disruptive to business if yours is considered non essential and employees are no longer allowed to travel from their homes to the office.

    1. hbc*

      Yeah, I’m in Michigan, and I’m so glad we started planning three or four weeks ago for “How the heck will this get done remotely?” We’re in manufacturing so there’s a huge butts-in-seats mentality, and some people here seem to love passing paper around. It would be a disaster here if we hadn’t had some people try working from home, see what didn’t work, and then come in to do whatever physical intervention was necessary.

      I had to have a lot of conversations with managers where I was like, “If Fergus gets a fever, you’re going to *have* to do without him here for two weeks, so let’s try him there for a day or two and see what breaks.” Hopefully, that message doesn’t always have to come top down.

    2. MsMaryMary*

      Agreed! Previously I’ve worked from home occasionally and using my laptop from the dining room table has been fine. We went into “strongly encouraged to work from home” last week, and then our state issued a stay at home order effective this morning. I was able to run into the office yesterday and grab a full size keyboard, mouse, and additional monitor. Now I’m setting up a real home office (well, corner of the guest room) with dual monitors and a keyboard with a number keypad. Other coworkers stopped in to get paper files, note pads, etc.

    3. NW Mossy*

      I mentioned this in a previous discussion, but a severe snowstorm in my area a couple of years ago was the spur for us to get serious about how to deal with large numbers of people working from home. That’s paying off in spades now – the adjustment has been a lot easier for us because the infrastructure was already there.

      1. Filosofickle*

        Today I was thinking that this isn’t something we just need to “get through” in the short term. We need to be learning and preparing for next time, like your company did! Everything has been global for a long time, but you wouldn’t know it by the way some companies operate. Let’s truly learn to work remotely and flexibly, and set up proper safety nets.

        I’m no way a panicker, I swear, but the world is changing. We are seeing more, bigger storms. There are protests, unrest, and economic instability. Countries are pulling back their borders. And this won’t be the last pandemic. We need to build the infrastructure to support folks learning and working where they are and take care of people in a crisis.

    4. ThatGirl*

      My husband’s employer (he’s staff at a university) seriously dragged their feet on this. They only finally got laptops set up late last week, but were still pressuring student support staff to come in, despite the fact that no students were on campus or able to come in to his office. It took the governor putting forth a shelter in place order to get them to finally let everyone but the most skeleton maintenance staff stay home. Because of that they’re still figuring a lot of things out.

      1. Aggretsuko*

        Yup, that’s what happened with my office too. Literally the SIP had to go down to make my office let us go home.

  3. hayling*

    Many companies are still hiring! I work for a tech company and we are still full steam ahead hiring right now. It’s been an adjustment interviewing people completely over video calls, and I do feel bad that they can’t walk around the office that they will (eventually) be working in, but we are making it work. We just signed a candidate for one role in my department, and we have a few more roles that I’m on interview panels for. Don’t despair, candidates!

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      My company (a software company) is still hiring as well, which puzzles me since they said they’re postponing our salary reviews for the year because of the virus. Like, what the hell? If you’re concerned about cash flow, you don’t need to be hiring anyone right now.

    2. Wendy Darling*

      I work at a tech company that provides live chat and chatbot customer support and business is actually booming for us (as our CEO keeps reminding us, which is really grinding my gears because he never says anything about anyone’s health, just how great this is for the company bottom line) because places are having to shut down call centers due to social distancing. As far as I know we’re still hiring, although it might slow down a little because all our clients are freaking entirely out so everyone’s spending a lot of time talking clients off the ledge.

      I’m fortunate that I was a remote worker before all this started and I don’t have kids, so the change for me personally was minimal, work-wise — mostly it’s just that my partner now ALSO works from home so we have to be considerate of each other.

    3. Aggretsuko*

      My company is hiring for 4(!) people right now.

      I feel really sorry for whoever applies for one job with my old team. Half of them are nice and the other half are awful pills who literally drove me off the team. I can only hope that whoever they hire is treated nicely online by them and they don’t find out these people are pills for quite some time. I can say that sharing an office with them was where things got really bad, and the new person would have to, so….

  4. bennie*

    it is so, so hard to work normally right now. i am VERY lucky to have a job with a solid startup that is in big growth mode (our industry is not particularly right now, i will not whine about that) but higher ups there are expecting big results right now. psychologically speaking, dealing with everything makes it much harder to focus – and add that to the adjustment to work from home which i’m glad works for some people, because it doesn’t much for me. so while my company may be GO GO GO, i’m very much not and it has been a struggle to get myself into the right mindset to perform as high as i need to right now

    1. Colorado*

      I am struggling too bennie. I miss my office, the drive, my co-workers. Never thought I’d say that. Hang in there. Just know you are not alone.

    2. C in the Hood*

      And even not counting the psychological impact, just the adjustment to how the computer systems are working (or not working) in a home environment takes up sooo much time! I think it’s taken me at least 5 times as long to do simple tasks as I work from home.

    3. snoopythedog*

      I feel you.
      It’s actually crunch time for my team right now and I oscillate between being able to hammer out work and total brain meltdown where I stare at the screen mindlessly and panic that I’m not being productive. I’m lucky that my employers are so supportive, but it’s just a weird time to try and be functioning right now. I am lucky to have a flexible schedule, so I work a bit more when I can and use that time if my brain dies later in the week. I also have a list of mindless things I can do that count as work when I’m not able to focus.

      Give yourself some grace.

    4. Lavender Menace*

      Oh god, me too. I’m having such a hard time focusing, and the stress means I’m getting migraines more often (also sitting in front of a computer all day and not moving much).

    5. Tau*

      Yes, I am sooo unproductive right now and feel terrible about it. Part of it is that me + WFH is not a great match to put it mildly, but I definitely lose at least 30 minutes a day to staring at corona statistics and then going “why on earth am I even bothering about this minor UI bug on an app nobody is going to be using anytime soon, there’s a global pandemic outside!!” It doesn’t help that I only joined my company 3-ish months ago and am still in my probation period. Thankfully, my boss seems understanding.

  5. RedLineInTheSand*

    What’s the problem with people openly vaping while on a call? No one else is affected by smoke or vapor, so I don’t get the concern. (I saw the question in the opening paragraph, but I didn’t see Allison address that issue).

    1. Jedi Squirrel*

      I can think of a few reasons:

      It is the equivalent of smoking and looks unprofessional.

      In many quarters, smoking is no longer socially acceptable. Same with vaping.

      If you’re not allowed to smoke/vape at work, why would you be allowed to smoke/vape at home while WFH? (This one is iffy. Now that WFH has suddenly become a thing, we don’t have a lot of rules yet.)

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        In answer to the last question: you can’t smoke or vape at work because it can harm your coworkers. Smoking in your own house doesn’t harm coworkers. It’s not the same as having a Scotch and soda at your desk, which would be a legitimate work issue.

        1. Amethystmoon*

          It may depend on where you live. I live in an apartment building, so there is no smoking allowed of any kind. Also, I would think managers can tell their teams what is and what isn’t permissible on video calls. Ex: Wear a top and pants of some kind that looks presentable and isn’t your PJs, don’t smoke, don’t drink alcohol, and so forth.

          1. Eukomos*

            Your apartment building’s rules aren’t really your office’s problem, though regulating conduct on conference calls generally seems reasonable. My roommate had an office videoconference this morning and apparently she was the only one not wearing pjs, I wouldn’t blame their manager for requiring something more formal next time.

        2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          though, if you’re smoking at a work-owned computer, it can do bad things to the machine.

    2. New Jack Karyn*

      I think the idea is that it’s a little rude, the way some folks think having a snack on a video conference call is rude.

    3. Phony Genius*

      Is there anything wrong with audio-only calls? Most people would never know whether you’re vaping. Or even whether you’re clothed.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Yeah, my company is audio-only (and always was long before the virus), and no one would know what you were doing. Hell, I’m about to have a mimosa or three for lunch, which I never do under regular circumstances, but I’m stressed the hell out, so here we are.

        1. Ali G*

          We had a last minute video call on Friday last week at like 4 pm. I totally filled up a coffee mug with wine and proceeded to enjoy it while we discussed something I don’t remember (not because I was drunk, just because it didn’t really apply to me).

      2. Dr Logen*

        Oh you can totally hear vaping over a mic! I game with a lot of friends who vape and I can always hear it.

        1. Turtle Candle*

          I don’t recommend this for purposes of stealth vaping, as I don’t vape. But I have had great luck using a headset with a hardware mute button (as opposed to the software mute on the OS or the videoconference program itself) and then muting it whenever I stop talking. I use it to hide the fact that I am sweet-talking my cats, though.

          1. Nanani*

            PTT mode! (Push-to-talk; basically like a walkie talkie rather than always broadcasting all your sounds)

    4. juliebulie*

      My employer forbids the use of tobacco or else there is a hefty surcharge on monthly health insurance cost. So you don’t let anyone catch you smoking/vaping ever unless you’re willing to pay an extra $600/year for your insurance (it might be more than that now).

    5. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      It’s an optics thing. Just like how people aren’t fans of people who eat during a call.

    6. Kes*

      It’s distracting and it makes you look not particularly focused on the call and hence a bit unprofessional I would say

    7. MissDisplaced*

      I think it’s really an optics / perception thing. (◔_◔)
      I don’t personally vape or smoke, but some places really concern themselves over this stuff.

      I also think vaping had a lot of bad news over respiratory issues associated with it, and so does COVID-19. So… people will make an (unfounded) association that vaping may make you more at risk or something.

      1. Emma*

        Oh yeah…all of a sudden NO ONE is talking about that lung condition that was associated with vaping. I honestly forgot that was even a thing till you mentioned it.

        1. Mongrel*

          From what I recall;
          Most of the issues with the vaping (popcorn lung) were due to scarily low quality & knock-off vape liquids, particularly CBD products.

          1. TardyTardis*

            It seemed connected to use of Vitamin E oil in vaping products, which I hope the manufacturers have stopped.

    8. lemon*

      Second what everyone said: optics.

      Which feels unfair. Just had a video meeting with my team. My grandboss was hanging out in a tank top, a lot of people were in hoodies and comfy house clothes, two co-workers were clearly texting each other using the chat feature and giggling about it, one co-worker had her baby with her, and everyone was openly snacking. So it was an extremely casual vibe. Yet… I still knew that if I started vaping, that would make me look bad. :(

      And it’s also hard to train my brain not automatically reach for my vape. I don’t vape in my office at work, obviously, but my office is now my bedroom, where I vape all the time, and it’s a hard habit to stop while on a call.

    9. Starbuck*

      Well, if it’s THC (and as far as I know, there’s no way to tell just by looking) that would be like sipping a cold beer on the call – not something that should be done while working (even from home) since it impairs you.

  6. TooTiredToThink*

    One thing to keep in mind for all of us allergy sufferers – yes, if we sneeze its mostly likely *caused* by allergies but if we’ve been exposed that doesn’t mean we aren’t still spreading COVID-19.

    1. fposte*

      I was just thinking that–even if allergies are what causes your sneeze, you still spread around whatever you’ve got in your nose.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      This is a good time for cloth masks, whether it be cutesy kpop masks, winter jogging masks, or homemade PPE. Keep our droplets contained in something we can launder on hot.

        1. Venus*

          I’m healthy, with no reason to think that I’ve been exposed to the virus, I’m working from home, and yet I still plan to wear a scarf (thin winter one, so this isn’t gender-specific) when I go out. Having something on one’s face is the most reasonable option these days!

    3. Allergy LW*

      LW here – I did actually stay home the first couple days after my allergies flared up the beginning of February since I wasn’t sure if exactly what it was, but I’d been the same for three weeks by the time I wrote in and my symptoms aligned with the spike in pollen counts for my area, so I was pretty certain it was just allergies. I had been doing what Alison suggested – cleaning my desk with Lysol each morning and throughout the day with sanitizing wipes, practicing good hand washing hygiene, etc.

      That being said, it ended up being a moot point since I live in an area with a stay-at-home order so my entire team will be working from home for the time being. Maybe the worst of spring pollen season will be over by the time we go back.

      1. TooTiredToThink*

        I’m glad! I’ve been thankful that I can telework as well, so that when I do sneeze its ok. :D

    4. Amethystmoon*

      Yet another good reason to check your temperature daily, just in case. (Checking since last Monday and no fever, yay.)

      1. Sam.*

        Yeah, I’ve been checking my temp daily even though I’m not aware of having been exposed. But I live in a major city and don’t have a car so anything is possible, and I’ve been acting accordingly. It’s been a hugely helpful anxiety management tool, too!

      2. ThatGirl*

        Yknow, we don’t own a thermometer — I always figured I would be able to tell if I had a fever. And now you can’t find one for crap. I mean, I do own a meat thermometer and a candy thermometer, but those aren’t much help :)

          1. MsSolo*

            We ended up getting a baby care kit. I mean, we’re having a baby in three months, so it was definitely on the list anyway and with the panic buying of baby stuff I was getting concerned about if/when we’d get the opportunity otherwise (please, please let people have stopped panic buying nappies by June!). So now we’re just… testing the thermometer. To be sure it works. A lot.

    5. Not a Morning Person*

      True and another allergy sufferer here! I went out for supplies one day last week at a big box store and walked an aisle that had the HVAC vents blowing. Immediately after feeling that air blowing I felt my nose begin to itch and I ended up with a few sneezes. It’s a sensitivity that doesn’t mean I have COVID 19, but I felt like I was doing something wrong even when sneezing into my elbow! I and my household are still healthy, and we are taking all precautions we can.

      1. TomorrowTheWorld*

        I have an occasional cough from constant post-nasal drip.
        Me, on the bus to work: Can’t cough; public will eat me. Can’t cough; public will eat me. Can’t cough..

    6. RabbitRabbit*

      Yes. I have a bunch of coworkers around me who (also) have allergies. But they let giant, loud sneezes just FLY in their cubicles (when we were all still working in the office, WFH now) and I would cringe at what kind of germs might be flying around and would be wary of touching anything in their cube. I sneeze sometimes (from mine), but stifle them down to nearly nothing (I grab a tissue if I have time, and will pinch my nose shut hard to keep most of it in), then apply hand sanitizer.

    7. Bizhiki*

      I’m so glad you mentioned this!

      People who have been exposed to COVID-19 but aren’t (yet) feeling sick can and do spread the virus. We know this to be true. Someone who is sneezing and coughing is at higher risk of spreading the virus, even if they feel well or don’t think they’ve been exposed to the virus, than someone who is not sneezing or coughing more regularly.

      You know your body well, and you know the difference between having a cold and having allergies, but please think long and hard about the increased likelihood that you could transmit COVID-19 to others.

  7. Silicon Valley Girl*

    My big tech company is still hiring & doing video interviews, plus I’m still getting serious recruiting offers via LinkedIn. It’ll vary by industry & geographic area, of course, but hiring is still happening.

  8. Retail not Retail*

    I just want to know how we can convince our big bosses to make a declaration before the 31st. They think we’ll be open to the public the first, they’re delusional.

    I hate uncertainty.

  9. Fikly*

    Healthcare, obviously, but if you’re not clinical, think about all the non-clinical support positions that also urgently are going to need to be expanded to support the clinical positions. Not just things that require training like x-ray tech, but all the backend stuff, especially in telemedicine.

    1. AliceBD*

      Yes! I’m in healthcare marketing and IT is working overtime to get our docs set up on telemedicine. I’m updating the webpage about it twice a day as we gather more information.

    2. FIkly*

      To clarify, not that the backend stuff doesn’t require training – I meant, look for ways to use the skills/training you already have, to fit the current needs, rather than try to acquire new training right now.

    3. Mo*

      My husband works in emergency medicine and their hospital currently has a total hiring freeze due to cancelling and rescheduling all procedures/surgeries that are elective or not time-sensitive. I think everyone would think healthcare would be an obvious place that would be expanding but the move to create more space for COVID-19 patients is actually significantly hurting their bottom line. We’re in an area that hasn’t been hit too hard yet but we are bracing for it and had a stay at home order start today.

  10. OP2 - are people still hiring?*

    Hello! OP2 (are people still hiring right now) here. Unfortunately my circumstances have changed since I wrote in, I was actually laid off of my job last week, and my state has mandated a statewide shelter in place order. I am lucky in that I moved in with my family when I moved across the state, so I have very little living expenses right now! However I am not having much luck finding any new jobs that interest me since the state lockdown (I am in the DTC e-commerce industry). Glad to see from a few comments that some other industries are hiring! My best wishes to everyone, hope you are able to stay safe and healthy during these times!

      1. OP2 - are people still hiring?*

        Hi! I was working for a very small (5 employees total) company so have worn many hats including logistics/operations, customer experience, and marketing/PR. I am most passionate about marketing and other media-based positions such as social media but am open to opportunities. I am based in Southern California.

        1. SINE*

          Shoot, at the moment we’re only looking for a Magento Developer for our growing eCom side of the business. Wish I could have helped out :( I’m sorry you got laid off and, while I know well wishes don’t paid the bills, I hope all the best for you in this really weird time.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      This is the exact situation I’m in, down to moving across the state and staying with family, except my unemployment has been much more protracted.
      I hope you find something soon. You probably will.

  11. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    Ah the allergies! I feel for you.

    I literally just got the “head swiveling and backing right up to check what is happen” when I coughed because I inhaled my own spit, while sipping my coffee. I said “I was choking on my spit” and you could feel the tension release in the air. Getting stuff set up to work from home finally, phew. My cat never questions my fine ability to choke on spit, he just assumes it’s a hairball, the cat gets it ;)

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          This is a myth! All my cats wanna lay as close to my face as humanly possible.

          1. TooTiredToThink*

            Yes, it is a complete myth. My cats seems to be hovering even closer to me since I’ve been teleworking from home. Its insane some days.

            1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

              Mine apparently hates the “click click” of a keyboard, he thinks my hands are clearly out of control and need to be laid upon so that he can help a sister out.

        2. MayLou*

          My dog has become the master at enforcing social distance. Okay let’s be real, he always was. Strangers coming near his human? Heck no! Stay back or I will bite you with all of my shiny white teeth! Bark bark bark!

          1. emmelemm*

            Yeah, my dog hates other dogs so all my walks occur at a minimum 6-foot distance anyway.

      1. Scarlet Magnolias*

        I totally agree, I just wish I could get them to keep with their light-housekeeping duties

      2. Alexandra Lynch*

        We have one who believes in doing gravitational experiments all the time (if it is on a horizontal surface, it must be patted with a paw. If it moves it must be pushed off. If it is put back up, you must push it off again to repeat the experiment.) and believes in standing on your keyboard to get attention when she wants it. Her coding is subpar.

        The other is an expert in sitting on that one piece of paperwork and don’t let anything get between her and the window if there is a BIRD out there.

        His office door is shut. Both cats are outside it. There is a reason for this.

        1. Pomona Sprout*

          Your cat story reminds me of the joke, also a meme now, that if the earth was flat, cats would have pushed everything off of it by now!

          Thanks for the giggle. ;-D

    1. TheGreatOctopus*

      Allergy is the worst in this current situation. I sneezed in the grocery store the other day, typical dust sneeze, nothing spectacularly loud or messy, or even more then once, and literally every person around me froze and stared. I am not sick, just allergic (sneezy) to dust and with the clearing out of shelves there’s been a lot of dust gone airborne.

      It was incredibly awkward, and because of who I am as a person (awkward) I just walked away which in hindsight probably should have just said dust or something before running away. But it was a lot of people and they all just stayed frozen and staring, and I just did not know how to respond.

  12. voyager1*

    I work at a Fortune 500 bank. We are not hiring. Also all promotions, transfers and pay increases have been paused due to COVID19.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      all promotions, transfers and pay increases have been paused due to COVID19.

      Okay, so it’s not just my company. I was bitter as hell when we got that email. I’m still kind of salty to be honest, but at least they haven’t started laying people off.

  13. MyySharona*

    Tech companies are still hiring. I just started a job last week (I had interviewed and gotten my offer in late Feb) and my start date was the day the entire company went remote. I and two other people went to the office for two hours to meet up with our manager, get our laptops, make a list of any equipment we needed, and then we headed home. There’s been a (very) brief pause in the filling of other positions while everyone regrouped, but not a hiring freeze. So don’t despair!

    1. MissDisplaced*

      Yes, a lot of tech companies are still going as we can do a lot of our work remotely. However, it’s not “us” I’m worried about, but the customers we serve being down and that will slow business.

      1. emmelemm*

        Yeah, I work for a small tech company – basically software consulting, and I can do all my work from home and the business areas we work in aren’t directly affected by virus concerns. But I’m worried that some of our clients may go out of business, as they’re mostly small to medium sized businesses, and that could get disastrous for us quickly.

    2. Risha*

      My small tech/consulting company is working hella hard right now (we work mostly with state and large local governments and the offices may be closed but already signed off on projects are full steam ahead), and we appear to still be hiring, or at the very least are still onboarding recent hires. At least one full time hire started last week, and two part-timers today.

  14. Liane*

    Grocery stores, if you are willing to risk work in-person right now, at either a warehouse or in the stores. The chain where my kids work started recruiting pre-toilet-paper-hoarding & still is.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Amazon distribution side and all the delivery services are also looking for people too. So if you have a Amazon warehouse in your area, they literally will hire anyone. Not that it’s a great gig but assuming they set you up on payroll right [sigh], it’s a paying job for the time being and so that’s an option.

    2. The Original K.*

      So is CVS, and I would imagine other drugstores/pharmacies – I’ve just seen CVS specifically on the news.

    3. Jedi Squirrel*

      Yep, I just checked Indeed and they are hiring.

      But once people stop buying stuff, are all those workers going to get laid off? My local Walmart has enough trouble achieving full staffing, which is why its displays are always a disaster. If they can find some additional workers during this time, I hope they will keep them on afterward.

      1. Amy Sly*

        Depends. I wonder how many people will decide that shopping for even daily essentials is better online than in person; if it’s a lot, they’ll keep them on. On the other hand, who are they most likely to be hiring right now? Folks in the service sector like waiters or retail clerks who will have jobs to go back to once things open again. So even if they have mass layoffs afterwards, it may not hurt too many people.

      2. k*

        the constant terror of losing my job is the worst part, particularly because I was unemployed for years before getting it (not for lack of applying places) and if I lose it, that almost certainly is the end for me, employment-wise

    4. Filosofickle*

      Instacart posted yesterday they are opening 300,000 roles nationwide. That is not a typo.

      1. Filosofickle*

        I’m sure most of those are drivers, but they’ll also need IT, operations, customer service, HR, etc to handle the crush.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          Yup, this. I’m keeping an eye out for these postings so I can send the customer service ones, especially any remote work opportunities, to my hairdresser so she can have a little something coming in income-wise. I’m really concerned she’ll have to go out of business behind this virus and our state’s shelter in place order.

    5. noahwynn*

      I’ve really considered a part-time job at Target or the like to stash away some money. I work in the airline industry and everything is just so uncertain right now.

  15. Colorado*

    The struggle for me is not necessarily working from home but it’s working from home with kids who need to do some schooling during the day too. It’s not as easy as giving your kid a computer and say do school work, especially the younger ones. Our district has given us some ideas and websites to access but in no way do I have an itinerary setup. Between conference calls, the I’m bored, life sucks whining (from me and kids ;-), hubby still working in a hospital daily, it’s all overwhelming. I’m an engineer in a very technical, stressful job, but this teaching stuff is impossible!

    1. Third or Nothing!*

      I have a 2.5 year old spitfire of a daughter, and my company expects business as usual. A Certain School of Magic and Magic Preschool is on day 2 and not going well.

      1. Colorado*

        Here’s s funny:
        “Saw my neighbor Tammy out early this morning scraping the ‘My Kid is a Terrific Student’ sticker off her minivan. Guess that first week of home schooling didn’t go so well.”

        1. Third or Nothing!*

          HA! My kid is a pretty awesome kid, she just needs more stimulation and interaction than my husband and I can provide at home, especially while I’m still trying to get reports out. On a normal family day (i.e. a weekend or holiday) we would go to the library, the park, on a hike, a brewery, visit friends, etc. Now we can’t do any of that and it’s really hard on her. And us.

          At least I can still take her for runs?

        2. Róisín*

          A homeschooling friend of mine (friend? I don’t know; I babysat her kids when I was in high school and we’ve stayed in touch) pointed out recently that quarantined families aren’t really homeschooling. She isn’t even homeschooling right now. Everyone is bored, stressed, stir-crazy, missing their friends, scared. What’s getting done now is survival education. Given that context, it’s more than understandable that people are struggling with it, adults AND kids.

    2. Loves Libraries*

      Hopefully parents everywhere will support teachers for their next raise request.

  16. MissDisplaced*

    My company has been on WFH since March 12, which is great. But at some point it will become inevitable that we cannot continue as some things really do need to take place in person. If things do not ease by the end of April, I foresee some serious problems and loss of business. But I think right now, it’s still do what you can, and wait and see.

  17. Jedi Squirrel*

    We just got a stay-at-home order yesterday in my state, and so many local businesses are violating the order. Just because you’re in manufacturing doesn’t mean you’re a critical industry. (FWIW, none of these are medical suppliers.)

    I guess the human race deserves extinction, if they’re going to prioritize the bottom line over people’s lives. I suppose they don’t realize that dead people aren’t going to buy your product.

    1. fposte*

      Yeah, it sounds like every place in my state that sells candy bars at the register is suddenly a food supplier.

    2. beanie gee*

      If it’s Washington, the order doesn’t take effect until Thursday, so some businesses may be operating through tomorrow and then closing.

    3. Starbuck*

      I’m sure you meant it as a joke, but the human race does not deserve extinction – let’s not turn into ecofascists just because capitalism is a horrific system. People aren’t the problem, it’s the systems that need to change.

    4. nonegiven*

      Plenty of things you normally wouldn’t think of are critical industries. These cable or phone call center employees are in a critical industry and I am grateful for them. Think of all the people working and schooling from home for who knows how long. They should be able to move to working from home, though.

  18. S*

    I’m just graduating college now. Feeling sooooooooooo screwed by the future of the labor market

      1. Anonny*

        Likewise. Graduated college December 2001. Only people who still had job offers were those in defense/military.

  19. Brooklyn Nine-Niner*

    My office has been closed down almost entirely, but I work at a state legislature (won’t say which state for privacy reasons), so as you can imagine, our work is pretty essential, especially right now, with State Governments being on the front lines of the civil response. Because of that, with the State Capitol building closed, staffers are almost all working from home, including myself. Most of my work can thankfully be done online, so all I need is my computer and cell phone.

    1. Brooklyn Nine-Niner*

      Since I work directly for a Legislator, thankfully it’s not too difficult because our team is pretty small; we all can communicate with each other pretty easily. Quite a bit of online constituent work though.

  20. Ms Mash*

    I feel you. My nephew just graduated and the only job he could get was making sandwiches at Subway. Now that job is in jeopardy with the shutdowns.

  21. Social Distancing, What's That?*

    My mom had to close her 15yo business because she’s non-essential and can’t afford to not do business for a month or more. She isn’t eligible for unemployment in our state. 15 years down the drain. Now she gets to go job hunting at 68 years old during a pandemic. Glad to hear her chance of getting a job is 5% instead of 0%.

    1. Risha*

      Assuming she’s a US citizen and has been paying into social security like she was supposed to (which can be a big assumption for a small business owner, I know), can she just retire? She’s not at the maximum social security bonus for putting off retirement yet, but she’s close. That’s what my step-father did when he was laid off at 64 and couldn’t find a reasonable new job.

      1. Social Distancing, What's That?*

        She’s thinking about it. She’d be eating canned cat food and not running the heater in the winter but at least she’d have her rent paid. I’m just so disgusted at how our “beautiful” American system has failed so many all in the space of three weeks. This is a generation’s worth of economic damage. And the big corps will be the ones who survive while local businesses will be gone forever. I’m so sad. Sorry for the vent.

    2. Coverage Associate*

      Hopefully here or elsewhere will spread the word about small business loans soon. My county has started a fund, and money is coming from the feds.

  22. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

    OP4 – sneezing that’s “just” allergies – I hear you! I suffer with something similar, but I don’t know what I’m allergic to and haven’t yet been able to find a pattern (!). … Even sent off for one of those test kits where they send back a list of things you’re allergic/intolerant to (although I’m not sure if they are genuine or boohockey but getting increasingly frustrated trying to figure out what the heck it is!) … with no conclusive result.

    Since about December I’ve had a combination of a fluey coldy type of thing that comes and goes but never really goes away, with the allergies (which do go away with antihistamines so I can stop the sneezing at least).

    (I’m not really a ‘conspiracy theorist’ but I do find conspiracy theories interesting in a more abstract sort of way, but this is the first one I’ve felt really ‘gripped’ by (pardon the pun) and feel some of the theories could have some substance to them – but I don’t want to derail!)

    This mystery allergy has been going on for about 5 years and since I haven’t been able to find out what I’m allergic to I haven’t been able to take any steps to stop it — so I have had lots of side eye from people about “lurgies” during cold and flu season, but I have noticed them more lately (until we were all sent home that is!)

    I got eyed suspiciously by a few people a couple of weeks ago when I went out shopping in just a t-shirt which was inappropriate for the weather, like “does she have a fever? better move away”!

    1. I just can't take it anymore*

      Dairy. I get allergy symptoms – sneezing, congestion and runny nose/eyes – from eating/drinking dairy. Sometimes, particularly with cream sauces I get migraines.
      So check possible food allergies. Reactions can be immediate (runny nose) to a couple hours later (sneezing).

  23. Pipe Organ Guy*

    We’re still very much feeling our way through this. My husband is able to work from home; all of his stuff is in the cloud, his work computer has softphone software so he can place and receive calls just as though he were in the office. My job is different. Everything is stored locally–the church database, the bulletin files (going back many years, and I often need to access these old files), music and graphic files. I could copy nearly everything to a portable drive, except for the database; that may be a good option. However, even though I have an organ at home on which I can practice, I still need time on the church’s organ–the spatial relationships are different, and I need to set up my stop combinations. And I’m part of the skeleton crew actually in the church on Sunday, as we’re live-streaming our Sunday services.

  24. HRArwy*

    What I’ve noticed in HR is that Managers are not considering that while employees are working from home. Many of them now have their spouse (possibly extended family members), children and/or other children at home with them. While under normal circumstances it’s reasonable and expected that you have childcare arrangements for your kiddos while working from home — this isn’t possible. On top of that schools are closed but parents are expected to now teach their children and submit the work.

    I’m expecting that very little work will be done 9-5 and most will be done after 7:00 Pm when kiddos are in bed or entertained.

    1. Anon for this one*

      At my place it’s ‘expected’ (whatever that means!) that people WFH maintain a normal level of productivity and continue to achieve the things we’ve committed to. We are technologically and to some extent culturally (in that some people WFH occasionally so we dial them in to virtual meetings and stuff like that) already enabled for WFH so that isn’t really a problem, but I’m not sure if the impact of children hanging around having been evicted from schools makes that realistic!

      Maybe it’s being assumed that there is a “spouse” (partner, other half, etc) at home to take care of the children. I would love to earn enough that we don’t both need to work, but spouse’s employer is probably assuming that there’s another parent to take care of the kids as well!

      I don’t want to be “that guy” but is there a possible gender based assumption here as well?

      1. Nanani*

        “Possible” = 100% certain. Might be unconscious, but the assumption that everyone has a stay at home parent is deeply, deeply engrained in many facets of the system.

    2. fposte*

      Relatedly, we’re running into issues with whole households needing heavy internet use simultaneously as the kids are doing online school and parents are working from home. Zoom is not so zoomy then.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        I live in an apartment community with 150 units in the building – my Teams connection is dreadful as is my FaceTime connection. I have to take all video calls (audio-only calls for my company) on my cell phones and make sure to turn off the WiFi so the audio doesn’t cut in and out. *sigh*

        I have Ethernet cables coming from Amazon this week, so I hope that once I connect my laptop to my router, this Teams issue will be resolved.

    3. Nanani*

      Plus consider that people might not have the space for a separate office, might not have all the equipment and resources they need at home, and their home internet might not be able to handle, say, frequent skype calls AND gaming online AND streaming and so on by other people in the house.
      Not to mention some people are actually sick!

  25. CastIrony*

    Can I mention the name of the company that is hiring? I work at a dollar store, and they are hiring.

  26. Retail to Remote*

    In regards to the question: “Is anyone hiring right now?”, are there any past articles or would anyone have advice as to how one would transition from a purely retail/customer service-based position to remote work? My biggest hurdles are that I would have to budget the purchase of a new laptop as mine is simply too old and I’m not in a “hotspot” density populated city that a lot of remote work positions are based in.

    1. Ada*

      When our company last hired a remote worker, they sent them a computer to work on. I don’t know how common that is, but I doubt it’s that UNcommon. Depending on the kind of work you want to go into, they may even prefer you working of one of their computers for security reasons. Might be something to ask about in interviews.

      As for location, if you’re planning on working remotely anyway, I don’t think where you’re located in relation to the company really matters. I mean, I’m currently working on a team spread between multiple states, time zones, and even countries, so don’t limit yourself on just what physically near to you.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Your last paragraph is spot on. And most legit work from home opportunities do not require you to use your own laptop – the company will send you the equipment they want you using. If you’re unsure, you could always ask about equipment during an interview.

    2. Cordoba*

      I work on a team with several remote employees, in our case the company considers our laptops to be a normal business expense and provides all of us with the same laptop that on-site employees get. I wound up using my personal laptop for 3-4 days at the beginning while they sent my company one in the mail, but at that point I was just doing paperwork and taking training courses online so any functional laptop would have worked.

      When interviewing for remote roles I want to see the candidate demonstrate:
      1) They’ll make good decisions around task priority and use of time, even without the near-continuous feedback and oversight that comes with being physically adjacent to their supervisor or team
      2) They have a realistic understanding of what working remote will actually consist of. At least for the jobs I’m interviewing for, the nature of the work means it can’t be done at Starbucks, and the person really does need to be instantly available during a regular ~8 hour work day. It’s still a structured job, just one where you are not located in a central office.
      3) They are set up to successfully work from home, or have a plan to get set up quickly. Do they have a dedicated work space at their residence? Do they have a solid internet connection? Do they reliably get cell access where they live? Etc.

    3. Bob Dob*

      I have always worked in corporate office environments, and they all provided a company laptop for remote work. In fact, it was mandatory for security reasons to use the company-provided laptop.

  27. sustaining9*

    My particular role has shifted to WFH, but I work for an organization that provides essential services so we still have lots of people who still go in every day, and that will continue.

    I’m having this overflow of guilt lately that I’m safely at home while so many of my colleagues still have to go in. I’m also struggling with feeling…useless? Impotent? Some of the work my department does is important for operations even though we all WFH (for instance, our team manages the organization’s website, which is critical because it’s how we communicate a lot of our crisis response stuff). But I don’t work on those kinds of projects. I work on things nobody really needs right now. So I keep doing what I can because they’re still paying me, but everything I produce it’s like, “err…thanks, we’ll look at this in 3 months maybe.” Any time I see extra work floating around I try to grab it, but mostly I’m out of the loop because you don’t invite a person who isn’t critical to the crisis response to the crisis response meetings. And I can only offer so many times to do anything people need without being annoying. It seems like the only real contribution I can make these days is to stay out of the way.

    I even told my Director that I’d be happy to change roles during the crisis, because we do have some needs that have to be filled, but the organization is reluctant to start opening those floodgates. And I get it.

    I mean, don’t get me wrong, I have stable work during a difficult time and I get to WFH, I’m super lucky and grateful. But this feeling of impotence definitely isn’t helping the corona anxiety AT ALL. It’s giving me too much time to worry.

    1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

      I don’t have a specific advice for you but I can certainly empathize. “Who am I.. that I get to sit safely at home, working on non-critical projects, while other people in my company still have to go in every day, or at least are working on more mission-critical projects from home”.

      It’s good that you have shown you are willing to do other things as needed — perhaps they will take you up on that offer in a couple of weeks? Who knows what’s going to happen?

      I think if there’s any upside to this situation (!) it’s that you now have a unique opportunity to showcase your ‘best self’ (which it sounds like you are doing) — by being adaptable, willing to take on things outside your ‘comfort zone’ or ‘normal sphere of activity’.

      You may want to consider the longer term perspective as well, that as dire as things look right now… this may be the “new normal” for the moment, but it isn’t the new normal forever! At some point things will go back to something resembling normal (maybe looking a bit different than they did before, but…) and things that are more “business as usual” will be resumed. And at that point presumably the company needs the thing you’ve been producing meanwhile, (even if they didn’t look at it for 3 months!) because it’s needed for the normal operation of the company in the future!

      Don’t get me wrong, I do understand (I think!) how you feel… make yourself available, have faith in your upper management to mobilise people like you to work on things that are more “critical” if required, and meanwhile show you are able to WFH responsibly (maybe you will want to in the future?) and continue completing things the best way you can.

      1. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

        And by working on “non-critical” stuff… look at it like this (I meant to make it explicit in my post but then didn’t!) you are helping ensure the future success of the company, by seeing to it that their normal projects are able to resume as soon as we get out of this ‘crisis’ situation… putting your company ahead of those who have panicked, shut down everything, and will be starting from a disadvantaged position as a result.

    2. tangerineRose*

      By staying home, you’re keeping your co-workers safer. The fewer people who are actually at work together, the more they can spread out.

  28. Ada*

    That last one happened to my husband. Out of work for over a year. Finally got a job just a couple weeks ago working with a school (essentially a professional tutoring position). Less than a day after he was hired, schools closed down. Now he’s in limbo. At least we’re okay financially, but he was so excited finally being able to get back into the workforce.

  29. PMP*

    I’m not even sure what to do…my partner works for state government in a non-essential role, recruiting candidates for a residential school. Previous supervisor has been checked out for about a month and basically disappeared the past two weeks (gave notice on Monday she is leaving, no surprise) So NEW supervisor started Monday before last. Not sure why but apparently this guy is in denial that anything abnormal is happening in the world. Yesterday new supervisor had a call with my partner and two other employees who work in the office in the same role. The supervisor essentially threatened the recruiters saying “don’t make me track you down” multiple times (they work in a different city from the location of the school, but have been working almost every Saturday for 6 weeks at the school location) and setting recruiting goals of 300 candidates by May 1. Now supervisor wants these employees to travel to the location of the school on Thursday, even though our own city and every major city in the state is under stay at home orders. I don’t even know what to tell my partner to do; I am working from home now with the kids and honestly, don’t want partner bringing in any sort of sickness. What is up with this supervisor, could he be in denial? I should note this is a not-for profit school so there really is no “bottom-line” monetarily to protect. Is he suffering from new guy trying to prove myself syndrome?

    1. tangerineRose*

      Can your partner ask new supervisor about the stay at home orders, something like “I don’t want the company to get in trouble for violating these orders. Also, if any of us get sick by being out and about, that’s going to be tougher than having people work from home.”

  30. Fake Old Converse Shoes (not in the US)*

    Someone in the neighbour team was fired due to serious performance issues. The last day our company went 100% remote, and a week before the Government ordered mandatory quarantine. What a bad time and place to be out of a job.

  31. 1qtkat*

    I am happy to see that companies are trying to work around in light of the pandemic in hiring people. I am actually kind of in the middle of the hiring process – as in I interviewed in person back in February and I thought I had been rejected since I had received a reject letter from the online system almost immediately after I sent an inquiry email to the hiring manger. But lo and behold, almost a month after the interview (as in last Thursday), I get a response to my email from the hiring manager saying I am a top candidate for the position and they wanted to move onto reference checks!
    I get the feeling it’s going to take a bit since all of my references are also working remote and not near their office phones. Hubby is getting ansty since we were planning to move to another city for his fellowship in June, but now since it may be likely I could be staying where we are now, he wants to be certain of when they’re going to make a decision so he knows whether to start looking at an apartment in the new city for one or two people plus a dog. I just don’t want to be too pushy on the hiring manager since we’re living in uncertain times.

  32. Anonity*

    Alison, thank you. Especially for “How much is reasonable to expect people to do from home?”

    We are supposed to get up to our previous productivity, a week or two dip is okay but then resume, or we may have to start charting our start/stop times, break times, and what we work on in each time period, for our bosses.

  33. nonymouse*

    It’s so hard to be at the same level of productivity. Our files aren’t easy to access remotely, although we may be migrating to Dropbox instead of our current system; hopefully that might work better. I don’t have kids, and I’m not caring for relatives, so I feel a bit guilty about struggling… but I live alone in a ~375 sq ft apartment and the lack of proper human interaction has been really tough, and all the stresses and uncertainties for the future on top of depression and anxiety issues have been draining. There’s not a comfortable place to work or a separate “area” to help me mentally switch from relaxing to work and vice versa, which also doesn’t help. And our president wants us to do 9am and 4:30pm check-in videos every day, as well as task checklists (“It’s not a vacation!”)… Sigh.

    1. Anonity*

      Ugh, draining. One thing I have found is putting on a sweater or blazer as though I were being “formal” in the office…take it off when I move out of my work role.

  34. Retail not Retail*

    Is anyone else in a difficult situation of possibly being sick with something else but not wanting to touch any PTO for fear of needing it to supplement reduced hours?

    /ya zoo girl holla nauseous on the couch week 3 of a sinus infection

  35. Cheerfully Polite Grey Rock*

    We arrived at work on Monday morning to be told that following the Government (Australia) announcements on Sunday, all our clubs would be closed as of midday Monday and all our staff would be working from home from Tuesday onwards.

    It has certainly been an adjustment (including frantic rearranging of my apartment to create a viable workspace), but it does seem to be working so far. I am grateful that our employer has been very clear about keeping all of us employed as long as possible, and have several contigency plans before laying people off becomes an option.

  36. Retail not Retail*

    My mom has a government job and it looks like she may be one of crazy lucky ones where she’ll get paid her usual paycheck (hourly 35 hours a week) through the closure because they say “no loss of pay” but her work does not lend itself to work from home. She’s also high risk.

    I am so relieved. I believe the thinking is we already budgeted for it. And probably union pressure.

  37. Bob Dob*

    Similar situation to OP#5. Unfortunately I am changing jobs during the pandemic. It is the weirdest resignation and job change situation I have ever experienced. I was already working from home by mandate of my employer when I gave my two weeks notice on March 16. I am supposed to start my new job in early April. Immediately before I gave notice, given the pandemic, I confirmed with my new employer that the offer was still valid and that they still wanted me to start work in April. They did confirm that it was still good. Despite all the uncertainty, I moved forward with my plan. I am trying to leave a toxic work environment, so there are very compelling reasons to leave, and I have a good offer. Now, my state is under a stay-at-home order, so I will be working from home at my new job too.

    All that said, there is certainly a distinct element of risk here. The pandemic situation has grown more serious since I gave notice on March 16. My new employer could STILL retract the offer at the last minute. Hard decisions are being made about furlough and layoff by many employers. I might end up unemployed, without the new job, and without being eligible for unemployment (since I voluntarily quit). I am trying to not worry about it, since it is out of my control. I guess I will know how this story ends soon! Fingers crossed.

    1. Erebus*

      I am in nearly the exact same situation as you, even giving notice on the same day. It’s been really anxiety-producing, but I’m hoping for the best and have been able to touch base with my new employer a few times. Fingers crossed for us both!

  38. The Other Dawn*

    Unfortunately I’m really late to the party on this one, but I’ll ask anyway since it’s related to WFH: is it reasonable for someone to ask that the company buy a cheap laptop so they can work from home?

    My friend works at a regional company (roughly 6,000 employees) and they told back office people they can work from home if needed or wanted. The issue is that all she has is a small tablet (similar to a Kindle Fire) and that won’t work for what she does–she really needs a laptop. I asked her if they can issue a laptop or even a desktop, and she said they have no more available. She’s one of maybe 10 employees left on the floor (I think there may be something like 80 normally), as everyone else is working from home. Adding to this, she got a message from her boss over the weekend that someone on her floor, not in her department, tested positive for COVID-19. It said the person hadn’t been in the office the last 10 days, the floor has been deep cleaned twice, and “see you Monday.” From what I understand, she either has to go into the office or take PTO since she doesn’t have the ability to work from home. Is it reasonable to ask the company to buy a cheap laptop so she can work from home? In my opinion, it’s not unreasonable. It’s not as though we’re in a normal situation at the moment.

    1. Cheerfully Polite Grey Rock*

      I think it would be reasonable for her to ask. Something along the lines of “Given the recent case of COVID-19 on our floor, I would like to help reduce the risk of transmission and work from home. Since there are no more work laptops or desktops currently available, would the company be willing to purchase one for me so that I can do this?” She could also ask if they would be willing to reinburse her if she bought one for work, if that is an option (as they might be more open to it if they don’t need to do the legeork of actually finding and buying one)

  39. Sara*

    I am one of the unfortunate ones who has been laid off due to the pandemic. I work in the residential property manager industry as a Digital Marketing Manager in the NYC area and our business has been sucker punched by social distancing. I am very, very fortunate to have the luxury of living with my family and can survive on unemployment for the time being. I am wondering if I should even apply to jobs or contact my network right now or wait until this madness dies down a bit. I have a solid background in the tech & start-up space so I am relieved to see comments here saying tech companies are still hiring. Any advice or solidarity would be much appreciated!

    1. The Other Dawn*

      I think it’s fine to apply to jobs. Just do so knowing that the hiring timeline will likely be much longer than usual. As far as contacting your network, hmmm. I’d probably say no at this moment since so many people are in chaos with trying to figure out how to work from home effectively, or are busy caring for someone who might be sick, or doing both at the same time, possibly with their kids at home, too, etc. Good luck!

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