my coworker/friend is abusing work-from-home privileges

A reader writes:

My company started everyone on work from home recently due to COVID-19. I have two close work friends and we still chat regularly online. All of us take little breaks for non-work activities (switching laundry over, grabbing a snack) but I have tried to make sure I walk away from my computer no more than I do at the office. My friend, however, showers on the clock, goes to restaurants to get breakfast, cleans her whole house, walks her dogs… We have a minimum quota of items to produce each day, but she cherry picks the easiest orders to meet the goal.

Our company has historically denied us work-from-home because they think employees will take advantage of them. Frankly, it outrages me that she is proving their point when we have an opportunity to demonstrate the opposite. On a personal level, it also annoys me that I’m making less than her an hour to work while she goes to the store or takes a quick nap.

I want to complain, but I’m afraid it will cost us all our work-from-home privileges, and while she’s a terrible employee, she’s a good friend. Our line supervisor would also definitely tell my coworker that I “told” on her (our supervisor considers the coworker her best friend and tells her all sorts of things she shouldn’t) and I’m afraid my friend might try to retaliate.

Our manager has become impossible to reach since this began, due to the difficulty of this changeover and unrelated emails to them have gone unanswered for over two weeks now. The woman in charge of HR is the person who fought work-from-home all this time, so I’d hate to have her catch wind of this.

Our mutual friend and I have already tried to advise her to just stay in the house during the workday, but she doesn’t think anything bad will happen. I want someone to intervene but it seems like it will hurt me in the end if I do. Do you have any suggestions how to handle this delicately?

Your coworker is being an ass. She’s taking advantage of a bad situation, and presumably leaving the rest of you with more work.

To be clear, when you’re working from home, it’s okay not to be 100% focused on work every minute. That’s true even in normal circumstances — and there are plenty of things that distract us at the office too — but it’s especially true in a stressful situation like this one. People have other things they need to deal with right now, and they need more flexibility in their days than might be expected under more routine conditions.

But cleaning her whole house, eating breakfast at a restaurants when your company assumes she’s working, etc. — and especially all of it put together — is a different thing, and I doubt your company would be happy to hear of that.

But that doesn’t make it yours to report, especially since you don’t have any good options for who to report it to. If you did have a responsive and skilled manager who wasn’t the type to take this as an indictment of remote work in general, there could be a case for discreetly mentioning to them what your coworker is telling you … but then again if you had a good, responsive manager, they’d be paying enough attention to pick up on this happening. The fact that they’re not is pretty telling.

However, the piece of this that you could more easily address is your coworker’s cherry-picking of the easiest tasks. There’s no reason you can’t tell her to knock that off since it affects the rest of you, or ask your manager to come up with a more equitable system for task division. And it could be that flagging that as a problem will prompt your manager to take a closer look at the rest of what’s going on.

But beyond that, if you’re going to say something, say it to your coworker directly!

You said when you talked to her previously, she didn’t “think anything bad would happen.” Change the angle you use. Since she’s a good friend, you should be able to tell her you think what she’s doing is wrong. Tell her you think she’s putting work-from-home at risk for everyone, at the most terrible time to do that. Tell her she’s leaving you with an unfair share of the work, even though you’re paid less than her, and when you’re already stressed and overwhelmed. And tell her you think on an ethical level it’s crappy, because it is.

If she doesn’t care … well, it might be that you should rethink how good of a friend you consider her. (Or not! Some people are fine never letting this sort of thing affect a friendship — although it sounds like it’s already affecting it because you’re resentful.)

{ 242 comments… read them below }

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Many places have allowed for restaurants to operate on a take-out/delivery option. And governors in areas are actually readily saying “go get food to go”, so depending on the area, it could be drilled into her head that she needs to “support the local economy” and “save the restaurants” pleas that are everywhere.

      1. Legal Beagle*

        This. My whole state is on lockdown, but we’re encouraged to do pickup or delivery from local restaurants (while taking precautions) in order to support those businesses. The letter says she “goes to restaurants to get breakfast” so that could mean she’s doing a pick-up order, not sitting down.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          I thought it was pick up orders when I read it as well. The restaurants could just be far enough away to need to drive, which would clue the OP into how long she’s away from her computer.

      2. Third or Nothing!*

        My city has an entire Facebook page dedicated to sharing local restaurant specials right now.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Our community facebook for our outlying city is constantly checking in for what’s open for take out!

        2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Mine as well. All restaurants closed two weeks ago, except for takeout.

          1. Third or Nothing!*

            Nope! Born and bred Texan. My city already had a super active page dedicated to locally owned restaurants; they just switched over to promoting all the curbside to-go specials to help support said restaurants since they’re all really struggling right now.

            One bright side to all this is that Texas has lifted the ban on alcohol to-go, so on Friday I was able to go get a margarita from my favorite restaurant and enjoy it from the comfort of my couch. Kind of hoping that stays after this is all over!

            1. The Rural Juror*

              Also in Texas! I had been craving pizza and one of my favorite places isn’t close, so I had talked myself out of it. I didn’t think it was a great idea to waste my gas driving all over the city for pizza. But then I remembered my property management company’s office is right next door to the restaurant! I never go there because I usually send everything in the mail, buy yesterday I drove up there and physically put the rent check in the mail slot in their door so I could go next door and pick up pizza! They were doing cocktails to go, so I got one of those as well. It was delicious and a nice little treat after eating at home this whole time. It’s pretty much the only time I’ve ever been glad my property management/landlord is old school and doesn’t have an online system for paying rent. It gave me a good excuse, haha! Maybe I’ll go get enchiladas and a margarita next…

              1. Third or Nothing!*

                Cooking at home is the norm for us due to budget and food allergies, so this isn’t too far out of our regular routine. But we usually eat out once a week as either part of our Friday date day or as a family outing on the weekend, so being able to get out of the house to go grab something was really helpful in combating the dementors. The margarita definitely helped it feel a bit more normal – same exact meal/drink I get when I go out, so it felt pretty comforting to have something familiar.

                P.S. The meal I ate with the margarita was a beef enchilada plate. We’re on the same wavelength. :)

      3. Glitsy Gus*

        That was kind of how I read it as well. She isn’t eating at the restaurant, but she’s going out to pick up breakfast. If it’s the coffee shop down the block and she’s gone for 20 min or so, that may not be a big deal, but if she’s driving across town and gone for an hour, that is not so great. Both in the spirit of ‘Shelter in Place’ and in the ‘essentially taking a second lunch break and letting my coworkers deal with it’ sense.

        I agree that there should be some room for flexibility, I’ve been flexing my hours a little more than I normally would and, say taking a bit of a long lunch to run to the market if I need to, because going in the middle of the day is the best way to not have far too many people in the store at one time. At the same time, I will still stay online a little later than normal on those days to finish up the work I have so no one has to cover it for me. As Allison said, it’s the unfair way she’s taking the easiest work that’s the real problem here. The abuse of WFH isn’t great, but really she needs to pull her own weight on the team. If she can do that and still go get breakfast and take the dog on an hour long walk, there is far more room to say these aren’t actually abuses at all, but adaptations to the situation. Right now, she can’t argue that.

    2. Sleepy*

      Would it be possible for you to approach it from the standpoint of the assignments? If some are that much easier than others, but all are being evaluated the same, maybe you can suggest a weighting system where workers get more credit for taking on harder assignments. It sounds like a fairer distribution of work make you feel less annoyed and also either reveal that your “friend” isn’t meeting her numbers, or force her to actually do more work.

    3. Coworkers Still Suck During WFH*

      Hey, I’m the OP! Regular dine-in service is suspended in my state, thankfully. She’s been going for takeout. For better or worse, I think at least this aspect of things has stopped. Someone she knows is quite sick with C19 and she suddenly understands the gravity of the situation. She’s now afraid to leave the house.

      1. Miranda Priestly's Assistant*

        Will this improve her work ethic, though? Going for takeout itself is not the issue. She seems intent on shirking work. If it’s not takeout, it will be something else. Maybe she will decide to start cooking on work hours.

  1. HelloHello*

    If you talk to your friend about this, I’d focus on the part where she’s cherry picking the easiest work, leaving everyone else to pick up the slack. The rest of it, while not ideal, is really only an issue because it likely doesn’t leave her enough time to finish the amount and level of work she should be doing. If she were cleaning her house and going on long walks regularly but was still managing to accomplish as much work as she needed to, taking on a fair share of harder tasks, and being responsive to coworkers when needed, then it wouldn’t be a problem.

    (That said, if she’s regularly going out to eat at this moment, maybe also yell at her about appropriate social distancing….)

    1. MK*

      I think the coworker goes to restaurants for take-away (“get” breakfast), not eating there; still not ideal of course.

      It’s unfortunate that she is abusing WFH, but it is also very, very stupid. Is she so sure that her boss won’t notice her behaviour during the crisis? There have been many comments in other posts about taking notice of how companies act during the pandemic; I am pretty sure that plenty of employers are taking notice how their employees are behaving too.

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

        Yes; she seems to be forgetting that her boss will be paying extra attention about productivity, and/or her “big boss” at the head of whatever org unit she is part of, will no doubt be looking at overall productivity (of all staff as a whole) during this period.

        OP seems afraid that friend’s behaviour will be “found out” and will give further evidence to HR / the company that WFH isn’t a desirable option (after the enforced WFH).

        I would suggest OP continue to maintain your own productivity and go “over and above” where you can (e.g offering to coordinate a group chat of people to figure out X problem, or whatever)

        [If you are feeling charitable you could have a word with your friend on an “off the record” basis like – oh hey I guess they are going to be keeping a closer eye on all of us than usual as WFH isn’t really a thing in this company, so if you’re slacking off or whatever you might want to cut that out a bit as I think our bosses are probably going to crack down on anyone being seen as ‘less productive’ (finger quotes in the air) … haha, nah don’t thank me… Laters!]

        1. Coworkers Still Suck During WFH*

          The main issue is that our productivity is merely a numbers game (difficulty of work is not considered) and the number is ridiculously low. I regularly double it each month and I’d actually say I don’t work *that* hard. I believe in regular breaks, I talk to my friends a bit, and I step away if I have a personal issue that needs to be resolved quickly. She counts her work until she hits the minimum and then goofs off for a few hours.

          I think at this point Allison is right. My best option is to talk to her again. I sent the post to my other friend, and we are going to try to convince Bad Coworker that working during work hours is ~cool~ and might help get us a permanent WFH option. The idea is to shame her into working harder or at least shutting up.

          1. selena81*

            Yuck, my last job as a developer was in measuring productivity and that kind of thing is like THE most important pitfall: everybody chooses the easiest tasks, so for a short while productivity appears to spike
            ( i only disliked leaving there because it made me unemployed: the manager was constantly playing favorites, was paranoia about allowing wfh, paid me half of what the others made and lied about it, broke several promises regarding career-opportunities, and only wanted ‘nice colorful graphs’ while i was raining on the parade by fixing programming errors that were so bad that the fix caused measured productivity to go from >150% to <100%. I had a lot of ideas for improving what her team was doing, but i hated her too much to help her salvage her broken dashboards)

      2. Coworkers Still Suck During WFH*

        I’m the OP. I can confirm that our supervisor will not notice. Our supervisor is ~3 months behind on her own tasks and emails and seems to have slowed down even further now that she’s at home. Unfortunately, even if she did notice, our supervisor considers this coworker to be her best friend. Coworker does not actually like our supervisor but she is happy to enjoy the perks of being the “favorite”. Things like this have happened as long as I’ve worked there without anyone ever noticing.

        1. andy*

          Team members over time mimic leaders. They also take on values from leaders. The fish rots from head and all that. This rule really really works. And there is nothing you can do about it.

          1. valentine*

            Things like this have happened as long as I’ve worked there without anyone ever noticing.
            I hope you’ll have better places to work someday.

            1. selena81*

              ‘Coworkers Still Suck During WFH’, i think you should really consider if this is the right place for you (not right this moment, more like after the pandemic): if you are the kind of person who cares about doing a good job then having a manager who always puts in only the very minimum of effort will slowly drive you crazy. And it sounds like the whole company is like that, so this won’t be fixed by changing to another team.

              There are plenty of slackers who’d love to have this job, so everybody is better of if you can find a boss who notices and appreciates your hard work and effort.

        2. Wombats and Tequila*

          If your supervisor is that far behind and is unreachable, it sounds like their lack of productivity eclipses that of the lazy coworker/friend, and since the supervisor is more directly visible to upper management, they are doing more to imperil your WFH arrangement than your lazy coworker.

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            All of this. The coworker is lazy because her supervisor’s lazy. They both need to step it up or be replaced.

    2. Littleloucc*

      Totally agree with this being far less of an issue if she was pulling her weight work-wise (could still be an issue of availability, depending on the job).

      OP, is there any way you and your other co-worker can pick of y some of those easy tasks first, or while your pending co-worker is away from her desk? If you leave her with only a third of the easy tasks (or none, as she’s had all of them for a while now!) then she’ll either have to knuckle down or she’s going to get caught.

      1. Coworkers Still Suck During WFH*

        Well, yes and no. We are assigned a bunch of cases to complete and we are expected to complete a very very small fraction of that. She just reads all of them until she finds enough easy ones to meet her quota. Any that aren’t complete are reassigned the next morning. If I also only do my easy work, we will eventually run out of it and everyone will be stuck with hard stuff for a few days, but that would suck.

        1. valentine*

          everyone will be stuck with hard stuff for a few days, but that would suck.
          Would it be worth it in the short run if it stops her? Can you do half of your easiest cases or work out a system where you’re gradually reducing the easy ones, so, rather than hard stuff for a few days, this person ends up with not enough easy stuff to last more than a day or two?

          I would embrace the suck. My spite would be a buoy.

        2. JSPA*

          That’s not the worst outcome. Especially if you can get the third person on board. Phrase it as, “lets all knock the easy ones off first thing, and then we can buckle down on the rest when we’re deep into cabin fever mode and need the distraction.” You can still do some harder ones when the easy run out! you don’t have to knock off after 4 hours!

          1. The Other Dawn*

            That’s probably how I’d handle it since it appears the supervisor is of no use at the moment. OP and the co-worker can grab more of the easy cases, leaving less for the lazy co-worker. I think, though, that OP still needs to say something to the lazy co-worker about the fact that she and the other person are getting stuck with more work.

    3. Chili*

      I agree! If someone works from home and can be really productive work-wise as well as accomplish a lot of personal tasks/chores/etc. … good for them! The true issue is that currently the workload is imbalanced between employees. If she’s really your friend, she’ll be receptive if you ask to divide the easier tasks more equitably even if it cramps her style a bit.

  2. juliebulie*

    I’ll take OP’s word for it that this person is a good friend, but I’m not sure I’d feel that way about someone who was taking it easy while I was hunkering down and doing all the hard work.

    1. A Poster Has No Name*

      Right? At this point, though, I’m so fed up with people who are just continuing about their businesses and pretending that there’s nothing going on that could ever harm THEM so what’s the big deal that I’d be going scorched earth on her, the boss, HR and everyone else.

      FFS. We’re in a pandemic. Get your head out of your, uh, navel for a juuuust a moment.

    2. RC Rascal*

      Agreed. Coworker is demonstrating that she is selfish, self centered & willing to take advantage of others. These aren’t great qualities for a friend to have.

    3. designbot*

      Yep. This person is not your friend. This person has an agreeable demeanor, but that’s just distracting from the fact that she’s actually screwing you over. If she was your friend, she’d value your time more highly.

    4. Coworkers Still Suck During WFH*

      OP here. I totally understand that perspective. From mine: other coworker and I are in our late 20s it and Bad Coworker is early 20s. She also has a very bad background (she’s the only person in her family to graduate high school, and the only one without a drug problem). She’s a good person generally and she’s actually grown a lot in the last year that I’ve known her. IMO with some maturity and good influences, she will grow out of this stuff which is why I try not to judge too harshly right now.

      1. OtterB*

        Good for you. That does sound like a situation where it’s best not to assume she knows what’s expected.

      2. JSPA*

        Finding the easy way to nail down the minimum is also actually a winning strategy for doing ok at school (and life) when your circumstances are unreliable / shifting / unsafe. It’s probably ingrained, and will need thought and intentionality to get out of that pattern and into another.

      3. tangerineRose*

        Would it help if you explained how she’s impacting you? I’m guessing that the only person in a family who managed to grow up without a drug addiction might have been brought up without much instruction on how to think of others.

        1. Diahann Carroll*

          Good point. And kudos to you, OP, for showing her compassion given her background. It’s hard to do when you’re frustrated.

      4. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Sounds like she’s hit war more “roadblocks” than normal in her life so far, and I definitely appreciate and applaud the compassion for her background. Maybe if both you and other older co-worker approached it from a “let’s game plan as a group how to balance the load fairly” she’d be willing to work with you.

        Also agreeing with the poster below that being willing to take any advantage she can get and figuring out how to stay under the radar are probably cooping skills from her youth.

      5. Dust Bunny*

        You know her and I don’t so you’ll have to decide how she might take this: If she’s open to it, this could be an opportunity to set an example for her that she can build on in her working life. If you genuinely this this is immaturity and lack of a home example, a friendly discussion about why this all is a bad precedent and is not how one operates in the greater working world might do a lot to fix it.

        I have to admit, though, that the fact that she’s willing to exploit her non-friendship with your supervisor doesn’t give me a whole lot of hope that she won’t push back. Maybe it’s a coping mechanism that she’d do well to unlearn, but maybe it’s ingrained dishonestly that she won’t be eager to correct. Be prepared to accept that and decide if you need to recalibrate your friendship.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      Yeah, been down this road. I am seeing all kinds of yellow flags here.

      Not working for large pockets of time.
      Taking the easy assignments.
      Considered a good friend by OP
      Seems to like OP
      Boss’ favorite
      Doesn’t like boss, but pretends to like boss to their face
      Makes sure she tells OP she does not like the boss

      I have met a few too many of these people, OP. They have trouble with being sincere. I’d watch out for this pattern, OP. It may not amount to anything or it could end up being a big PITA.

      You know how to create your own job security. Make sure that you keep doing that. You can try to help your friend but sometimes there’s a fork in the road and we decide our need to eat and have a roof over our heads is more important. What I am suggesting is a passive thing, where you look away from what your friend is doing and make sure you are doing the right thing. Let the chips fall where they may for your friend.

  3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I’m going to say that aside from her not doing her fair share of work and cherry picking the easy assignments, this isn’t your battle to fight.

    This person is unreasonable and doesn’t understand why you’re all working from home in the first place. no matter of reasoning and discussion will change her POV on that. Only getting ill or knowing someone close that catches this God awful murderous virus is going to change her mind [and I truly hope that nothing bad happens to her or her loved ones, I’m not wishing harm on anyone, I’m saying that I’ve only seen people’s POV change when they come back positive, then suddenly it’s a total switch-a-roo and “OMG it wasn’t a hoax, oh lort!”” :( :(

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Look at it the other way around — OP is doing a good job while working at home. OP is proving why WFH might be worth keeping on as a benefit after the crisis. OP’s co-irker (co-shirker?) is proving why WFH shouldn’t continue.
      It’s in OP’s best interest to get co-shirker to stop shirking.
      How, though… I don’t know.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        But it’s because OP knows that coworker is being a bad employee. What if the coworker never said anything about what they were doing. Just did their stuff on the down-low?

        Then they OP wouldn’t be in this bad spot and would just think the coworker struggled to get work done on when they’re working from home. The colleague is seriously showing themselves for a total jackhole here though, regardless of how you cut that slice of pie for sure.

        1. Coworkers Still Suck During WFH*

          I think she thought we would think it was cool. We were all talking about how nice it is to have so much of our day back. She just took it too far. You’re definitely right though. The plan is to keep discouraging her bad behavior until she stops doing it or at least stops telling us about it. Peer pressure is strong.

          1. The Rural Juror*

            You’re on the right track, especially considering your supervisor is too far in the weeds to be of much help. If she doesn’t respond to the peer pressure and keeps up the selfish behavior, you have every right to distance yourself from her and no longer consider her a friend. She won’t grow as an employee, or as a person, if she doesn’t realize or doesn’t care that what she’s doing directly affects the people around her. How she reacts and if she changes her behavior will say a lot about her. Hope for the best, and hope she improves for her own sake, but don’t take it personally if it doesn’t work out. Good luck!

      2. Not So NewReader*

        This is an easy pit to fall into, trying to control all outcomes because of the possibly mistaken belief that it impacts us.

        It could be that when the virus is over there is no more WFH.
        OR Only certain people can work from home.
        OR WFH is allowed in moderation.

        And these outcomes could have nothing to do with co-irker. It could be that the outcome would be the same without the whole co-irker storyline.

        OP, my thought here is if your ability to work from home hinges entirely on the actions of your cohort, then the WFH option is too fragile and probably has no longevity regardless. Try not to get too lost in the illusion that your cohort is making or breaking the WFH option. Try to detach as best you can. It’s really good in situations like this to ask ourselves, “What else is going on in the bigger picture here?”

        You might end up just saying to your cohort, “Well, enjoy the pay for house cleaning while it lasts!”, in a cheery voice as you turn and go about your work day.

  4. Malarkey01*

    I agree with everything Allison recommends, but would also add that all of us also need to let some things go right now that would normally drive us crazy. Normally I’d be with you that this is wrong and someone needs to address it, and it would eat at me until it was addressed, and that this unfair and unethical thing shall not stand.

    However, with everything going on in the world right now, I think we need to all focus on the bare minimum of things we can control because frankly there’s not much in our control and we don’t know how bad this is going to get. So I’d absolutely follow Allison’s script, but then I’d also put it out of my mind and try not to get steamed about it for your own mental health.

    1. Jennifer*

      You said what I was thinking in a much kinder way. I’m willing to give people a bit more slack because these are strange times. If she doesn’t listen, the OP needs to try to let this go.

      1. valentine*

        >i>I think we need to all focus on the bare minimum of things we can control
        OP should not just accept having to do harder work (and this person ruining WFH, should anyone notice, or care), in part because it’s not sustainable. Either this person leaves them without easy cases on days they could use them, or lacking the practice of doing the harder ones comes back to bite OP.

        OP, are there always easy cases or is she going to eventually run out?

        1. Malarkey01*

          I agree she shouldn’t have to, but again her options are really limited given that pushback could mean going into the office. My point was stewing in aggravation about what is or isn’t right isn’t a productive use of her time and energy right now.

    2. dealing with dragons*

      I think some of the issue too is taking on easier tasks rather than a fair share, and I think is really the issue. The message Allison give to those managers who are watching people while working is to judge output, not seat-in-butt time.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Taking the easier work can be an opportunity for OP. “During the virus emergency, I took on some of the harder more labor intensive tasks.” Hey, she leaving them for others anyway, might as well use it as a feather in your cap that you are putting your nose to the grindstone here, OP.

    3. Ace in the hole*

      I’ll add to this: work from home is not for everyone. Some people are amazing at creating their own structure – my roommate has been 100% WFH for five years and does great work. Some people (myself included!) REALLY NEED the structure and focus of being physically present at work. Without that slight external pressure to stay focused it can be really really hard to get things done.

      There’s a reason I am generally a great employee but flunked out of college twice: I’m absolutely terrible at creating structure for myself. It’s not uncommon, and it doesn’t make someone a bad employee… it just means they shouldn’t take a job working from home. Many of us who have spent entire careers doggedly avoiding WFH jobs are now finding it thrust upon us by necessity. I think it’s important to cut people some slack when they’re dealing with a work environment they didn’t choose and might never have chosen.

    4. Goliath Corp.*


      It’s understandably frustrating that OP is putting in more work, but I myself am finding it really hard to motivate myself to work right now, even with all the anxiety about job security. I had a death in the family last year, and now with all this too it’s really hard to feel like any of my work matters right now. My job pays my bills, sure, but nothing we do is a matter of life or death. I just want to hug my dog all day.

  5. Curmudgeon in California*

    … goes to restaurants to get breakfast …

    She does understand that the whole lockdown and shelter in place means no going out and about, right?

    She probably gets away with it because she’s the line supervisor’s pal. But it’s a bad look.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Every shelter in place has different operatives depending on the local forces.

      We’re told to go outside, take walks, get food at a restaurant to go and to keep 0ur distance. All while non-essential businesses are down and sit down/meeting places are closed.

      1. Quill*

        I’ve gotta check if my favorite local take-out places are currently open. Especially the Chinese and Thai places, I’m sure they had some difficulty given the racism that went around before we all locked down.

        1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Also grocery shop at the Asian markets if you have any in your area. They’re not as packed as your main grocery stores and have a lot of selection you won’t find otherplaces because they’re ransacked.

          1. Jaid*

            That’s where I go…except for my seltzer and caviar. That’s what the Russian grocery is for! ;-)

          2. Quill*

            I’d have to check but I think the nearest one is an hour and a half away. We’ve got some very local grocers though and if I’m going to make shopping a day trip I may as well treat myself to the dates at the local italian grocery…

    2. Arctic*

      Take-out has been deemed an essential service in almost every state/city that has enacted some version of shelter-in-place.

      1. fhqwhgads*

        True, but if she’s getting taking out for breakfast every day I think that’s not really in the spirit of the order. Every contact increases risk. I know some seniors’ primary foodsource is takeout/delivery so I don’t begrudge people who literally cannot cook for themselves doing that daily. But while going out for food is certainly essential, it’s really best at the moment to do it as infrequently as is possible.

  6. Person from the Resume*

    Cherry-pick the easiest, quickest tasks before her and leave her the hard difficult ones that she’ll have trouble getting done in the amount of times she is working.

    1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

      This was my first thought too! Between the breakfast out and the naps, how hard would it be for OP to jump on (some) of the easier assignments?

    2. Marny*

      This was my immediate thought and truly the easiest solution if she has the same kind of ability to pick tasks.

    3. Ms. Ann Thropy*

      Beat the lazy bird to the worm. When she has real responsibilities and cannot meet them, her supervisor should notice. PS: She is not your friend.

    4. Delta Delta*

      That was my thought, too. Log on a few minutes before her, cherry-pick the easy tasks, and leave her with the harder ones.

  7. Gary Lowe*

    I’m a bit confused as to how your co-worker can cherry pick easy assignments? Is that something only she can do? If not, why not cherry pick a few (not all like her) so she will have to take on some of the more challenging ones.

    1. Myrin*

      Yeah, I was wondering about this on a practical level. Maybe the fact that Coworker makes more than OP means she’s higher level and as such sees stuff earlier?

    2. Jules the 3rd*

      Probably a ticket arrangement, those can be easy to game. Pick 5 ‘easy’ overnight tickets at 6, get a shower / etc, work them at 9.

      The problem is that if OP also plays that game, then the harder and possibly more important work falls to the wayside.

      OP: Make sure you’re documenting what you have been doing, and the higher caliber of your work. This looks like a ‘bonus and promotion, or some other perk’ opportunity to me.

    3. Coworkers Still Suck During WFH*

      So I’m going to change the numbers for privacy but I’ll keep the proportions close… We have 6 team members and a 2000 case queue. We are assigned 100 cases per day each, but our productivity goal is 20 cases. The cases are supposed to be worked from oldest to newest, but they assign them in blocks so we aren’t all working on top of each other. She opens all of her cases until she finds 20 easy ones. The next day, she gets a new list. The effects of this aren’t immediate, but when someone does it every day, eventually we run out of easy things and we all suffer for a couple days.

      The issue is, easy cases take 3 minutes or less. Difficult cases can take between 20 minutes and 2 hours. The easy work can dry up pretty quickly when worked this way, but it isn’t practical for our supervisor to review which cases each person completes each day.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        I have no idea what industry you’re in and whether those cases affect customers or you have regulatory deadlines to adhere to. If you’re supposed to be working them from oldest to newest within your assigned block, then she likely has a lot of old cases simply because they’re harder. Assuming they affect customers, it would seem the way she’s working the cases would be a detriment to the customer. Or if it’s a regulatory deadline, she’s running the risk of putting the company out of compliance.

        I’m in an area of banking (financial crimes/suspicious activities) where we have alerts and cases to work. We don’t have a certain number that have to be worked, but we do have to work them timely–that’s our productivity measure. Otherwise we run the risk of not catching suspicious activity, which could lead to a loss for the bank, or blowing a regulatory deadline, which would result in a violation come exam time.

  8. Liz*

    Please, for the love of god, don’t escalate this. It will only lead to a crackdown on WFH for everyone. This is an issue for your friend and her supervisor only.

  9. Jennifer*

    I don’t think a quick shower or letting the dog out to pee is a big deal, but the rest is a bit much. The issue here for me is that she’s not doing her fair share of work. I hope you’re able to get through to her.

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I don’t think they’re a big deal either, considering how much we just sit around and “chat” here. I could take a shower or give a dog a nice walk instead with the time spent BS’ing.

      I find it most odd that she shares that information though with her colleagues. My colleagues may be spending their time doing who knows what but they’re getting all their work done and that’s all I care about in the end!

      1. Jennifer*

        I think she considers the OP a friend first coworker second, but the OP sees it as the reverse.

      2. Chili*

        Even in the office, sometimes I take walks! I occasionally make food runs or make a short trip to the bank when time allows. People get really nitpicky about what’s okay and what’s not when someone is working from home when ultimately, who cares as long as 1) the person is responsive enough 2) the work gets done on time.

        1. Coworkers Still Suck During WFH*

          OP here. I definitely am not a workaholic. I make my coffee, I’ll do a lap if my legs fall asleep, I do my laundry. I think that time away from the keyboard a few times a day actually helps productivity. My issue is that she’s spending 4+ hours away from her work. Also, at least in my state, there’s some legal issues if she were to be in a car accident or something while out and about, so our company forbids leaving while on the clock (with the exception of salespeople, etc). I don’t think it’s unreasonable to expect her to follow that policy at home as well. We are hourly so that may be part of the difference.

          As to whether the work is getting done… our team is out-of-target and we are at risk of losing a client. Hypothetically, we could all lose our jobs due to this, but we have already been promised that we would be put in other departments since the majority of the blame is with our supervisor.

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            We are hourly so that may be part of the difference.

            Yeah, this is a problem since hourly workers are paid based on actual time worked. Your coworker is essentially committing time and wage theft. Add to that that you guys are about to lose a client, she should be working extra hard to try to keep that from happening.

    2. CupcakeCounter*

      Agree. I log on a solid hour or so earlier than I would normally and log off 30-45 minutes later simply because I can right now. So a shower at 9:30 is NBD especially since it takes a quarter of the time to get ready since I’m not fussing about with hair and makeup like I normally would. My boss talks about mid-day walks and several other things so walking the dog also doesn’t seem like a thing to me. I think I probably did 8-9 loads of laundry while working last week and did a bunch of dinner stuff when I would normally be at my desk. Getting take-out breakfast doesn’t seem all that different than going out for takeout during a lunch hour.

      Focus on the assignments and any communication issues you’ve had. Those are the big things right now.

      1. Jennifer*

        Exactly. It sounded a bit nit-picky to me. My dog sees me home all day and wants more time with me. I’m sure people with children have it even worse.

        1. Third or Nothing!*

          My toddler sat on my lap this morning for like 30 minutes while I tried to input some data. It reminded me of the old days when she was just a wee newborn and wanted to be held all the time, so I learned how to do everything one-handed.

          Even though my husband is taking unpaid leave all month and is therefore here 24/7, she still runs to me to kiss boo-boos and to get cuddles when she’s upset. And comes to me to beg for food when Daddy says no, haha.

            1. Third or Nothing!*

              It’s definitely difficult. Young children (and animals) thrive on routine and it’s all thrown off right now. Last week started out rough but both her and the dog seem to be adjusting to the new normal.

            2. Jules the 3rd*

              My animals are not confused, they are Very Happy. They are of the opinion that someone has *finally* solved that clear and obvious problem, where their primary servant disappeared for most of the day.

                1. Lizzo*

                  @Jennifer and @Jules: our dog is no longer with us as of a month ago (health issues), so this home time is especially sad and lonely, but both of your comments made me smile. Thank you for that.

            3. MayLou*

              I love my dog dearly and I’m so glad that his presence means I’m not isolating alone, but we are definitely getting on each other’s nerves a bit! He bugs me by nudging me for attention, I bug him by failing to provide it, we shout at each other about whether or not the postman is a dire threat…

      2. Kyrielle*

        I played a half hour of Animal Crossing this morning in the middle of the work day…but not in the middle of the time I considered myself to be working! That was just a nice break to see if my brain would do better on the current task if I distracted it for a bit.

        (Sadly, it didn’t, but.)

      3. Quill*

        I do brush my teeth on the clock these days and I’ve definitely folded laundry while looking at stuff. That said I try not to take any breaks from full availability that last longer than ten-ish minutes without counting it towards my break time. Essentially the amount of time I’d be futzing with tea or coffee, chatting in the break room over meeting leftovers, etc.

        1. Jennifer*

          Yeah 10 minutes or so is my limit too. People assume you’re just in that bathroom or grabbing a snack. Beyond that it’s a bit much, but even then, I’m willing to cut some slack. Maybe they are bringing in a grocery delivery, or putting groceries on the front porch of their neighbor’s. Who knows? We need to calm down about stuff like this for a bit.

        2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          I’ll often find myself mulling over the problem I’m trying to distract myself from while I fold the laundry, so that’s still work! After all if I hit on a solution I drop the towels and run to the laptop.

      4. MicroManagered*

        I agree. My initial reaction to the “offenses” was that they don’t sound like a big deal. I am working from home, and I take showers “on the clock.” It’s no different than in-office coworkers who would take 10 minutes to visit a friend and chat on the way back from the water cooler. I could pick up a meal from any number of restaurants and be back in the same amount of time. I could “clean my whole house” in short bursts during the day, because I live in an apartment.

        The problem is the cherry-picking the easiest work. If she were doing a fair chunk of the work I’d say this is a nonissue and to quit policing what you think others are doing during work from home.

      5. Coworkers Still Suck During WFH*

        The issue with takeout breakfast is that she takes her actual scheduled lunch, too, and we are hourly. She also likes to do the full hair/makeup every day since her boyfriend is now with her 24/7, so shower time/getting ready/sexy time (which seemed like TMI for the original post) will take 2+ hours without any work every day. Then 30 minutes back at her desk (including time for the “I got laid! brag), and it’s time to start making lunch/taking the dogs out/doing laundry. Then she clocks out to eat with him. Clocks back in, does the dishes, does some work, then takes a nap. does some work, then clocks out for the day. All of these things happen daily. From my perspective, I also walk away to do things quite regularly, but there’s a difference between taking breaks and just not working for a few hours.

        Also, she is meeting her minimum quota, but our department is extremely behind and the minimum quota will not catch us back up. So the rest of us will have to work harder and give up those little breaks to keep our client happy if she doesn’t cut back on a few of these things eventually.

        1. Jennifer*

          Wow, this is some important detail that should have been in the letter. If she’s taking 2 hours to get ready every morning and only working about an hour a day with all her other little distractions. That changes my opinion completely.

          1. Coworkers Still Suck During WFH*

            I’ll say, the one hour day was Friday when I wrote this letter to AAM and was annoyed as heck. She’s ranged between 1-4, with about 2 hours being her standard.

            Sorry I wasn’t initially more specific. I’m fresh out of a 100% client-facing role where my office hours were very strict. I kind of forget that other people can work effectively with quite a bit more flexibility, so all of it was sort of preposterous considering my background.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          I get what you are saying here, it is unfair. However, I hope I can encourage you that one person doing a bit more is not going to salvage your department’s situation. I hope you can see a bigger picture where she is playing a game on a slippery slope (double whammy).

          I’m that person who does their best every day. (Some days my best was pretty humbling as everything I touch dissolves into crap…) Using this as a habit/routine has not failed me. I developed myself in ways that I would not have developed if I had slacked off. In the end, the person she is cheating is herself as she will have very few accomplishments at this job to put on her resume. She appears to be winning the battle but she is losing the war.

          I gotta ask. She is saying she got laid on the company IM???? omg.

          1. Coworkers Still Suck During WFH*

            Yep. We just got chat functionality last week and if they read what she wrote… Fired, for sure. She kept saying we should all pretend to have C19 for the free PTO. We texted her to knock that off and she now just texts.

            I definitely agree we aren’t going to be able to save the whole thing just by pushing a little more, but I’m expecting a lot of catch up soon. Our client let some of us know they’d stay with us if our supervisor was no longer involved. Many of my team members have jumped ship because of her too. But she can’t really be replaced until this is over… Ideally, she will be asked to step down when we return. The company itself has none of these issues I’m describing, so I have faith things are going to be much better by the end of the year if I stay positive.

            1. Diahann Carroll*

              She kept saying we should all pretend to have C19 for the free PTO.

              Between this and bragging about having sex on company time, she needs to be let go. Her and your supervisor. There are so many unemployed people out there right now who would gladly take these jobs and work the hell out of them – this is ridiculous that they’re getting away with foolishness.

            2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              It sounds like then that there is a bit of a mess in your tiny part of the company (and that company is aware and is figuring out how to fix).

              Maybe there is some light at the end of the tunnel?

      6. MCMonkeyBean*

        I agree. I think what she *is* doing is not relevant and you should ignore it. If what she *isn’t* doing is causing problems, then that is the core of the issue. If her cherry-picking easy tasks will directly impact your workload then you should ask her to stop that, but don’t talk to her about whatever else she is doing with her time.

    3. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Yup. I already work from home and everyone in the office knows I will leave at some point during the day to walk my dog. It’s not a set time, and I don’t reschedule meetings because of it, but it’s accepted practice. I look at my afternoon doggie walk as my version of “talk with people in the breakroom while we get our coffee” or “chat with co-workers at random.” My work always gets done. That’s the critical piece here, not the showers or the picking up takeout.

    4. Senor Montoya*

      Unless their work has to be done at specific times or they have to be more available for answering questions, it doesn’t really matter what the coworker is doing with her time. Before, I was in the office around 7:30 (I like a close in parking spot, the office is quiet). Now I am starting between closer to 9 even though my commute is a lot shorter lol. Of course, I am putting in the time at other times and I am getting my work done.

      LW, I would not say one single word to anyone about how your coworker is spending her time. There’s no upside: you know the supervisor is going to rat you out, you’re going to look nosy and tattle-tale-y (not saying you ARE, just that’s how it will look), and frankly, you yourself probably want the PTB to allow people who are WFH to arrange their own time.

      Instead, as other commenters have said, focus on the cherry picking easy assignments, if you can find a way to word it.

  10. Cordoba*

    As long as they get their fair share of work done (without cherry picking or similar tricks) are available when I need to contact them during normal working hours, and otherwise don’t create a problem for me I 100% do not care what my colleagues do while working from home. Or ever, really.

    If somebody who is reliably pulling their weight is *also* taking mid-day naps and walking their dog or whatever, why is that a thing I should worry about?

    The problem here is that the colleague is taking all the easy assignments, the rest of it should be immaterial.

    1. lemon*

      Yes, exactly. I think, except for the napping and showering, people do things like this when they work in the office, too, don’t they? Maybe it depends on your office culture, but in most offices I’ve worked at, people regularly leave to step out a get a coffee, or go for a smoke break, or to run some errands. As long as people are able to get their work done, and are available for urgent tasks, no one bats an eye. But if their work suffered, then it’d be an issue.

      1. MayLou*

        I felt a bit guilty one day last week when my brain refused to continue to function and I just spent the last half hour of my workday waiting in case the phone rang. And then I remembered that that’s how I spend the last half hour of almost every work week, because we’re always busier at the start than the end of each day and each week. It’s just that it feels more like slacking off when I’m doing it at home instead of in the office.

        1. lemon*

          Same here. The other day, my boss emailed me around 10am to follow up on something that she’d only just emailed me about at 6pm the night before. At the time she emailed me, I was cleaning up my new “office” (aka my bedroom) because I had a video conference coming up in half an hour. And I felt like, “oh no, my boss thinks I’m slacking off!” But, if we were still working in the actual office, 1. my boss wouldn’t have expected me to complete something she’d emailed me about at 6pm by 10am the next day, and 2. I wouldn’t feel guilty at all about straightening up my office before a meeting.

          We’re all still learning how to navigate this new WFH life.

          1. Pennalynn Lott*

            I was sick all last week (mild fever and a head cold) so my productivity was off. I eventually emailed my boss asking how to handle sick time (I’m still new) because I felt so guilty for not getting as much done as I normally could. Thankfully, my department lets you book “sick time” hours in a time-tracking spreadsheet [we work on projects that have hours budgeted to them] but we don’t have to take PTO. I’m grateful that I was able to log the reason for my slowness and not be penalized for it. (As in, not have management asking why I wasn’t being productive when WFH).

            If we were all still in the office, it would have been painfully obvious by my coughing, nose-blowing, sneezing, and hoarse voice that I was sick. Since it happened during WFH, I’m freaked out that someone will think I’m slacking. (And I took Friday off to just sleep. It felt really, REALLY weird to take a sick day when I’m already at home).

    2. Not So NewReader*

      This is it, Cordoba, it’s the bragging.

      I had a good friend at one job who used to tell me how they pulled the wool over the boss’ eyes again. I got sick of it. Yes, our boss was awful (second worse boss in my life) but I still got a day’s pay so I was going to do a day’s work. Finally I said, “Do what you want, but don’t tell me about it. That is between you and you.”

      Time marched on and suddenly I am hearing phrases like “brown noser”. I shrugged. “You put yourself there. I am not ashamed of doing an honest day’s work.” Yeah, the friendship faded out.

  11. Oh No She Di'int*

    I agree with what everyone else is saying about the cherry-picking of easy assignments. That hurts everyone. However, I’m going to risk it here and possibly slightly defend the coworker on the other points–the showering, the eating out, etc.

    People are handling this transition in a variety of ways. Some people adapt to the new stressors quite easily and others do not. Was this person irresponsible before the WFH order started? Was she the type of person who was always finding ways to slack off even in the office? If so, then I totally get your annoyance. However, if she was always a decent employee before, is it possible that she’s just taking longer to adjust to this new reality than most?

    I have a team that has suddenly had to become a WFH team overnight. And although 75% of them have quickly adapted to the new reality, 25% of them are finding it challenging to stay motivated, stay focused, etc. It would not surprise me one bit to hear that a couple of them got distracted by doing laundry or what have you. And at least for right now, that’s ok. I am trying to be patient and understand that different people will adjust in different ways and at different speeds.

    Or she could just be a jerk. But just thought I’d throw out another possibility.

    1. Snarkaeologist*

      Yeah. It’s a problem that she’s leaving more work for others, but I can’t get that mad about someone getting breakfast takeout on company time when they’re working through an international pandemic. I think we all need to be as gentle with ourselves as we can right now.

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I agree. I started WFH in early February (did 2 days a week prior to that) not related to the virus. If I have a light meeting day and I’m not terribly busy, I’ll take a shower in the late morning/early afternoon and do other household tasks as needed (laundry, dishes, etc.) that take me away from my laptop for short periods of time. If I’m busy or have obligations, I stay at my desk all day. Think about how much time you waste at work chatting with co-workers, running to the kitchen for a snack/coffee, or doing other non-work related things. I feel like sometimes people expect others to work harder from home to prove they’re actually working instead of screwing around. Add to that the stress of this virus and everything that goes with it, and OP really needs to lighten up.

    3. CheerfulPM*

      Yes! I totally agree with this. Even in the best of times, transitioning to WFH is a huge one – even if it’s positive! I think it’s too be expected that there will be a “getting used to it” time period. Like switching to intuitive eating after years of dieting, there’s going to be some bingeing and overdoing it before settling in and realizing – ‘oh yeah, I need to do my job.’ During this time especially, there’s a lot of mental health concerns, and maybe throwing themselves into house chores and showers, might be their way of coping.

    4. Coworkers Still Suck During WFH*

      Ahh thank you, you put the nail on the head with something I’ve been trying to put words to. In the office, she would keep her curling iron at her desk, and her makeup. Every morning was a one hour beauty session. I put up art between our cubes to block it because it annoyed me. She also lies about talking to our client about things if she thinks she knows what they’ll say, which has bitten us in the butt previously. Plus regular video chats with her boyfriend.

      It’s gone from being “okay, she annoys me sometimes but everyone works differently” to “she is now working so little that it is definitely going to make life much harder for us all.” My other coworker also had a day where she fell asleep at her desk for a long time and I couldn’t reach her about work stuff when I really needed to… But it didn’t bother me because I know she’s stressed right now and trying. It’s about the fact that she actively dodges work so much to begin with, and doesn’t see how that affects the rest of us.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        She dodges work and then brags about it.
        The two of you have two very different work ethics at your respective cores. Unfortunately WFH has pushed the both of you in the direction your respective work ethics go.

        I have found that some people can be good friends but they are not good coworkers. Not surprising if you think about it, going the opposite way, we all know people who we admire professionally but would never even consider having a cup of coffee with them. We just don’t like them that much.

        Early in my working years, I decided that I had to distance myself from the slackers. It was necessary for my survival. As I got older (and developed a little finesse about me), I learned how to navigate that better. One time a boss confronted me. “Co-worker is doing X. Has Co-worker done this to you?” I said yep. I mean I really had no choice but to tell the truth as the boss already knew the correct answer. Then I said, “I told her, ‘I luv ya, but if you don’t stop doing X and start doing Y, you are going to have to dial 911 because I am going to keel right over here from working my absolute tail off.” The boss asked what she said. I explained that she agreed I was right and she would start doing Y.

        I still think she is a bit of a slacker. But she is brilliant and she is very funny, so there is that. If she were here, she would tell you that I give too much of myself away. I work too hard given the givens. Differences in people.

      2. Ron Stampler*

        Having that context really changes things, I think. It’s clear this isn’t an issue with adapting to WFH or the pandemic, but an extension of poor work ethic and questionable professional norms. She didn’t respect company time before, so now she can get away with more while being away from the boss’ watchful eye. I can certainly see why you’re frustrated- I would be too! But if you were to follow Allison’s advice and take any kind of action, it should be focused on the general issues with her performance/impact on the team, and not connected to working from home at all.

  12. YouCanGoHomeAgain*

    What your coworker is doing is wrong and she needs to be called out on it. Leaving you with the hardest tasks is not being a good friend. Tell her how you feel.

  13. Rexish*

    How come she cherry pick easy assignments? How long have you WFH, could this be just something she needs to “get over” and then go into normal work routine? How is she usually at the office?

    It’s people like her that make WFH difficult for the rest of us. My bf was talking about how h had a colleague that on her wfh days would work 14h and then leave early on the says in the office. argh.

    1. Indigo a la mode*

      That seems like a totally reasonable thing to do if you have the flexibility. If she’s working the hours she needs to, who cares how many hours are on which days? Doesn’t seem like an “argh” thing to me.

      1. Rexish*

        In this case it was an argh thing and using the system. Well, the rule now is that you are allowed to work 12h in the office and 8h when working from home.

        1. Rexish*

          I was half asleep when writing this. So she clocked in 14h but didn’t work that (based on the ammount of work done). Then she would work fewer hours on Office days cause she had “worked the hours”. Then otehrs had to handle the slack. This then lead to new rules that you need to limit your hours at home.

      2. Jules the 3rd*

        I suspect the issue is that they were claiming 14hr days while wfh, but that that they were not actually working all 14, since they didn’t anywhere near that many hours on office days.

      3. Paulina*

        My interpretation is that she was only approved to work certain days (eg. a certain fraction of her days) from home, but claimed a lot of extra hours for those days so was actually in the office very little. Which both mocks any restriction on WFH days, and could make her difficult to interact with.

  14. Anne Elliot*

    I think you should be able to register disapproval directly with a person who you consider a friend, even if you don’t do anything to escalate it. The reality is, you won’t know what she’s doing or where she’s going if she shuts up about it. So that’s what I would suggest you invite her to do. “You know I really like you, but it bothers me to hear about all the non-work things you’re doing on the clock while I’m over here working a straight day. I’m not telling you how to live your life but I really don’t want to hear that stuff anymore. It’s really bugging me and I felt like I needed to let you know that.”

    1. Glitsy Gus*

      I totally agree with this, if you don’t know she’s walking the dog, you won’t care that she’s walking the dog. But I also thing the OP needs to also include:
      Oh, and we need to distribute this work more fairly than has been happening. From now on, I’m going to take X and Y easy tasks and you can take W and Z easy tasks. I’ll take A and B hard task and you can take C and D hard tasks. (Or whatever would work for how your tasks get split up.)
      Because the work distribution thing is something that very much IS the OP’s business.

  15. zebra*

    I can’t come up with a more polite way to say — mind your business more. There’s one issue here that you have standing to address; you feel your work assignments are not being divvied up fairly, and that’s what you can attempt to push back on internally.

    Don’t police what she’s doing during her day. I work from home a lot regularly, and it’s very difficult for me to spend eight hours in a row at my desk alone the way I used to when I had an office to go to. Many people are the same way; it’s much easier for me to take breaks throughout the day to do other things, and in return sometimes I start earlier in the morning and finish later in the day, because I prefer to spread out my concentration. Particularly in these weird quarantine times, it’s even more important for me to do make sure I’m still leaving the house for walks or taking exercise breaks or anything else to keep me sane. It’s not your place to pay attention to her comings and goings. Address the actual work consequence for you, and otherwise let everyone be.

    1. Beebop*

      A thousand “hell yeahs” to this. If it affects your work, day something. But why does her amount of breaks matter?

      1. Ms. Ann Thropy*

        It does, because this person grabs the easiest work, leaving OP to do more than her share.

        1. Oh No She Di'int*

          Right. But then the problem is the unfair distribution of work, not the fact that she walks her dogs.

        2. Yorick*

          But that isn’t a problem of breaks. If she was never taking any breaks, but still did this, it would be the same problem.

      2. Mediamaven*

        Because it does. If you are being paid to work a certain number of hours, and your bosses think you are, and you aren’t, then it’s theft.

        1. zebra*

          The OP has no direct evidence that her colleague is working fewer hours, just that she is not working the *same* hours as the OP. I don’t know exactly what hours my colleagues spend at their computers; I don’t care if they take a long walk in the afternoon and then sign on after dinner to keep working at night. This person may very well be not pulling her weight but that’s between her and her boss, not the OP. The issue of their work not being allocated fairly is a completely separate issue from how many breaks the colleague is or is not taking.

        2. AvonLady Barksdale*

          I think this is far too simplistic for a lot of situations. Many jobs are exempt and project-based. You might be doing actual work for four hours one day and nine hours the next. Or… you might have a slow week. Or you might be dealing, unfortunately, with a lot of projects that are on hold right now so your days are less packed. The deal with many jobs is that it all evens out in the end. Personally, I was very busy last week but today is quiet, and once things have equalized a little more I will likely be head-spinningly busy.

          I am paid to be available for certain tasks, with the expectation that I am “at my desk” during our office’s regular work hours. But if it’s extremely quiet and I take 10 minutes to do my dishes, I would be REALLY surprised if someone actually cared.

          1. Mediamaven*

            But that really doesn’t seem like that’s what’s happening. Way too many people are perceiving work from home as – if I answer my emails and attend calls then I’m doing my job. Reports are suggesting 32 percent unemployment. The last thing you want to be in an economy like that is less productive than your coworkers. Doing your dishes for 10 minutes shouldn’t be an issue but disappearing for long periods of time while generating less? That isn’t a gamble I’d be taking right now.

            1. AvonLady Barksdale*

              “Generating less” is the key here, though– that’s where the OP’s problem lies, not in any perceived “theft.” My point is that there are many jobs that are not so cut-and-dried, with set, completely full hours. And yes, there is quite a bit of unemployment and most of us are aware of it– because our work is slowing down substantially for reasons that are completely out of our control.

        3. Guacamole Bob*

          But that’s not OP’s problem.

          And a lot of good employers are continuing to pay full salaries to people who aren’t working at their usual levels of productivity for a variety of reasons. For many it’s not having child care, but for others it’s mental health or other caretaking responsibilities or having a workload that’s not easy to do efficiently from home.

          This is the same question we get here all the time about coworkers monitoring each others’ bathroom breaks and arrival times at the office. People need to mind their own business and focus on how the other person’s actions affect their own work, not act as hall monitors to see who is breaking what rule.

        4. Coworkers Still Suck During WFH*

          OP here. Yep, it’s hourly. We both clock in at 7:15. She opens a case so if they check in, it looks like she’s doing something. Then she walks away from her desk for 2+ hours. Comes back and knocks out half of her easy cases in 30-60 minutes. Gone for a few hours. Does the other half of her easy cases. Disappears until it’s time to clock out. Then we’re hourly, so she doesn’t do anything until the next day. The next day, all incomplete cases get reassigned across the team so we all have to pick up the slack in order to meet productivity goals. If she was working ~6 of her 8 hours, I wouldn’t care (or if she didn’t tell me, at least). If she were working periodically at her convenience throughout the day like someone on salary might, I wouldn’t care about that either (though it is technically not allowed, I really don’t see why it matters what hours we keep).

          1. Mediamaven*

            I rest my case. I’m against the majority here but I wouldn’t be afraid to say something to your superiors. It’s not fair to you and it’s not fair to them. And frankly, I think it’s also crappy that she’s blatantly doing it and expecting you to keep the secret.

          2. MissDisplaced*

            This makes a big difference. It’s not so much about what she’s doing for breaks or whatever, but that she’s slacking and that work is going back onto the rest of the team to do. That ain’t right.

    2. Guacamole Bob*

      I also find it difficult to spend an entire day at my desk. Some of it is about the physical sitting – at the office I move around a lot more in the normal course of things because it’s a big building and the bathrooms and conference rooms and everything are spread out, but my fitbit step totals for WFH days are appalling. Taking breaks to walk the dog is probably a good idea from a health perspective.

      And right now my work day is like 11 hours but with 3 or more hours of break time, since I have kids at home with no child care. If my wife and I stagger our breaks we can get through the day, but that means that sometimes I’m playing soccer with my kids in the backyard at 2 p.m. and not at my desk. I’ve been scheduling those breaks as much as possible and it seems to be working out okay. Luckily a bunch of others in my department are in the same boat, and those without kids are also walking the dog or going for runs midday when the weather is best. As long as we’re doing the best we can with the work we’re facing, it’s fine.

      1. Coworkers Still Suck During WFH*

        I think this is something that got lost in translation. I’m totally with you on this. When my insurance company called, I stepped away. I watched the governor’s C19 update on TV one day and didn’t do a single thing for 30 minutes. I do my laundry and run the dishwasher. I’m very pro-break. People work way more effectively with breaks and life balance.

        My issue is that she clocks 8 hours (we are hourly) and she works between 1 hour and 4 hours, averaging around 2. While she is meeting our quantitative daily productivity goals, she has to sacrifice quality in order to work this little, which affects me. If she were succeeding in both quantity and quality in that time, it wouldn’t matter at all.

        1. LuckyPurpleSocks*

          Ah, that’s much clearer. From your initial letter it sounded like she was still managing to get her work done (cherry picking and house cleaning aside) but if I understand correctly, really your coworkers “minimum” amount of work is actually below the minimum she should be doing and it’s having a negative impact on you and the company. That sucks.

  16. Restless Teach*

    On a related note… how do I make sure I am not abusing WFH privileges? I’m a teacher doing distance education, and I have a three hour window where I have to be available to students (I hang out on a conference call where they can push in.) but otherwise I don’t have a ton to do other than grade and plan lessons, which don’t take me long. I can’t really go anywhere, but I find myself playing with the cats, taking time to cook lunch, talking to my spouse (he works nights so we’re seeing a lot more of each other than we’re used to), checking my phone, etc. I don’t want to feel like I’m at work all the time, so I ignore messages from the kids after 6 and respond the next day. But I have so. much. time. during my traditional work day. Maybe it’s because I don’t have kids? What are some good rules of thumb for someone who doesn’t normally work from home?

    1. Cordoba*

      If the important parts of your job are getting done and the person you work for, the people you work with, and the people you help aren’t complaining then you’re probably not abusing WFH.

      Especially with jobs like teaching it’s reasonable to expect that the nature of your job will change substantially when you shift to doing it from home and that this change may result in more down time. As long as you’re getting things done and the kids aren’t being short-changed, I say enjoy it.

      Maybe use part of your newly-found free time to do some longer-term work-related tasks that have always been on your list but you were not previously able to prioritize?

      For example, right now I have engineering technicians updating old service procedures from home to reflect the latest designs/tools/etc. This has always been a thing that everybody agreed needed to happen, but it didn’t take priority over their other on-site tasks. Now they’re not on-site and have time to spare, and we’ve made more progress on these procedures in the last 2 weeks than we did in the previous 2 years. Most people have something like this at their job; never been a better time to take care of it.

      1. Malarkey01*

        I like these suggestions. I’ve also used some time to clean up/organize online files and done a few online courses that need to be complete at some point before December. Maybe come up with one or two extra “projects” a week.

        I do think it’s important to respect a starting/closing team so you can still have some balance so don’t feel like you need to answer questions after hours if that isn’t something you would regularly do in office.

    2. Secondary Teacher (Scotland)*

      I’m a teacher too. My rule of thumb for the past week has been to set the work for my classes each day, be around to answer questions for a set time during normal school hours, check email/Teams/our dept FB group first thing in the morning, after lunch and at the end of the day (and reply to anything needed), and spend a couple of hours on lesson development or professional reading/study (I brought home a bunch of books I’ve been meaning to read for a while, and started a couple of online courses to refresh and develop my own knowledge and skills) each afternoon. I probably spend about 4 hours a day working, maximum. It feels like I’m not working enough, but my management have been clear that we are not expected to watch the clock, that the important thing is supporting the students and making sure they have what they need, and that we are not expected to work as normal under these circumstances. They have stressed taking time to rest and relax, and being aware of physical and mental health.

      I think the important thing is that we are making sure the students have what they need. Everything else is secondary. And it sounds like you are doing great at that!

    3. Jules the 3rd*

      What you’re doing is reasonable, but now is the time to get ahead as much as you can. In case you get sick, make sure you’ve got an extra week (or two) of lesson plans that you can email to a substitute. Consider new lesson plans, sharing old ones, or training, if there’s something remote you can do part time.

      But you’re not doing all the lunch monitoring / child control extras, that *should* leave you with some extra time in your day.

    4. Senor Montoya*

      Haha, you are now a college professor!

      As long as you are available for the set hours, completing your grading and planning, and are reasonably available to students at other times — you are fine.

      Do students have a way to reach you or ask questions outside your scheduled hours? If they are emailing you for instance are you responding reasonably quickly? You don’t have to respond to an email that arrives at 2 am of course, but during business hours, are you responding within an hour or two? That’s the only piece I’d add to your WFH routine. And let students know what your business hours are (= “emails sent after 5 pm and on weekends will be read on the next business day” for example) and how quickly they can expect a response. Depending on what you’re teaching and who your students are, that could be an hour or two, or it could be within one business day or two business days.

    5. Friendly Canadian*

      For teachers at the end of the day WFH isn’t going to be possible in a traditional sense. Schools shouldn’t have the same expectations of you work wise, instead the reason they’re still paying you is probably a) employee retention b) they still value the limited work you’re doing and c) unions.

    6. anonann*

      This is the boat I’m in. My boss told me multiple times to not feel like I have to work all day every day during these unusual times. Some days I’m swamped; others I have a lot more leisure time. As long as I’m getting my work done and doing it well, that’s what matters- same for you too!

    7. Koala dreams*

      Good for you keeping a work life balance! I’m surprised to hear that though, I always felt as a student that the less class time a course had, and the more distance learning, the more demanding it was for the students, so I would’ve expected it would take more time to grade and lesson plan, too. Maybe it depends on the subject and grade?

      I’d say enjoy it when you can, and maybe do some more chores around the house that wouldn’t get done otherways?

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

    OP, is there any chance she was shirking responsibilities before this “work from home” episode? (I bet she was, likely in a more insidious way though. Wasting a few minutes here and there with personal stuff is fine, but when it becomes more and more frequent…)

    In my experience people never really just change suddenly like that. Maybe WFH has suddenly given her much more opportunity to consciously slack off (I mean, I don’t think it’s slacking off just to do a personal thing during the day, but like you mentioned, the cherry-picking the easiest tasks etc).

    Btw, wanting someone to ‘advise her to stay in the house’ (whilst good for public health policy) doesn’t strike me as your main motivation here. Do you have resentment towards her on some level as you described her as ‘a terrible employee’ a couple of times? Even if she is your friend — if she shirks her workload and you have a kind of a joint workload, that puts more on you. Even before this enforced WFH and as I said, I bet it’s been going on longer.

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

      I’m actually on enforced WFH myself at the moment and what I’ve seen so far supports my idea that ‘people never really change’ (could just be confirmation bias, though, I dunno).

      The people I perceived (before enforced WFH) as being responsive, going the extra mile when needed, taking on their fair share, helping out colleagues etc… are now generally the people who are always around for a video chat if someone else needs to talk through some work problem, are consistently logged on and responding to messages during normal hours, getting their usual level of work done.

      Whereas people I perceived previously as slacking, not very engaged, difficult to work with etc – seems amplified by enforced WFH because of increased opportunity and lack of visibility.

      The particular problem in my place is a lot of people work “cross team” and “dotted line” across multiple projects so there’s always been the opportunity for someone to slack off on both projects they are working on by saying to each project leader that “I’ve mostly been pulled into ‘Other Project’ this week so I didn’t get a chance to look at that”. I think WFH facilitates this (but of course the real smell here is project leaders that don’t communicate with each other!)

      I generally don’t get involved on an ideological basis with this sort of stuff even though I do get annoyed (partly because on some level I acknowledge I take advantage more than I should)… only if it directly impacts me/my team’s work and deadlines.

      1. Quill*

        For me, bouncing between projects has come with a lot of adjustment time (in terms of having to review what I was doing / get caught up, etc.) So in WFH I’m doing great with the ongoing emergency and terrible at some tasks I was previously working on more routinely.

    2. Extroverted Bean Counter*

      Yes. I’m staying in my house 24/7 right now and I’m, you know, commenting on Ask A Manager instead of doing work. Likely have spent more time reading through the comments here than I would have if I took a shower AND styled my hair. But my tasks are getting done, I’m responsive to e-mails and perhaps most saliently: I’m not telling all my colleagues “lol goofed around on blogs for like 3 hours this morning, what are you up to?”

      Not being at her computer 8-5 or whatever sounds like a convenient, tangible thing for OP to hang their hat on. “The workload distribution isn’t fair” feels a lot more nebulous, methinks. But OP – that really seems to be the actual problem.

    3. Coworkers Still Suck During WFH*

      Oh yes definitely been going on the whole time. I wrote this elsewhere, but she used to drive me so crazy that I bought art to block the window between our cubes. But in the office, it’s a little easier for upper management to walk by and say, “dude, is that a curling iron at your desk?” or, “we noticed you haven’t taken a single phone call that has rung to your desk all week.” But now that no one is watching it has gone downhill fast. The terrible employee commentary does come from some bad experiences: she shirks her tasks so much when we are at the office that other departments complain to me ‘as her friend’ hoping I’ll fix her, or worse, the client takes it out on me when she does things incorrectly, and she’s not trying to do better. She was also below productivity goals the last two months and was on probation for it, but our supervisor did some tomfoolery to get her taken off.

      The stay-in-the-house mentality isn’t a public policy thing. It’s from the perspective of an hourly employee who has always been hourly. Every job I’ve ever had has said that you can’t leave the property on the clock because it’s a legal risk for you and the company if something were to happen to you. I see now that salaried employees do this differently. But I’m pretty certain I’d be fired for it, for wage theft if nothing else.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        You are looking at this right, about the wage theft. However, with your boss being so back-logged it might be a long time, if ever, that it gets noticed.

        You can tell people not to bring their complaints to you. If you wish you can add, “I have tried saying something but she is not hearing me.” Or you can simply say, “That’s not under my watch/power to fix/whatever.” You can let people do as they wish with their complaints. As it stands now, they probably feel like they have done something by talking to you. You are free to point out that it is not your responsibility to fix this and set them free to figure out their next steps.

      2. allathian*

        Is there any chance you could get transferred to another department? Looks like your boss is slacking off and allowing your coworker to do it, too. I’m sure another department would appreciate your work ethic.

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

        Ah sorry, I assumed “stay in the house” was public policy as I’d linked it in my mind to being ‘forced’ to WFH but I see you didn’t actually write that!

  18. Beebop*

    I agree that the cherry picking and leaving the team with more work isn’t cool, but if she was getting all her work done, I would say the rest isn’t a real problem (as long as she’s social distancing.)

    A lot of people’s jobs have changed during this time, and our work days reflect that. My supervisor has been very candid with us that because of the nature of our work, we only work about half a day now. That leaves lots of time to eat meals, take naps, go on walks, etc. as long as we’re getting our work done and are available when we are needed, we’re recognizing that our days are more open now.

  19. AMT*

    This is one of those letters where the LW needs to focus on the impact of the behavior rather than on annoyance at the behavior. If the coworker were taking on her fair share of work, would there be any problem with her on-the-clock breakfast and showers? If the coworker were sitting in her office for eight hours a day, would the unfair workload distribution suddenly disappear? Set aside the emphasis on the work-from-home aspect and just tell the coworker and/or your manager that the way that work gets assigned is resulting in an unequally large workload for you.

  20. NYWeasel*

    As a manager, I am finding it difficult to really assess my team’s productivity from a distance. In the office, I can gauge how involved they are, hear them working with colleagues, etc. Now I have zero feedback, and the type of work we do has long lead times, so if work doesn’t get done now, I won’t know about it until May. I’m trusting my team to stay on top of their work, but it’s not a typical situation for anyone!

    1. HelloHello*

      Is there any way for you to build in more checkpoints for long term work? Even just asking your employees to give you a general timeline for their work, and have weekly check ins to see if they are hitting that timeline or if they need more support. Even without remote work, I feel like focusing on what has been accomplished and what still needs to be accomplished is going to be a stronger method of tracking productivity than trying to judge based on office chatter.

      1. Glitsy Gus*

        This is what my manager and I are doing right now. We have a 1:1 every Monday and go over how things are going, what I have on the docket, if I need help with anything, etc. It’s been really helpful. No, you don’t see that they have their butt in their seat everyday, but if you generally trust them this kind of general check in can give you a pretty good idea if they are on top of things or not.

    2. Oh No She Di'int*

      I am in the exact same boat. And I truly do not know how best to get around this. I think it’s easy sometimes to remember that the WFH thing is new for a lot of employees, but to forget that it’s equally new for a lot of managers, and there’s not a ton of guidance on how to manage in these situations. Especially when, like you NYWeasel or myself, we have teams that work on very nebulous or long term projects. In my case, we have the kind of work that you could do a good, thorough job on over the course of a few days or you could pump out some absolute crap in a couple of hours. And I wouldn’t know until it comes back from a client a month later full of errors.

      There was some discussion of devoting a column to best practices for managers in our new distributed world. Did that ever happen?

      1. AthenaC*

        It depends so much on the nature of the work.

        Last time I waded into the discussion, it seemed the consensus was that there’s only One Right Way to manage … and if your circumstances demand something different, than you are Wrong.

        So I’m not super optimistic about such a discussion, but hey – I could be wrong!

  21. notapirate*

    How much time away from laptop is reasonable? My boss seems to think work from home means we must all immediately be reachable at all times and nonstop since now we dont have to go get lunch like we did in office etc. He got annoyed at a 10 min delaying in my calling him back (I was in the bathroom). It’s way less productive for me too, I’m constantly dropping everything to take a call and discuss a different project.

    Related, is it reasonable to not take calls from coworkers during lunch? They no longer have the visual cue of me eating.

      1. NotAPirate*

        Ok. Thanks. My coworker seemed astonished when I did call her back after lunch, that I hadn’t just dropped everything to answer the phone when she called. Wasn’t sure if my normal meter was off. It was a quick question. but it was lunch.

    1. HelloHello*

      Are you using any sort of chat program that allows away messages/statuses? Being able to set a “lunch break” or “afk” status might be a good way to head off requests while you’re away from your computer.

      And to answer your larger question, it’s super unreasonable for your coworkers/boss to expect you to be glued to your computer. It might be worth having a discussion with your manager about what expectations are, and try to explain that you are going to need to take reasonable breaks away from your computer throughout the day, like you would if you were working in a physical office.

      1. NotAPirate*

        Thanks. There’s status messages and I’ve been setting a lunch one, but people seem to be ignoring it. No one else appears to be using the status either. Maybe I’ll start subtly training my coworkers to check that before contacting me. Learning curve for all of us right now!

        Yeah, I need to talk with my boss. I’m trying to just figure out what is “normal” for a healthier workplace so I’m not overstepping when I talk to him. He’s said he’s so pleased that he no longer has to walk down the hall but instead we’re all a click of a button away. Normally we have two spaces, one for experimental work and one for more breakroom with computers, so usually we’re not all at the computer. WFH boundaries are new to all of us in my team too, boss didn’t believe anyone did work while WFH so none of us have ever had permission before the lockdown.

      2. Windchime*

        This is how we handle it. We set our status to “Away” or “BRB” if we are stepping away for the restroom or a cup of tea. I also step away to fold laundry and take a shower, because if I was in the office I would be walking down to Starbucks or chatting with someone in the kitchen. My boss knows if I’m working because I get stuff done (or not). She is busy and doesn’t have time to watch my every move, but I have no doubt that there is probably an electronic way for her to do that if she wanted to.

        I have discovered over many years that my best strategy is just keeping my eyes on my own paper. I would tell the coworker that you don’t want to hear any more bragging about how little she is working. Focus on kicking butt and getting sh*t done. Her lazy habits will eventually catch up with her. And if they don’t, you are still working hard and doing what you are supposed to be doing.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      When I was first out of college, I worked for a man who traveled constantly. Often my days were spent twiddling my thumbs and waiting for him to call with whatever he needed. If I didn’t hear from him on Monday, it was basically a guarantee that he would call on Tuesday while I was in the bathroom. It became a running joke. He never accused me of slacking.

      Your boss is unreasonable.

      1. Delta Delta*

        I had a similar job. My co-worker was allowed to leave at 4 and I would leave at 4:30. One day after co-worker left I went to the bathroom and apparently missed a call on our shared office phone from our boss. We were using someone else’s office while that person was on an extended leave, and we didn’t know the voicemail password. So I got reamed out for not answering the phone or calling back, when meanwhile all I did was take a normal trip to the bathroom and not be able to retrieve a message. That boss was unreasonable, even when I explained the problem.

    3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      If you have some sort of group chat program on your computer could you set it to “away” and add a message of “lunch, be back at _____.”

  22. Ginger*

    Maybe propose to your manager a different way to divide work to “balance the load”?

    But really, if this person is a true friend, you should be able to talk about this with a focus on the work assignments.

    1. Extroverted Bean Counter*

      Your second sentence – this is where I’m coming down on an interpersonal level, rather than a workplace level. I have had coworker/friends in the past where I would have had no issue saying “dude, can you please let me take some of the Easy Tasks? I’d like to take a shower sometime today too – you’re running me ragged, sheesh.”

      1. Glitsy Gus*

        Agreed. I would bring this up with your coworker/friend first. If they continue to leave you with the brunt of the work, then take it to your manager. If you do need to escalate, though, I would still phrase it more as, “I think we need to figure out a better way to distribute tasks with us all remote. It’s pretty inequitable right now, and I could really use some help with X, Y and Z.” Rather than, “Lazy McNappingpants isn’t really working. Tell her to stop walking the dog and do her share.”

  23. elsa*

    Unpopular opinion here: talk to your friend about cherrypicking the easy tasks and how that affects the rest of the team, but beyond that, LET IT GO.

    We’re in a global pandemic and it’s a struggle to focus on anything (at least for me) due to the stress of, well, all of it. I distract myself by walking my dog, showering, riding my stationary bike at lunch, etc. and the last thing anyone needs is coworkers policing how we’re spending our time away from desks. If the work is getting done, let it slide (within reason — again, feel free to mention to the coworker the unfairness of cherrypicking easy tasks).

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I don’t think that’s an unpopular opinion! Maybe because I share it. These are strange times. There is a lot of powering through, but there is also a lot of change that requires flexibility. Some people are having trouble focusing, still others are dealing with other demands on their time that they never anticipated (I refuse to call suddenly having to homeschool your kid “a distraction”). It’s been two weeks, but it’s only been two weeks! People need time to figure out what works best for them– as long as the work gets done, which most of us understand because we’re all adults.

    2. Oxford Comma*

      I share this opinion. Aside from the part about how your coworker is taking the easy tasks, everything else screams “stay in your lane” to me.

      As someone who has had the coworkers who disappear for four hour lunches, give assorted weird excuses for taking off at random moments during the work day, come in super late/leave super early all of the time, I get it. But unless it impacts you, this is not your problem. It’s your manager’s problem.

      And as elsa writes, it’s very hard to focus right now. I agree she shouldn’t be cleaning her whole house, but a quick walk with the dog around the block, a quick shower, running out to pick up a meal, all of those things seem not that egregious to me. If it would be acceptable for me to take a 10 minute break at work, it should be fine for me to take a 10 minute break at home. And again, it’s not your problem.

    3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I share it too. As long as everyone does an equal (or proportionate to their job responsibilities) share of the work, I don’t care if someone walks everyone’s dogs on their block in between breaks. The big problem I see here is that Coworker dumps more work on OP than is OP’s share. Everything else is butt-in-chair culture, of which I am not a fan. In OP’s defense though, at her workplace, this butt-in-chair culture seems to flow from the top (going by the fact that their management was afraid to give people WFH rights, until they were backed into a literal corner and had no other choice.)

      Even when working in the office, and before the pandemic, I’ve snuck out for a walk in the fresh air, or (a handful of times during my career) for a 15-minute nap in my car, when I felt it’d help me get my work done faster and better. I’d rather step out for 15 minutes, come back refreshed, and finish my work, than sit in front of my screen for 8 hours nodding off, or with my head full of brain fog, unable to do what needs to be done. But I have known people and whole workplaces that oddly preferred the second option to the first. I once had a personal friend come in for an interview at my OldJob. As she was leaving, she ran into me as I was taking a short walk around the parking lot (as many of us at that job did during the day, to clear our head. On occasion our management even gave us pedometers and *encouraged* us to take breaks and stretch.) My friend however was horrified, and wanted to know what on earth I was doing away from my desk in the middle of a work day! I had not known that about her. I just made a mental note for myself never to apply to work where she was working at the time (since that was where she’d gotten that notion from), and let out a quiet sigh of relief when she was not hired at my OldJob (don’t remember if the job didn’t extend the offer, or the friend didn’t like the place and chose not to proceed).

    4. Courageous cat*

      Yeah, this is where I land too. Focus on the parts that affect you and myob for the rest. If her manager wants to handle the rest of it, they’re more than welcome to.

  24. Sleepy*

    Would it be possible for you to approach it from the standpoint of the assignments? If some are that much easier than others, but all are being evaluated the same, maybe you can suggest a weighting system where workers get more credit for taking on harder assignments. It sounds like a fairer distribution of work make you feel less annoyed and also either reveal that your “friend” isn’t meeting her numbers, or force her to actually do more work.

  25. NervousWreck*

    I’m curious if I should be worried about abusing work-from-home privileges now and I’d like to get your input. My job is such that near the end of the month I usually don’t have anything to do for half of each day. Once I finish whatever I needed to get done each day, I send an IM saying to feel free to ask me if anyone needs assistance with anything. Then I’ll put in a movie, clean, etc., checking my computer every few minutes to see if anyone needs me.

    1. Wintermute*

      I think it’s all about what the expectations are. A good manager should be communicating them. If you are as responsive, productive, and polished as you would be in the office (and honestly I’d say add an extra 10% on top because you want to take this opportunity to look good when many others will not be) then you’re probably fine but only you know your corporate culture.

    2. Molly*

      You are doing what you need to do and meeting work expectations. I’m a teacher and my state doesn’t allow eLearning as a substitute for being at school, so all I do during the day is answer emails and attend a Zoom meeting 2-3 times a week.

  26. Ciela*

    WTF?!? So you have work that can be done from home. You have a new WFH set-up, and this co-worker is behaving like a jerk?
    Unless she has always gotten to delegate the quickest / easiest tasks to herself, why not use the same system that was used when you all were in the office?

    If I was in a position to WFH, I would do so in a second. But 90% of my work simply cannot be done remotely.
    Right now I want nothing more than to be able to stay home where it’s safe and watch cartoons.

  27. TootsNYC*

    I think so often people (me too) will default to “what you’re doing is bad from a macro view” or we say “YOU will get in trouble,” and they chicken out on saying, “what you are doing hurts ME.”

    And even we chicken out on saying, “It’s made me re-evaluate my opinion of you.”

    We don’t like to make it personal. there are reasons for that, of course.

    Bit it is not fair to the OP to stick her with the more complex stuff, and it would be fair to say, “I’m not happy that you are cherry-picking the tough stuff, and that makes my job harder.” And even, “I’m not happy that you’re putting work-from-home at risk like this. Once this is over, they may not let us do it again because of you, and that would upset me. You’re doing me a dirty, here.”

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Am chuckling. All this seems so much easier if we DISLIKE the person. But if the person is likable or even worse an actual friend, this whole thing can get tougher fast.

      Don’t cover for people, OP. I don’t care if you are working with Queen Elizabeth or Super Famous Hollywood Star, don’t cover for people’s slacking, for their mistakes, etc. This does not necessarily mean go and report them, ASAP. This means telling them to their face to stop telling you about their escapades. If someone asks about something refer them to the source, don’t answer questions on their behalf. If someone complains about this person to you, make sure they know there is nothing you can do about it.

      I will help anyone with any thing IF they are working on it right along with me. Since I know I will do this, it makes it easier to draw my lines when there are other problems of their own deliberate making.

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

      I got the impression from some of the OPs other comments that it would be possible for OP (and their other co-worker) to also cherry-pick the easy tasks and just hit the bare minimum target each day… there are many more “tickets” in the queue than the amount they are expected to complete each day. But then OP is conscious that over a few days this would result in a backlog of tickets with much higher “average difficulty” than they were previously.

      If it were a normal “in office” situation (if I didn’t confront the co-worker/friend for some reason) I’d be inclined to take on the same behaviour myself for a few days and also cherry pick the easiest tickets, and then a few days down the line when all the tickets are difficult and time consuming… let’s just see how that works out! But I would hesitate to do this during a time of change like enforced WFH, as you bet dollars to donuts an ‘incident’ like that would be forever remarked on in the future as “This is why we can’t allow WFH”…. although it’s actually irrelevant.

  28. MissDisplaced*

    Ugh! I’m sorry some people have to run it for everyone.
    I did WFH fairly often before COVID hit, and while it’s fine I think to throw in laundry, etc., you should never let that take more than, say 10-15 minutes unless you’re calling it lunch.

    But I think in this case, next time she talks about cleaning the house or breakfast, you should say something like “Hey Jane, you know just because we’re under WFH, it doesn’t make it right for you to do those things.”

  29. Oof*

    My apologies if this too much a tangent – but what should be expected in terms of work when WFH? I’ve been shooting for 40 hours a week at work; A) because I was working 45-55, but also B) I don’t want to say I have too much work to do if I’m working, say 35 hours a week. Doing this from home is much harder. Home is where I put in my extra time previously, and now working from home makes it harder to be productive. Lack of printer, only one screen, dogs barking, and mice that I think are in the wall behind my desk. It’s 4 now – can I be done? I’ve worked solid since 9. I just don’t know what is OK and what is not. It’s a very new routine for me, and I don’t ever want to be confused with a slacker WFH person.

    1. Oof*

      And look I’m not working now I am writing to AAM!! (At least one dog came in the office and now the rodents have shut up)

      1. Oof*

        Well, yes – but that’s not exactly possible. I don’t have access to a printer, etc., but on the flip side I’m not having any spontaneous meetings. I’ve been trying to maintain my workload, but it’s not possible. So what’s the alternative?

    2. zebra*

      It’s really different according to everyone’s individual work situation, IMO! It’s never a direct 1:1 in terms of doing the same at home vs. office. My usual work time is 3 days per week at home and 2 in the office and I find that I can get very different types of work done easier in one place or the other; ie, anything that I need to do solo and just jam on for a few hours is so much easier to do at home, but things that require coordination or brainstorming with my colleagues are much easier to do in person. Now that we are all WFH 100% of the time there will have to be differences because that’s how humans work. Not to mention the undercurrent (or, often just a regular current) of existential dread that’s going on with the pandemic, and it’s even more unrealistic to expect work to look the same.

      It sounds like WFH might be new for your boss too. I’d just have a conversation with them about it. Talk about how much work you’re averaging getting done, ask if your boss feels like they’re getting what they need from you, talk about how you can structure your day in a way that’s best for you. It’s a new frontier for a lot of people and it won’t look the same for everyone. Luckily in my company there’s a general attitude that as long as you show up for scheduled meetings and are getting your stuff done, everyone has the flexibility to deal with kids/pets/laundry/life however they can; but we are used to remote work and it’s been that way for a long time.

      I hope you can figure out something that works for you and your boss!

  30. LuckyPurpleSocks*

    “Your coworker is being an ass. She’s taking advantage of a bad situation, and presumably leaving the rest of you with more work.” With all due respect, Alison, I think you’re being pretty harsh. As someone up-thread said, maybe the co-worker is taking advantage of a bad situation, or maybe she’s just trying to adapt to a bad situation. Putting aside the “cherry-picking” (which is thoughtless, yes, and rude if her team asks her to share the easy assignments and she won’t), it sounds like she is hitting her quotas during a really strange time in the world, while trying to adjust to working from home for (possibly) the first time ever. And as you have said yourself, not everyone is suited to working from home. I know I’ve having a hard time adjusting to WFH myself and it’s only been a week for me.

    I hope you and everyone else is hanging in there, and thank you for your hard work on this site. It’s so nice to have something “familiar” to rely on when everything else is weird and scary right now.

    1. anonann*

      Yeah I agree. I commented this up thread, but my boss was very honest with me that I don’t need to be working all day every day and that he’s happy with the work I’ve been putting out at home. My role isn’t supposed to be WFH period but the virus has forced it to be that way. These are weird times and everyone needs some grace.

    2. MissDisplaced*

      Eh? Yeah, this is going to vary from company to company and department to department, depending on how much “productivity” companies expect right now. Maybe I’m reading too much into it, but it sounds like the coworker is taking a little too much leeway though compared to other workers.

    3. Coworkers Still Suck During WFH*

      It’s hard to explain without breaching my privacy, but by doing what she’s doing, she is actually making work harder for everyone else. I don’t expect her to never slack off or focus on her personal life. I take plenty of me-time as I need it, too. But I don’t want to have to bust my butt with zero breaks for 8 hours so she can work half-days every day.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        You pointed out that upthread that there were already problems at work of a similar nature. I really don’t think Alison was harsh at all.
        Please keep in mind that just as she alone will not save this situation, you won’t save it by yourself, either.
        Please don’t go down to no breaks. Don’t take this all on your shoulders.

        1. Coworkers Still Suck During WFH*

          I didn’t think Alison was harsh either! I think she pointed me in the right direction, that I need to address it with coworker again. I did appreciate seeing all the alternate opinions too–I’m used to a more structured environment and I think I made it “personal” in ways it doesn’t need to be, so I’m grateful to all the people who pointed that out. I think focusing on the unfairness in the workload balance (and not so much on what she is doing with the time) will help us find a happy middle ground.

    4. RestResetRule*

      Totally agree with this. A majority of my job revolves around event-planning..guess what isn’t happening right now? Events. As such, my team, including my boss, work only about half a day. I’ve told other people about things I do to occupy my time the rest of the day when I’m not working, and I’ve gotten a lot of side eye from people whose jobs still require them to work 8 hours from home. The fact is, your WFH situation depends A LOT on your job, and it’s unrealistic for people to compare their situation to somebody else’s. We’re all handling this the best way we can; people need to stop policing eachother. If their behavior affects your work directly, deal with that. But leave the WFH stuff out of it.

  31. StaceyIzMe*

    This isn’t affecting you directly. Let it go. It’s not yours to manage and the people who are supposed to manage this aren’t doing so. You can invest time and energy into this sucking waste of a rabbit hole or you can do your own job and use a white noise filter for these kinds of frustrations. After everyone returns to work, you can take the time to share this with someone in a position to consider it and possibly to act. It’s regrettable. But it’s not fixable (at this time/ by you).

  32. Hexiva*

    I find it pretty hard to give a damn that she’s not working as much as she “should” be. There is a global pandemic happening! People are dying! Everyone feels like the world is ending! I’m not in this position, so I can’t say what I’d do, but frankly, if some woman wants to clean her house on company time, I can’t really bring myself to be sad that the company won’t be able to squeeze 40 hours a week out of a populace living in isolation on the brink of disaster.

    It’s seen as a totally neutral act for companies to let zillions of people go because of the issues the covid situation causes, but god forbid an employee short her company because of all this.

    The fact that she’s cherry-picking all the easiest tasks is a genuine problem, and OP should focus on that part. Talk about fair division of labor with your coworkers or boss. And then go clean your house, if you feel like it.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      I think this varies from company to company, and likely there IS a some leeway given in productivity.
      But it also seems this coworker is taking much, much more leeway than others are. True, no one minds short breaks, but if you’re basically checked-out all day, while you’re coworkers are there working, it’s not right. Because you’re being paid to be “on” and working at your computer. I’m unclear on how OP knows the worker is leaving to go out though? Was this coworker stupid enough to brag about being out running around and basically not working? ‘Cause that’s not a smart thing to actually tell people!

    2. Coworkers Still Suck During WFH*

      So, I’m OP and I get your perspective. My 20-something best friend lost both of his parents in one day because of C19 this weekend. I loved them, they were my second parents growing up and I want to mourn in bed for the next two months. My boyfriend is Italian and we take plenty of breaks to call them, and breaks to just worry together. I generally think my company is unnecessarily strict, but I’d say this one time, they are really, really trying to find that balance between the fact that we are a medical company (and cannot close our doors right now) while also trying to keep us all safe and happy.

      This isn’t about them squeezing the lifeblood out of all of us. This is about the fact that I have a coworker who was always a bit lazy and is now abusing the system to push most of her workload onto me and the rest of our team. Which also robs us of that additional break time. On top of that, up until this weekend, she thought it was a hoax and planned to lie about being exposed so she’d get two weeks off.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Oh, OP, this is awful. I am so sorry for your loss and your bestie’s loss. My heart fell when I read this.

        This cohort has a number of problems running concurrently. I have to say, OP, I am not finding your friend that likable right now. I’d like to suggest that you might want to put some distance between you and her for the time being. If she contacts you by whatever method, perhaps you could just say, “I am busy right now. Will talk to you later.”

        Food for thought. To me a friend is someone who has my back. Now that can be anything- a phone call when I am coldy or a roll of TP when there is none on the store shelf. I try to be that person to other people. She has loaded you up with a bunch of info that tells you she is not a quality worker and she may not that understanding a person either. It’s okay to reassess the friendship with this new info.

        Again, very sorry for your losses.

      2. Hexiva*

        I was in a bit of a bad place when I wrote that comment, and while I stand by the sentiment, I’d like to clarify that the angry tone was directed at your company, not directly at you.

        I still think her laziness rn is her own business (aside from the division of labor issues), but like, also, I have 0 sympathy rn for people who think it’s a hoax.

    3. Saberise*

      So you wouldn’t care if you co-worker was averaging 2 hours of work a day which resulted in your having to pick up the slack? You are a better person that me than.

  33. Pennalynn Lott*

    My company just announced that all scheduled / approved raises are being frozen. And they made clear that that was just the first in a series of cost-cutting measures. The company a friend works at reduced all employee salaries by 10%, effective immediately. Another friend, who works at the corporate HQ for JCPenney, is eyeing Macy’s mass furlough with dread. That friend’s S.O. just got laid off from the brewery he worked at for almost five years.

    Right now is the absolute LAST moment I would be goofing off at work. If someone needs to be laid off, I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure it’s not me.

    I’m WFH right now and, especially after Alison’s post about companies installing spyware on corporate laptops, the only personal thing I do on my work computer is a quick check of Gmail. If there’s something that needs my attention, I switch to my personal laptop or my phone. Plus I’m trying to stay focused and get as much (or more) done than if I was in the office. I really would like my company to see that people can still be productive when working remotely.

    1. Windchime*

      Same here. I am hoping that they may eventually agree to let people work full time from home after this horrible thing is over. I want my manager to know that I am a high achiever who can get stuff done from home as well as from work. This means I’m available during my work hours. I change my status if I’m going to be away. If a meeting is booked for 4 PM then I will be there, even though I’m usually logging off by then. This is a really, really bad time to be goofing off.

  34. Mr Businessman*

    I don’t want to be a rube .. but when working from home, coworkers have even less of a peak into what someone else is working on. Are you sure this is having a bad effect on the work itself? Maybe she is getting all of her work done to her bosses liking? Is this the “work from home” version of “my coworker is coming in 5 minutes late” or “my coworker never stays late?”

    1. Coworkers Still Suck During WFH*

      She brags about only doing things on certain worklists that are easier than others/only doing the minimum number of cases and not taking any phone calls from our client when they roll to her. So yes.

  35. MissDisplaced*

    OP: How do you know she’s doing all this “stuff” instead of working? Did she actually admit this to you?
    And where is the manager / why hasn’t the manager responded in two weeks? Are they out sick?

    These are strange times. There is certainly some leeway between someone being rather unproductive for a day or two… but of course the tune changes if it’s become like every day (unless you do have COVID and are out sick).

    1. Coworkers Still Suck During WFH*

      Our manager has been bearing the brunt of our client’s anger about this and all of the ongoing difficulties of switching to WFH. She is difficult to reach because she is drowning in other work, in her defense. Some of her work is getting routed to the manager above her, but I’m not calling my boss’ boss’ boss about this one.

      She has been bragging about it quite a bit or I wouldn’t know at all. I think she’s still young enough that it’s cool to her in the way some kids think it’s cool to regularly skip school. She doesn’t realize she’s making my day harder; she thinks we should all just blow it off for the next few months because “they can’t fire all of us”.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Ugh. OP, I have been following your comments down through and I would be sorely tempted to tell her, “Grow up, this isn’t high school.”

        You are the level-headed one here, OP. Please hang on to this thought.

      2. allathian*

        Ouch, sounds really tough. You need to tell your coworker to cut it out. Next time she brags about it, be honest with her. Tell her it’s not cool. Tell her you care about keeping your job and that you want to do it well. And that her attitude is not helping.

        You wrote in an earlier comment about her being the only person in her family with a high-school diploma and how most of them are addicts. Not a good start in life by any means, but many people have tough childhoods and most of them manage to learn workplace norms sooner rather than later. You may consider her a friend, but she’s not being a good one. It’s time for her to learn to act like an adult, but she won’t if people let her get away with it “because she’s still so young and had a hard start in life”.

        I think you’ve tried long enough and hard enough to help her. Next time she starts bragging, just shut her down. If she can’t or won’t pull her weight, just tell her you don’t want to hear about it. I suspect that slacking off will stop being so cool when nobody will listen to her bragging about it.

        You do your job as best you can, but please stop trying to do your coworker’s job as well. You’re not her supervisor, and if your actual supervisor isn’t doing her job, it’s certainly not your responsibility to do it. But I still can’t understand why your coworker earns more per hour than you do? At the very least, you deserve a raise for all the work you’ve done.

  36. Manchmal*

    I agree with the comments that have been made that ultimately this is up to management to handle (or not handle, as it sounds like is happening). However, I do think you can push back against your friend/coworker when she tells you how little she’s doing. When she tells you about running out for breakfast or getting it on with her boyfriend (ew), you can ask, “Oh, weren’t you clocked in for that? If anyone figured out what you were doing you could get fired!” Or, if she says something about doing all the easy cases, you can say “You do realize that’s a crappy thing to do to me and all the rest of us, don’t you? And you realize that if we don’t clear these cases, we risk losing client?” Make her feel some of your disapproval, your annoyance. Clue her in to the fact that her esteem is taking a hit in your eyes. You may not be in a position to do anything about it, but it may feel good to just let her know how you feel a bit.

    1. Coworkers Still Suck During WFH*

      This is definitely the plan right now! I talked to my other coworker about it and it seems like she’s bragging about all this because she thinks it’s cool. We think she will stop doing it or stop bragging when she realizes we think she’s being a jerk. Either way is an improvement over the current situation.

  37. Lemon*

    Oh, yikes. Hopefully she’ll knock it off, if she’s as good a friend as you say. Additionally, in my opinion, management really should delegate better…but that’s not something you’re likely to be able to change. Sorry OP.

  38. Madame Zeroni*

    I have a coworker who admitted to taking an hour nap on the clock and missed our weekly Zoom chat. She doesn’t do much in the office normally and has already been fired 3 times so I’m not surprised. Can’t wait to pop out baby #2 and make a break for it!

  39. Betsy S*

    My evil thought is:

    Start going through the queue and doing some of the easy ones yourself, maybe half an hour at the end of the day. You’ve notice the backlog and you’re doing this to help! Your customers will be happy, your personal numbers will get even better (WFH Win!) and your coworker will start running out of easy ones. Might even organize all of your coworkers to do this.

    We work out of a ticket queue, and my coworkers are all great people, but with a mix of tickets and projects, and everyone super-busy and working hard, we had a lot of little things that were getting left behind. I organized a monthly ‘ticket review’ meeting amongst ourselves and our queue is now consistently 1/6 of the length that it was when I started a few years ago. Nobody loves the ticket meetings but everyone agrees they are a good idea and enjoys the smaller queue. An awful lot of stuff in the queue turned out to be quick things that could get taken care of, or dull things that we’d do because we’d all (myself included!) get a bit embarrassed to see them turn up a couple months in a row.

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