my boss told me to work more slowly so I don’t make my coworkers anxious

A reader writes:

I have an unusual situation at work right now. On an ordinary week, I consistently get 25-30% more work done than the company’s goal and than my closest coworkers, and that has always been reflected on my reviews.

Now, with COVID-19, we are all working from home for the first time in company history, and I find I work even faster from home. We have an open floor plan and it can get distracting, so that may be part of why, since I live with only my husband.

Our department culture has always been that we send network links of completed work to the entire team, to make tracking completions easier.

Yesterday, my direct supervisor called me and told me I needed to work slower. It seems most of my team are, very understandably, struggling with anxiety or taking care of kids or elderly relatives, and their work rhythm is somewhat compromised. My fast pace is affecting the team morale and making them more anxious when they see evidence of my completed work. This is certainly not my intention, but working helps me keep my own anxiety under control, and I’m not working extra hours or anything.

I asked if I could just send the link emails to my supervisor only, but she told me that wouldn’t work, since the team needs to know what’s completed. She told me I just needed to go slower, take more breaks, or work fewer hours (I’m exempt, so there’d be no pay cut).

I honestly don’t feel right doing that. It feels like taking advantage of the company. And in a time when all the deadlines are suffering, it seems I should be doing more, since I can, so my coworkers can take more time with caring for their families. Plus, truly, being absorbed in work is helping me deal with my own fears right now.

Is there any way I can push back and keep my work pace, without hurting my team?

Probably not immediately.

For the record, I don’t love your manager’s solution. If deadlines are being missed and/or other people have more work than they can comfortably handle and you’re happy to pitch in more, she should be taking advantage of that. I understand people being anxious when they’re struggling to finish work and they see you flying through yours — especially in a climate where they might be worried about having their jobs cut — but your manager could manage that through, you know, actual conversation with them. She could explain she’s fine with some people being more productive at home than others during this, and that lots of people don’t have optimal work-from-home set-ups given the circumstances, and she could talk to them about what targets she wants them to meet and be clear they’re not going to be penalized for not matching your numbers. She could say that you’re helping the whole team by taking some of the burden off of others, because you happen to be in a position where you can.

That might not get rid of all the anxiety — people are going to worry about their jobs right now regardless — but it would help. And it’s a better plan than telling you to do less when your team sounds like it needs to be doing more.

Now, if that weren’t the situation — if your team’s overall output wouldn’t suffer if you did less — I’d object less to her solution. She’s got to manage not only everyone’s output but also the entire team’s morale, and if you sometimes cutting out of work early helps people not panic about their jobs during this weird time, then so be it. I’m not normally a fan of pandering to people’s insecurities about higher performing coworkers, but in a crisis like this, when everyone’s emotional bandwidth is stretched thin, it might be pragmatic.

In any case, as for what to do … she’s asked you to do less, and so you should at least try doing less. It’s not taking advantage of the company if your manager has decided it’s the right approach for the good of your team. We can think she made the wrong call, but she still gets to make that call. Plus, she’ll probably be more receptive to you pushing back if you at least try what she asked first.

So, do what you’d do if you had a bunch of vacation time you had to use up. Take afternoons off, sleep in some days, take long weekends. I get that you’re finding it helpful to be absorbed in work, but there are other things you can absorb yourself in! Spend every Friday afternoon reading mysteries. Go outside and yodel. Embroider otters on all your shirts. Etc.

To be fair, I know that sometimes work distracts in a way other things don’t, especially right now — and many of us are finding that when we don’t have to be working, the current situation is making us sluggish and unmotivated in a way that no personal to-do list can conquer. But I do think you should at least give it a shot.

After a few weeks, if you’re going out of your mind, talk to your boss and tell her you’re itching to do more. Ask if there are other projects you could work on that wouldn’t have such daily visibility to your coworkers. Tell her you want to help more. See what she says.

But right now, you’re being told to take more time to yourself! It’s free time off. At least try it.

{ 259 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Hey, y’all. Please resist the urge for “I’d love to have your problem” responses, at least if not paired with real advice — it tends to frustrating and not helpful to letter-writers. Thanks!

  2. WorkIsADarkComedy*

    How about finding other work you can do that helps the company. It could be self-training, organization, or doing other work that your management would find useful. That would keep you productive and (hopefully) happy, but not be a problem for those who are anxiously watching your reports. You would want to clear this with your boss, but it might make everyone happy.

    1. A Non E. Mouse*

      I came here to say this too – is there something else you can be working on?

      Documentation, some training you’ve been wanting to take (even if – maybe even especially if – it’s not directly related to your work, chasing down some “stuff that’s broken but we’ll worry about it later” items that you can make time in your scheduled for?

    2. Turtle Candle*

      I was just coming here to suggest self-training. Is there something you could spend time learning right now? Online classes or trainings you could take that would be productive (and beneficial to the company) without adding to the visible list of “things I did”?

      I know this is easier for some jobs than others, but I bet there’s something, even if it’s just ‘become an Excel wizard’ or ‘improve my business writing.’

      (If not, yeah, I think looking for a personal project that’s engaging/important to you is the best bet–I imagine that’d be less demoralizing to a highly productive person than “binge-watch Netflix”–but you may be able to find something that still makes you feel like you’re not taking advantage of the company.)

    3. HappySnoopy*

      Second the training idea, even if Microsoft office tips of something to do on “company time” but still not affecting metrics.

      Although if OP wanted to follow the embroidered otter idea, that would be pretty adorkable…

    4. pbnj*

      If you can’t find any training, perhaps try reading a business or personal development book?

      1. Uranus Wars*

        This is what I have encouraged my team to do if they find themselves with time on their hands and want more “work” to do. The reality is I don’t have more for them to do and don’t need them to fill time if they are getting their work done on time and to standard, but they are really struggling with boredom, too and want more to contribute.

      2. Excellence should be a habit*

        Your manager is a moron. She is rewarding mediocrity, rather than excellence. Over the long term, you want to be at a company that values excellence.
        Nonetheless, in the here and now, keep working on your projects at the same rate, but instead of using the downtime to take a nap, use it to acquire more professional skills that will one day help you to either become this manager’s manager, or to find that company that values excellence.

        1. Kathenus*

          I’m sorry but I respectfully disagree. If this was a normal WFH situation, I would see your point. But this column is filled with letters and discussions about managers with unrealistic expectations of WFH staff who are dealing with this pandemic and juggling work at the same time as family care, teaching their kids, caring for parents, etc.. And in these cases the managers are implored to be understanding and flexible with their staff at this unprecedented time.

          I think people can agree or disagree with the way the manager is handling the OP in this situation, but I very much don’t agree that this is a case of rewarding mediocrity vs. excellence, and nothing that I saw in the letter would make me call the manager a ‘moron’.

    5. Meg Murry*

      Or OP could reframe it to herself as one of her work assignments is to reduce her own anxiety (and also her co-worker’s). OP – do you have any metrics on what kind of “average” number of jobs the boss wants you to complete? So, say right now you are getting 6-8 TPS reports done every hour, whereas the boss would be happy with everyone completing 4 TPS reports. Do your 4 for the hour without rushing, and then take the rest of the hour to do an anti-anxiety assignment for yourself. That could be meditating with something like the Headspace App, or doing a 15 minute yoga video, or vigorously scrubbing the bathroom or a worksheet from a CBT workbook (if you have a therapist that can recommend one) or 15 minutes of cat videos or calling your grandma or whatever. Then you can go back to work. So it’s sort of like a Pomodoro technique, except you are forcing yourself to fit the breaks in.

      Or alternately, is part of the problem that your coworkers aren’t able to get started until later in the day because they are taking care of their kids or personal business in the morning? Then when they log in, they see a wall of emails of what OP has already completed and it sets off their panic alarm. And that could be doubly so if there is only so much work to do each day and OP is completing a big chunk of it before they even get started. If this is the case – OP, can you do something else in the morning and start your work day a little later? A walk, an exercise routine, 2 episodes of the Great British Bake-Off, make an elaborate gourmet breakfast, sew some face masks to donate, etc?

      1. Jae*

        I love this idea! OP’s anxiety makes them super-productive, which sounds like a good thing, but in a way it is still damaging to their life because it is creating negative feelings in their working relationships.

        Taking the time to work on other techniques aside from working more for reducing anxiety will serve OP well as a colleague and employee (so it may make it easier to get started/less likely to inspire guilt to do it if it is work related), and also will personally benefit OP because there may be times when working/working more isn’t an option at all, and it is good to have other coping skills in your toolbelt.

        1. Amethystmoon*

          Right, maybe take a 5-10 minute meditation break? That in of itself would probably help.

        2. JT*

          As someone with ADHD who suffers from anxiety and has been in therapy/on meds to help with it, I’d like to gently point out that “meditation” of the sort we usually think of (e.g. with white noise apps and breathing exercises) doesn’t always help, because it’s predicated on the idea you “just” need to “relax” – but not all anxiety is JUST being “worked up”, and this kind of anxiety is more common in people who are neurodivergent in other ways.

          The fact that this employee seems both more distractible in an “open plan” office AND able to potentially hyperfocus (normally getting more done anyway but getting A LOT more done without as many distractions)…is…a freaking Mood. Like, they may not actually “have” ADHD, but as someone with ADHD I’m seeing a lot of similarities with my own experiences (I too normally work in an “open plan” sort of office and it’s SUPER distracting). So. With that in mind…it’s not unlikely they could have issues with normal “meditation” exercises if trying to use them for anxiety.

          HOWEVER…anxiety is very much a physiological response. It’s adrenaline, it’s agitation, it’s energy that is meant to be used – the problem comes in being able to channel that before it gets overwhelming. And the best way to do that, in absence of a mentally absorbing task to distract one, is often through physical effort.

          If the LW wants to try and follow the given advice and “try” to work less for a week or so, I might suggest, assuming it’s something they can do, they do something like replacing some or all of their work with things like: clean their house (win win because it’s productive, too!), maybe take the week to do a KonMari style purge/reorganization (a VERY absorbing task, and moving all that stuff around ends up a bit physical too), or try some exercise or dancing/singing.

          Maybe also do what a lot of people are doing, and try to take up some form of gardening (even if it’s just in a window box or container) or making some bread (yes, I know there’s a “yeast shortage” but first, you can catch it wild if you need to, and second, flatbread is a thing too). Hobbies with goals and tangible rewards (such as food or flowers) are very helpful to lessen or ward off anxiety and depression with, especially when they require handling stuff physically, as gardening and baking/cooking do, because then you’re getting a form of non-negative stimulation generally. (On a personal note/example: the first time I baked from-scratch bread was actually more enjoyable when I was using my hands to mix the flour , salt and yeast and then handle the dough before baking, because of this exact reason. Plus, if all goes relatively well, you have FRESH BAKED food you can eat)

          tldr: Something that involves the physical body or Getting Stuff Done or both, is ideal to tackle anxiety that tends to be otherwise coped with by Working. It gives it a healthy outlet that, because it can feel “productive” or even stimulating/give you a tangible reward, can give a mood boost too. tbh, even if they didn’t follow the AAM advice, it’s probably a good idea to try that kind of stuff anyway, if able.

    6. Mayor of Llamatown*

      Definitely do some self-training. Think about what kinds of things you might want to improve on. Communication skills? Project management? Emotional intelligence? Programming/coding? Whatever might help you get to be even more awesome or help your team more, do that. Check out ebooks from the library, order actual books from a book store, sign up for webinars (there are actually lots of awesome ones happening right now, from various organizations), find free or cheap self-study courses from professional organizations. Make yourself a list of assignments with deadlines, and treat that as a part of your work. You could even put it on your calendar/planner if that helps.

    7. Hei Hei the Chicken from Moana*

      Exactly – what are your back burner projects that could use your attention? And make you look good. :)

    8. Hey Karma, Over Here*

      Agreed. The manager is dropping the ball a couple ways here. Understandably do to her own new normal, but that is really her responsibility. The best solution is to push new and different projects to OP. When I’m done ahead of schedule, my boss will push something off to me. Seems like a great chance for manager to save team morale, save OP’s morale and help herself at this time.
      “Work slower” is not the worst reaction, but it is reactionary.

      1. Amber*

        What if the manager is also at capacity and the best they can do in response to this problem is tell the employee to work a little slower. Shouldn’t be up to the manager to come up with new projects just to make sure the OP isn’t bored. I think everyone needs a little grace at this time.

      2. NYWeasel*

        I think the manager here is the real problem. They should be helping those who are stressing out by letting them know there are no negative repercussions for not getting as much done, and redirecting the OP’s extra bandwidth as needed. Instead, they are keeping the team stressed about results and chastising a team member for being “too productive”.

        OP, is there any way to reach out to your coworkers on a more 1:1 basis and say “Hey, I was thinking that I have a much easier situation here bc I know you have to manage homeschooling your kiddos. And I’m finding I’m really stressing out if I don’t keep busy? Is there anything I could help you out with? It would be a win-win for both of us.” You could still contribute more to the team, but if the stressed coworkers are able to see it in a different light, it might stop being an issue.

    9. Sara without an H*

      I came over here to second this idea. OP, is there some kind of professional development stuff you can work on for a few hours a day? Skills you could pick up that would ultimately be beneficial to your own career as well as the company?

      Right now, a lot of what I normally would do just isn’t happening, so I’m working through a bunch of training modules I’d meant to do when I had time. Now I have time.

    10. The pest, Ramona*

      Not quite the same situation, but before I left my last job I spent a lot of time deleting old emails, organizing electronic files, writing up job descriptions that were unique to my position, etc. All of this is still productive and work related, however you are now doing less of the job which directly impacts them (stress- wise).

    11. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I have a thought for you to ask your manager. Is it possible that you’re approaching these tasks differently than your co-workers? Is it possible that you could document your workflow and your manager could teach it to the rest of the people? In other words, maybe you’ve stumbled across a procedure that is *inherently* faster than the way your co-workers are working and could be a process improvement for the whole business.

    12. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      OP shouldn’t have to hunt out work to be done, the manager should already have assigned her a meaty project with accompanying pay rise.

  3. T. Boone Pickens*

    Does OP by chance work at MacMillen Toys and work with a guy names Scotty by chance? Sorry…couldn’t help myself.

    1. Third or Nothing!*

      Came here to say this. Are otters going to be the new go-to example on this site? Oh man I sure hope so!! They’re my favorite. :)

      1. Amused*

        Yes. I so loved that suggestion. Also, yodeling! The residents in my county have taken up community-wide howling every evening at 8pm — I would love it if that changed to yodeling! The howling is getting kind of annoying, although people seem to enjoy it, so more power to them. Although yodeling would be awesome!

        1. Third or Nothing!*

          Suppose they could go full-on Doctor Who and collectively sing The Old Rugged Cross.

          Snap I thought more about that episode and it feels so, so relatable right now. Mainly the part about being trapped in small enclosed spaces for way too long.

    2. MistOrMister*

      Yes, I am here for the otters! If OP’s husband has extra time too, maybe they can start that otter farm we heard mentioned this weekend!

    3. Daughter of Ada and Grace*

      Where can I get a pattern to embroider an otter? This is a thing I did not know I needed before today.

      1. Third or Nothing!*

        Draw your own! That’s how I was taught to embroider! I’m a decent freehand artist but I think you should be able to trace something on a nice thin muslin.

      2. Applesauced*

        DMC Thread has a BUNCH of free patterns.
        Like the other commentor, I’ve traced images (coloring books are great) or made my own line drawings

        1. Dancing Otter*

          Sadly, a search for “otter” on the DMC website brought up no results.
          But I’m sure somebody somewhere must have a pattern or kit.

          1. Sarahkay*

            Search for ‘Otter cross stitch’ or ‘Otter cross stitch pattern free’; that brings up loads of stuff for me in the UK.

      3. Old Mountain Lady*

        Yes, I need this. It is traditional to embroider spiders on crazy quilts, but I would so much rather embroider otters.

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      I went to google to amuse you all with free patterns for crochet otters and learned that a group of otters is called a “ROMP”. And now I am so obsessed with the idea of a village of otters being a ROMP of otters that I can’t think of anything else. You’re on your own for crochet patterns. (Believe me, they’re cute.)

    1. Lesley*

      HAHA, same. Like I could take a nap, read a book, do a puzzle, start drinking earlier, never stop drinking, take a walk, build a sandcastle with no sand. The possibilities are endless.

      1. LizzE*

        Right? I am so tempted to make banana bread with my really spotty bananas right now. But, I know I am going to have to wait until sometime between 5-6 pm before I can even get started.

    2. Kella*

      I tend to swing back and forth between where the OP is, and where their coworkers are. I developed the belief long ago that the more accomplished/productive I am, the more physically safe I am. It’s not true but it’s a useful brain hack to lean on during times like this when I’m already doing everything I can to protect my safety and I’m still anxious. Granted, I also have the privilege of a quiet house, no children or pet distractions etc. and I’m sure tapping into that anxious productivity would be a lot harder if I was also managing those complications.

      1. MissGirl*

        Oh wow, this is me in a nutshell. This is probably why I’m not sleeping and can’t relax to watch a show. My work is so slow right now. I never realized how much I was emotionally dependent on work.

    3. Amanda*

      I get her. I’m super productive when I’m nervous about something, and working usually helps keep me calm, while if I tried to take a nap, I’d just be staring at the ceiling and panicking. Being told I couldn’t use work as an outlet, or that I had to ‘ration’ it, would upset me too!

    4. Angela*

      Glad I’m not the only one! I would love to have this ‘problem.’ I work to live, not live to work, and if I get permission to spend less time on company work I’m all for it.

      1. Spencer Hastings*

        I also work to live. However, most of what gives me joy during the “live” part is indefinitely suspended. So having less work to do is the worst of both worlds right now.

      2. Amanda*

        In this situation, though, this feels a little harsh. What if OP is an outdoorsy person, and can’t really ‘live’ out her hobbies right now? It’s not even like she could take out embroidering otters because, unless she already had supplies, those can take more than a month to be delivered, since they’re not essencial.

        1. Angela*

          Even if they’re not doing their lifelong passion, they can still do countless other things with that time while stuck at home. Even watching a couple episodes of a show they like, reading, watching videos related to a hobby, working out, or even going outside depending on where they live. There’s a lot of options of enjoyable or relaxing things, and there’s bound to be something they can do for a couple of hours here and there instead of working. The internet has really made a lot of things possible.

          1. Amanda*

            While this is true, and OP can (and should) find a non working outlet, she now has the added stress of actually finding something to do, in the middle of a pandemic and with limited supplies, that might or might not make her calmer. It’s really not as simple as just saying she works too much, specially since she mentions she’s keeping normal hours. Finding a new hobby that’s both engaging and soothing isn’t easy in the best of times, and these are NOT the best of times.

            1. Ada*

              ^ This. I’ve recently determined I need to force myself to take a day *off*-off each week or I WILL burn myself out, so I’ve essentially started “observing the Sabbath” in a non-religious sense. And I quickly realized I have NO IDEA how to fill that time. Sure, I can watch Netflix and YouTube, read, or go for a walk, but that becomes unfulfilling pretty quickly. And finding something else to fill that space that a) can be done 100% in my apartment, b) doesn’t cost money I don’t want to spend right now, c) doesn’t require supplies that I don’t have on hand, and d) doesn’t result in the creation of *stuff* (which I really don’t want more of right now when I’m already trying to downsize) is quite the challenge.

              Since OP isn’t necessarily looking for a completely non-work-related activity, though, maybe free online classes could be a good option? Either in something that would help them progress in their career or just in a subject they find fun and interesting.

            2. Misty*

              Plus for all we know (or don’t know) OP may already have hobbies. Because if you’re not used to being home 24/7, that’s a lot of time in a day. OP could already be doing non-work things and work too and still have time.

              Losing things like commuting and other things that add up to a lot of time but we don’t typically think about that we do every day adds a lot of free time to the week. Maybe OP has a long commute like I do.

      3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Yeah…not everyone has much going on in life without a lockdown, let alone with one in place, so that’s cute that you think that it’s okay to make people really dwell on that aspect. How nice, you don’t like to work and LOLOLOLOL some people do and they’re miserable.

        1. Angela*

          I’m sorry you feel so strongly connected to being busy for work, and I know people who are defined by their work and spend all their time with it. But it doesn’t sound like they’re being told to take a long vacation, they’re being told to work slower / less. Even people defined by their work, or require being busy all the time so they don’t have to face issues, tend to like small things like watching a TV show, movie, reading a book, checking social media / Youtube, you name it. Or even stepping outside and walking around if they can. And I’m sorry you feel the need to talk down to people if you can’t see small ways of making the best out of a lockdown situation. It’s not great, but a lot of people have gotten creative with the extra time and found new hobbies or passions they didn’t have time for otherwise.

    5. Sunflower*

      We’ve all been told to not expect bonuses or promotions this year. I work at a big consulting firm where people work themselves to the bone, late hours and are always looking for the next opportunity so there’s a lot of ‘why bother’. I was absolutely slammed the last 2 weeks and was finding myself very resentful since I knew this extra work wasn’t going to amount to anything except a ‘thanks’. Now that I’ve slowed down, I’m not falling over backwards to take on anything. I generally have work to do but am nowhere as busy as I usually am. I don’t feel guilty about it! Many of us are going to be taking pay cuts in some form(whether it’s hiring/pay freezes or missed opportunities) along with the companies losing revenue so I think it’s totally fine to cut yourself some slack.

    6. Coffee Cup*

      Same here, and it isn’t even about performing well, I have always done so. I am also a fast worker who is always annoyed that we are paid by hour and not output. But I would cry tears of happiness if some told me to work fewer hours, do less work for the same pay right now. Or any other time really.

    7. Gemma*

      The same thought crossed my mind but I don’t think that’s particularly helpful to the OP.

      It personally helps me to analogize to situations where I have been asked to “take one for the team” where arguably everyone else should have been asked to step up instead of me bearing the weight of “team morale.” OP is being told to steady the boat and to allow everyone else to rock it, which sucks a bit regardless of the specific factual circumstances.

      One thing that comes to mind for me is when we hired a new person who didn’t gel closely with the culture at my office and was always doing things like leaving his door shut all the time (Open Door Policy) and just generally being a recluse who communicated solely by email, when our higher ups like to be able to walk up to our desks. Instead of asking this guy to change his behavior, or having his manager talk to him, his manager and my boss decided that the solution was for me to change offices so the new guy *had* to sit close to our big boss and his manager, and they would essentially imply/hint that his door shouldn’t be closed and they wanted to speak in person.

      1. Anono-nono-nonymous*

        Maybe it’s just me, but what does an “Open Door Policy” mean that the door has to be physically open at all times? My office has a very strict open door policy, but it doesn’t mean physically. It just means you need to be open to talk to people about their concerns and hear them out. But, like, we can still shut the door if we need to concentrate, take a call, etc. And, we are more than welcome to encourage the people who want to take advantage of said open door policy, to make an appointment or set a meeting to have those conversations. We are encouraged to knock or send an IM before walking over making sure the person is available. I definitely wouldn’t be okay with the big bosses just walking in whenever they felt like it, if only because I am a very jumpy person and being startled while in the midst of deep concentration can be enough to throw me off for the rest of the day.

        1. Gemma*

          Ours literally means that your door needs to be open unless you’re on a call, eating, or people are talking and being disruptive near you (which rarely but occasionally happens when people congregate). We have a culture of walking up to people unless they have “Busy” time blocked on their calendars, and don’t use IM services at all. This also may be a function of our department, since I work for a company’s legal department and we deal with sensitive and problematic issues on a daily basis and don’t want to reduce everything to writing all the time. We also like to encourage the business folks to walk up to us rather than waiting until something blows up in their faces, and then doing their own investigation and writing term papers on How And Why The Company Messed Up.

          It was presented to me in my interview as essentially take it or leave it

          1. Gemma*

            (hit send too soon)

            and I know that it’s mentioned in interviews to other people as being part of our culture and the way we do things.

          2. allathian*

            I’m glad that it’s mentioned, because it could be a deal-breaker for some people. That said, at least it seems that you have your own offices, which is a luxury for non-executives these days. Still, for some the luxury of an office would be spoiled by the fact that anyone can walk up to them at any time… I, for one, would be blocking off my calendar as busy most of the time. I sit in a two-person office in normal times, and while some people do walk up to our desks, it only happens about once a month or so. It used to happen more often, but we have a liberal WFH policy, so most people have grown out of the habit. In normal times we’re expected to mark our calendars if we’re WFH, as well as note our location in the status line on Skype.

            Naturally, doors are necessary when sensitive matters must be discussed.

    8. Actual Vampire*

      Eh, I can see where she’s coming from. I’ve had jobs where I had to stretch work out because there wasn’t enough to do, and it wasn’t easy or fun – it just felt weird, and it was hard to stay focused or motivated when I was deliberately trying not to finish stuff. Luckily since LW is home, she can do her work fast and then go and do other things, she doesn’t have to just stare at her cubicle wall.

      1. Legal Beagle*

        Agreed. I think a note up top from Alison asking people not to do this would be useful, because the “I’d love to have your problem!” response is unhelpful and insensitive.

      2. Coffee Cup*

        I think these comments could be helpful in a way, because one solution to the OP’s problem, in my opinion, is to lean into it, and not feel like they are stealing money from their company when their work is so much more than adequate that they have been asked to slow down… I think we can all use a reality check sometimes about how much pressure we are putting on ourselves. Just my two cents.

    9. Dagny*

      I would LOVE to be able to get my work done in half the time and then spend the rest of the day lounging around. This is an opportunity; understand that.

      1. Curmudgeon in California*

        It’s not an opportunity if it generates more anxiety and stress.

        If a person relies on going outside to walk and shop every day, not being able to do that causes stress. If a person is used to working at their optimal capacity, and now id told not to do so, that is an additional source of stress.

        Yes, some of us have sufficient outside projects that we can use to replace “work” with so as not to imbalance the workload with people who have too much other stuff on their plate. But some don’t.

        The best suggestions I have seen are investing that time in professional enrichment, or developing or expanding hobbies.

    10. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Imagine your primary stress relievers are (A) Zoning out by working and (B) Swimming — or anything else requiring a public facility that has closed. Does that help you relate?

  4. hmmm*

    Are there any classes that you could take online on company time that would make you better at your job? Or a class that would be helpful towards a promotion? Or as someone above posted maybe there are things that are outside your job that could be helpful for the company. I would talk to your boss and see what your current promotion path is and what could help towards this. Maybe taking on responsibilities of the job you’d LIKE to have. Otherwise maybe just sleep in an hour every day or take your time over breakfast. Don’t worry about “taking advantage of the company” they are literally telling you to do this for company morale.

    1. Some Lady*

      Yep! This could be a good time for professional development, which is definitely an appropriate use of work time. Now is a great time for free classes (MOOCs) through EdX and similar. A coworker and I are both furloughed–she’s taking the time to take an online class 100% related to work, and I’m taking a class tangentially related to work and 100% interesting to me. It can scratch that itch of being productive and reaching certain benchmarks. I think you have the leeway to do whatever, but if you need to feel that you’re doing work for the company for your own peace of mind (which is totally valid), you could find some way to increase your knowledge of the field, job skills, management-related skills (that this blog shows are good for everybody to have), etc.

    2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      It sounds more like she needs a course to learn how to be worse actually…
      Or better, a management course so she can replace that ridiculous manager.

  5. Bear Necessities*

    Would it work for you to create a schedule for yourself of when you post completions? For example, if your coworkers are posting completed items approximately every 15 minutes, can you update your completions on the same schedule even if you’re actually completing the items in about 10 minutes apiece?

    1. nonegiven*

      I was thinking, OP can do the work and then delete half of it or set it aside, at least enough that OP isn’t getting much more listed as done than the next most productive person and let others repeat the work later. I predict the manager will tell OP to speed back up when things start bogging down.

      1. TechWorker*

        Doing work then deleting it or duplicating it just sounds like the worst of all worlds… I can’t imagine OP wants to do work they literally know is pointless if they’re concerned about slacking off.

        1. Amaranth*

          I’m curious as to why the manager says the whole team needs to know what is completed if OP is obviously not waiting on feedback or other data to keep moving forward to the next project. Maybe its a shared pool of tasks so she has to mark them off to avoid redundancy? Though I’m assuming she’d have to at least check the tasks as in progress….

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            All the manager needs to do, I’m sure, is issue a list of completed tasks without specifying who completed them. But that would entail a little bit of work… a competent manager would know which employee to delegate extra work to, I’m sure she could think of someone. Maybe not one of those struggling to keep up right now…

  6. Lucy H*

    A colleague of mine undertook some coursera courses related to our work, and found them to be useful. Lots of universities also run MOOC courses for free. Might you find something very structured that would support your next application for a promotion or new job? Would expertise in coding help? Or something equally transferable? Web design? Basic research methods? Good luck :)

  7. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    OP, here’s a silver lining for your cloud: your coworkers actually care about being productive. Not all of us have that luxury.

    1. WellRed*

      This has come up a lot lately. People writing in with a legit question and others telling them to be grateful.

      1. A*

        I might be wrong, but I read this as a joke. Wouldn’t of questioned it if not for the comments. Thought it was poking fun at the irony of how many commenters have expressed experiencing the opposite (co-workers literally not working etc.).

        Just my 2 cents.

    2. Kiwi*

      I disagree. There’s a difference in wanting OP to work less and them wanting to work more. The coworkers just seem unhappy that she’s more efficient than they are, they don’t seem particularly motivated to work more in response.

      1. Bear Necessities*

        I think talking in terms of motivation right now is not kind. People are working in environments that are often difficult for efficiency and not conducive to good workflow. That’s not a motivation issue.

        1. Turtle Candle*

          Yes; the fundamental situation is that the LW is in a situation where they can be more productive because of fewer distractions (home with just husband vs. open plan) and their coworkers are in situations where they instead more distracted and thus less productive (kids, elderly parents at home). “Just work harder” is often not really a practical piece of advice in that circumstance (plus, reminds me a bit of Boxer and the glue factory in Animal Farm).

          1. Turtle Candle*

            (Also, we don’t know that the coworkers are upset at the LW. Maybe they are, but it just as easily could be saying something more like “I’m so worried for my job and feel like I’m failing because LW is still performing at or above normal and I just can’t.”)

            1. nonegiven*

              Yeah, maybe it’s the manager’s nerves. She could be afraid OP will get all the work done and upper management will want to start laying off people.

        2. Kiwi*

          I don’t assign any kind of moral weight to the word “motivation” but I’m happy to use different words, since the meaning of what I’m saying isn’t changing, which is that telling OP to slow down is not the same thing as them speeding up, or “caring about being productive.”

          1. Bear Necessities*

            It isn’t about moral weight. It’s about obstacles that do not respond to motivation.

            You can be the most gung-ho employee in the world, but if you’ve got a small child you have to be watching while you try to work, you are going to be slower than someone who does not have a small child to watch. Period.

            1. Kiwi*

              You said “I think talking in terms of motivation right now is not kind.” That’s the moral weight that I’m talking about. Maybe I’m incorrect, but I don’t think that’s the same as being unkind.

              1. Bear Necessities*

                I think looking at someone who is dealing with all of the highly non-optimal complications of working from home and concluding “well, they don’t seem motivated to work harder” is unkind. It presumes that internal motivations, as opposed to external factors, is the limiting factor, and comes across very blamey.

                1. Kiwi*

                  That’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying there’s an objective difference in saying “OP is fast and I’m slow, therefore OP needs to be slow”, vs. saying things like “OP is working more than I am, am I supposed to be working more?” or “OP is working more than I am, is my job secure?”

                  I’m not actually saying that anyone could or should be working more, or that anyone’s “right” or “wrong,” just that the coworkers are all saying the variable that needs to change is OP.

                2. Turtle Candle*


                  We don’t actually know what the coworkers said, though, let alone what all of them said. It’s not actually in the letter. All we know is that they’re anxious about their productivity levels. (For all we know, they are saying “should I be working more, because I’m falling way behind LW?” or “is my job secure; I’m worried because I’m doing half what LW is?”) They might be complaining about the LW, they might have asked the boss to ask LW to do this, but we don’t actually know any of that. Nor do we know what the boss might have tried directly with them to resolve this before asking LW to change.

                3. biobotb*

                  @Kiwi – if those things were what you were trying to say, it seems strange that you chose the word motivation to describe the coworkers’ mindsets. You don’t know if they’re motivated to work harder or not; neither does the OP. You’ve assumed that they all want the OP to change, even though you don’t have evidence for that. All the OP knows is that her output makes the coworkers anxious. Her *manager* is the one who’s asked her to work slower. Assuming that idea came from the coworkers is jumping to conclusions. Yes, *unkind* conclusions.

      2. Sunflower*

        Why WOULD her coworkers be motivated to work more? The boss clearly doesn’t care if anyone does anything more than what they are doing.

        The manager has the control here and instead of telling the coworkers to work more, she told the OP to work less. I would be surprised if the coworkers even complained. They may have just said ‘hey OP is doing 20 tickets a day and I’m only doing 10. Is that Ok, I’m a little anxious about it’ and the manager chose this as the response.

      3. hbc*

        You can’t glean anything about their motivation from what has gotten back to the LW. In fact, I would take that they *are* motivated to work more, or at least have inferred that OP is setting the bar, but all the motivation in the world isn’t going to get them there.

        It’s like if you were in a casual running club with Usain Bolt. Maybe some people are fine getting their exercise and shaving half a second off their 20 second 100m sprint while he’s going by twice as fast, but it would be really hard for most people.

    3. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

      Oh, gosh no, this was not intended to be a “be grateful post”. I was being a touch ironic, given that so many telecommuting issues – before and during covid – often seem to be ‘my coworkers/bosses are slackers’.

      There are a bunch of things along those lines that OP *doesn’t* have to worry about.

  8. staceyizme*

    Is there a learning opportunity or a project that you could really sink your teeth into that would meet both the “adding full value” and the “manage the lower visible productivity requirements? That might allow you to be busy, respect your supervisor’s perspective and allow you to capitalize on the change in routine.

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

      Doesn’t that just push the problem down the line a bit to when OPs co-workers find out that she “stealth” worked on this project that is going to increase her visibility even more compared to theirs… and now they were just doing what they could around childcare etc while OP went ahead unfettered and did this project that’s going to endear them to upper management and so on…

      … just saying how I might have perceived it.

      1. TechWorker*

        Honestly, I feel for OPs coworkers but surely it should be clear to them that OP is the outlier here and not them, especially if there’s a bunch of them?

        Getting grumpy that someone is more productive than you are, especially if your boss is happy with your performance, just doesn’t make sense. OP isn’t responsible for their coworkers maybe emotions a few months down the line.

        1. allathian*

          Still, it has to be said that if this is really a problem for the OP, maybe looking for a new job wouldn’t hurt?
          Interviewer: “Why did you leave your last employer?/Why are you looking for a new job?”
          OP: “I consistently completed twice as many assignments as my coworkers did in the same time without rushing it. My manager asked me to work less so my coworkers wouldn’t feel bad.”
          Most employers would be chomping at the bit to get a motivated, high-performing employee like the OP.

        2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          Yes, the only thing is they’re working from home and feeling very isolated in their inefficiency.
          I think workers are allowed to feel grumpy, having to work from home, dealing with their partner’s inability to work from home, their kids’ inability to work from home, shopping trips that are more complicated, masks to be made because nobody can find any ready-made, extra housework because everyone’s at home all day, extra grumpiness because everyone’s at home all day. It’s the manager who should find a creative way to leverage OP’s great talent, find other tasks for them to do for example, and reassure those who are struggling that their lesser productivity is not going to be held against them. (although of course, if they had to fire all but one worker, we know who that should be).

      2. Joielle*

        They might feel that way, but is the OP supposed to permanently hamstring herself so nobody feels bad? It’s not her fault that others can’t focus on work right now. This will just lead to OP leaving for a different job that supports high performers instead of stifling them.

    2. Angelinha*

      Maybe they could use the time to create a better tracking system that doesn’t include emailing a network link to every teammate every time they do something! (Probably not what the boss has in mind, but this system sounds so unnecessary!)

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        Yes, the manager should take all the individual reports and produce a summary of what has been done without specifying upfront who actually did the work. With a mechanism so that you can find out who did what when you need that info.

  9. Cat*

    I’d caution OP about being too gung-ho with taking on extra work unless it’s a level of work they’d be happy maintaining indefinitely into the future. There’s a fine line between productivity and burnout. Many companies learned in the last recession that they didn’t need to pay three employees when they could just overwork one.

    {pessimism has exited the chat}

    1. Cat*

      Also, isn’t this the mythical advantage to being salaried exempt? You work as long as the work takes, and in this case it takes LESS than 40 hours.

      1. Caramel & Cheddar*

        Yes!! We’re in weird times — you’re not slacking off if you’re completing your work fast and then taking it easy the rest of the time.

        1. Cat*

          Yeah, if it took a full week in the “before times” and it’s only the lack of the soul-sucking, productivity-crushing open floor plan that makes it now take 25 hours…roll with it.

        2. Phony Genius*

          There’s always the old trick of completing the work, but submitting it later to “pad the hours.” (Not that I’m encouraging fraud.)

          1. Lily Rowan*

            Or I was thinking, the OP could pad out their daily schedule — like, instead of eating lunch quickly and getting back to it, adding some time of doing non-work stuff as well (TV/exercise/yodelling), or starting the work day a little later via the same methods.

      2. Filosofickle*

        Yeah, when I was salaried I rarely worked full-time hours because I was simply faster than those around me. I delivered more in less time. But unlike the OP, I was always thrilled to leave early! That said, it did feel awkward, like I had to hide it.

    2. Malarkey01*

      I wondered if that might be some of the subtext of managers request- maybe she’s worried that people above with see OP at x production and assume that’s the norm or what everyone should be accomplishing. I know it seems a little backwards but I once managed someone who was super human fast, and it was unreasonable to expect that of others. However, when people saw her numbers I eventually got questioned as to why everyone wasn’t like her, or couldn’t I fire 3 people and high 1 more of “her”.

      1. Former Retail Manager*

        YES to all this! And I have to wonder, how is OP able to consistently accomplish so much more work than her colleagues under normal conditions, when not working from home. It makes sense working from home, to accomplish 25-30% more than everyone or anyone else on a regular and consistent basis is no small feat. If the team were small, say 5 people total, I could see it, but if her team is 10-15 or more, and she’s consistently breezing past everyone I’d honestly be inclined to ask if she’s either missing something/not doing something or if the others are doing things they don’t have to be doing. Either way, to have such an outlier, who remains an outlier consistently, is unusual to me. And yes, upper mgmt. totally notices and begins to form unrealistic expectations of the rest of the team….been there.

      2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        When in fact what they should be doing is asking her how she does it, maybe she has some trick to get stuff done faster. She could train the others.
        They should also be thinking of other more complex tasks that this amazing talented worker is capable of doing and giving her a pay rise and promotion rather than dampening her enthusiasm.

    3. Lavender Menace*

      I’m also concerned about whether this is even sustainable for the short-term, and about whether OP could have an unexpected delayed reaction to WFH. I manage a team that has suddenly gone to remote work and have had a couple directs have delayed reactions – they threw themselves in with aplomb once this first happened, for much the same reasons (working helped them work through anxiety), and then something happened – either externally or internally – and they became burned out and needed to slow down or take some breaks.

      The reading thing, or taking optional classes to build new skills, those are good suggestions. But I’d be careful of taking on any more work for the same reason.

  10. Turtle Candle*

    I agree with Alison. Under normal circumstances (er, the ‘old normal’), I’d say this was awfully silly and you could definitely push back and ask your manager to handle it differently.

    But right now, people are cracking under even very normal levels of stress, even people who are usually good at managing stress and taking care of their own mental health. (I totally didn’t burst into tears last night because I couldn’t find the printer paper, nope, nope, not me. Nor did my husband decide that reorganizing the spice drawer was a life-or-death issue.)

    It’s entirely possible that the manager has tried to address this in the ‘normal’ ways and it just hasn’t gotten traction because right now a lot of people are just… well, out of cope and running on fumes. And they might be getting into a spiral where they’re already anxious about, well, Life, and that makes them less productive, and then they see your productivity going up while theirs goes down, and that makes them more anxious, which makes them less productive, which makes them more anxious, and they’re in a death spiral and the boss just wants to give them a reprieve so they can un-spiral themselves.

    So yeah. Normally I’d say “well that’s silly,” but right now I agree that you should try it out for at least a few weeks. (And think about finding online courses, as others have mentioned! Or a personal project you’ve wanted to do for a while. Something else to keep you productive.)

    1. Chili*

      Yeah, under ordinary circumstances this would be a situation worth pushing back on, but for the next few weeks I would accept the unexpected PTO. I might clarify with your manager what they mean by “work fewer hours”– can you fully go offline or should you still be available for questions? How many hours is fewer, exactly? But other than that, I would start looking for personal projects you could make traction on in a couple weeks. After a week or so, maybe bring up some potential lowkey pet projects you could do for work that wouldn’t make your coworkers anxious, maybe updating documentation or other things that tend to be put to the wayside.

      1. Chili*

        I might also bring up ways you could slow your productivity AND help your coworkers: is it possible to take on most of the known arduous tasks and leave easier ones for your colleagues having a rougher time? Not indefinitely, but for a few weeks while people adjust to WFH and while things (hopefully) stabilize.

    2. hbc*

      Especially when the main reason for not wanting to lower productivity is personal. OP’s anxiety around less work is no more or less relevant to the workplace than the coworkers’ anxiety about doing noticeably worse than a peer.

      I really hope the manager comes up with something, but OP, maybe you can consider it a work assignment to make yourself less efficient without sending yourself into a spiral. Lots of good ideas here about what you can use to fill the time, and if you can insert them into your workday (ex: read one chapter of a work-ish book between paragraphs/calls/units of your work), it might still scratch that productivity itch.

      Here’s a thought (sorry if someone else already mentioned it): if you can brainstorm and design a good tracking system where not everyone gets an email every time someone finishes something, I think everyone would love you for it.

  11. Kella*

    Personally, I’d communicate to my manager sooner rather than later that my preference is to take on more work that’s less visible to my coworkers, and why. I’m concerned that OP’s manager doesn’t understand that work *is* the reason OP’s morale is still good, and that by telling OP to work less, they might be compromising the morale of their top performer. It would be pretty logical without this input for the manager to assume OP will be relieved to hear they don’t have to work so much now, since that’s where everyone else is.

    1. Ray Gillette*

      This is a good point. This LW has the relative luxury of being able to be more productive from home, and finds it soothing to keep busy with work tasks. Stepping in to take on less-visible work would allow her to keep busy in a way that supports her coworkers in the long run without spiking their anxiety and will keep her feeling better as well.

    2. OtterB*

      This seems like the best option to me, too, although the suggestions upstream about online training of some kind seem reasonable too. But it seems like it would be a win-win to identify something you can do that’s useful to your organization but not as visible as posting lots more completions than everyone else. All my jobs have had back-burner projects hanging around that we’d like to have done, but never rose to the top of the priority list.

  12. Not a Blossom*

    Please don’t yodel if you live in a densely packed neighborhood. :-)

    I get why this feels weird, but at the end of the day, it’s your manager’s call to make. Try it and see how it goes. Who knows? You (collective) might get behind enough that she asks you to start back up again without you having to mention it. But you have to at least try.

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Haha, I was surprised to see it took this long for someone to nix the yodeling :)

    2. A*

      Oh gosh, my mind literally skipped over that bit when I was reading. I would…. not be friendly, or neighborly in my request for that the cease lol.

  13. TimeTravelR*

    I got fussed at once for this but by my co-workers. The work was mind-numbingly boring so I would create stretch goals for myself just to keep it interesting. Apparently, I was too fast, too efficient, and too accurate and they didn’t like that I was making them look bad. Fortunately, I wasn’t there long. Truly.. it was mind numbing.

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      yeah that’s what happens when talent isn’t rewarded, it finds a more rewarding place to be.

  14. Stormfeather*

    The one thing I’d add is to get this in writing if you can – I hate being all pessimistic about how managers might be and want to give people the benefit of the doubt, but after seeing some of the stories on this site (and given that the manager already thinks the best way to manage is to just get the top producer to produce less), there’s always the possibility that someone higher up notices the drop in productivity, says something, and the manager throws the LW under the bus.

    Of course if the LW is still more productive than the others (or around the same) that’s probably not going to be a danger to their job, but… it still couldn’t hurt.

    1. Quinalla*

      I’d get it in writing by proposing a loose schedule to your manager, like maybe you start work at 10am every day or stop at 2pm or take 2 hour long breaks or take off Friday – something that works for you and will work for how your team does things.

      And I also agree about asking to do some low/no-visibility to your team work as keeping busy is helping reduce your anxiety.

      1. Turtle Candle*

        I actually don’t think it’s terribly likely that the LW’s boss is going to throw them under the bus (I mean, it’s possible, but I don’t think terribly likely) and I still like this idea. Partly because they can say something like “I’m going to try out this schedule for the next two weeks [or whatever] and then we can touch base on how it’s going.”

        1. AndersonDarling*

          Agreed. I think it is more likely that the manager is trying to keep the team’s productivity the same as before WFH. If the higher-ups get used to having all their projects completed immediately, then it will be hard to return to in-office work and tell them that it will now take twice as long to finish the projects. I’m betting the manager is trying to keep the outside expectations balanced as well as calming the team’s nerves.

          1. Turtle Candle*

            Yeah, that. Also the manager might be worried that someone higher up will look at the metrics and go “wow, LW can do the work of three of their coworkers… we’re doing belt-tightening and maybe that means we don’t *need* those three coworkers” or whatever (and not having the context, or not caring, that the other three coworkers are in different circumstances due to the ‘new normal’). Again, it’s not a great solution, but I absolutely could see that being a significant concern.

    2. I'm just here for the cats*

      I was thinking the same thing. Especially if upper management complains about productivity or deadlines not being met. Someone above the manager might be “wait, you have OP who can do more and pick up the slack and your telling them not to? Meanwhile company is loosing x because of missed deadlines?” Granted that shouldn’t make OP look bad but I can see it somehow backfiring.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Younger me experienced this one in real life.

      OP, you know your boss. If she plays a fair deal then no worries. But if she has History, then what I would do is ask her to stand up for you if TPTB start questioning your lower outputs. Or ask her to send that to you in email, so you have it for later.

      Fortunately, you don’t sound like you are too concerned about this. If it might be a concern, you could just make sure you come out on top of the productivity levels but close the gap, so it is not so big a difference.

      But yes, IF the boss was a known liar AND if I smelled a set up here then I would make a weak attempt at slowing down and tell the boss, “I am trying my best!”. You have to protect your own paycheck first and foremost.

      1. Senor Montoya*

        The boss could end up in the hospital tomorrow. I would for sure cover my ass on this one: Email to the boss a summary of the discussion, stating that you’ve been asked to cut back on X Y and Z (you might just leave out the whole thing about morale and your co-workers, there’s no way to state this that won’t potentially sound finger-pointy); and that you propose to do A and B instead. I would NOT state that I was working fewer hours. Talk about it in terms of things to do rather than time spent doing (or not doing) things. I would have other projects or activities to propose,whether that be assisting on others’ projects, doing some of that low priority doesn’t need an announcement that it’s done kind of work, professional development = reading, coursera, etc.

    4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Yes, otherwise when it comes to performance review time: “I see you were working really hard up until mid April and your productivity suddenly plummeted. You can’t take stress obviously.”

  15. Casey in the sunshine*

    The concern I would have is that when the higher-ups start looking at productivity and yours has dropped off dramatically, they may assume you are taking advantage of the situation, if your manager won’t admit to what she told you. And I suspect she won’t. That’s the first thing I thought of since she did that over the phone. I would at least send her an email saying you are taking her advice and trying to slow down. Just o you have something in writing relating to it. Just a thought.

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

      I don’t think the manager intended it to be “untraceable” (phone vs in writing) in this case, but does have that effect! I get the sense this manager is driven by “what gives me the least hassle” so go figure.

  16. no apples today*

    I wonder if the manager is worried about one employee’s productivity versus other coworker’s different levels of productivity and how that might affect furloughs or layoffs. At my company, we haven’t had layoffs or furloughs yet, but management has made it very clear that everyone should be on relatively equal bandwidth because it helps make the argument that everyone needs to keep their jobs versus cutting two people because one other person could take on their work.

    Might not make total sense, but if that’s what managers are being told, I could also see why OP’s manager might want one coworker to slow down so the others aren’t left in the dust and then being scrutinized if layoffs are being considered.

    1. Malarkey01*

      I replied under another reply but this would make a lot of sense to me, and not wanting to set the expectation that this was a normal production level once everyone was back in the office.

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

      I hadn’t considered this, but actually had a similar situation in a past job where I could do the job of myself and “employee X” but “employee X” could only do their own job and not mine.

      Cutting out a lot of detail I did a demo of a completed product to a Product Manager with a current (at the time) background of “layoffs are happening” — involving 70% my responsibilities and 30% ee X’s responsibilities (I had done about half of X’s job for her during this project though due to sickness and so on)…

      My manager ‘encouraged’ me to bring in X to the demo and chastised me for setting up the demo and ‘deliberately’ excluding X (which I didn’t, consciously, but it was most efficient to cover all of it myself).

      If the difference between being laid off and not is one product demo I think you’ve already lost the battle really though (because those decisions are made on a much longer basis than that!)

      Ethically I wonder if managers should have one co-worker slow down “so that the others aren’t left in the dust” or should they let it work itself out naturally?

      1. no apples today*

        In a normal situation, no, I don’t think it’s fair to ask one coworker to slow down to account for others. But when the issue is layoffs or furloughs during a pandemic, I think the morally ethical thing to do is make sure all your employees are taken care of, and that you’re telling one coworker to slow down so you can save the job of that coworker + two others.

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

          But there isn’t a shortage of work. OP said deadlines are suffering, which presumably means they have more work incoming than completed. OP is helping complete that workload (and, indirectly, helping ensure the success of the company, because what would it look like if those deadlines didn’t get completed).

          I suppose it depends on whether your loyalties are to the company in the big picture sense of everyone employed by the company hoping to keep their jobs, and keeping as many as possible, and so on, or just on “your people”. Ultimately “your” people are just the people you’ve been assigned to supervise in this particular org unit or whatever. Should you have more loyalty to the 4 (or whatever) people who report to you, than to the 100 people who work for the company as a whole?

      2. JamieS*

        I don’t think ethics has anything to do with having a report slow down unless the manager is doing so for nefarious reasons. It’s a manager’s perogarative to set expectations for work productivity and that can include not doing things too quickly.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        In supervising people, my solution was to take the person off the competitive task entirely and give them a special project. Usually it was something detailed/involved/lengthy.
        There were times where I had to slow down productivity for [long explanation here]. It was easiest to remove the fastest people and put them on something else that was more intense and time consuming.
        With the fastest people gone, the remaining people could continue at their own rates with no negative reflection on them at all.
        OP’s boss may not have this option available so there is that.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          There’s always something to be done somewhere. If they don’t assign OP with enough work she’ll go elsewhere soon as she can, where she’ll be rewarded for high productivity with more money, more interesting projects and more responsibility, and she’ll deserve every bit of it.

  17. Heat's Kitchen*

    You could use this time to do other work online for cash. I don’t know if they’re overwhelmed with new applicants, but places like Rev or VIPKid might be a good way to use your time if you’re finding doing work is helpful. Same with offering to volunteer doing some of these types of things you like.

    1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      That would help OP get through their day. But then if if comes to having to lay people off, they’ll no longer be the star performer and may even get laid off while a couple of plodders are kept on.

  18. Helpful*

    LW needs to find a coping mechanism outside of throwing herself into her work. She’s headed for burnout and a breakdown otherwise.

    1. A*

      Yes. It also concerns me as to what would happen if OP lost the job / was furloughed etc. I tend to cope through work, and have made an effort to take a step back these last few weeks because I realized that if I get furloughed I will be SOL in regards ti y coping mechanism. In these unprecedented times, even those with job security at this moment are not necessarily safe in the long run (ask my friend that’s a nurse that just got furloughed!).

    2. Alan*

      I have to agree with this. Please try to find something other than work to help you cope OP. Meditate, cook, work on your garden, play video games, whatever. Just don’t work yourself into the ground.

    3. Kella*

      When work is a legitimate coping mechanism rather than a totally avoidant one, it doesn’t necessarily lead to burn out. It doesn’t sound like work is impacting their leisure time or that they’re missing meals or sleep or anything, and OP said they aren’t working more hours than usual. They just find work to be an effective tool for managing their current anxiety and are therefore more productive than the rest of their team.

      I think it would be good for OP to explore other coping mechanisms but also it’s important to acknowledge that MOST people are relying on not ideal coping mechanisms to get through right now and would be destabilized if they lost it. The fact that OP has one that’s working is a good thing.

  19. noahwynn*

    I don’t know exactly what you’re posting, but could you just post what you’ve completed once or twice a day? Or is it imperative that it be communicated as soon as you complete it? I can see how notifications throughout the day that OP completed x task would be anxiety producing. Especially if I was struggling to complete things.

  20. DCAnalyst2020*

    Definitely give slowing down a shot! But I’m curious if it would be unethical to continue to complete projects at the same rate but send the notifications at a slower rate?

    1. Phony Genius*

      I think it depends on whether a third party is being charged for “billable hours.”

    2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Depends on how the work’s divided. If the OP finishes the Smith Project but doesn’t say anything, then sends out a notification on the Smith Project later when coworker Pat is halfway through it because they don’t know OP has done it, that’s not going to work out well for anybody.

      1. Nita*

        It really sounds like the whole project distribution system should be better organized. I could be reading this wrong, but it seems like OP’s coworkers don’t know what she’s working on until she sends a notification of completion. So even if each project takes her 20 minutes, someone else could be grabbing it and working on it at the same time. Pretty inefficient. Might work better if one person assigns things and follows up on completion, or if there’s a spreadsheet everyone can use to grab assignments. In that case OP might be able to send out, say, one notification per hour with three links in it, instead of one notification every 20 minutes.

        1. nonegiven*

          Maybe they need something like Github to track who has signed up to do a project and when it’s finished.

  21. Kes*

    I do think if OP does want to talk to her boss again about taking on more, it would help to phrase it in the way of “I understand this is a difficult time when people are struggling with a lot of things going on. Since my ability to work is less affected, I’m happy to take on more to help out those who are more affected”. I would even potentially say, depending on context, to reach out directly to coworkers in general to express the above sentiments, but since OP already talked to the boss more conversations would probably need to go through them first.

  22. SusanB*

    From the “work more slowly” thing, I have a slightly different perspective. I work with three designers at my job. Two of them will get a design project, ask when I need it by and then usually give it to me that day or maybe a day or two earlier. One of them will get a job and complete it in an hour, sometimes 30 minutes. I have to admit that sometimes when I get something THAT quickly I feel like maybe it’s not the best that she could have done. It’s fine. I mean, it’s usually solidly OK work but sometimes I want to be like “Do you think you could work on this for 2 hours and give me something really spectacular?” – just churning work out as quick as can be helps sometimes but other times it feels a little insulting.

    I’m not saying that’s what you’re doing – and if it is, the feedback should be focused on that “Can you spend a little more time finessing your work?” but it’s just a slightly different perspective.

    1. boo bot*

      I don’t know if this will be useful, but if you wanted a perspective from the other side, I’m not a designer but work in a similar type of field.

      In my experience, some projects are 30-minute projects, or 1-hour projects, meaning that the best I’m going to do really will be done in that 30-60 minutes, and extra time for finessing would mean either starting from scratch to try different versions (which might indeed be what you want!) or fussing over the details to a point that I would be degrading the quality of the work.

      That’s not to say that whatever I’ve done in that 60 minutes is perfect, but it’s the extent of what I can do alone, *now.* For a next step I would need to set it aside for a few days or more and come back with a fresh perspective, or else hand it off to someone else for their opinion/critique – in most cases, it makes more sense to hand it off as soon as it’s done. So that’s where your quick designer may be coming from, rather than laziness or carelessness, especially since you say the work is solid.

      My guess is that your other designers are working on multiple projects and add your deadlines to their schedules, while the quick designer just works on each project as soon as they get it.

      1. SusanB*

        Yeah, I get that. I should say the work is “OK” – I would honestly love it if they would put it aside and revisit it. I find that when I review her work, I have to make bigger suggestions like “This picture seems a bit larger than the other ones — can you make the font slightly larger here so there’s less white space?” where when I look at the other designer’s work it’s like “The copy needs a comma here, sorry for not noticing that before.”

  23. Third or Nothing!*

    Hmm, I have some suggestions of things you could do to combat the anxiety since your boss wants you to slow down with the work output. I still have a bit of PPA left over from my daughter’s traumatic birth and newborn period 2 1/2 years ago, and I find that being physically active in some way really helps calm me when I’m on the verge of an anxiety attack. Going for a run, aggressively cleaning the toilet, playing with my dog Hermione, having an impromptu dance party with the family, even journaling – all these things get me moving in some way and focused on something other than ruminating thoughts.

    Hope one of those suggestions sparks an idea for you. Sorry your anxiety outlet is getting cut off at a time when you need it most. :(

  24. Agent Diane*

    If your non-work habits aren’t possible right now, you may be averse to “take longer breaks” because you feel like you’ve nothing productive to use that time on. It might help to break that “take an hour” off in smaller chunks. So take 4 x 20 minutes break instead of 4 x 5 minutes. Set yourself a task for that break (one chapter of a book, if that works, or 15 minutes on a jigsaw, or taking your coffee to a sunny spot instead of back to your desk). That way you’re still reducing your working time without feeling like you’re slacking as much?

  25. Baska*

    Is there any way you can work at your regular pace but send the notifications out later, maybe via a “scheduled send” or “send later” function of your email client? So if in a given day you finish your projects at, say, 9:30 am, 11:00 am, and 1:00 pm, you could set the “send” times on those notifications to 11:00 am, 2:00 pm, and 5:00 pm. You still do your work quickly, but your colleagues don’t feel anxious that you’ve gotten everything done by early afternoon. And then you can just take the rest of the day off once you’re done your work, with no one the wiser, maybe just checking emails to deal with any time-sensitive stuff as it comes in.

  26. I'm just here for the cats*

    I would.carefully consider taking time off or long breaks. She might have to communicate to the team that she will be away at certain times, so if they try reaching her they might not be able to. This might cause more anxiety because they will.see her drop her hours but still be super productive. There could also be resentment for her being able to take time off. Especially if someone else has kids and is struggling with work/child care.

    1. allathian*

      I also think that the fact that the OP is working in more or less optimal conditions with few distractions while her coworkers struggle with wrangling kids and work needs to be spelled out clearly. This does not mean that people who don’t have kids at home can’t be distracted and find it hard to focus on work, but that in this case, there’s a clear reason for the difference in productivity. The OP is a top performer even under ordinary circumstances, but going from the office to WFH has increased her productivity while it has decreased the everyone else’s. The expectations shouldn’t be the same.

  27. Snarkaeologist*

    Have you heard of the 20% time idea that some tech companies do? The idea is to let employees use that portion of their work hours to do something that is productive but not part of their normal job responsibilities. Besides personal development, you can try to solve a problem you’ve found in your work, or use your job skills to help someone you know. And I know you could already do that if you have free time – but it might help to think of it as temporarily being one of your actual work assignments for an hour or so per day.

  28. RussianInTexas*

    This, for some reason, reminded me of Hot Fuzz.
    “I know what you’re going to say, Nicholas, but the fact is you’ve been making us all look bad.”

    1. Anna*

      Thank you! I was getting the “you’ll continue to be exceptional and we can’t have that” vibe from the manager.

      To have this comment be something resembling useful- If I was in OP’s shoes I might consider a modified Pomodoro method, but instead of alternating work and break, alternate your normal work task with whatever kind of continuing education is related to your work.

  29. Princess Zelda*

    I am also a person who must work to keep my anxiety under control. Even in normal times, if I’m not working a semi-consistent schedule at least 5 days a week, I’m an antsy mess. Something that has been working for me (and will work even better now that Job is giving me actual work to complete) is to start my day like usual every day; Saturday-Wednesday, I wake up at 9AM, get dressed, etc, and spend at least a couple hours doing Work or Job Hunt. After lunch, I spend some time doing vaguely work-related or job-hunt related things. It’s only after 5pm that I start on my hobby stuff/video games/etc. I’m “working” significantly less, but it’s really helped me keep my anxiety in check. I have only cried after a stimulus rather than just at random, and my poor beleaguered sister only has deal with me calling her once a day. It’s progress.

  30. somebody blonde*

    My team is having a problem pretty similar to this. We normally have a set minimum quota for number of teapots processed, but because teapot requests are way down, the supervisors have started changing it daily. We had to ask people to stop processing after they’ve made their quota so that their coworkers will have a chance to make the quota. It’s not working that well, so I’m hoping to move to a some kind of model where half the team works normally and the other half does projects, but it’s an unprecedented situation and we’re all struggling with how to deal with it.

    1. Malarkey01*

      Ohh that reminds me of a job I used to have where we each had to keep our individual accuracy rates at a certain percentage biweekly and to do that we needed a certain number of requests to qualify as a significant sample. The work was such that you performed a task as the request was submitted (and that occurred at random and you’d have a day when suddenly 10% of the work came in and a day where 1 few person came i). So if some people had worked a few slow days and hadn’t had a chance to hit our sample size, they would send those that had home or to training or to clean the fridge…whatever odd thing needed.

  31. Admiral Thrawn is Still Blue*

    Otters again!! :) They are lining up right behind the cats to be the unofficial AAM mascot.

    1. Third or Nothing!*

      I am 100% on board with this as otters are my second favorite animal, just behind penguins.

  32. nnn*

    Depending on your specifics, a simple starting point might be not to set a morning alarm, and instead to sleep until whenever you wake up naturally, then go about your normal pre-work morning routine, and work until the usual end of your work day. (If you’re worried about not being available first thing in the morning, you could tell your supervisor that this is what you’re trying in response to their instructions.)

    Hours spent asleep are hours when you don’t need something to distract you from your fears, so this wouldn’t leave you with more time spent struggling to manage your fears. On top of that, sleep is one of the best things we can do for our health in general and our immune systems in particular, which is particularly valuable during a global pandemic.

  33. Jack*

    “Many of us are finding that when we don’thave to be working, the current situation is making us sluggish and unmotivated in a way that no personal to-do list can conquer.”

    I totally agree, and I’ve been feeling bad about this for ages. Here in Spain, we’re coming up on Day 40 of state-enforced, police-regulated confinement and this is the first time someone I’ve heard / read someone who understands this. Thank you!

    1. MistOrMister*

      I have found that my productivity also is generally up with working from home. But for me when my work is finished or slow, I tell my manager and they find work that hasn’t been assigned yet or work from someone that has 900 other things to do. No one seems to be made anxious by getting some help. Of course, we also don’t see how much work anyone has on a given day

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      When I’m not working, I’m sleeping. My back hurts, I’ve been sleeping so much my back is screaming at me for how much laying around I do.

  34. LGC*

    One more thing – she might want to manage the available workload, if she sees you burning through the available work faster than usual and she’s concerned about imbalances. I shift around people a lot regularly if I see an imbalance to avoid gaps in performance – I wouldn’t tell anyone to work more slowly ever, but I don’t want people to be idle.

    If workload is the concern…there isn’t a great way to tell you that, but perhaps she could crosstrain you on something else?

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

      I don’t think the “available” workload is a problem: she says they are in “a time when all the deadlines are suffering” so it sounds like they are getting behind, rather than pulling more work ‘forward’ than what’s available in the backlog….

      1. LGC*

        True, I missed that. But from my experience, that’s not mutually exclusive (disclaimer – my experience is totally NOT NECESSARILY LW’s boss’s experience). I mean – right now, I have that problem myself. I’ve been trying to convince everyone else on staff that it’s a problem without literally yelling at my boss, “Look, I’m sorry, we can either reassign these people or we can blow through the available work by the end of the month, furlough these people unnecessarily, be less productive overall, and have hundreds of boxes piled up and sitting around for months at this rate. Your choice.”

        That said, I should have noted this earlier – but LW’s manager has handled this horribly. Like, I know on AAM EVERY manager is a bad manager, but there are just SO MANY THINGS that bother me about the workflow this manager has set up.

    1. That Millennial*

      My virtual garden has truly flourished in a time when I’m basically morphing into a potato

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

    > she’s asked you to do less, and so you should at least try doing less. *It’s not taking advantage of the company if your manager has decided it’s the right approach for the good of your team*. We can think she made the wrong call, but she still gets to make that call.

    This is something I’ve never quite understood about management/supervisors, actually (even though I was one myself!) … In a naive interpretation what’s the right approach for the company is the one that gets the work done, immediately and sustainably over the long term, [even if that is at the expense of people’s feelings being hurt!] And the (generic, in any situation) manager is making a decision on behalf of the company, as part of the management structure, not just as a personal whim or opinion. As such if it’s obviously incorrect it should be challenged with the manager’s manager! (or in my case in the past, just disregarded, but I wouldn’t recommend that approach).

    As said above I managed people previously – and frequently had situations where my decisions were challenged and taken up with my management. And that’s often a healthy debate to be had.

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

      I didn’t make it explicit but what I was getting at is that this manager seems more concerned about managing people’s feelings, than managing the actual workload that needs to be completed. Maybe that’s a too harsh interpretation and if so I’m sorry for that.

      1. DVZ*

        Totally disagree with this advice!

        It’s the manager’s job to assure OP’s coworkers that OP’s behaviour and productivity has no bearing on them and to mind their own business. If they are worried about performance reviews and the OP getting rewarded more than them, for example, then the manager should assure those colleagues that their review won’t be impacted by this unusual situation and instead she will take into account the work they’ve done over a wider timeframe – for example. And the manager can reassure those other people about what measures are in place to support them – flexible hours, less demanding targets, etc. but it is really unfair to make OP responsible for her coworker’s feelings.

        Surely the message to those other coworkers is not “don’t worry, no one is very productive right now!”, while OP twiddles her thumbs at home, to “let me understand what is right for YOU and how productive YOU can be, given your circumstances, and how we can work together to support you during this difficult time…”

        Everyone’s bandwidth is stretched thin, yes, but everyone copes differently and I think it is profoundly unfair to expect OP to change her own behaviour to accommodate other people. She’s not being competitive, she’s not judging others, in fact she seems willing to pick up the slack in a really supportive and kind way. She should be thanked and appreciated and then encouraged to take some time off when things get back to normal. If I were her manager I would be asking what else I could do to keep her engaged and busy, if that’s what was helpful to her, not telling her to chill out at home.

      2. Hare under the moon with a silver spoon*

        I think you make a really good point about what seems logical from one side – eg working more efficiently will help company achieve its goals doesn’t always dovetail with what a manager sees looking from their perspective.

        I also think middle managers can have their own agendas they are fighting for – sometimes they want to keep staff so they don’t have to rehire and train later which is extra work for them (something I am currently benefitting from although not sure for how long), having backlogs and looking busy can be used to reflect on how indispensable a manager and their team are (prev job) and sometimes people want a quiet life and just want things ticking over regardless of how go getting they may appear in meetings etc (another prev job)

        OP you’re not doing anything wrong if what your manager says doesnt make sense to you – hope you can find an alternative to fill the space, what helps me is any kind of movement based activity – need endorphins right now but ymmv.

    2. NW Mossy*

      I think it depends on what the manager and her leadership consider most important right now.

      In managing my team right now, their morale is my key focus. It’s the thing I want to check in on the most, because the normal tools I’d use to assess that are compromised. From my own home, I can’t overhear a sigh of frustration or catch a facial expression in the same way, so my early warning signs that someone’s morale is falling aren’t available. By comparison, monitoring the work is easy – all that stuff flows through reporting that was built some time back, so it’s easy for me to see demand, quality, and timeliness.

      Also, a big part of managing is what your actions say about what your priorities are. Managers who are focused solely on the work product right now risk coming off as unfeeling, cold, and unrealistic. That might not immediately show up as productivity damage, but over time, it has a corrosive effect on the team’s willingness to put forth extra in trying times and to stick around. Focusing more on the care-about-people side right now is preventative maintenance to avoid breakdowns in the future.

    3. Bear Necessities*

      So, I see where you’re coming from, but I think there are a couple things you’ve missed.

      1) you mention getting the work done immediately and sustainably — and that may well be part of the OP’s boss’s concern. If the OP is working faster than normal, which they evidently are, the boss may be considering the possibility that the OP is going to burn out working on this higher level during a time of higher stress.

      2) you mentioned people’s feelings getting hurt, but I think that is not a helpful framing. Morale of the team is something a good manager needs to consider. People are going to have emotions about their work, and
      their emotions are going to effect how they work. Within the reasonable bounds, that’s the manager’s business. If the move to WFH means that some people are working at a reduced capacity, and other people are working at a higher capacity, that has the potential to create morale issues for both the higher performers and the lower performers, and that’s something a good manager is going to want to address in some form. Whether or not this manager’s solution is a good one for managing the morale issue, it’s absolutely their business and saying that management decisions should be about the business “even if people’s feelings get hurt” is going to set a team up for major morale problems.

      1. Turtle Candle*

        Generally I would be more inclined to agree with you, but in… weird times… I’d feel very strange escalating this in that fashion. Because I’d be afraid that the result would be “oh, great, you can do the work of 2-3 people? And you want to do that much work? Well, we know whose department to bring layoffs to when it comes to that.” (And then when LW is back in the open office, expecting them to still do so much more work than ‘normal.’)

        I mean, maybe that’s not the LW’s problem to consider, but it’d be in my head in this situation. Not necessarily in ‘ordinary’ times, but now, yes.

  36. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    I’ve never been so happy to work by myself without anyone to give me nonsense about my productivity screwing with them as reading this post. This would make me miserable, so I completely feel for you, OP. You’ve got great recommendations though, I hope something helps you slow down a bit.

    I would get it all done and then just wait at “turning it in”, I guess. They can’t stress over what they can’t see.

    1. revueller*

      I was just thinking that! Since this manager has told 1 employee that their productivity is contributing to 10 people’s morale problems (if I’m to make up a number), that manager now has 11 people’s morale problems to handle!

      So much easier to manage. /s

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Its interesting that the manager decided to actually speak with the OP about this.

        If someone was like “Dude, Jane’s too fast, it stresses me out.” I’d be like “I understand you’re stressed and I’m sorry that you’re feeling this like that. But we can’t ask Jane to slow down, that’s counter productive. But do understand I do NOT expect you to ever keep up with her.”

        Then I’d be support AF and help my struggling employees. I wouldn’t be all “Jane, gurl you gotta slow down…”

        Jane only needs to slow down if she’s got errors/sloppy work, then it’s SLOW DOWN time. Or if it’s a production line and it’s causing actual waves of products to hit the next station. Then you start having issues with a station being too fast, etc. But seriously…just for morale…there’s other ways to handle that.

        But since she was told to slow down, all I can do is to be supportive, try to get her through this crap and then hopefully she launches into much better places in the future. Ef a place that holds you down *shakes fist*

        1. Amanda*

          Yeah, this is the saddest part. If this decision is maintained, OP will most likely start looking for something else, and this company may lose a top performer because of a bad manager. Even though she’s trying, and probably comes from a good place, she’s not being understanding or supportive at all of OP.

        2. KoiFeeder*

          Honestly given that none of OP’s coworkers talked with Jane about it, just the supervisor, my first instinct is to wonder if this actually is a problem to the rest of the team or if it’s just the supervisor having an issue.

  37. Legal Beagle*

    Volunteering might be a good way of keeping busy in a productive way! It’s more akin to work than a hobby or home project, if you need extrinsic motivation. I’m terrible at motivating myself, so I keep up with my volunteer tasks a million times better than personal tasks.

  38. Important Moi*

    “I’m not normally a fan of pandering to people’s insecurities about higher performing coworkers, but in a crisis like this, when everyone’s emotional bandwidth is stretched thin, it might be pragmatic.” – I’m not a fan of the word pandering, this seems needlessly harsh. That said, good luck to LW.

  39. Jbryant*

    I’d try to look at it as an OPPORTUNITY. I agree with what many of the others have said. You might personally be just as productive as you want but by adding tasks that don’t reflect on that report.
    * This would be a great time to take advantage of some professional (or even personal) development. Either ad hoc filler topics or going after a specific certification or program.
    * Are there industry publications you never have time to read?
    * Maybe there’s an affiliated professional organization for your field and you could help out with projects or take an officer role.
    * Can you think of tasks that have been on the back burner like updating a policy, documenting a process, or developing presentation/training materials.
    * Network. There never seems to be enough time to keep up with professional contacts. You could set up virtual chats.
    * Volunteer work? Some companies support volunteer work, for instance allow X hours per month engaged in certain activities.
    * Mentoring – can you mentor others in your field?

    Best of luck to you!

  40. Bibliovore*

    I just want to chime in that I totally identify. I would rather be working. Work is distracting. My suggestion would be to work on something new tangentially related to “work/work.” Professional development. Mentoring others. Creating networks through social media. Document processes. Identifying where your expertise can be helpful. Have more empathy for your supervisor and your colleagues. They are doing the best they can. Complete your work but don’t feel the need to submit or report on it right away.

  41. It's All Elementary*

    I feel you. Back when I was young, single, and just out of college, I was eager to prove how good of an employee I was and I was zipping through all my work and taking on more. I was finally chastised by my immediate supervisor telling me I was making the others in the department look bad and I needed to slow it down. I was frustrated and didn’t know how to handle it. It made me feel good to do as much as I could during the time I was on the clock and frustrated that I was being asked to “slow it”. I didn’t know how to “slow it”. I ended up quitting that job for another and regretted because of a toxic nature at the new place. I didn’t have the pressure of the OP’s stay at home orders but I think I kind of understand the OP’s mind set. I just did not know how to slow it down without going crazy all day at work. No advice OP, but good luck.

    1. hamburke*

      similar experience at my first job out of college! My theory back then was that I was coming out of a reasonably competitive academic program and making the change between school life and work life was a mental leap. Looking back, that’s somewhat valid but there really wasn’t enough work to keep one person busy for 40 hours per week – it could have easily been a 0.5 or 0.75 position. I was efficient at the actual work, kept on a daily and weekly schedule, and found new related projects but had to have chargeable hours so I was limited as to what I could take on or where I could expand my role due to how our contract was written. in hindsight, I’m probably not cut out for government contracting…

  42. Snark no more!*

    What if you created a manual for your job? Not necessarily to share, but it would provide value to the company and keep you occupied trying to think of every situation.

  43. eja*

    In addition to what others are saying about trainings or side projects related to your field, what about studying a language? It’s something potentially helpful to you career and to your personal life that you can adjust your level of time commitment to as needed/depending on how seriously you wanna take it. If you’re just looking for a filler, maybe try doing a few duolingo lessons as regular breaks during the workday. If you want something more intensive, block out a chunk of your day as study/practice time, find a buddy, do a more structured course, consume media in your target language, etc.

    1. eja*

      It’s also a reasonable personal hobby/enrichment program, so if your coworkers find out and are weird about it, you have plausible deniability about it being specifically for work, even if work is your primary or only motivation.

  44. Des*

    I would absolutely start by asking your boss if there are other non-visible-to-team things you could be doing. For two reasons:
    (1) if you would start getting more anxious not doing work, it would be too late then — once you are already anxious it’s hard to manage that rather than the way you’ve been preventing anxiety right now by working hard. (I completely get this btw, I didn’t even notice March because I was busy. I am finding it more difficult on days I have less work and deadlines)

    (2) my guess is that “chickens will come home to roost” eventually. All those unmet quotas that people are okay with right now? They will still need to be met later, and you’ll be kicking yourself if some important client walks away or if some financial deal falls through later because people were fine and understanding during the pandemic, but once that’s over, there’s a pile of work left over on top of everything. I would just be very careful with any promises from management that you won’t feel repercussions from working less. What’s a verbal understanding now is forgotten tomorrow.

    (I’m not a manager and this is just my 2 cents)

  45. learnedthehardway*

    I think you really, really need to take your manager’s guidance on this. Being a great employee isn’t just about productivity – it’s also about being aligned with what your team and organization need. I am sure that if your manager needed you to be working at the pace you are currently working at, they would tell you to keep it up. But they’re not saying that – they’re pointing out that it is causing team issues and morale problems.

    This says to me that not only are there the people issues, but there’s likely a business issue as well (I mean, what company tells someone to work more slowly if there is too much work, right?) Perhaps the issue is that you getting things done so fast creates bottlenecks in the process downstream, or creates situations where clients have unrealistic expectations of what the business can do, etc.

    Also, do consider that you are in a VERY privileged position right now. You don’t have dependents who need a great deal of care, you’re healthy, your home situation is ideal for productivity, etc. etc. Most people who are learning to work from home have some kind of challenge around those issues, and they are likely demoralized and frustrated – and it doesn’t help that the messaging from companies is switching to be “now that we’re all used to working from home…”, because many of them are NOT used to it yet, and are really struggling.

    If you feel that you must do more work than your manager wants, ask for a special project. Eg. perhaps you could create a training manual of your function’s tasks. Maybe your manager has always wanted to redevelop the reporting for the department. etc. Ask for something that won’t show up on the productivity reports, but that will add value in the longer term. Your manager will appreciate it, your coworkers will feel better about it, and you’ll still be out-performing.

    1. LGC*

      Yeah, that’s basically what I speculated on upthread. It could be true that the company is missing deadlines and LW’s productivity is causing problems with production flow!

      That said – I really think the framing the manager used was…not ideal, and that is super important. She’s concerned about morale – and she just took a sledgehammer to LW’s. God knows I’d feel pretty discouraged if I were told I’m making my coworkers feel demoralized. I get that not everyone is in an ideal situation (including me – and possibly the manager as well), but she could have framed it a lot better. (For starters, by focusing on the production flow if that IS a problem.

  46. Koala dreams*

    I think it’s a weird framing from the boss. If the boss was concerned that you seemed to be working a lot and not taking any breaks, and framed it like making sure your workload was sustainable in the long run, it would be easier to understand. But what’s the point of comparing your work pace to your co-workers’? People are different, and have different things going on in their life.

    Not that it’s taking advantage either way. You don’t need to work as much as possible, just good enough. It’s nice that you have a productive work environment at home, but that doesn’t mean you need to be extra productive compared to the office. You also deserve time for yourself, your family, hobbies, volunteer work and other non-work things.

    I’d recommend short breaks, maybe between five or fifteen minutes every hour. You can watch birds or squirrels from your window/balcony, solve a sudoku, read blogs, do some household chores, stretching exercises, drink water/tea/coffee. If you’d like to learn a few phrases in a new language, I can recommend the duolingo app. Their exercises are perfect for short breaks. If you like cooking or crafts, you can find tutorials on youtube.

    For dealing with the anxiety, you can try physical exercise. Weights or resistance bands are easy to use at home, or maybe you can take a walk? There is also the anxiety journal, where you decide a time period to be anxious, and write down all the anxious thoughts in the journal. Then you close the journal and leave the anxiety there until next time. I’m most anxious at night, so I write the journal in the evening. If you feel most anxious during the day, you can choose to write for example at 10 am.

    If you want to feel useful, maybe you can schedule some volunteer work? Many students need homework help, lonely people like to chat over phone/skype, if you can go out maybe you can pick up grocery or food for a neighbour.

  47. Clare*

    How about working out…… Or taking up a hobby you nevet had the time for before…or home improvement project / gardening…i am sure therr are a myriad of things you’ve meant to do but didn’t have the time. This proposal to cut back on physical hours worked can become a opportunity for you.

  48. Free Meerkats*

    Whose mental health comes first though? The LW’s or her coworkers’? Were I the LW’s manager, I’d tell the rest of the team that “we will all work at our own pace, and LW’s pace is helping give you the slack to deal with what you need to deal with at home.” If the lack of open floor plan distractions allows her to be more productive without hurting her mental health, I’d advocate for her if she wanted to continue to WFH when things return to “normal.”

    1. Not So NewReader*

      This was my thought also. To me it sounded like the boss just said, “You work hard to help yourself along mentally and emotionally and that bothers other people. Their emotional/mental health is more important so YOU need to slow down.” Yeah, I felt a little sting there. Worse, I don’t think the boss understood that was how she sounded! s/Oh good. Now I can feel guilty about imposing these negative thoughts on my boss. s/sigh.

      OP you could use your extra time to read AAM (professional development!) or to job hunt.

      Your place may be fine and your boss may be a solid boss, so take this with a grain of salt. Anywhere that I have worked and the boss said to slow down usually was followed by other serious problems that drove me right out the door.

      For the sake of practically, I divide this question into to parts. Ethically, your boss has told you to slow down. This is way different than if you decided to fluff off for 5 hours a day. So I do not see an ethics issue here. Bosses sometimes do odd things to keep everyone’s paycheck rolling. I am sure you want everyone to get their paycheck, so hopefully this framing can help you live with the ethical questions here.

      So that leaves your own concerns and your own anxiety. I have seen in my own life when I get worried, I need to do more than one thing to ease that worry or to at least learn how to live with that specific concern. If being productive at work is your only tool to help yourself, this means all your eggs are in one basket. I’d really recommend making a life habit of having several baskets for the eggs.

      It can be beneficial to have a habit of creating several different ideas or activities for the major things that happen in life. The reason why is because these major events hit us from more than one angle. Of course there are differences in events, but things can tug on us emotionally, psychologically, financially, physically and some issues can drain whatever resources we have on hand. Look around and see what else you can do to help yourself through these times. If you find you are sitting too much, go for a short walk. Maybe you realize that you have not been drinking much water, so you could set a goal and a plan to improve that situation. Or it could dawn on you that you think of your elderly neighbor/friend/family member and you decide that you want to use the extra time to call them once a day or every other day.
      All this is still channeling anxiety into practical things. But you have just broadened your definition of what those practical things are. You have the willingness and ability to be productive, these are assets. What else would you like to do here?

  49. Pobody’s Nerfect*

    This one hit home for me. I once had a government job where I was extremely efficient and anxious to implement so many good new ideas in my program area. After a few months of working so hard to get those ideas going, a coworker who’d been there for many years came to see me, sat down across from me and whispered “You need to stop working so hard.” Thinking I couldn’t have heard him right, I said “What?” He looked around, then whispered again “Stop making the rest of us look bad by working so hard. Just slow it down, take it down a notch, dial it in like everyone else does around here. If you keep going at this rate, everyone who doesn’t already hate you definitely will and they’ll start lobbying to get rid of you.” I could not believe my ears or that he was actually saying those words to me. But he was totally serious. BTW I didn’t let up, I kept working hard, and it turned out to be one of the most toxic work periods of my life. People did come after me, they did try to get me fired, and I quit after a few more years of absolute misery. So my advice to listener is: really question a workplace that doesn’t value or encourage or recognize your efforts and hard work. Don’t question your own internal work drive. Find somewhere that will appreciate you for your intrinsic motivation. Don’t let the bastards get you down.

  50. New Name*

    Probably the LW didn’t mean for it to come across this way, but as someone who suffers from severe anxiety in general and that severe anxiety has cranked up to a whole new level with COVID and WFH, it *comes across* that the LW isn’t as sympathetic to their coworkers as they could be. I am normally very productive despite my anxiety, but COVID has spiraled me down into even worse anxiety and depression. I’m barely getting anything done right now. Partly because a lot of our projects have been put on pause right now, and partly because I’m barely functioning.

    And, yes, it is awful to hear about coworkers who are doing all these great things right now, whether it’s new projects they’ve come up with, or doing things in their free time like organizing closets or cooking ambitious things. It sucks. It doesn’t mean I want everyone to wallow, it just means I can’t hear about it right now.

    So, LW, when your manager asks you to slow down, please do it. Please take some of the other advice given here, like doing some LinkedIn learning courses or other things to keep busy that don’t entail e-mailing your team to show what all you’ve done that day. Please understand that a lot of us are struggling to get through the day.

    1. Amanda*

      I’m sorry you’re struggling so much. And I don’t mean to make light or rub it in, at all.

      But as someone with a spouse who struggles with deep depression, I just want to say it’s hard on the rest of us too. On the bad days, my own feelings need to be pushed down or aside so they don’t make things even harder for him. I love him, and I knew what I signed up for, but some days it’s still brutal.

      What I mean is, OP has her own feelings to deal with too, and it’s not her responsibility to deal with her coworkers’. She did not sign up for it. I don’t think she was ‘less sympathetic’ than she could be, I actually thought she is trying to be kind and support her coworkers by picking up the ‘slack’. She’s just asking for help because her coworkers’ issues are directly impacting her life. And how she feels is no more her fault than how her coworkers fell is theirs.

  51. Sopranohannah*

    So, fun story, I just finished embroidering otters on a shirt. Allison, are you psychic?

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Way off topic: Where did you get the template?

      I can see that cute little face on a coffee mug. And the coffee mug reads, “Problem at work? You otter Ask a Manager!”

      1. Sopranohannah*

        That sounds cute! I google image searched cartoon otters until I found one I liked that was simple enough to embroider and traced it on to embroidery stabilizer.

  52. Analyst Editor*

    I wish two things were simultaneously true: the manager felt like he could give flexibility to the parents, etc. — people who need the break and flexibility right now — AND be able to unapologetically offer rewards to someone like OP who does a lot more work.
    I can see the more anxious people complaining later, when OP gets a raise or promotion or other perks (e.g. working from home) for stepping up in this difficult time, that they had extenuating circumstances and it’s not fair that they shouldn’t get the same benefits!!
    Surely there’s some balance in not being a pressure-cooker competitive environment where everyone feels pressured to work too much and rewarding those who contribute more….

  53. M*

    I wonder if the manager is trying to protect the team. A friend of mine said they were in a similar situation and the higher ups told her if this one employee was so productive at home they would lay off more people on her team because they wouldn’t be needed. She knew those people were a bit slower because they had children and other things going on, so she pushed back but ended up having to speak with said employee and tell them to please slow their roll. So maybe the manager is worried higher ups will realize or think they only need one employee doing the job not three? I would talk to your boss again though because if you’re missing deadlines maybe you can Just be given more work if that is what you wants and if it doesn’t hurt your team.

    1. Turtle Candle*

      I think there’s a very real possibility that this is what is going on. Lots of companies are keeping a weather eye out for where they could cut costs, and “apparently this team has two more people than it needs” is a clear one. The manager may be looking to protect their team (and honestly, to some degree that’s to the LW’s benefit, because if they cut to the bone there won’t be much flex if the LW has some kind of issue that affects productivity–or even just when they (hopefully) go back to normal and the LW is covering for extra workload in an open plan office again.

      1. Turtle Candle*

        I suppose, to elaborate further, we’ve seen several letters that are about layoffs due to budget cuts, and the commentariat has largely been like “don’t axe people because their productivity has dropped due to child care/elder care/mental health issues.” But I think these shenanigans, as goofy as they’d be in normal times, are one way that managers are trying to protect their own reports in an environment where they don’t have authority to block a layoff.

        Is it a good method? Well, probably not. No, definitely not. It’d be ridonkulous in a normal situation. But if you don’t want to see people laid off or furloughed, their salary or benefits slashed or gone entirely, I can see trying to not make it look like you could do without two people in your dep’t.

  54. B*

    Can you schedule in continuing Ed or trainings you’ve been wanting to do. Maybe learning a new software?
    Also, from a wellbeing perspective “scheduling” work time for building coping/ self care skills could be a happy silver lining. The attached course is great. Or there are many mindfulness apps and programs.

  55. Eliza*

    You said that under normal circumstances, you’re about 30% more productive than your coworkers. Under the current pandemic conditions, you’ve become more productive and most of your coworkers have become less so, so let’s say you’re at 150% and your coworkers are at 75%.

    Looking at those numbers, it seems to me that the most pragmatic solution to get everyone what they want might be to create a fake employee and split the work between the two of you.

    Here’s how it’d work. Your manager tells the team that the company has hired a new employee, Joe McFakerson, to deal with the fact that the team is currently struggling with deadlines due to the pandemic. Joe gets whatever it takes to give the appearance of a real new employee to the team: an employee email account, a personal profile with a stock photo, whatever is normal at your company.

    From now on, half your completed work gets sent out from Joe’s account instead of yours. Your manager and everyone above knows it’s all you, doing the work of two people, but as far as your team knows, it’s you and Joe doing the work of one person each.

    Once the lockdown is over, everything goes back to normal, Joe gets “laid off”, and your anxious coworkers are none the wiser.

    Yes, this is dishonest. But I don’t think it’s any *more* dishonest than having you reduce your output just so that your coworkers aren’t reminded that you’re more productive than they are. They’re basically saying they want to be fed a comforting lie about how their productivity compares to yours, so you might as well come up with one that works for you and the company as well.

    Well, all of this is most likely a terrible idea in reality because it’d be a disaster if anyone on the team found out. But it’s fun to think about.

  56. Amethystmoon*

    I wonder OP, is there anything you can do to make your work take longer? As an example, I have to do a morning report every Friday that is due at noon. To speed it up, because the previous person who did it would take a couple of days mostly because they did not know Excel very well and didn’t know how to do V-lookups, they did things like: Literally type everything instead of copy and paste as values, not use V-lookups and do Ctrl + F on everything instead, but they were searching through 8 years of data so that took forever, not know how to do the Ctrl + down arrow key to get to the end of a column when copying so they would manually scroll, stuff like that. Have you built lots of efficiencies into your work in order to speed up processes? Could you try getting rid of some of them temporarily?

    Like also for example, I have a cheat sheet that I use to copy/paste common things when I do my data entry. But I could choose to type it instead and be slower. Stuff like that.

    1. Product Person*

      If that’s the case, though, a better idea would be for OP to document her great tricks so that her coworkers can benefit from the same shortcuts. They may still not become as productive as OP, but if their productivity was higher, the company would benefit and OP would have to slow down less to be at the same level as the rest of the team.

      In any case, one thing I’d be sure to do is to send an email to my manager documenting that I’m slowing down at his/her request. Wouldn’t want to add to my anxiety wondering whether later it could backfire if management decides to get rid of the lower performers and somehow I got mixed with them!

      1. Amethystmoon*

        Yes, that’s a good idea. I have documented mine in the updated process for doing that particular report already. Also there’s a database that they were not previously using, which I knew about from a previous job at the same company, but is not typically given to people at my level because you need to have a certain level of computer skill in order to use it. So I incorporated that database for the V-lookups. But yes, OP should definitely document in case it’s used against them at some future point when things are getting back to normal.

  57. lazy intellectual*

    Maybe finish your work at the normal pace, but send it in later and work on something else meanwhile (if that’s an option). I don’t know what your work is like, but in my job, even if I’m not working on a work product, I could always be reading articles, papers, etc. to keep up to date on my industry. You can also maybe take some skills courses or something?

    That being said, I’m sort of skeptical at the OP’s manager’s perspective of this issue. Maybe I’m just speaking from my own experience, but I’ve never heard of a team that was upset at their coworkers for working fast. The only situation I can see this being an issue is if the work is time sensitive, and the OP finishing something forces the coworkers to respond sooner than they would like if they are taking care of kids.

    1. Amethystmoon*

      That’s a good idea — also some things I do are double-check everything I do for errors. But my job is in data entry, so accuracy is generally prized. If OP is not already double-checking, maybe that could be incorporated into the process?

  58. Granger*

    “emotional bandwith”
    THIS is the phrase I’ve felt, but have been unable to find for the past month. Thanks AAM!

  59. Granger*

    “So, do what you’d do if you had a bunch of vacation time you had to use up. ”

    Oh! What if you tackled something/threw yourself into something that you’re interested in that is professional development or is somewhat related to your field (or not at all!)? I’m picturing Sheldon being a bus boy while stuck on string theory and having a breakthrough.

    I did something like this – I’ve worked in management in financial services for a long time and several years ago I took a part time job in a world-renowned call center as a customer representative and I learned SO much from that experience.

  60. Cats and dogs*

    I am like you OP! I really empathize and think you FIRST suggest to your boss that you would like to take more on and help alleviate others’ stress including your own. Perhaps if you reframe it for her she will see the benefits of your fast pace. My guess is she had a gut reaction to a bunch of complaints and did not think her response through. Best of luck!

  61. Pennyworth*

    Do you have any particular skills that contribute to your super efficiency that you could pass on to your co-wokers? If they were helped to work more effectively it might help alleviate their anxiety.

  62. bellalye*

    OP – I’m in a similar boat with managing my anxiety through intensely working. Most of the people on my team are older and very uncomfortable with the technology our company is asking us to use from home, whereas these applications are intuitive and easy for me. I am extra productive while working from home, and I’ve been training/troubleshooting the applications with my coworkers during my ‘free time’ after I’ve completed my own projects.

    I also have the CUTEST shirt with embroidered otters on it. They’re holding each other’s paws. <3

  63. Allonge*

    OP, just to say this would drive me nuts. There is work to be done and others cannot do it (for very understandable reasons), and you manage to step up and then to be told to slow it down… honestly I would be so very angry with my manager for this, and feel really uncomfortable with the team too.

    And that has precious little to do with how many things I can imagine doing in a suddenly available free time. It’s just so not the point.

    Anyhow, one thing I would be doing is looking for a new job.

    But also: definitely get this in writing from your boss. No way, no how I am doing less than I reasonably can without speciifc, written instructions.

  64. Nancy Hammond*

    Adhere to the manager’s prescribed task-completion schedule and use the rest of the time to look for another job. Because, seriously?

  65. RebelwithMouseyHair*

    Seriously, this manager is not doing her job. She should ask everyone to send her the reports of what has been completed, and she should simply issue a summary report of what has been completed, without specifying who completed which part.
    If others need to know who did a particular part, to ask them a question about it or flag a problem with it, there should be a link or something for them to find out easily – I’m sure this is feasible.
    And the manager should also be allocating this worker a serious bonus/pay rise/promotion because it looks like she’s a very valuable asset.

Comments are closed.