my employer is being too helpful about COVID and it’s making things worse

A reader writes:

I’m fortunate to work for an incredibly supportive employer and to have a really great manager. Last year I escaped an abusive relationship, confirmed my autism, and got therapy to process PTSD both from my ex and my childhood. My employer’s insurance covered all my therapy. I had a lot of days where I was too overwhelmed to function, and I needed a lot of flexibility. I made a point of disclosing honestly to my manager about why I needed the support. He was an absolute superstar in supporting me, and has even extended what he learned from it into making the team a better place for everyone. I cannot sing his praises highly enough.

Earlier this year, several bad and painful things happened in quick succession that directly related to all my recently-processed trauma. Then, so quickly I had no time to process or deal with any of that properly, COVID hit and my country went on lockdown. So. As with last year, I’ve been open with my manager, and he knows I’m trying to arrange more therapy this year. Unfortunately, for various reasons, I’m not actually going to be able to get sessions until lockdown ends, and I’ve been struggling again.

My employer had already been proactive and moved the whole company to working from home a couple of weeks prior to lockdown. And they have launched company-wide efforts to support staff:
• My manager hosts a weekly Skype team chat check-in.
• His manager hosts one that we also all attend.
• There have been anonymous questionnaires to check on people’s emotional states.
• There’s a web page set up just for company COVID news
• My manager’s manager sends about five emails per day sharing news articles indicating how COVID is impacting our industry
• Information packs about workplace mental health support and resources have been emailed out.
• There have been three company-wide remote meetings to discuss the issue.
• Several people in overlapping teams have started organizing “fun” activities over work email.
• We also have a team WhatsApp which has been pretty much a constant stream of COVID-related memes and humor.

It’s. Exhausting.

The most recent is a “buddy system” the company has launched. Entirely voluntary, in which you can sign up to be paired with another employee with “similar interests” so you can have a friend to talk to about what you’re going through. And I cannot think of anything I would like to do less. But my manager has directly asked if I’ve thought of signing up for it.

I need all my interacting-with-humans energy for helping my actual friends and family through this. We’re all suffering from a weird phenomenon of suddenly having *more* social obligations than we ever did before COVID, while getting less of the physical contact and intimacy that actually makes social interaction beneficial, resulting in us burning out while still feeling touch-starved and isolated. And the presence of COVID as an inescapably constant stressor has left me completely overwhelmed emotionally.

Have you got any advice for ways I can politely explain to my manager that, while the gesture is lovely, all these little workplace initiatives are causing me more stress, not less?

Good lord, that’s a lot.

I’m glad your company is on this — but they’re really on it.

I mean, company-wide meetings about how the company is responding — great. Info packs about resources — great. A webpage with news — great.

Weekly team chat check-in — sure. A second one with your manager’s manager — hmmm, it’s starting to feel like a lot, but if it’s work-focused and helpful, okay, sure. (If it’s not, it would ideally be optional.)

Anonymous questionnaires checking on people’s emotional states — well, depends on the questions, what’s done with the info, and what the company culture is like, but okay.

But then we get into the five emails a day from your boss’s boss with news articles — and whoa, that’s a lot to be bombarded with throughout the day. I’d question whether they’re all really necessary and whether they have to come separately, as opposed to in periodic digests so that it’s not a constant onslaught.

And then add in the constant stream of COVID memes and humor on WhatsApp, the multiple people on different teams organizing “fun” activities over work emails, and the buddy system initiative (!), and this does sound like it would feel overwhelming to a lot of people.

Of course, it also might feel supportive and warm and welcome to other people.

The key when you have a group of people with differing needs — as you will with any work team — and you want to support all of them is to be thoughtful about what really needs to be everyone and what you can make optional. Your team doesn’t need to stop doing any of this stuff (although taken altogether, it’s a LOT), but it would feel more truly supportive if at least some of it was opt-in. So you might consider suggesting that the memes and jokes get funneled to a separate channel, where people can specifically opt in if they enjoy that stuff (and opt out if they don’t). And emails planning fun activities would ideally make it clear they’re opt-in only and there’s no pressure to participate. And so forth. (This doesn’t apply to everything, of course. It’s reasonable for some things to default to everyone, like company-wide meetings.)

As for what you can say to your boss, here’s one way to say it: “I really appreciate how much effort the company is putting into making sure people feel supported right now, and it matches up with how supportive you were when I needed flexibility last year. So thank you. But to be honest, we have so many workplace initiatives around COVID right now that it’s beginning to cause me more stress, not less. I think it’s great to offer this stuff to people who want it, but it can feel overwhelming at times. I’d love it if there were a way for people who wanted a break from it to get that too.” And then you could suggest some of the alternatives above. (And if your boss again starts encouraging you to sign up for the “buddy system,” that’s a pretty easy opening to say this.)

Alternately, you can just try opting out of some things on your own. You can funnel those news emails into a separate folder that you only look at every few days. You can say, “Hey, y’all, I’m finding all the virus memes overwhelming. What do you think about creating a separate channel for them?” You can delete the “fun activity” emails without giving them a second thought. And so forth. Sometimes you can just take the actions you want to take, and consider it handled. (This doesn’t always work! But there might be room for it here.)

But there’s also value in your manager hearing from people like you, so if you’re comfortable speaking up, do — especially since it sounds like you can do it in a way that expresses genuine appreciation for a company that has treated you well.

{ 120 comments… read them below }

  1. juliebulie*

    Holy cats. I think ALL of that would be too much for most people. But different bits of it will be helpful to most people. I think it would be very helpful for everyone if more of these could be opt-in or at least have a way to opt-out. Some of us need some part of our day to NOT be all about the virus.

    1. Alice*

      Imagine working in a hospital. I thought this was normal. Good for the AAM community for pointing out that it is a bit much. In health care, much of this COVID news and pandemic preparation is difficult to avoid, but it’s a validation to hear that is is normal to be overwhelmed by this information overload.

  2. LDN Layabout*

    I could be misunderstanding but a lot of those things do look opt-in for me?

    – Emails and mailouts don’t need to be looked at in depth, you can skim them or if you’re getting daily updates just skip reading them.

    – Anonymous questionnaire, skip it.

    – Fun activities? Go to the ones you want, skip those you don’t.

    – The meetings themselves seem to be once a week or less (in the case of the company-wide call) and the manager’s-manager’s one can probably be opt-in but I don’t see a weekly team check-up as over the top onerous.

    I wonder if there’s pressure for the LW to attend or if the LW is feeling internal pressure to attend to be ‘a good employee’ when the intention is for the resources to be available not all utilised by everyone.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      My company has a lot of stuff like this too. I mostly opt-out except for team and one-on-one calls with a manager or colleague.
      With the “fun” stuff to keep people motivated and connected. Well, I never was much of a joiner even at the office even if food was involved, so meh, I’d opt out.

      And yes, I do feel that with extended WFH, there is self-imposed pressure to have presentism… maybe even more so than going into the office.

      1. LDN Layabout*

        Yup. I have gone to none of the socials or the virtual coffee breaks or Teams pub quiz time!

        I go to our team meetings, I go to project meetings and I am available to colleagues to call for queries about my areas of expertise. As far as I’m concerned I’m participating. Sometimes I reach the giant daily email, sometimes I don’t.

        1. Super Admin*

          My company is very like this at the moment. My problem is that as a team admin it feels very much expected that I will Attend All The Things and then catch up my team on things/run my own Fun Social Activities. But I barely have the energy to have a Zoom call with friends and family, let alone organise happy hours or quiz nights and attend talks on the psychology of stress.

      2. Wendy Darling*

        Yeah, my company has gone a little off the deep end also with the opt-in stuff. The thing is, while the activities are opt-in, the emails are NOT. We now have:

        – 1-3 daily emails from leadership of rah-rah stuff about how well the company is responding
        – 3-5 emails a week promoting internal resources, mostly our very poor ERP and “COVID-19 resource center” that’s a collection of news links
        – 2-4 optional interest group zoom meetings a week
        – weekly team video chat “happy hours”
        – 2 video briefings from leadership per week
        – 2 emails a week summarizing the video briefings from leadership in case you didn’t attend
        – 2 emails a week from my division head, who made a bad acrostic of positive words using the company name and has taken them as a theme for regular emails, thank god the name of the company is fairly short and he only has like 3 letters left

        You can’t unsubscribe from any of this stuff because it’s sent to the entire division and/or the entire company. I don’t go to any of it and I don’t even read most of it And this is on top of the absolute deluge of “HERE’S HOW WE’RE HANDLING CORONAVIRUS!” emails in my personal account from every company that has ever collected my email address for any reason in the entire history of time.

        I just have really severe Coronavirus-Related Email Fatigue. :(

    2. Mrs_helm*

      I think the complaint is just the sheer volume of emails that she has to at least look at long enough to decide if it can be skipped. Like, they need special subject lines at least, if they don’t have opt-out mailing groups.

      1. LDN Layabout*

        Articles tend to be quite quick to identify, unless the manager’s linking to them with a long foreword about the relevancy of it. I’d end up dropping them all into an inbox subfolder that’s hidden unless I open it.

        If anyone asks if you read a specific article? “Oh I’ve been focused on ____, I haven’t gotten to it yet.”

        Although those article emails should just be a daily or weekly digest.

      2. LW*

        It is largely this! My industry isn’t on the front line, but there are some specific things we’ve had to set up and add to our workload specifically to handle some COVID issues that fall under our remit, and *some* of the emails from my manager’s manager turned out to be directly relevant.


        So far all the rest have been, as far as I can tell, some sort of email digest she’s subscribed to that she’s just blindly forwarding to everyone under her in the chain of command. Which seem to turn up just randomly throughout the day.

        That said, I think Alison’s (and everyone else’s here) advice is really helpful. I’ll admit I’ve been feeling like I *should* be making an effort to be present and participatory for a lot of this stuff, because I want to show support for the way my employer generally approaches issues even if they’re doing it a bit too much right now. I’ve already opted-out of all but the essential whatsapp work group with my manager’s blessing (and he knows and confirmed he’ll let me know if I miss anything important), and I’ve started just deleting any emails about optional social groups, feelgoody newsletters from CEOs about socially isolating with their dogs in their massive houses, and other excessive things. There’s still more of this stuff coming my way than I have the spoons to handle, but hopefully I can keep pruning away at it.

        1. LDN Layabout*

          Is there any way you can identify keywords or titles or whoever is sending social stuff but not essential things for you and have that go straight into a subfolder when it arrives? One that doesn’t do an email notification and you can set your own schedule for checking/deleting them?

          It doesn’t help with the amount of them but if it can be a concrete block vs. ALL THE TIME it could help?

        2. Spencer Hastings*

          You may already be doing this, but if there’s a keyword in the subject lines (e.g. the name of the digest), my first instinct would be to create an Outlook rule or Gmail tag or whatever exists in your email program to send those to a special folder where they won’t alert you when they come in. (Which you can check at your leisure to see if there’s anything in there that you actually needed.)

    3. Kes*

      Yeah, I was also wondering whether the expectation really is that they do all these things or OP is assuming that is the expectation. It says their boss asked if they have thought about signing up for the buddy program, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they wouldn’t be okay if OP said ‘Actually, while I appreciate that the company is really trying to support us in this, honestly it’s getting to be a lot so I think I’m going to pass on this one’ (which, on reread, Alison did basically suggest this).
      For a company that seems to be trying to help and support, there’s a chance that they really do want what they’re doing to be helpful and would be just fine with OP opting out of some of these things or providing feedback about what parts are getting to be a bit much. Either way, it’s probably worthwhile trying to push back a little on some of the things that are too much and ignoring some of the others that can be ignored, like the questionnaires/news emails/site/whatsapp

    4. Senor Montoya*

      Just having to wade through all of the email — even just glancing at it, or even just glancing at the subject line — is a royal PITA. Anything that can be done to get it under control is a good thing. Anything that gets the senders to consolidate this info is a blessing.

      We have a higher up who FINALLY stopped sending multiple emails a day. Now they’re all consolidated into one email a day. Thank g-d. This person’s jaunty jokey tone has been on my last nerve for almost four weeks now (it’s better than it was — someone high enough up told them how inappropriate some of it was). This person is also high enough up that I actually have to read their g-d emails because every so often there’s something in there I do need to know about. I can’t just filter it out.

      Plus all the policy emails we’re getting and need to get — but then we get multiple copies because every list serve reposts. And yes, most of the time they should, it’s important to ensure people have the info they need but when the freakin chancellor sends it to every g-d employee and student, all 50,000+ of us, it doesn’t need to be re-sent over and over and over). AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!

      I don’t have the concerns that the OP does, and *I’m* ready to rip my head off in annoyance and stress.

      1. DarthVelma*

        I hear ya on wishing people would JUST STOP with the re-re-re-forwarding stuff I’ve already gotten 82brazillian times already. The head of my Division sends it to all Division staff, then the head of my Department re-sends it to all Department staff, then my Section chief forwards it to the whole Section, then my branch head re-forwards it to the Branch staff. And they either forward it without comment or they include “just making sure you all got this”. Which part of that initial email going out to ALL Department staff did they not understand? ARGH!

        This was already a problem pre-COVID. I work in public health, and we get even more all staff emails now. My mail box is already jam packed and I really REALLY don’t need them to re-send the same email I’ve already gotten 3 or 4 times.

        And of rant.

    5. The Other Dawn*

      I agree. The only items on OP’s list that seem like a Too Much are the WhatsApp stream and the five emails per day. Everything else seems to be fine. And if it’s not, opt out. It doesn’t seem as if there’s anything truly mandatory here other than maybe the meetings, and even then OP can attend most but not all if she doesn’t want to. Just be “busy” and decline a meeting or two.

  3. Ann O'Nemity*

    “I need all my interacting-with-humans energy for helping my actual friends and family through this. We’re all suffering from a weird phenomenon of suddenly having *more* social obligations than we ever did before COVID, while getting less of the physical contact and intimacy that actually makes social interaction beneficial, resulting in us burning out while still feeling touch-starved and isolated.”

    I relate to this so hard. What a perfect way to sum up what I’ve been feeling. I’m burned out on video conferences and phone calls, but I miss being with people.

    1. juliebulie*

      Yes! This is a very weird and unprecedented situation for most of us. There’s an element of trial-and-error to figuring out the best way to navigate it. Things I’d always believed I’d be fine with as a suitable substitute for in-person interaction (like Skype calls) are not working out that way, while a trip to the corner store to buy milk is the social highlight of my day.

    2. Third or Nothing!*

      This might explain why I’ve had no energy or motivation to attend fun Zoom calls set up by my various social groups. That virtual game night sounds fun on Wednesday, but by the time Friday rolls around I just want to hunker down with a good book and cup of tea and be left the heck alone. But give me a chance to have a front yard picnic with my neighbor? OH HECK YES LET’S DO THIS THING

      1. many bells down*

        My husband and I were just saying last night that we’re feeling MORE pressure to be social right now. Probably because our normally very busy friends with very busy lives now… aren’t busy.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Oh my God, THIS.
          I’m used to socializing on the internet, but there are people I rarely talk with who have begun to bombard me.

      2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        Yup. A friend set up the first Zoom meeting with a group of friends and it was great! But then they seemed to want to have them multiple times a week. And yes I love my friends, but after having a bunch of virtual meetings all day at work, the LAST thing I want to do is sit in front of a computer for another one, even if it’s a casual thing with my people.

    3. Ethyl*

      Yes! I read an article recently that basically said all this virtual interaction is actually harder for our brains to process because our subconscious is having to work so hard to fill in stuff we would ordinarily experience in person. Lemme see if I can find it!

    4. AnotherSarah*

      Yes. It’s a lot of computing! And also, when you’re WITH people, you can also be off a bit–if a friend comes over for coffee, it’s okay if there are a few minutes of silence. And even if there’s no silence, we’ll probably notice something out the window, or….just not be starting at each other, having to talk, the whole time. Same goes for a meeting–I think on Zoom, it’s more likely that we need to be and feel “on” for the duration of the meeting.

    5. Admin Formerly Known as Actor*

      This this -this-, so much. Our c-level folks keep saying our team leaders need to be checking in with us, “not just about work, but about how you’re doing in general” and I’m absolutely going, “No, that’s what my actual friends and family are for, please stay out of my life outside of the work parts you must be involved in.”

      I was beginning to think I was just being a grumpy gus who’s unreasonably obsessed with keeping my work and personal lives separate, so I’m glad to see others feel a similar way!

      1. Cinnamon*

        I have a horrible work/personal life overlap (probably stemming from long hours in a new city so many years ago), I’ve slowly been undoing it but this has thrown a wrench into that. So many people wanna hop on a zoom call or do something online & I’m just sitting here trying not to sound rude while I’m enjoying my alone time without speaking to them so much.

    6. allathian*

      Yeah, me too. Added to that is that I’m very visual and have slight hearing loss, so I need to really, really focus on video meetings to make sure I don’t miss anything. Added to that, our VPN is currently overloaded and the sound quality is abominable, even with a decent headset.
      Yesterday we had a 45-minute team meeting with our manager and a 90-minute presentation followed by Q+A hosted by our department head. Especially the last left me completely drained, and I had to stop working for the day (I’m salaried, with a very liberal working hours policy). That 90-minute meeting exhausted me as much as a normal 7.5 hour workday. After the meeting, I fell asleep on the couch…

    7. EddieSherbert*

      +100. This letter really hit me hard. You did a great job summing things up here, OP!

      I don’t have much advice but this is sooooo well said and I just wanted to let you know I really appreciate it. I hope the conversation with your manager goes well!

  4. kathlynn (Canada)*

    When covid-19 started I tried to keep up with the news. Then I realized how much it was affecting my stress level. Even though I wasn’t working, and just staying at home, the stress was still getting to me.

    So I had to stop listening to the daily updates from my government, and really reduced what news stories I read. (if it’s a positive one near me, or about benefits I’m reading it. Otherwise I’m not. ) I still see lots of memes and stuff on Facebook and other social media sites, but not watching the news really allowed me to reduce the amount of covid-19 stress I was dealing with.

    1. Sara without an H*

      Same here. Most “news” isn’t really useful or actionable information, and it adds to my stress levels. I made a rule to check two reliable sources (one local, one national) every morning while I drink my coffee, then nothing else for the rest of the day.

    2. kz*

      same here! I completely cut it out for a few weeks, and told my spouse he was officially my filter. He let me know if there was anything I actually needed to know (like when our state officially declared a stay-at-home order). I’m now able to read through one daily news briefing email to get the highlights, but other than that I stay away.

    3. Jaybeetee*

      I just “snoozed” several news sources on Facebook, because I found it was stressing me out, and becoming a time-sink – not to mention the comments! For the duration of this crisis, I’m probably better off reading the news directly from sites/apps, and reserving social media for, well, social life and/or cat videos.

      1. kathlynn (Canada)*

        I honestly don’t see many news articles on Facebook, so it’s easier for me to scroll past them. And I ignore the live stream updates from the ones I do follow. I’m a member of several discussion groups for books or general discussions, so that’s the kind of thing that I see most of in my feed.

    4. Professional Merchandiser*

      I can relate!! I am considered “retail essential” so have to work everyday, and it’s driving my mother insane!! She calls me every morning with some horrible thing she’s seen on the news about all this, and I just want to scream, “STOP WATCHING THE DAMN NEWS!!!” But of course I don’t, she’s my mother and I know she’s concerned about me. I get daily news updates on my phone, and I look at it ONCE a day and that’s it.

      1. Senor Montoya*

        Please don’t answer your mom’s phone calls, you know what she’s going to say and it’s not helping you, even if it’s well intentioned.

        Here’s what I do with my dad: I see that he is calling. I don’t pick up. I text him: Hey dad, everything ok? I’m right in the middle of work/fixing lunch/about to shower/etc, but I can call you if it’s an emergency.

        Dad texts: no emergency, just want to talk.

        I send a smiley face or heart emoji and a picture of me/my son/my cat/my lunch/a funny cartoon. (Pro tip: keep a bunch of these “awwww” pix on your phone ready to be used!)

        1. allathian*

          Smart filtering! I’m glad it works for you.
          For us it’s just about the opposite. My dad hates using the phone so I text him occasionally. I do call my mom a couple of times a week. But we live in the same city and I’m using to seeing them almost weekly. I miss my parents (and I’m 48…). Both of them are in a higher-risk group just because of their age, so visiting them isn’t an option now.

      2. nonprofit director*

        That was me the first few days my “transportation logistics essential” husband continued to go to work. He gently told me I need to trust him, and my input was making an already stressful situation for him even more stressful. I thought I was being helpful, but looking at it from his point of view, I can see that I wasn’t. So now I focus on supporting him and helping out with the procedures we put into place. And I wait for him to ask for my opinion or talk about daily events. Is there any way you can gently say something similar to your mom?

    5. Environmental Compliance*

      Same. I went cold turkey on news (Spouse keeps me updated as my filter) and unfollowed a few groups on social media, as they just kept going and going and going on the topic (which was not the focus of the group) and it was negatively affecting my mental state. I also ended up muting a few friends on Facebook as well. MIL has been told quite firmly that this is not a topic I will discuss with her, as she’s very….well, we’re very different people, politically. And in general, really.

    6. Wendy*

      The radio station I usually listen to during the day has been doing hourly updates. My coworker was listening to a station that was doing them every 30 minutes.

      After the first week, I made the decision to turn the radio off once the morning show had finished and play spotify for most of the day – unfortunately I’m cheap so I have to put up with commercials every now and then (usually about Covid prevention). However, any visitor to my desk has been treated to a mix of The Beatles, Dr Hook, Weird Al, Leo Sayer, Neil Diamond, Motorhead, Brooks & Dunn…whatever I feel like that day! I’m a lot of more relaxed since I’m listening to music I love and that keeps me from stressing.

      1. kathlynn (Canada)*

        Honestly, I’m so thankful for my google music subscription,for similar reasons.

        If you have a cable/satellite subscription, you might be able to access the company that provides them with music free of charge. That’s what I did prior to have my music subscription. (this is common in Canada at least, our cable subscription comes with access to many sites streaming apps/accounts)

    7. Just Here for the Free Lunch*

      My husband keeps CNN on all. day. long. It’s fine for him, but I found that it was increasing my stress levels to have to listen to it. Now for noise I keep the TV on Food Network or HGTV, and he listens to CNN in another room, and I’ve been much happier. :-)

  5. Precious Wentletrap*

    Good news! This is the perfect opportunity to start learning how to set “I appreciate it, but NOT NOW THANKS” filters and boundaries, both literal and metaphorical, that will pay off with your long term trauma recovery. As Alison suggests, start by filtering the emails. If you don’t have to be on camera and mic for some of the update meetings, have them on in the background while doing laundry or other offscreen task. You’re doing great. Do what you need and opt out or minimally participate in the rest.

    1. Jigglypuff*

      Definitely this. My company does daily (!) check-in meetings with our team, and I have to be on video for those. But for the wider department meetings (weekly), I put up a picture and keep myself muted. I crochet while I listen, or unload the dishwasher, or pet the cat, and that helps me to deal. Having to be on video is so much more intense than I would generally prefer, and doing so daily is exhausting.

  6. KoiFeeder*

    As another autistic person, I can only say:

    But more seriously, goodness gracious! That would be way too much for me right now. I do not have the social bandwidth to deal with even half of that. OP, if you need to set boundaries on this, don’t feel like you’re letting anyone down by having boundaries. This would drive me nuts.

    1. KJB*

      Just chiming in to say I’m a high-functioning Aspie and I feel you!! I was put on a text chain by a well-meaning friend of mine, but it turned into “extroverts vs the introvert” pretty quickly. I eventually asked her to take me off and she was great about it (“Sure!…Are we driving you crazy?”) but she also said that she was glad I was there to “speak up for the introverts”. Thank goodness you’ve established a rapport with your manager ahead of time, and given how supportive he’s been so far, I bet this will be taken in stride. No major advice to share, but I saw another ASD person also posted and I wanted to say hi in solidarity. :)

  7. iced_coffee*

    I agree with Alison – that sounds exhausting. It’s absolutely a lot of information, even when you’re not dealing with a bunch of Personal Life Stuff.

    Speaking from someone also overwhelmed by COVID-19 stuff – I super recommend Boundaries around your work life. Take a lunch break, and disconnect from work completely during that time. Don’t check your laptop or your email after work is done. Liberally apply email filters to automatically archive and/or file emails about stressful stuff from your boss. Don’t take on HR-type stuff that you don’t need to do as part of your job! Questionaires, fun events, etc etc etc are super optional right now, and it’s totally ok to just want to Do Your Job during the work day and then Not Work after work is done.

    1. allathian*

      If there’s a questionnaire on how you’re doing and it has some open questions and it’s not just multiple choice, you can always put that you’re getting stressed out by the constant check-ins, etc.
      I’ll confess that I was very happy at first WFH, but I’m starting to miss spending time with people who are not members of my own family.

  8. DW*

    I get so many emails at work when we’re busy that now I have a lot of folders and filters set. LW, can you set one up for the constant emails? For example, the news updates from your manager’s manager:

    * IF sender email address is (mm) AND subject header includes “(keyword 1)” or “(keyword 2)” or [etc]
    * EXCEPT IF (LW) email address is in to line
    * THEN move message to (folder to check periodically)

    1. DW*

      Forgot to add the reason this may help – auto-sort messages won’t trigger notifications so you won’t feel barraged by them. You can go through them when you feel up for it, and all at once too so it won’t feel like a constant stream of information.

  9. NW Mossy*

    I’m relating to this too, because after a certain point, it just feels like one more obligation on a plate that’s already spilling over onto the tablecloth. Virtual happy hour? Yeah, great, but that’s another thing I have to be present for when I’ve already been on video all. dang. week. and my kids are feral and my poor husband’s about to lose his whole mind because he can’t get 5 seconds to concentrate on his own job.

    I also got one of those anonymous surveys this week, and my comments were basically “I need fewer expectations and demands on my time, not more.” Asking me to keep the same meeting schedule I had in office (back-to-back for hours with nary a pee break to be found) while simultaneously offering me meditation classes to fix my stress level is making me cranky AF right now.

    1. sofar*

      Yes, I wish all these surveys had an option for me to click that said, “I would like to quietly do my job in peace, thank you.”

      And you hit the nail on the head that it comes across as tone deaf when my company is like, “We are having a virtual happy hour! And Dawn From Accounting is going to teach a Gchat Yoga Workshop Over Lunch” when my workload has increased, we have all these extra check-in meetings, and THREE members of our leadership are sending “nightly notes” with a steam-of-consciousness run-down about all the “small pleasures” they are finding in “carving out time for a coffee” while watching their stay-at-home spouse playing in the yard with their kids.

      1. LW*

        UGH THIS. This is exactly the sort of thing I’ve been struggling with.

        WFH means using my home broadband, which is not as fast as the work broadband, while using my office laptop without the big screen I had at my desk, and using software that’s run from a central server that’s frankly overwhelmed by all this distance-working. Every job is taking 4 times as long to do and a lot of non-urgent work is being deliberately dropped until things normalise. We’re all under so much pressure, and I don’t even have the stress of kids stuck at home to deal with.

        Adding in all these *extra* meetings (and even ignoring all the optional ones still leaves a lot of extra meetings), most of which seem to just be 30 straight minutes of complaining about COVID, and it’s amazing anything is getting done at all.

  10. Blueberry*

    Oh dear, this really is a textbook example of too much of a good thing. Good luck, LW.

  11. Tomato Frog*

    My workplace probably does 2/3 of the stuff the letter writer listed, and my reaction was similar. For the emails, I rely on filters, *plus* not trying to read and make sense of every email.

    The guiding principle for my filters is that any email that’s not addressed to me personally (as in, they had to type my email address) or to one of the smaller groups I’m a part of, bypasses my inbox and gets a tag to indicate what group it was addressed to (all staff, my department, etc.). Then I skim through these new emails perhaps once a day. I also filter senders who send a lot of “FYI” emails into special supfolders.

    When we first went remote, I was late to some important news because of these filters, so I temporarily lifted them so I could keep up with the situation as it developed. NOPE. Learning about some things late has been a small price to pay to not have that stuff in my inbox.

    My internal mental filters are the place where I have had to become ruthless. I’ve gotten really quick at recognizing emails that are just “FYI” or soliciting participation in optional activities, and once I recognize them as such, I expend zero further mental energies on understanding their content. One or two things that were relevant to me *have* slipped through the cracks in the past month, but that would happen no matter what system I used, and this way I feel much calmer about it all.

    1. OrigCassandra*

      Cosigned on email filters. I could not stay in the game without them.

      Worth noting that filters can send email to the trash. They can also auto-mark email read once it’s been sent to a non-inbox folder. I make heavy use of both of these!

  12. Jennifer Juniper*

    Ugh. That would be too much for me as well – and I’m an extrovert with Dependent Personality Disorder.

    1. allathian*

      That’s really saying something.
      We have a lot of those, but all the new COVID info goes on our intranet. My inbox isn’t getting spammed by non-essential stuff.

  13. Tangerina Warbleworth*

    My division head started an MS Teams conversation stream for people to use during our states’ shelter-in-place order. There are four comments on it: two people asking if it works, and the office manager confirming to both that it does.

    Other than that, just support for the LW: you effing rock. Keep standing up for yourself like you do.

    1. C in the Hood*

      I was just thinking of MS Teams as I read this post! I think it would be a much more appropriate place for the manager (and others) to dump their information, to be perused at one’s convenience. Heck, you could even create a tab for the humor stuff in there.

  14. Cabin fever reducer*

    I wonder if OP could get her therapist on board with a video call, or, just a call to check in and carry on her sessions. Also, I would imply that putting your heart, emotions out there to a “buddy” would make you feel too vulnerable and you prefer to speak with a professional that is already familiar with you. I personally despise forced closeness and levity, just seems so obligatory. This is a situation that calls for tact from the employer and not such a scattered approach for the OP.
    I hope OP can figure this out, successfully!

  15. CupcakeCounter*

    OP – just reading that list gave me a case of mental exhaustion and a desire to reach for some wine to chill out!
    My company does less than half of this (weekly team meetings plus weekly one on one’s, weekly email from CEO plus any super important must-know-now info, one survey in the 6+ weeks we’ve been home) and several of us are a bit over hearing about it ad nauseum. I can’t imaging the mental and emotional bandwidth all of that is requiring from you. Not to mention the amount of time going through all of that has to take away from actual work!

    Can you mute the What’sApp chat and opt out of all of the optional and anonymous stuff? Seems like that might cut out about half of the noise. A quick chat with your boss is probably also a good idea since you mentioned how incredible he is – let him know its too much and you need to cut out things A, B, and C. Also let him know that others might also feel this way but don’t want to make a fuss if it is helping people. Maybe the 5 a day emails can become 1 end of day email or a subpage on the company’s intranet site (that is what my company did…takes one extra step to get there but allows those who need the distance to have separation).

    And I swear every add on every web page, Pandora station, and commercial mentions it too!

    1. Nessun*

      My Google Mini keeps reminding me that I can “add Covid-19 updates to my morning routine” if I want to…No, no I don’t, I didn’t the first time you asked and I actually just want the temperature and my music, you dumb machine.

  16. Jaybeetee*

    That does sound like a lot, and while it’s good to remember “we’re all in the same boat” in some ways, people’s circumstances still vary. Some people might love all this support. Some… not so much.

    In LW’s shoes, I would also quietly “opt out” where possible. It sounds like the news emails can be quietly filed away, the activities ignored or politely declined. First the WhatsApp, if you do still need to check it for work reasons, I agree it might be worthwhile to ask for a special channel for jokes and memes, citing “Covid overload.” The meetings… you should probably still attend, but if you can reduce the other “noise”, you’ll likely find the meetings easier to deal with.

    Also, I can almost guarantee you have some colleagues who also feel overwhelmed by all this. Try not to beat yourself up or feel like you’re doing something “wrong”.

  17. Allison*

    Oh goodness, this is way overkill, OP, and no wonder it is stressing you out more. It’s completely reasonable to ignore what you can and communicate you need to focus on your work.
    It’s interesting how various workplaces are responding to this. One of my coworkers started sending totally cringe worthy “wellness” tips to the team, and in one email there was a typo that inadvertently made it read like he enjoys YouTube videos of yoga with Adriene WAAAAAAAY too much, in a wildly work inappropriate way. I laughed for days.

  18. WellRed*

    What, no happy or sad faced Covid emojis to put on a digital feelings board?
    sympathy, OP. Just ugh!

  19. Not So NewReader*

    I would not do well with this. One message per day is more than enough for me. I am curious how anyone gets any work done.
    I do appreciate that the company is trying, but I think a cafeteria plan is the route to go. “We are offering A, B, C and D. You can pick none, some or all. You can drop in and drop out or drop back in again, as you wish. It’s available please know you have a standing invite.”

    I agree, OP, there is just way too much out there about Covid-19. I went down to checking once a day and that is it.
    You sound like you are a very strong person who has pulled themselves through a lot. I wish you the very best.

  20. Grbtw*

    Hi OP,

    Something that might be helpful in getting therapy right now. Insurance companies don’t pay for over the phone or video sessions, this is the primary reason insured clients aren’t able to be seen. But, if you private pay, you can access therapy. I know it might not be possible for your situation, but maybe look into sliding scale private pay therapist’s. Psychology today has a directory for local therapist’s with this information available on their pages.

    1. HR Exec Popping In*

      Double check with your employer on your insurance coverage. Many companies have modified their health insurance to allow coverage for tele/video-medicine given the unusual circumstance right now.

    2. nonegiven*

      My insurance company emailed specifically about mental health:

      “As a [company] member, you have access to Virtual Visits, powered by MDLIVE®, so you can speak to a board‑certified therapist from the comfort of your home.”

      Doesn’t say anything about coverage but then my deductible is several thousand, anyway.

    3. Pretzelgirl*

      They may not cover some of the popular video conference only therapy session, like Better Health (?). But mine covered a telehealth session.

  21. learnedthehardway*

    I was talking to someone the other day whose company has a lot of the same things going on that the OP mentioned – constant skype meetings, updates all the time on the situation and on what the company can do for everyone, group virtual YOGA, their manager is mandating 2x weekly team meetings, etc. etc.

    The person was trying to express what it was upsetting them – I mean, their company is being supportive, but they are a parent with young children.

    I pointed out that what they were telling me was that it is a VERY PRIVILEGED thing to do to mandate that people have to be constantly engaging with other coworkers, managers, etc., when they are working from home. This approach makes no allowances for the fact that there may be young children / other dependents interrupting or requiring attention (for whom there is no daycare/other care arrangements possible), not to mention that people have spouses /partners who are potentially also working in the same space (so need quiet too, and can’t do child/other dependent care), etc. etc.

    Anyway, not the exact same situation as the OP, but perhaps is a way to frame the issue – all this focus on COVID-19 being pushed at employees via email, company meetings, etc. etc. may be detrimental to the mental health of people who are just trying to get by on a daily basis. Not to mention that it is very time consuming when work is already less than efficient.

    1. Cinnamon*

      My company is doing some of what OP has going on and I’d just like to emphasize your comment about being privileged to engage with work constantly. Some people need that support, others don’t. Personally I don’t and sometimes I feel like I’m being dragged into things to help the support & socialization of our team! I’ll take some of your work on if you need time to deal with things but there is no point in blurring the work and personal life even more than necessary. Let people oot in to the level of support they need & don’t question the rest.

  22. Phony Genius*

    It looks like the company brainstormed a bunch of ideas that they thought would be helpful, and didn’t cull the list. People keep saying “we’re all in this together,” but it’s OK to be in this individually, sometimes.

    1. nonegiven*

      I’m hearing or reading “we’re all in this together” so often, I’m wondering who is paying them all to say it.

  23. sciencenerd*

    This sounds very similar to what my employer is doing, although not quite as over the top as the OP’s employer. I hadn’t been feeling much stress related to COVID and suddenly last week it hit me and I couldn’t figure out why. I finally realized that it’s the numerous meetings, check-ins and support groups offered (meaning several emails and sometimes several meetings each day) all centered around how stressful this is. I get that this is very helpful for a lot of people, but it’s honestly causing me more stress than I was feeling by just dealing with things on my own. I can opt out of the check-ins and support groups, but I’m not able to re-route emails or not attend the non-stop meetings. My solution during the meetings has been to disengage from the conversations while still being connected online, e.g., by playing solitaire on my phone or practicing some low-key yoga moves, etc. Maybe the OP could try something like this for things they cannot skip?

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I was telling someone the other day, I’m not stressed out by the pandemic or the risks or the dangers or the quarantining, I’m stressed out by all the people who are freaking out and doing dumb things because they’re stressed out by the pandemic and risks and dangers and quarantining.

  24. Anonya*

    OP, think of all these offerings as a buffet. You don’t have to sample every dish; you can pick and choose the ones that resonate with you.

  25. HR Exec Popping In*

    I’m finding these comments fascinating. We do a lot of the same things the OP posted. In a survey we conducted to see how people were doing and what they needed help with, the vast majority said keep up all the communications. But our company tends to lean extrovert and I’m guessing (and I could be wrong) this community leans introvert. I think it just shows how important it is to blatantly tell people what is voluntary vs. what is not and to encourage people to opt out if it is too much for them.

    1. Klata has*

      I’m definitely extroverted, and like to be with people during hard times, and my company is extroverted. A few of these would be fine but all together it’s too much. Especially the constant news updates. News from work is only useful if something about the work I’m doing is going to change as a result. Otherwise I don’t need an update 4 times a day

    2. Nessun*

      Agree 100%! Our Firm has a ton of resources, but they’re all on two web pages that anyone can access. Chiefly the CEO and the CMHO send out very little – an email once every 2-3 weeks to remind folks those pages are there if needed, and a list of outside resources. Otherwise, teams are free to decide when they want to connect, and within the teams people are free to choose not to sign on if they wish.

      My boss and I had a frank discussion last week about how knowing more about what’s going on is important to some people, venting is important to others, and hearing as little about it as necessary is important to still others. We’re chatting organically with all our team members, but if it’s clear what group they’re in, that defines the conversation.

    3. Stella*

      Also keep in mind the people who are tired of all this stuff might not be responding and people are probably worried anything could make them a layoff target.

  26. Introvert girl*

    As for the therapy, I would suggest Skype calls. My therapist switched to Skype due to Corona and this is really helping me.

  27. New Fed Here*

    Set up a email rule to deposit all the things with COVID in the subject to automatically transfer to a specific mailbox. Look at it once a week.

    Ignore the webpages and WhatsApp.

  28. Stella*

    This is such a thing. My organization isn’t quite this intense, but I definitely relate. For me, what would be 10x more helpful is real permission to not be able to get as much done, which would be reflected by actual changes in deadlines or maybe not the same workload that is a little too high under normal conditions plus all the coronavirus stuff. Or even just a clear ordered list of priorities where it is clear that if you don’t get to certain things, that is fine. Or heck, if you really want to be supportive, maybe confirm that the promotion I was finally promised for July is still happening. Otherwise it feels like this is all just a desperate attempt to keep productivity up to normal levels.

    1. AliP*

      Yessssss. I am 100% in the same boat. My workload has not changed at all- in fact it’s increased. And I’m fairly certain the raise and promotion I was promised isn’t coming. But please be clear and communicative around expectations, instead of asking me to join Trivia and Happy Hour group chats.

  29. Cara*

    I guess this is a grass is greener situation, because I look at this letter, and all I can think is, “My, manager that’s very supportive, what a nice ‘problem’ to have.” Some people are really going through the wringer right now, and I’d bet the thing they WISH for is to be getting too many helpful emails.

    1. Claire*

      I feel like every other post on this site over the past few days has had this comment, and I don’t really understand the purpose of it. Yes, this is not the worst possible situation, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a problem for OP. It almost feels like the hackneyed old “what do you mean you don’t want to finish your dinner, children are starving in Africa” thing, or the “you can never be sad because there are children who have cancer”. I appreciate that you might not mean to come across as dismissive, and that you are probably also going through a tough time, but is this comment really constructive or helpful?

    2. LW*

      …tell you what. We’ll swap. You can take the abusive relationship, autism and PTSD, I’ll take the unsupportive employer.

      I get that this can be a nice problem to have, in theory, but a couple weeks ago I had 2 panic attacks in the space of a few hours due to my autistic brain being completely overloaded with input, and all this increased interaction and COVID-related commentary contributed heavily to that. I have loved ones who are in the category of “going through the wringer” and I’m struggling to be able to support them as much as I’d prefer because my mental energy is being pulled in so many different directions.

      That said, Alison’s advice is helpful and reassuring! I think sometimes it’s hard for me to recognise that I don’t *have* to do something someone asks of me, even if it’s something I theoretically want to support.

  30. queen b*

    I’m very sorry to hear you are struggling with all of this, OP.

    I would actually not hate a buddy system right now. I live alone, and it’s hard to connect with coworkers. I wouldn’t mind a friend to chat about old Game of Thrones episodes.

  31. Elizabeth West*

    I like the idea of framing it as people needing a break. The news is all COVID all the time, the memes are all virus/lockdown-themed, etc. etc. It’s like everyone talking about tRumpty-Dumpty all the time. Being able to just do work and concentrate on something else for a while would be fantastic. I’m sure the OP is far from the only employee who feels this way.

  32. Super Admin*

    Holy moly, OP, I have written a draft email to Alison detailing this exact problem. My company is similarly overdosing on the support, while also telling us to turn off the news if we feel overwhelmed… but I’ve been added to a company wide Slack channel for being social and supportive during Quarantine that I cannot mute or leave, there are social Quarantine ‘fun’ challenges at the start of All Hands meetings (best photo of a pet dressed for work! Best work from home outfit! Best Zoom happy hour photo!) and now I’m getting chain email requests to share new recipes to try while working from home (I do not cook at the best of times, and I have neither the time nor energy to start now). There’s sessions on the ergonomics of working from home, the psychology of stress and working from home, how to be supportive while working from home. I have more meetings now than I ever had in the office, and this is while also juggling a full workload.

    I’m absolutely on my last spoon and it’s only Wednesday.

    1. LW*

      I’m feeling this so much.

      It’s so clear to me that all of this stuff is coming from a place of genuine good intention. But if I’m going to invest energy in people, it’s going to be the weekly family skype quiz, or calling my quarantined grandmother, or the DnD campaign with my buddies, or posting pictures of my latest projects in theart whatsapp group I’m in with my close buddies, or checking in on that friend who I know had a serious mental health wobble a couple days ago. And all of that is already a lot for me on its own.

      If this stuff was opt in, if it was “we’ve set up this page on our intranet that lists all COVID news and articles, we invite you to post blog entries/articles on it if you like, and it includes a list of links to resources as well as links to social events staff are setting up”, that would be fantastic. I could check the page once a week, ignore 90% of it, check out the few parts I feel up to being involved in and leave it be. Instead, all this stuff we seem to get opted into and then have to opt out. And the things we aren’t automatically thrown into we get weekly reminders about being available… evidently because no one is signing up!

      I think Alison’s (and everyone else’s) advice is really apt. I’m feeling obligated to be “present” for a lot of this to show willing, and to show gratitude, but actually my manager has been great at having my back up until now. I should trust he’ll understand and have my back if I have to say “thanks but no thanks” to a few things.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, based on what you’ve written above and in your letter to Alison, sounds like your manager would have your back. Maybe you could advocate for yourself and for others in your company who probably feel the same way that too much is just too much?

    2. Cinnamon*

      Not sure how different business slack accounts may differ but have you looked at all your settings? I was able to mute all my notifications for certain channels I was added to that don’t have anything to do with me. We also have a “water cooler” one that I’m guessing our admin set up as a default no notifications. The title still highlights when there are new responses but no notification and no hovering number of unreads over the icon.

  33. StaceyIzMe*

    The solution to this might be accepting two things: 1) there’s a LOT of stuff they’re throwing at everyone in an attempt to be supportive and 2) you’re NOT everyone and can work with your manager to drill down to a list of “must deal with”, “please deal with if you have some energy today” and “no way is that going on the list because it’s TOO much and would be counterproductive”. Once you’ve thanked your manager and established a fresh perspective that leads to a list you can live with, maybe the other things won’t be so “in your face” or too much. (I have to admit that it’s very nice to hear about real efforts being made to be supportive, though!)

  34. Malty*

    This was beginning to happen in my workplace before lockdown and it contributed to my freaking out about everything long before the rest of my friends/family – between the sheer bombardment of daily info at work, working with the public so it was often the topic of discussion, and then friends/family texting/talking about it all the time it got to be A Lot far before things became what they are now. You have my sympathy OP, I’m sure you’re not alone in feeling it’s Too Much from your company.

  35. Koala dreams*

    That sounds very exhausting. Personally I would be bothered with the constant updates about the virus, especially if it’s general information and not related to my job. I agree with the idea to speak with your boss! Many people find it exhausting to do extra social things and read lots of e-mails, even if they don’t have autism or mental health issues that makes it even more exhausting. If people at work don’t get it, you might need to ask for less meetings, less “fun” things, and less covid news reading as an accomodation. Hopefully that won’t be necessary, though.

    1. allathian*

      I hope an accommodation won’t be needed, but rather an overall decrease of COVID-related stuff for everyone. With all that, how do they get any work done?

  36. LGC*

    Although…I’m looking at this, and it looks like a lot of this is coming from higher-up in the chain? It looks like the manager is just having check-ins and the team WhatsApp has decided that IT’S CORONA TIME all the time, but the manager is also holding (redundant?) weekly checkins and sending ~25 emails about COVID-19 per week, and the company itself is sending a ton of material.

    It also sounds like a lot of this is passive! So…yeah, LW, definitely try opting out. Your company sounds great and thoughtful in general, but that doesn’t mean that you’re obligated to participate in everything they do forevermore as a demonstration of your gratitude. (Maybe that’s the American in me.)

  37. Coverage Associate*

    Solidarity. I am being very selective about the activities I take on with work that are not directly revenue generating. Otherwise, I would not get any revenue generating work done, and that’s supposed to be all my work.

    Here’s what helps me: First, I cling to every time a coworker has missed a mass email, or admitted to deleting it without reading. Seriously, in normal times, this happens once a week. Someone wins a prize or an optional event is announced or questions go to a broad group. That’s why we read so many complaints on here about having to follow up. If you’re consistently the last person to respond and always need an individual follow up, there’s a problem. But I imagine LW is usually the first to respond, etc. Let that go.

    Second, people deal with stress differently. In the early days of shelter in place, one team was clearly dealing with stress by sending updates to several teams. Then their stress flowed to those of us who prefer to deal more internally. Now I look at every COVID-19 work email with this question: Is this for/about me, or is this really about helping the sender? I still have to pay attention to some, but I skip everything that’s not about our actual services and not from a boss.

  38. Claire*

    Ugh, does anyone actually enjoy random memes from their coworkers? Like, occasionally there’s a situation where a meme genuinely applies and is funny, but most of the time there’s no real context, so it’s the visual equivalent of the fwd: fwd: fwd: fwd: email threads you get from your great-aunt (who in fact probably shares the exact same memes on her Facebook page). Enough of my coworkers will just send memes out to all-office that I assume lots of people do like them, but…why?

  39. All Outrage, All The Time*

    I feel you! I am suddenly being invited to virtual coffee catch ups with groups and people from work I never interacted with before the lockdown! I don’t want to start now! I haven’t even looked at the various chat thingies and I just ignore meeting requests for social things.

    1. allathian*

      Good for you. That isn’t necessarily an option for everyone, though. Sounds like the OP here has a good boss and there’s room for some pushback. Some of the worst problems happen when it’s the boss who’s scheduling too much social stuff to deal with their own anxiety and don’t let people opt out and expect everyone to share, like the letter we had last week.

  40. Mazzy*

    Oh I love the topic, this is a letter to the OP, since you’re probably going to come back and see this. Yes, it’s too much. I am facing something similar but in my family, so I am limiting contact. This gets iffy bringing it into the workplace. It overlaps with politics and how people want the world to run and there are disagreements on how long the shutdowns should be and what the after should look like, there are just too many points for contention to be bringing that kind of discussion into the workplace!

    My opinion is that bosses should be helping people build a sense of camaraderie by tackling projects that were on the back burner during regular times. That way, they can get their minds off covid, have a legitimate reason to socialize, and have a sense of accomplishment.

    Know you’re not alone

  41. ExcelNerd*

    For me, it feels like we are expected to attend these things just like our work outings or potlucks (GERMFESTS even in the best of times!) lest we be seen as “NOT A TEAM PLAYER”. My company had us working from home quick enough to make your head spin and snap right off – even departments that were previously told there was no way they could work remotely. And then came the FLOOD of video meetings, “fun” team game calls, social hour meeting requests, surveys, weekly Zoom meetings with the VP of the parent company, Slack channel just for Covid-19 jokes, memes and hacks, people saying “good morning” to the while team EVERY SINGLE DAY in the regular team slack channels and EVERYONE ELSE RESPONDING BUT NOT IN A THREAD SO IT DINGS INCESSANTLY, daily standup meetings with immediate supervisors and my team that works on a completely different system than I do….

    I’m an introvert and LOVE working remotely, but I almost want to go back to the office just so some of this would stop!

    I think one of the best things are the surveys – when it asks what I need or what will be helpful for me at this time while working remotely, I answered honestly. STOP WITH THE EXCESSIVE SOCIAL TOGETHERNESS. I feel like I’m expected to attend everything so I’m not seen as “not a team player”, and it’s stressful for me, not to mention that I am DROWNING in work just as before, and I usually love working remotely because I can get more done, but not with all the forced togetherness popping up in my face all the time. Not all of us need it or want it.

    I feel like we need to be brutally honest with the surveys.

  42. Erin F*

    I’m in HR at a big company so it’s my team that’s responsible for implementing a lot of this stuff. It’s definitely not my cup of tea personally but you would be amazed at how many people are asking for even more than what we are already doing. And not just from other HR people and leaders but employees at all levels are asking for it. The idea is not that every person will take part in every activity or program, but that people have options to join based on their own needs and what appeals to them. It sounds like your company is encouraging people to do ALL the things. No wonder you feel exhausted! I would too!

  43. chickaletta*

    Holy cow that’s a lot. And I work in health administration while simultaneously managing my third-grader’s schoolwork coming at us from all angles. I thought I had it bad.

  44. Calyx Teren*

    Suggestion: Identify distinguishing characteristics of the emails you can defer or ignore, and set your email to direct them into separate folders that you don’t check until or unless you want to. Sneaky tip: if you don’t want to have the subtle pressure of seeing the number of emails pile up, put the folder into another folder that you leave closed. (Apologies if this is redundant; I did a fast check and didn’t see the same suggestion but might have missed it.)

  45. Nobody Special*

    I wonder if the word “lockdown” is the best wsy to frame everyday life. For me it conjures a prison door clanging on the rioting prisoners. I know that in some cases the restrictions are greater, but for most the “stay at home” or “shelter in place” tequirements include leaving home at times, for exercise, going to the store, picking up takeout… it’s only language, but given that the OP had just been through some really horrific stuff, i wonder if the reframing might be helpful. For some of us many elements of the current situation are likely to re recurrent for awhile. Normalizing a more value neutral vocabulary for restrictions might domesticate them a bit. Reading theough the comments was actually kind of stressful for me, but i hope many were helpful for OP. I do really wish you all the best in these destabilizing times.

    1. LGC*

      LW might not be in the US, though. We have relatively loose restrictions, compared to some other countries. (In Spain, children weren’t allowed out the house at all. Talking to a friend that lives in Israel, they’re not allowed more than 100 meters from home unless it’s for buying essential items.)

      1. LW*

        Ah yes, this.

        My country hasn’t been as strict as many others, but we’re still in a lockdown with much heavier restrictions than the US on where you can go, who you can see and what reasons are valid reasons to leave the house. I’ve seen youtube videos of American’s recommending their “techniques” for coping that included… going to a friend’s house and standing outside talking to them at a distance? Which still involves unecessary travel? Or going for a drive just for fun? The mind BOGGLES.

        That said, reframing might still be helpful! I shall give it a try, it’s always worth giving something a shot after all.

  46. boop the first*

    I had to laugh a little, sorry.
    Sending mental health check-ins while simultaneously bombarding you with unimportant industry virus updates?? This is such a good cop/bad cop situation :D You wouldn’t need the one if you weren’t doing the other!
    Are white collar workers genuinely interested in what their industry is doing? I’m just curious. Maybe you are. But what was your boss going to do with the questionnaires? Are they just kinda nosy? lol

  47. Nanani*

    Just like when we’re not under a plague, different things work for different people.
    Fun and support -definitely- needs to be opt-in.

    Some of OPs colleages might really be alone with work as their only social option, others are probably just as overwhelmed as OP with full households and less time for actual fun (because their hobbies are all cancelled, because childcare isn’t available, etc.)

    It’s not ok to mandate that much extra time and emotional labour anyway.

    Please do push back, or at least set up the filters! Reclaim your time and mental space OP.

  48. miss_chaos*

    I feel you on this. I have a line-manager who I haven’t always had a great relationship with, and I’m exhausted by the constant ‘mental health check ins’ with someone whose intentions I don’t entirely trust and would much prefer to only interact with on work based topics. Now I’m expected to discuss my mental health challenges with near strangers who aren’t paid professionals?!

    Don’t even start me on the rest. My company has swamped us with weekly all-staff emails about working-from-home Spotify playlists, weekly pub quiz, online “daily walk” groups, video messages from the CEO, etc. What they could actually do is allow more flexibility around output, but instead it’s “business as usual output plus hours of video calls” and everyone is working part of the weekend to keep up. I don’t even have kids, and the parents on my team are barely keeping it together, but are somehow still expected to attend the virtual weekly town hall in costume theme.

    I’m learning that a lot of people’s employers are all about mental health, until it comes to actually making meaningful changes or allowing flexibility in a time which is anything but business as usual.

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