we’re laid off but still getting work emails, coworker accused us of laughing at her, and more

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

1. We’re laid off but being “strongly encouraged” to attend work webinars

I’ve spent three years in sales for a major luxury brand. Stores are individually franchised. Our firm has 70 or so employees.

As this COVID crisis emerged, our firm was quite slow to react. 18 hours after the governor announced sales had to cease operations, our manager finally called to tell us we were being laid off. Assured us “we still have a job,” but where I sit, if I’m not on the payroll, I don’t have a job. Encouraged us to immediately file for unemployment. Which I did, but it’s so backed up, no idea when I’ll see any of it. Thankfully, I don’t need it to take care of my essentials. Would still be nice to have.

Fast forward two weeks. In his first communication since the layoff, the brand issues their new programs for April and the owner forwarded the email to his (former) sales staff, and attached were links to webinars the brand is hosting next week. Today I got another email from the owner, with yet another webinar series he is strongly suggesting we participate in.

These emails had zero preface — no well wishes, no asking how everyone is doing, or asking about family, etc. Am I wrong for not wanting to receive anything work-related from a place I’m not currently employed with and which isn’t paying me?

There are some communications that would be appropriate for them to send, like updates on their plans and how that might impact the timing of your return to work. But just … work suggestions? Encouragement to attend brand webinars? Noooo. You don’t currently work there, you’re not being paid, and it’s inappropriate to suggest you participate in work events.

It’s possible that he’s thinking you’ll be back to work in a month or so (which you probably will not be) and this will help you hit the ground running when you return, but … noooo. He’s not paying you, so he has no standing to “strongly encourage” you to do activities to bolster his business. No pay means no work expectations.

(Also, is he sending these emails to your work email or your home email? If it’s your work email, is there also an expectation you’ll be checking it right now? There shouldn’t be — and really, they should have turned off your access to it!)

2. Can I ask my office to stop announcing pregnancies at staff meetings?

I’ve been at my current job for about 2-1/2 years. Shortly before joining this organization, I had a rather traumatic pregnancy loss. Despite therapy and anti-depressant medication, pregnancy announcements, baby showers, etc. all still make my eyes well up with tears.

Twice in the past year, my boss’ boss has announced coworkers’ pregnancies (I’m assuming with their permission) during all-staff meetings. It is really hard to hold back the tears and look happy for them. Is there any way I can tactfully ask that she stop this practice? Can I suggest they do it over email instead, where I don’t have to put on a fake happy face?

I’m so sorry. I think it’s a tough request to make in an office that’s used to celebrating this kind of thing at staff meetings, because other people want the opportunity to share good news in their lives in-person. But would it help if you had a heads-up in advance via email, or the opportunity to slip out before the announcement was made? Those are both reasonable things to ask for.

3. My coworker accused us of laughing at her on a conference call

I am a paralegal and currently trying to adjust to working from home. I am really feeling the stress of this new working environment, as I’m sure my coworkers are as well.

Since our work from home started, we have been having regular paralegal meetings via conference calls. Today after another uneventful meeting with two shareholders, we received an email to the paralegals only, from one of the more senior paralegals. She stated that she heard someone laughing AT HER (my emphasis added) while she was talking. She said it was rude and that if anyone wanted to laugh at her, they should mute their end.

I don’t recall anyone laughing while she was talking, and it was a very uneventful meeting. I found it wildly unprofessional of her to accuse someone of laughing at her, let alone the raw display of her low self-esteem. After the shock wore off, I wondered if she is just really, really stressed. Should I have committed the unthinkable and forwarded her message to leadership?

Nah. If it’s symptomatic of larger problems with the way she interacts with you — like if she’s regularly reading into things that aren’t there, being combative, or accusing people of things they haven’t done — then that might be something to bring up to someone above you. But if it’s just one weird moment, assume she’s stressed and let it go.

4. I’m being asked to return equipment during shelter-in-place

I recently worked as a contractor for a major retailer. They took quick action to get us set up to work from home and we got the local stay-in-place order less than a week later. Once the initial order was extended, they postponed our projects and ended my team’s contracts. They won’t allow us to return to campus to retrieve any of our personal items until it reopens. Fair enough. I don’t have anything there that I need urgently enough to risk exposure.

We were notified today that we’re required to ship back their laptops within 48 hours.

Dozens of employees (maybe hundreds?) have been furloughed or laid off. Because of this, I’m fairly certain that they don’t actually need these (5+ year old, out of warranty) laptops back right this second.

I have no intention of risking exposure in a FedEx store for something that isn’t absolutely necessary. I requested that we wait till campus reopens and exchange our stuff at the same time. Alternatively, and ONLY if there truly is an urgent need, I offered to drop it off at the mail room receiving door with minimal contact. I have not yet received a response. If they’re not open to compromise, what are my options here? Is it legal for them to ask this of me?

For what it’s worth, I’m 100% comfortable telling them they’ll get their stuff back when I get mine. But taking such a firm stance will definitely cost me good references and I don’t want to burn this bridge.

It doesn’t have to be adversarial or something that costs you a reference. You can simply say, “Right now I’m in quarantine and complying with the state’s shelter-in-place order. But I’ll of course ship it back once public health officials say we can safely conduct non-essential business again.” Say it as if of course that’s all that can be done and as if of course they’ll agree to that, and there’s a good chance they will.

If they push anyway, then just say, “I want to help, but I can’t violate the state order or break quarantine. If you’d like to arrange a pickup from my house, I can have it packaged up and ready to go.”

5. How can we give job applicants an easy way to ask for accommodations for their interview?

I work in recruiting and my team is trying to figure out the best way to give applicants an easy opportunity to say “I need an accommodation for the interview” so that we can provide it.

Do you have any recommended scripting around this? We are thinking we’d add it to our website application if that makes sense, as well as potentially adding a blurb in our scheduling outreach to make sure they have the opportunity if needed. Any recommendation would be helpful!

Doing both is smart. I’d consider language like, “We welcome and actively work to accommodate applicants and employees with disabilities. If, due to a medical condition, you need an accommodation to help you interview at your best with us, our recruiting team will work with you to provide it. We will keep any medical information you provide confidential and separate from the rest of your application.”

Also, when inviting people for interviews, spell out what the interview will include (for example, timed exercises, length of the meeting, any plans for a meal, etc.), and then make the offer again in that context — since people are better able to judge what accommodation they might need when they know exactly what the interview process involves.

6. Asking for donations for homemade masks at work

I’m currently sewing cotton medical masks to donate to healthcare providers while there’s a shortage of proper PPE (these cotton masks are not used by those in contact with Covid-19 patients, but for others in healthcare to wear or extend the life of N95s). My husband is an essential employee (not in healthcare), so I made him a mask to wear to work.

He’s a mid-level manager and several of his peers have expressed an interest in buying masks from me now that they’ve seen his. Personally, I don’t believe in charging for these masks during a public health crisis (and I also think it would be unethical for my husband to be selling anything at work), but would it be okay to ask for donations instead? I’m trying to buy as much fabric as possible so that I can donate as many masks as I can make, and small donations from non-medical mask recipients would really help with that.

Does it change your answer at all if these masks are going to his subordinates, peers, or even his boss?

It’s fine to ask for donations to help cover the cost of the fabric! You’re donating your labor to help people get masks, and if they can donate to help you cover the cost of supplies, that’s very reasonable to request. It would probably help to have a suggested donation amount (like “$X covers the fabric for five masks,” or so forth) so people have an idea of what range is reasonable.

And that’s fine to do no matter who is expressing interest, regardless of whether they’re subordinates, peers, or his boss. Your husband should just make sure his wording explains the full context so it’s clear he’s not selling the masks at the office. For example: “She’s mainly making them to donate for health care workers but she’s happy to make them for others if you can donate to help with the cost of the fabric. $X covers the fabric for five masks.”

{ 380 comments… read them below }

  1. Bilateralrope*

    For #1, the lack of any kind of preface makes me think that somebody forgot to remove you from the mailing list.

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Honestly to me it sounds like a tone deaf owner, who doesn’t understand what being laid off means. They no longer work there and yet he expects them to work. That’s not how it works, pandemic or not.

      1. Athome44*

        Original questioner here – thanks die your reply. This is how I felt too when the first email was received. Now that we are on the 12th one, it’s being annoying. My slight ice nature of having a clean inbox keeps me checking them, but as of a few moments ago, I’ve turned new mail notifications off for that account.

        1. Teresa*

          If I am at home collecting unemployment I would watch the webinars. As long as they arent asking me to make calls or send emails. I want to hit the ground running as soon as we get the all clear. I have been there a long time though and plan to stay longer and I want my employer there too.

          1. Claire*

            Yeah, I would probably want to do that, but I’d be super annoyed if my former boss told me to do that. This is job training, and something that OP might want to see when/if she does get her job back, but she isn’t required to do it, just as the boss isn’t required to hire her back later on. The term “webinar” also suggests to me that this might be a collaborative type thing that you have to attend at a specific time, rather than a video you can watch at your leisure. Essentially, you’re right that it’s not a bad idea for OP to do this, but that doesn’t mean the boss isn’t handling the situation badly.

    2. Athome44*

      I’m the original questioner. These emails were sent to every former team member. Easy to spot once you expand the “to” section in the email.

      So I guess the technical term would be furloughed, however that is not the word choice that was used when I was called. They specifically said laid off. Perhaps that nuance isn’t a big deal, and I can understand that. However, none of the sales staff, of which in a part, is salaried at all. It’s strictly a commissioned based job. No sales, no money.

      The emails are all being sent to my work email, which is still active, and which I have access to on my personal device. We have no work issued phones or computers. The only emails I’ve received on that account during the last 3 weeks are his. The most recent was about 15 minutes ago encouraging myself, and all the others in the chain of the webinar training schedule for today.

      1. Rose Tyler*

        I would remove the email account from your device. Voila, no more emails to irritate you, and if ever asked why you didn’t attend a webinar you can truthfully say that you didn’t know about it, since you weren’t monitoring company email while not employed.

        1. CL Cox*

          This x 1 milllion. If you are laid off, you cannot be required to do anything for the company. It is ridiculous that they expect you to read the emails, let alone attend any kind of training. If you wanted to be snotty, you could email back and ask how much they’re paying you to attend these.

        2. TardyTardis*

          “Oh, but getting work email at home on my personal device–wouldn’t that be a security problem?”

      2. Interviewer*

        Can you create an out-of-office auto-reply on your email account that indicates you no longer work for the company?

        That might get his attention.

        1. Athome44*

          I absolutely can, and thought about this. I’ve similarly considered asking to be paid if he’s going to ask me to continue to stay current with product training and the like. I’m sure that would wake him up but similarly create a rift. Best thing is to simply ignore them. At the same time, begin exploring options of a different firm to take my talents to. I’m their top producer here, so getting the same position with a different employer should not be much of an issue.

          1. Nephron*

            You could try writing to the owner and stating you cannot do free work for him when laid off or furloughed as you are requesting unemployment. The only way for this to move forward without committing unemployment fraud would be for him to pay you and the others.

            1. VanLH*

              That is not true about unemployment fraud. I was laid off from my full time job but still working a part time job. Every week when I submitted for unemployment I told them what my part time job paid which reduced my benefits but also extended the length of time I could collect.

          2. dawbs*

            I think this could be done with Alison’s normal script:

            Hey Bossman,
            I got your email and I really want to stay current. I’d love to do the webinar on unicycles-to-handstands next Monday, but I happened to be reading my unemployment paperwork. I think if I did do the webinar, I’d have to report that I did x hours of ‘work’ and that would reduce benefits and put Clowns Inc. at risk of being accused of unemployment fraud.
            I just wanted to let you know why I can’t.
            Thanks for keeping me in the loop, and I look forward to reaching back out to you once this passes. Stay Safe!

      3. Person from the Resume*

        Stop checking your work email. Remove it from your personal device if you have to. He’s not in the wrong for sending emails to everyone on the assumption that laid-off workers aren’t checking their emails.

      4. Ama*

        As I understand it from friends affected by the last government shutdown, even furloughed means you can not do any actual work that you would normally be getting paid for. If they aren’t paying you, you do not have to do ANYTHING work related, no matter what they call it.

        1. PLM*

          As the LW is completely commission based, they would never have been paid to attend these webinars when they were actually employed by the company. I worked on straight commission however was also required to attend many varied product presentations/ seminars. Although I was not paid to do so, this aided me in my job. My impression is that the boss totally considers this layoff to be temporary and is a bit blind to fact that sending work emails to those who don’t work there anymore is inappropriate. If the LW does wish to go back and pick up where they left off when all this is over, it makes sense to check out the suggested webinars so they can hit the ground running… and not get too caught up in reminding everyone that they are not an employee anymore.

          1. Athome44*

            Not exactly, as some of the webinars I’m being asked to do is part of the larger brands quarterly and annual requirement for salespeople. My boss is also compensated for each salesperson who is current on said trainings. My bonus $ from the brand directly is also hinged on being current in these online courses. But again, no sales = no normal commission = no chance for bonus $ as its sales metric based. Right now, there is no light at the end of the tunnel as to when sales will resume. As an aside having done this for some time, I really don’t think there is a “hit the ground running” status. It will not return to how it was, and no one yet knows what the new normal will look like, regardless of how many webinars one attends. There will be a significant lag time imho. The volume isn’t going to be what it was, not even close, for the next 6-12 months. I know and understand that and accept it as the nature of the beast. Not to mention it’s all moot until the govt says sales can resume in the first place. There is no date certain, let alone date estimate, for that occurring. Certainly won’t be this month. In other words, if I choose to go back to this employer, or stay within the brand and go elsewhere, there will be more than ample time for me to take these short required courses/tests. The webinars are something different, as my understanding is they are done live and as of yet, not being archived. So much of this is a moving target. So much so that this “urgency” in webinars and “training” , without any other communications since before this began, and without any offer of compensation, benefits continuation, and the like, seems rather obtuse to me.

            I greatly appreciate everyone’s feedback thanks so much!

    3. Person from the Resume*

      If the LW is not working/being paid they should not be checking their work email. Looking at work email is working. If this is going to work email, the LW needs to stop reading their work email, and the boss is not in the wrong to send the email.

      If it’s going to a personal email that the business is using to keep in touch with furloughed workers then the boss sending the email is in the wrong.

      1. Uranus Wars*

        I agree with this. OP commented above that they like to keep their email box organized and cleaned out but I think the level of frustration this seems to be causing outweighs dealing with the email when they return to work.

  2. Iron Chef Boyardee*

    #4

    I don’t like the hypocrisy in that the employer wouldn’t allow OP to retrieve their personal items but insists that OP returns their property.

    1. FaintlyMacabre*

      It’s like if a school shut down but were still making people return library books or face a fine. Schools here shut abruptly, and kids being kids, my friend is stressing about a banana her kid left in her school locker. I can only imagine they aren’t the only ones in that situation. But they’re just sitting tight. The library books will be returned eventually and whatever is left of the banana will be cleaned… someday.

      1. Sheworkshardforthemoney*

        This reminded me of the time I found my kid’s last school lunch in their backpack after school had ended for the summer a month previously.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          I’ve recovered a lunchbox after a similar period, and put it straight in the bin without opening. Did you make a similar call?

        2. RabbitRabbit*

          The last time I was physically in my office was March 12th, and I’m wondering what happened with our office fridge. Yikes.

          1. soon to be former fed really*

            One of the muckety-mucks who is part of the skeleton crew still in the office cleaned all the fridges. And watered plants.

            1. Quill*

              I brought my cube succulents home with me as soon as work from home started being pushed as a “unless you can’t” activity instead of a “if you want” activity. Georgia and Claude are doing well. They’re currently in my living room office along with Monstro (a ceiling-scraping ficus) and Vinelein (A pothos I raised from a cutting after my dog accidentally assassinated my mom’s pothos plant by knocking it off an end table trying to get into the window to bark at a friend.)

              They all have a good view of the back yard trees, Dr. Theodore Giesel, Carl Linnaeus, Rosalind Franklin, Ada Lovelace, and Rosseau.

              1. dawbs*

                I love your plant names.
                I am mildly worried about Fred, the LabPlant, but, it’ll just end up being Fred the 5th or 8th or whatever he is now.

                1. The Rural Juror*

                  I once had an aloe vera plant named Fred. His little offspring were Fred Jr., Fred Jr. Jr., etc. I had to leave him behind with a former roommate when I moved to a new state. Hopefully there’s at least one Fred still alive…

              2. Warm Weighty Wrists*

                I brought home Little Lord Fauntleplant a while ago, and I’m grateful that I can still take care of him.

                1. hamburke*

                  ooh – I left my orchid at the office… it would die in my sunless house anyway! Actually, it will probably thrive being left alone and I soaked it last time I was there

            2. Clark*

              Muckety-muck means “person of great importance”. I think maybe you meant hoi polloi? Not that the janitorial staff isn’t very important, but usually a term like that would be reserved for the C-suite.

              1. Amy Sly*

                Depends on your office culture. I’ve worked places where if the muckety-mucks realized their options were throw out the rotting fridge food or have to smell/clean it, they’d roll up their sleeves and throw it out. Especially if they were in the office anyway and none of the janitorial staff were there.

              2. Rainy*

                Our director cleaned out the office fridge on the last day anyone was allowed in our building. So yeah, muckety-muck.

          2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            I literally had a dream about our office fridge the other night! Ours looked scary even in the best of times. Rust down half of its front door etc. I would not want to be the first person to open it after we all return to work. In my dream though someone had cleaned it up and gotten the rust removed. It’s one of those dreams that are not likely to come true.

          3. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

            Who is now waiting for the future AAM letter about the boss forcing a low level worker to clean out the post corona fridge?

          4. Ama*

            Thankfully our office manager actually thought of that — since we were told at around 10 am that it would be our last day, she sent an email telling everyone to get everything out by 2 pm if they wanted to take it home, and dumped everything else. Which is really good since what originally was a two week shutdown — we closed before it was state-mandated — has turned into at least six weeks.

          5. tink*

            My work stayed open even after we closed to the public, so I think the only things in our office fridge are a few sealed bottles of water and a bottle of mustard. I hope our part-time person took the plants home, because otherwise they’re gonna be super dead.

        3. Matilda Jefferies*

          Ew. We are currently missing a couple of lunchboxes at school – one of them had fish in it when last used. I *definitely* do not need to have that one back now…

        4. Mily*

          My kid left his lunchbox at school the last day before schools closed. There is for sure an orange in it rotting away. I just figure I’ll have to toss the whole lunchbox when (if?) we ever get it back.

          1. TardyTardis*

            Good idea. I did that once with a plastic container with some *extremely* aged Spanish rice.

      2. Grits McGee*

        One of my friends was a student at Tulane University in New Orleans 2015 and forgot a banana in his dorm room as he was evacuating from Katrina. When he was able to get back in a couple months later it actually wasn’t too bad; the peel does a decent job of containing the fruity effluence of decay.

        1. High School Teacher*

          I got permission to rescue my houseplants (classroomplants?) after our shutdown because it been out of town when it happened, and I also raided the fridge for my personal items… The school itself had been sanitized and teenager-free for a week and smelled confusingly wonderful. The employee fridge, on the other hand… already a sensory disaster. Most of my colleagues didn’t remember their lunches, I guess.

          Admin team went through student lockers to remove perishable food and students’ school-issued laptops so students could pick up their tech low-contact, because we’re 100% e-learning now.

          1. Wired Wolf*

            I cleared out my work locker on the day of my last shift; nothing perishable in there but I did have some personally-purchased work supplies that I didn’t want walking off. I took my lock too; I don’t put it past them assuming that any locked locker “might” have company property in it and the lock will be cut.

            1. The Cosmic Avenger*

              I went back to my office after 2+ weeks since 1) nonessential employees had been teleworking for 2 weeks, 2) so no one would have been in my office or touched anything there for almost that long, and 3) I brought gloves, and moved everything I could use/want, including 4) a special laptop that I rarely use, and figured I wouldn’t need, but when I realized this could go on for months I figured I should take it home just in case. (And, of course, it is broken…seems to have happened while I was still in the office, oddly enough, as the battery was almost dead as soon as I got it home, even though it had stayed plugged in at the office, and now it won’t even charge.)

              1. Chris*

                In my experience, the most effective way to kill a laptop battery is to leave it plugged in for months on end. Repeated battery cycling may help somewhat, but it’ll never be what it once was.

                1. The Cosmic Avenger*

                  Actually, it’s not the battery. A short in the power supply or motherboard is tripping the circuit breaker in the charger, which is apparently a common issue in this line. (The charging cable has an LED on the plug that now goes out whenever I plug it in, and it won’t light up again until I unplug it and re-plug it.) It doesn’t matter, I’m wrapping up work for this client and I won’t need the laptop any longer.

        2. Lynn*

          Yep. My husband is NOT looking forward to the return, whenever that may be. Teachers had one day where they were allowed in to get stuff (needed to teach from home-so stuff like his textbooks, the laptop that lived at his desk, however many million cans of diet coke that he kept at work, etc). So at least the offices and classrooms shouldn’t be too terribly bad.

          Students, on the other hand, did not get a day back in the building (too many kids to do so safely even if they only came in shifts). So there is going to be an ugly stench coming from some of the lockers. I know that a few of the kids are worried that the district is going to end up cleaning out their lockers in the end (and finding whatever contraband/embarrassing stuff they have in there).

          1. KoiFeeder*

            Given that I once had a black widow spider in my locker for a year (native to the area and I had a habit of forgetting my lunches, so she was well-fed), I hope they allow the kids a chance to say “no it’s okay I PROMISE I’ll clean out my own locker” if for nothing else but dignity’s sake.

            1. Lynn*

              I have my doubts. Especially for the graduating seniors. But that isn’t even going to be addressed until after they figure out if they are going back this year or not (we are betting on not, but the decision has yet to be made).

      3. Quill*

        Honestly the window for the bannana depends on ambient humidity. Most likely it will mummify rather than rotting into slime.

        Source – my mom taught elementary for 15 years and I’ve seen some strange relics.

      4. Nikka*

        Call the school… our janitors, office, and kitchen crew are still working (doing whatever they can and keeping social distances so the school can keep them on payroll). They may be able to dispose of the banana for you.

      5. Anonny*

        I knew there was a reason why I feel bananas should be banned from public spaces. Ye gods. That’s gonna smell awful.

      6. Sleepless*

        My daughter is a high school junior and among the many things that have her down right now, is that she left her violin at school the day before they shut the schools down. At least she has her guitar at home, but she is going to be so rusty on the violin.

      7. Mama Bear*

        A lot of libraries do not WANT books back right now – no one to process them from houses with who knows what illness. Our local libraries just extended everyone’s check outs and said stay home.

        My kid had one day’s notice to clean out her locker. Thankfully she kept very little in it.

      8. Münchner Kindl*

        What? Why haven’t your libraries extended the loan term until end of stay-at-home period + 5 days?! That’s what our libraries did! They are closed, so books can’t be returned, and it’s also really not important right now.

    2. staceyizme*

      I agree! If they want those laptops now, they can arrange to have them collected by a vendor. But if they’re not reasonably able to secure them, then trying to force others to absorb the cost of shipping them back and the risk of exposure seems tone-deaf in this context.

    3. Mama Bear*

      I don’t like that, either. When do they get their belongings, too?

      IT should be able to remove access for any laptop that isn’t back yet. In a real pinch, the company can ship the employees a special prepaid box for return. That is how some companies (like Lenovo) deal with warranty repairs. That way the employee doesn’t have to go out and the box is pre-paid through FedEx (or another shipper) who can come to your door. It can also be insured how the company wants. If they want them back right now, they should be willing to pay the cost.

    4. Münchner Kindl*

      I don’t understand why FedEx or another company doesn’t offer home pickup – now contactless?

      Our parcel delivery companies switched to contactless, and Hermes and others can be called to pick up a parcel from home, so no need to go to a store.

  3. Heidi*

    Letter 1’s bosses seem confused. Doesn’t “laid off” and telling people to “file for unemployment” mean the exact opposite of “we still have a job?” I say it’s fine to ignore the emails. I mean, what can they do to you?

    1. Jamey*

      Lots of places are laying off people so they can collect unemployment while their company can’t do business, but with the promise of still having their job when business goes back to normal. (Of course, I agree that it’s out of line to ask you to do any work while you’re not getting paid though!)

      1. fhqwhgads*

        Isn’t the term for that normally “furlough” not “layoff”? To me furlough means you’re not working now and they’re not paying you now but they do still have the job and once things start back up they’ll be at it. Laid off means you’re not employed there anymore, at all, and if you wanted to come back later you’d need to be rehired. I’m not trying to be nitpicky about language here; my point is if the employer told them they were laid off, they have no expectation of being back. If the employer told them they’re furloughed, they do (but could still be eligible for unemployment in the meantime is my understanding). So the employer may have said one thing and meant another and is now causing confusion.

        1. Bilateralrope*

          We don’t know which country the letter writer is in. Maybe the difference between furlough and layoff matters due to local laws and the employer is up to something dodgy.

          Maybe furloughs aren’t really a thing wherever the letter writer is. I note that wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Furlough) only mentions them for the US and UK, with the UK examples only being 1908 and the current pandemic.

          1. Hrovitnir*

            I’d expect it is US though given the casual nature in which they were let go – but with assurances they’ll take them back! Very unlikely that would fly in a lot of other countries.

          2. DistantAudacity*

            Hm. Interesting – in my location (Scandinavia), the use of furloughs is a regular part of any downsizing processs.

            It’s being heavily utilized right now, and part of the government crisis package includes shifting the costs of the furlough more much more heavily on to the state (I don’t know all the details, but use of furlough means that there is a process for reduction of pay to your employees, and then down to zero – it’s not a complete stop of wages from one day to the next).

            1. Dr. Glowcat Twinklepuff*

              Yes, I’d assume furlough exists in all European countries, but maybe Wikipedia is separating our version from the US one because they are different: here you are still paid while furloughed. In Italy, for example, you receive a fraction of your salary but from the state, not from the employer. Maybe there’s actually a different English term for this kind of thing?
              Anyway, I also got the feeling that OP1’s employer is just trying to not pay the employees AND not pay the extra costs of re-hire.

              1. Tyche*

                I think they are different things.
                In Italy employees have “cassa integrazione”. Now I’m in “cassa integrazione”, so my company doesn’t pay my salary, I’m paid a fraction of my salary from the State, but I’m still employed to my company!
                When Covid-19 restrictions will be dismissed, I’ll surely come back to work, because I’m de facto employed. This is only a way for the State to help with companies that have problems.

              2. TechWorker*

                This is also true in the U.K. – furloughed staff get paid up to 80% or £2500/month whichever is lower, and the company can apply to get the money back from the state. As someone already mentioned though it doesn’t exactly happen often (!)

                1. Marion Ravenwood*

                  Employers here can also choose to top up salary if they want/can afford to – I’m being furloughed from next week, and consider myself very lucky that I will still be paid my full salary, but work is only paying 20% of that.

              3. Western Rover*

                “you receive a fraction of your salary but from the state” sounds just like unemployment benefits in the U.S., so it sounds like the same thing in the end even if the way the paperwork flows is different.

          3. Asenath*

            It’s probably a terminology thing. I am in Canada, and was absolutely baffled when I heard American news about furloughs of government employees, since I only knew the “on leave from the military” meaning, and I hadn’t heard it often with that usage. Now, if they’d said “lay-off”, I’d have understood because sometimes lay-offs in Canada are carried out with the understanding that you get your job back when (or if) things improve for the company. I think, though, the American usage of “furlough” is creeping into Canadian English.

          4. Mary*

            The slightly weird thing is that “furlough” isn’t used in the UK, either informally or as part of employment law. But for some reason it’s been adopted by the government for this situation. I don’t know whether this was a deliberate decision to use a new term for a brand new situation, or just the government being sloppy and picking up an American term because they didn’t do much consultation with their own civil servants and lawyers before introducing the scheme.

            1. Never Nicky*

              The term was used extensively in the UK in the 19th century , almost exclusively as a military term, for officers (mainly) on half pay after the conclusion of a campaign. According to my dictionary, it began to be used here in the 17th century.

              I think here the connotations have always been that the leave of absence is with pay, what’s unusual this time is the amount the government will be contributing.

        2. doreen*

          I think there’s a difference in usage even in the US. I work in a union , government environment and “laid-off” still means what it did in the 70s – you don’t work, you don’t get paid, both the layoff and the recall are strictly seniority-based, laid off workers return to work without having to be rehired and the workers all have be offered a chance to return before new people are hired, “Furlough” typically refers to something more broadly based and time-limited. Once my employer had a furlough and every employee took five days unpaid leave over the course of a year. If they had gone with layoff, it would have had a much worse effect on many fewer people.

          1. Former prof*

            Exactly. I was a state employee during the Great Recession, and we were furloughed for specific days – no work, no pay, but still employed. OP has been laid off so they can file for unemployment.

        3. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

          There is a difference, but I don’t know that it matters here. They don’t have a job at the present moment, and therefore should not be expected to work. My husband works for the government and he is currently on administrative leave. He is not working, but is getting paid and if anything comes up that needs attention is expected to work from home.

        4. Shad*

          Historically, “laid off” was also used for seasonal closures, particularly in a factory context. It’s a fairly different use of the term than is common now, but it’s not entirely unprecedented.

          1. Athome44*

            I’m located in the US. The call I received informing me of being laid off used that specific term, and, they encouraged me to file for unemployment straight away. I’ve still yet to receive any money from that either fwiw, but that’s circumstantial. Competitors of ours, with whom I have dialog, did elect to pay their sales staff, at least through the end of April. Had that been my scenario, I would have zero issue taking an at home webinar, conference calls etc.

            With my current scenario now, since I’m not being paid by my former employer, my health insurance runs out at the end of April, and that’s my biggest concern. Not a single one of his emails have addressed any plans for the future of any kind. Which is the other reason I want to start using this time to explore other possibilities with competitors.

            1. One of the Spreadsheet Horde*

              I can definitely see why you’d be checking every single email from your boss. Eek. I’m sorry about the stress you’re going through.

        5. Wired Wolf*

          I think that’s what happened with mine. My unemployment is still backed up as well. and it seems the state system really can’t understand “furloughed” (we were receiving some payment, but the company has now stopped that assuming we’ll all be getting the expanded UI benefits). The only choices I had when applying were “laid off” and “still working”. Being the weirdly honest person that I am I selected “laid off”; that gave me the option to add that I was receiving some remuneration to stay on payroll. When my first full payment was put on hold I contacted HR who told me that I should have done “still working”…but if I had done that UI needed hours worked. The remuneration issue is what’s backing everything up and UI has not told me that I need to do anything. I did finally get a letter from the company that they were ceasing normal operations and not paying us so the only thing I can do is submit that with my claim this week.

        6. Ann O'Nemity*

          Employers still need to pay healthcare and other benefits for furloughed employees, don’t they? A layoff is a more definitive separation.

          1. Athome44*

            I know for a fact my healthcare is, at the present time, set to expire at the end of April. I’ve yet to hear anything to the contrary. I can continue it via COBRA, but have never done so before, and, true to form, zero communications from my boss about that process.

              1. TardyTardis*

                Last I heard the ACA exchange isn’t going to be opened back up. I may have heard incorrectly, or course.

          2. myswtghst*

            I’m not sure if it’s required, but it definitely can be part of a furlough. We’re doing furloughs and employees impacted will still have healthcare but are eligible for unemployment, and we absolutely cannot make them do any work while we are not paying them (so no webinars or online learning).

        7. Mama Bear*

          Good point. The feds have routinely furloughed folks during government shut downs, but even then there were limits to what people were expected or allowed to do.

      2. Mama Bear*

        That’s what happened to one of our kids, but the fact is they aren’t working and they MIGHT have a job at the end of all this, or the company might instead fold. You don’t know. So I agree that the boss can’t require them to do this training for a job they technically don’t have right now. I am also curious about the email – if it’s a personal address then double no. If it’s a work account, I wouldn’t check it. OP is off the clock.

    2. Seeking Second Childhood*

      OP3, By any chance is your company using Zoom? There have been some horrible hacking stories it is possible that your coworker did have someone laughing at her. It just might not have been someone from your company!
      Look up the articles in Ars Technica– the one that blew my mind was somebody getting on to an AA meeting who wasn’t a member of AA.
      As an aside, I’m refusing to use it until it fixes its security vulnerabilities on all platforms. Windows, Apple, Linux, Android, iOS. One of the problems involves root level access to your hard drive.

      1. Mily*

        My son’s school district has banned teachers from using Zoom to communicate with students because of security concerns.

    3. MissDisplaced*

      I don’t think the company is actually telling people they’re expected to work… but granted their communication has been terrible regarding their instructions to employees during this time.

      Because there is a difference between temporary furlough (you’ll be expected back in say May when the restrictions lift) and layoffs because the company can’t stay afloat and retain staff. But you cannot do any work if you file unemployment. If they’ve been asked to return equipment, it sounds more like “layoff” not furlough, so no you can not be expected to participate in a webinar. It’s possible this message wasn’t intended as such, and the sender just had you on a list, but yeah, terrible communication here!

      1. LJay*

        We furloughed people and made them return equipment to ensure that they were not doing work/did not feel that they had an expectation to do work while furloughed.

        That way we did not run into a situation where we needed to pay a person who was supposed to be on furlough because they received a phone call on their company phone or someone sent an email to them that they responded to (or sent them a link to a webinar) ,and so things like that did not interfere with them collecting unemployment in any way.

        Either way they shouldn’t be expected to participate in a webinar when on furlough or when laid off.

        All our people are expected to be back in May (was 1st, now 31st with the extended shelter-in-place) but we also realistically understand that some people may decided to take another job while on furlough or have other life stuff happen that means that they won’t come back.

    4. Tuckerman*

      I read it as the boss was speaking optimistically- Of course you still have job! (IF we’re still in business, IF we can still make payroll for everyone, IF our number of customers stays the same…)

  4. voyager1*

    LW1: Are these being sent to company owned devices? If yes why you even looking at them?

  5. voyager1*

    LW2: I think asking for the announcements in email is reasonable. It does run the risk of you coming out as someone with a mental health situation. You will have to weigh if you feel your manager will not use that against you or judge you for that.

    I think asking to walk out would be way too far though.

    1. Avasarala*

      If I were OP’s coworker with happy baby news of my own, I would feel heartbroken for OP–what an awful thing to have to go through. But I would also feel disappointed that I can’t share my happy news because it makes OP sad. What about other parts of baby-building would I have to avoid sharing to make OP comfortable? It’s one thing to ask for announcements to be moved to email, but what about all the other warm greetings and chitchat that might happen? Can OP handle some jokes about naming the baby Balthazar before we start the meeting, or is it really just about announcements and showers? I think a focused “just these things set me off” request is OK, but a blanket ban on baby topics is a bigger ask.

      1. Batgirl*

        I’m sure OP has already seen/heard baby chit chat around the office (since they have a celebrate babies culture) and that isn’t part of her complaint. It’s specifically the surprise announcements. I think OP getting some form of a heads up will make the biggest difference. I don’t think anyone in her shoes can realistically take this stuff in her stride when she doesn’t know it’s coming.

        1. Count Boochie Flagrante*

          This.

          People tend to think about trauma responses as being this sort of blanket thing that will happen regardless of context, but the fact of the matter is, context and presentation matter a lot. In particular, the surprise occurrence of one of these pain points tends to be way more impactful than being prepared for something painful to come up.

          A surprise baby announcement in front of everyone in a crowded room is very different from a casual conversation. There’s no need for us to decide that the OP is asking for a blanket ban on baby talk when she’s identified a much narrower issue and requested solution.

          1. myswtghst*

            “A surprise baby announcement in front of everyone in a crowded room is very different from a casual conversation.”

            Exactly. I think the suggestion of asking the manager for a heads up pre-meeting so OP can either prepare themselves or just step out briefly is the way to go. Team still gets to celebrate but OP isn’t blindsided and forced to try to hide a trauma response in a meeting.

          2. Meredith*

            +1

            Then there’s always the way I think people will react to my own reaction or lack thereof. “What’s wrong? Don’t you like babies? Who doesn’t like babies?” Well yes, that’s actually the entire point. The issue is that I don’t have one.

            (And no, no one has ever noticed a reaction for me or said that, it’s just my overactive imagination feeling guilty for feeling pain in the happiness of others.)

      2. MusicWithRocksIn*

        In my last company announcements tended to happen more in the open and spur of the moment. You would be at your desk, and hear squealing and then make a bet with the person next to you on if it were an engagement or a pregnancy and then wonder over there to find out what was going on and wish them well. It could happen across the office from you or right next to you. So there would be no real way to get out of hearing it in front of other people.

      3. Spero*

        As someone who lost a child late in pregnancy, yes all of those things are hard. However, the announcement was always uniquely hard because it’s immediately focused on ‘x is going to have a baby, x is going to be a great mom, x’s baby is going to be so cute.’ NONE of those are givens. When people talk about the baby they are going to have or how they’re out of the ‘danger zone’ of early pregnancy sometimes I just want to scream at them that it’s never guaranteed, it’s never ‘safe’, they don’t know they’re bringing home a baby until it’s in their hands. It’s very hard to suppress that reaction in a public meeting. But usually if I get a heads up I can run through all of those things in my head and keep my mouth shut.

      4. OP #2*

        I am OP #2. It is the surprises that trigger a response. I’m not asking for all baby talk to be banned. I am able to avoid other baby chit-chat, either by putting on headphones or leaving the area. I respectfully decline to attend baby showers at work (I either work from home that day or schedule a fake meeting), but always make sure the sign the card and give money for a gift.

        1. I hear you*

          When one is in this situation, the world does seem to go out of its way to hurl babybabybabybaby at you. You have all my sympathy, I am so sorry. It is awful.

          I’m not sure stemming this one particular source of surprise will be of significant help, but only you can decide that. There is a risk people will get all weird with you whenever the subject of pregnancy comes up, and for some that might be even more painful, but again, only you know. It’s not unreasonable to ask. You aren’t damping anyone’s joy, just getting advance notice. There may be others who are hiding similar feelings.

        2. Super Admin*

          Hi OP, I think Alison’s suggestion of a heads up so you can avoid the public announcement is a good one – it doesn’t change anything for the rest of the staff, but it either gives you time to steady yourself for the public announcement, or the option of being elsewhere. If it’s always your boss’s boss doing the announcing, is it possible to email them (or their admin?) to ask for this consideration? It means you could even just skip the first 10mins of the meeting when announcements are made, and then attend the rest, if it’s an important all staff meeting.

          Sending lots of well wishes your way.

  6. The Original Stellaaaaa*

    OP4: Is there a reason you’re unable to print out a mailing label and drop the package in a FedEx pickup mailbox? Lots of bigger office buildings have FedEx boxes outside that anyone can use.

    1. The Original Stellaaaaa*

      *FedEx mailboxes that anyone can use. As in, anyone can drive up and put in a package.

      1. CmdrShepard4ever*

        I think under normal circumstances that makes sense, but even going outside to a fedex location increases a person’s risk to the virus. Op does not know who exactly has come in contact with that drop box. If the company is shut down they don’t need them and can wait.

        There are lots of things I’ve wanted to order that would make being at more comfortable but I’m choosing not to in order to avoid unnecessary exposure.

        1. Friday*

          Also – printers….. it’s not a given that someone has a printer at home – even in a tech-friendly house.

          1. Amaranth*

            Regardless of having a printer, I’d feel better having a receipt in hand that someone accepted it for delivery. This might just be a case of someone at Company not thinking things through in light of our current reality, but it could also indicate a lack of understanding if for some reason that laptop didn’t arrive as expected. Sure, OP *says* she dropped it in a dropbox…

            1. Count Boochie Flagrante*

              Yeah, this is the biggest item for me. If it’s something as valuable as a laptop (even an older model), you don’t want to be sending that without backup documentation!

              1. Quill*

                Yes: I’m officially instructed to NOT go through outside shipping right now (even if I could, which is a different ball of wax) due to potential exposure.

                Pre-virus I had massive mail runs at least twice a week.

            2. Auntie Social*

              The company should send everyone preprinted FedEx labels and if they want their laptops back.

          2. Arts Akimbo*

            Thank you. I haven’t had a working printer in my house since the millenium turned!

            1. TimeTravlR*

              We have one little raggedy printer in a house with LOTS of devices. We use it so infrequently that the ink often dries up before it runs out…

            2. WellRed*

              +1. I also wouldn’t assume people have packing materials, especially for a laptop, just lying around. Not a fan of this answer.

        2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          In addition to everything else that was said, is a FedEx dropbox like a mailbox? If so, I’d be kind of leery of dropping sensitive equipment into a box that might be empty for all I know. Then get an email from my former employer: “We received the laptop, but it looks like you dropped it on the floor or something, it is no longer working and you owe us $$$ for damage of company equipment.” There’s not enough packaging material in anyone’s home to cushion that kind of fall. I’ll be honest, right now in my home, all I’d have available that might work for that purpose is old T-shirts, and we already need those to make face masks (oh the times we live in.)

          1. noahwynn*

            Honestly, if the laptop cannot handle the fall into a mailbox, it is unlikely to handle the drops and bumps during the sorting process or being loaded into ULDs or trucks.

            I agree though, the company should ship a box with a return label if they want the laptop back right now. They can also arrange a pickup from the person’s home once it is ready to go.

          2. LJay*

            For the laptops, they should really be providing you packing materials and instructions on how to ship it back correctly.

            Laptops often have lithium batteries in them, which are highly regulated for shipment. The ones in a single laptop are almost always small/weak enough that they do not need to be declared as hazmat/dangerous goods, however a company shipping them still has an obligation to ensure that the person shipping them is adequately informed of the dangers and how to ship them correctly and to ensure that they are shipped correctly including packaged appropriately.

            Inappropriately packaged lithium batteries can cause a fire.

            Also, there’s just the fact that it’s shitty to make someone pay to ship the company’s equipment back to them.

            1. LJay*

              Here’s the link to one of IATA’s lithium battery guidance documents. (IATA is one of the bodies that deals with shipping hazardous materials by air, including by UPS and FedEx express shipments).

              Letter C in the document outlines what a company’s obligation is when they have people shipping lithium batteries in quantities like laptops on their behalf that haven’t gone through full documented hazmat shipping training.

              https://www.iata.org/contentassets/05e6d8742b0047259bf3a700bc9d42b9/lithium-battery-guidance-document-2020.pdf

            2. Arts Akimbo*

              Ah, yes!! That’s right, they shouldn’t be shipped with the battery in. The company’s being cavalier with their “just ship them back” + no additional instructions dictum.

    2. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I think the bigger issue for OP is whether a non-emergency trip outside to deliver a package is necessary in light of a shelter in place order. I’m inclined to side with OP on this, although I fully recognize the danger that delivery people face in continuing to distribute goods and mail. Right now we need as many people as possible to limit the vectors through which they expose themselves or others to COVID. A non-emergency trip to a drop box or FedEx store, for me, is not a high enough priority to justify the public health risk.

      1. soon to be former fed really*

        Just yesterday, a young mailperson delivered my USPS mail without gloves or mask. I pointed out to her the risk she was taking and posing to the public, wondering if the USPS is not providing the gear or if she is choosing not to use it. Blew my mind. I disinfect my mail and mail slot daily, along with my hands after handling mail.

        I do have a home printer as I have been working at home exclusively for years, plus I use it for personal things too. I just made a chart of senior shopping hours to post on my refrigerator. Don’t see how folks get along without a home printer unless they use their office one when they can. In any case, this company is being unreasonable. I barely want to leave my house for food, and delivery slots are very hard to get. I would have no problem not complying withthis, besides, who has shipping materials just hanging around?

        1. ThatGirl*

          I haven’t owned a printer since my last one conked out 10 years ago. I rarely used it. And yes, my husband and I used our work printers on the rare occasions we did need one.

        2. Arctic*

          No, they are not being provided with PPE. And they are literally risking their lives to bring you mail right now even though their organization is not giving them any real support.

        3. Venus*

          I’m not sure why gloves should be required. It’s no different to using hand sanitizer, as it’s just as easy to touch one’s face with gloved hands as it is without. It makes sense for medical folks in specific situations (going from patient to patient, and not wanting to wash each time), but gloves and a mask aren’t the only options. Here the delivery people aren’t wearing anything, but they are dropping things at a distance and not interacting with anyone. It also helps that everyone has been sheltering quite effectively so our town’s risk is getting lower every day.

          I mention this in part because a relative was in line at a grocery store and the person in front of them freaked out at the poor cashier about not wearing gloves for their purchase. Despite the store cleaning everything regularly, and having plastic guards. I commented that someone with gloves could easily touch their face and contaminate groceries that way, so their complaint wasn’t rational, and really wasn’t directed to the right person. At least the cashier seemed to realize that it wasn’t personal.

          I think that they should be provided with something, but a reasonable assessment of the risks and options would be best.

          1. MusicWithRocksIn*

            Personally, for me, wearing gloves is super helpful in not touching my face. If i’m not wearing gloves and I touch my face I often don’t even notice, but if i’m wearing gloves I notice, and am much more mindful for the next ten minutes or so not to do it. I do all the other things, wash my hands after taking them off, disinfect my phone after wearing them, but the gloves have really helped me with face touching.

        4. Joielle*

          I’m pretty sure mail carriers are acutely aware of the risk they’re taking right now (being forced to take, really). They’re not being provided with PPE. No need to make her feel bad about it, it’s not her fault. If anything, you should be thanking her for providing an essential service.

        5. really?*

          Your mail carrier is already risking their life bringing you mail. The last thing they needed was a condescending speech about how awful they are for not even wearing PPE they’re not being provided.

          How about thanking them for providing a service that is getting overwhelmed right nw instead of trying to be “hero” and berating them?

        6. Eukomos*

          Even doctors and nurses are struggling to get PPE right now, where is USPS going to get sufficient amounts? Your mail carrier is well aware of the risks her job forces her to take, reminding her doesn’t do anything but give her pain. How about thanking her for the risks she’s taking so that you can get your mail next time?

      2. CL Cox*

        In some jurisdictions, police are pulling people over if they’re out driving. I’m not sure they’d agree that a trip to FedEx, work related or not, is necessary. I suspect the company pulled the language they use whenever they request equipment back, without considering the logistics.

        1. MusicWithRocksIn*

          My husband is essential and works nights, and has special paperwork they gave him to show in case he ever got pulled over going to or from work.

          1. Mama Bear*

            Same, even though right now they’re not randomly pulling people over here. If you get a speeding ticket or something and they find out you’re not on a mission, then you can be fined and/or face jail.

        1. Constance Lloyd*

          Writing the address by hand wouldn’t work for mailing a package via drop box or scheduled at-home pickup, though. The sender still needs to pay for shipping and print the purchased label.

        2. Homebody*

          I’d add that you can not have a printer for reasons besides inequality. I’m solid middle class, and I haven’t owned one for most of my adult life (mid 30s), because I needed to print so few things that it was easier to use the FedEx store printer.

          “Just print out a label” is not feasible for everyone.

          1. New Normal*

            Same. I had a printer for grad school but even then I printed so rarely that the ink would often dry out. And, of course, it wouldn’t print a black-and-White text document if the tiny magenta cartridge was too low which it ALWAYS was. So standard printing procedure was to try, curse out the machine, realize I’d forgotten to reorder ink, go to the local office supply store 15 minutes away, install cartridge, then finally print my document nearly 45 minutes and $30+ later.

            As soon as DH and I got jobs with printers that we could use for our infrequent printing needs, that home printer went to the great office in the sky.

        3. Pedant*

          The point of printing the label isn’t to put the address on, it’s to pay for the postage and have a barcode FedEx can scan. You can’t add that by hand. A printer is requirement, not a nitpick.

        4. Pescadero*

          The last statistic I saw put printer ownership slightly higher than internet access.

          Printer ownership is falling drastically – but it was falling off from a high of about 85% of US households owning a printer in 2010. Last I knew the number was still about ~75%.

          It’s not “pretty unusual”

        5. ThatGirl*

          Agree. It’s not even a matter of affording one – we could certainly afford an inexpensive printer. But we rarely used the last one we had – so much is fully digital these days. Very occasionally I’ll need to print a form for something, but I honestly can’t think of the last vital personal document I printed at work.

        6. A*

          I’m pretty sure my hand drawn stamp won’t be accepted. At the end of the day there are many potential hurdles here. Why are we trying to push for this?

        7. Matilda Jefferies*

          A bit OT, but this printer conversation is so interesting to me! My office is planning on transitioning to “paper lite” within the next couple of years, and facing a certain amount of change resistance. That was all pre-COVID, of course – right now everyone is working from home, and we’re trying to figure out what we should tell people about printing.

          Personally, I love printing! Not final copies for saving, but I always print drafts for review and comment. And of course my brain assumes that everyone else is just like me, so it’s really interesting to see how many people just don’t print at all. Thanks for the anecdata!

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I removed a bunch of comments here arguing about whether people do or don’t have printers, which started to really derail (and am closing this sub-thread).

    3. Avasarala*

      I think the reason is corona… I know I’m limiting my trips outside to essential shopping and maybe a walk (away from others) ONLY, to limit my exposure as much as possible. I don’t want to go anywhere near a big office building that might still have people inside (or might not be collecting if they’ve all left). Plus I don’t want to burden essential shipping workers with my silly package right now, when they might be shortstaffed.

      Also I take OP’s point that it’s a little hypocritical for them to refuse to ship OP’s stuff to OP, but they want their stuff back right away even at risk to OP.

      1. RUKiddingMe*

        Exactly. It’s way irresponsible and dangerous to be getting closer than absolutely necessary right now.

        I’ve been ill recently. Treating at home. Yesterday in our check in call my doctor said to go to urgent care…full stop.

        You cant get in without a symptom and fever check, so yay.

        Turns out no apparent Covid, but pneumonia which is why I wasn’t getting better on my own.

        Wish I’d known sooner and had meds sooner but I dont feel bad not exposing myself/potentislly others with a vague “not feeling well.”

    4. AvonLady Barksdale*

      I think there are a ton of reasons why that solution is impractical. It’s not a bad solution, it just requires more stuff than I think many households keep around. I don’t know anyone who has an appropriate box, packing tape, paper for stuffing, etc. around the house. Also, that box would probably not fit in a FedEx box.

      1. Fieldpoppy*

        In my city going out to mail a non essential item would violate the shelter in place rules. And not be in keeping with what it means to be a responsible citizen right now. Period. Printer or no printer, FedEx or no Fedex.

        1. MusicWithRocksIn*

          Plus, when you get down to it, who is going to be receiving these packages at the company? Is the mailroom still open? Are they going to send someone in to open them all and check that they all work? The whole idea seems super irresponsible all around.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Accurate – at my work, the mailroom (such as it was) appears to have closed a day or two *before the office did*. We all got an email to please discontinue having any personal packages shipped to our work address (apparently something people did?) because “we cannot guarantee that an employee will be on staff to sign for your package” and that was almost a month ago.

            1. Clisby*

              Yes, some people have packages shipped to work addresses. My neighborhood is plagued by porch pirates who steal packages, and I know several people who never have stuff shipped to their home anymore. (I do, but I’m at home most of the day, so usually grab any package within minutes of its being left.)

            2. MusicWithRocksIn*

              It’s common where I worked for people to ship things to the office they don’t want seen at home. Kids Christmas presents are a big one, but there is a fair amount of clothing and shoes some people don’t want their spouses to see arrive.

    5. Yorick*

      My partner had to do this to return equipment. He had to go to a fedex location because the company has an account and he could just give the equipment to fedex with an address and an account number and they would handle it. Otherwise he would’ve had to pay to ship it and/or for the packaging materials.

    6. A*

      I feel like there are a lot of assumptions that would need to be made to make this viable.

      – access to a printer
      – already have packing materials on hand, especially tricky since this is a fragile item. I for one wouldn’t have the right supplies on hand to ship a laptop
      – comfortable risking exposure at the drop box
      – willingness to take liability, presumably if they are the ones packing the laptop if it gets damaged in transit they’d be dinged. Unless I had it in writing that I would not be held liable, I wouldn’t ship it back until I could get into a store that offers packing services.

    7. TootsNYC*

      What about low- or no-contact pickup?
      If that’s not possible to arrange with FedEx or UPS, maybe they can find a courier. (My company dropped off laptops that way-though we were within two arms-lengths (his and mine), but at least it was open air with breezes.

    8. Anonymous for this*

      My partner was in this same situation. Thankfully, I bought us a printer just last week, since I obviously cannot use the ones at the office or the library any more. So we could print out the label – which, at least, the company paid for and emailed to him. But we had trouble figuring out how to arrange a pickup when we had a label not paid for by us, Fedex’s site kept wanting to charge us. The company would not pick it up or arrange a pickup.

      We used every scrap of bubble wrap we had in the house – which wasn’t much – and padded the rest of it with whatever we could find, as we didn’t want to go to the store to buy packing materials or ask on Buy Nothing as those groups are more or less shut down except for essential needs. At least we found a suitable box in the basement. Hopefully it didn’t break in transit.

      We don’t have a car so he had to wheel the very large box (as he was also loaned a monitor) to a dropoff site in our grocery cart – and people here are NOT good about keeping 6 ft distance from you on narrow city sidewalks! It is hard to dodge people quickly when pushing a cart that is full of something expensive and heavy!

      If he didn’t send it back then he wasn’t going to get his severance (a measly 2 weeks after MANY years of service, but we need it, so.), so we felt there was no choice and needed to get the stuff back as soon as we could so he could get that payment. And at first they asked him if he’d bring it back, which involves a long ride on public transportation! What is wrong with people?!

      The whole thing just really pissed us off. We already knew his company sucked but this proves it.

      1. Sparrow*

        A long ride on public transportation with a monitor, no less? I would laugh at that ask even if it wasn’t a global health crisis. The one thing I really wish I had from my office was at least one of my monitors so I’m not working just from my laptop screen, but even when I was still going into the office, it wouldn’t have been reasonable for me to drag one home on the train.

        What a mess. I’m glad y’all were able to get that taken care of, at least. And I hope they at least got the severance to you in a timely fashion.

    9. Not gonna do it. Wouldn't be prudent.*

      LW4 here. I never thought about a drop box! But even if I had, I wouldn’t have done it. Who’s to say what was in the box? They could say something was missing and it’d be my word against theirs. Not to mention I don’t want to be responsible for shipping damage if it wasn’t properly packed

  7. A New Level of Anon*

    #3: I agree with Alison re: just letting it go. The whole situation sounds jarring, but as you said, people are stressed in probably unprecedented ways and it’s liable to leak out in new and potentially unprofessional ways.

    Also, now is really not the time to make higher-ups question if she’s a problem employee over what sounds like a one-off. Doing so could inadvertently ruin her career; your employer have a very low BS tolerance right now with everything that’s going on and little is stopping them from using a minor interpersonal snafu as justification to lighten their payroll a bit.

  8. Cafe au Lait*

    Dear OP #5, I disagree with you. I love that you’re making masks. I hate very much that home sewists are now front-line warriors making shields from whatever goods they can find.

    If your husbands peers want to pay, let them. Or your husband’s company pays. Your time is valuable and please don’t discount the hard work and skill it takes into sewing. Sewing masks for a faceless person in need is very different than sewing for people you know.

    I sew and I haven’t been able to make masks. I’m so angry that sewists are being asked, nay, EXPECTED to fill in the critical gaps. It’s emotional labor of the highest order and nothing will change when this ends. We’ll get pats on the head and told to get back to work. Oh, and why didn’t you use your time to develop your skill set like Danny Everyman did?

    I urge you to reconsider your stanch on sewing for free. It’s still work and you deserve to be compensated for your time and talent.

    1. MK*

      I am sure you mean well, but this is pretty condescending to the OP. She has stated that she doesn’t believe in charging for the masks during the pandemic; advising her to value her time and talent is both tonedeaf and belittling. I am sorry that sewists are under societal pressure to make masks for free, but the OP doesn’t say that is her situation, and trying to talk her out of volunteering her services during a crisis is basically the same thing in the opposite direction.

      1. Eng*

        I really don’t agree with this. We’re in a crisis situation and it’s noble for folks to help when they can. Effective top-down coordination of paying folks to make masks would be nice but we don’t have that. The LW’s masks could at best save lives, and at the very least will surely help some people feel less anxious which is a very worthy goal as well. No one should be pressureded to work for free but this is not the time to pressure people out of helping each other as they see fit.

    2. Random IT person*

      OP indicated she wishes to donate them.
      Not sell them for profit.

      In times like these – normal people want to contribute in any way they can.
      Staying at home to protect others.
      Create masks or improvides PPE for others.
      Create online courses, music lessons etc. for kids

      I believe – as MK does – that you are either missing the point, or are being condescending to OP.
      She wants to contribute / help in a way she can – so let her.

      (I do agree that you could tell them the cost of material, though. If nothing else, it gives these people that give you a donation also a feeling of helping out a bit.. and the feeling of ‘doing your part’ is priceless)

      1. Chinook*

        Ditto. I am waiting on an approved pattern (because they are so many different ones) from the city volunteer coordinator to send out to my volunteer group to make. We are a bunch of church ladies sitting idle , which is unnatural for us because we want to help. Even among those who know this is in process, I have had offers of wanting to cut the fabric as they can’t sew. I know people will go though their stashes for material to donate and even non-crafters may offer up old sheets if asked.

        People just want to do something useful because staying at home doesn’t feel useful because this is the first time in our lives that we have been asked to do nothing. It is so counterintuitive that I bet we could ask our people for anything at the moment and we would get it (which i why I am waiting on an approved pattern – it would be disheartening for our actions to be useless or throen away).

        1. Jules of the River*

          Don’t wait! Masks of any pattern are being accepted by many hospitals, nursing homes, etc. I’m pretty sure offering them up on Nextdoor or Craigslist for free would get you some very grateful takers as well!

    3. Batgirl*

      No reasonable person expects free labour just because someone has a timely skill, and anyone pressuring you needs to fuck the fuck off.
      That’s a completely different situation from the one OP is in however; she’s an adult who can decide for herself whether to donate or charge for her time.

      1. Chinook*

        Yup – it is the difference between offering a donation vs. one demanding money from you.

    4. OP #6*

      Cafe au Lait, I understand your indignation, but I’m fine sewing for free in this particular case. I have the time (and the disposable income) to spend on this, and it’s gifted me a great distraction from my anxiety. For what it’s worth, I don’t think you were being condescending at all though.

      1. Yevette*

        I think you have the right attitude. Also in case anyone is interested Joann Fabrics has several different mask patterns including one that doesn’t require a sewing machine.

        1. RabbitRabbit*

          The CDC as well, including instructions sewing masks plus for no-sew masks like cutting up a T-shirt into a tie-on mask, and for using a bandanna, coffee filter, and ponytail holders for another no-sew option.

        2. Jayn*

          They’re also giving out materials to make masks. It’s limited supplies but if you have the time and skill, they can provide the rest.

          1. GigglyPuff*

            That’s practically a giant scam by JoAnn’s so they get declared essential. And after this whole thing, they’re on the top of my list of never shopping there again.

              1. Curmudgeon in California*

                Ditto.

                Also, it isn’t a scam.

                If professional masks aren’t available to the everyday person, but we all need to wear masks, then providing materials used to make masks is kinda essential. That’s an essential business. It helps people stay safe.

            1. Eukomos*

              What, do you think they forced the CDC to recommend everyone wear cloth masks? In this situation, they are essential. Seems unfair to be mad at them for what, not being humble enough about it?

              1. KinderTeacher*

                According to reporting on BuzzfeedNews, Joann’s employees have talked about how they are not using the kinds of fabric that are recommended (high thread count, 100% cotton) b/c they’ve run out, they’re out of the interfacing material that was supposed to serve as a filter layer between fabric layers in their pattern, out of elastic, etc. And have been out of some of those supplies since the earliest days of the mask kits which are billed as things people can pick up for free to make and donate to hospitals, but without the materials to meet guidelines hospitals have set, employees have questioned the intentions of the company. The plans for the kits were also apparently thrust on the stores without warning. Employees in Buzzfeed’s reporting speculated that the kits were a way to get stores declared essential so that parents now stuck at home with kids could keep coming in and buying craft supplies, etc. So it’s a whole thing, not just a the CDC recommended cloth masks and Joann’s sells fabric thing.

      2. EPLawyer*

        I am right there with you. I am sewing the masks. Fortunately I have plenty of stash AND am still working so have money to pay for the elastic. Several people I have made them for have offered to pay, I have said no. If they want to make a donation to Covid Relief, they can. But right now, with so many people NOT working, I really don’t want them to worry about even the small cost of a mask. But again, I am in a position where I can afford to not even need donations. If you want to ask for donations, go for it.

      3. Caroline Bowman*

        you are amazing to be doing this, and you will, if recent research is anything to go by, be making a genuine contribution to slowing the spread of this awful virus.

        Asking for donations towards material is a gracious way to allow people to contribute if they are able. I like the idea of saying ”XY$ buys this number of masks”, while making it clear that it is not required at all. You could go further and say that if you get a lot of donations, as in, too many to make the corresponding number of masks, you will be making a donation to Such-and-such local charity.

        All the best to you!

        1. Chinook*

          This. If you can’t sew and don’t have a stash of materials but do have money to support someone else’s efforts, this is a good thing.

      4. Quill*

        I feel kind of bad about this situation because I can sew but do not have the equipment to make anything beyond my bandanna for personal use. But this time last year, when I had access to a sewing machine, I could have churned these suckers out. (I was also unemployed at the time, so…)

      5. Iris Eyes*

        While I absolutely agree, if big business is allowed to have bidding wars over their products I think it is absolutely fair for those who make reusable masks to be compensated as well. Here’s an idea that might work. What if people got the chance to help you in your work? You could sell masks at a price that would cover the materials for two masks and let them know that when they purchase one they are helping to create another one that will be donated. You could also accept donations of needed materials in lieu of payment, that way you could spend more time sewing and less time trying to get supplies.

      6. Amber T*

        I just want to say thank you for doing what you’re doing. I’m seeing local people charge $10, $15, even $30 for homemade sewn masks, and it just rubs me the wrong way. On the one hand, I get that self-employed individuals need to stay afloat, and no one should feel like they *have* to use their skills for free. On the other hand, there are definitely some that sound like they’re taking advantage of the pandemic. All that aside, I think it’s perfectly fine and well to ask for donations to help cover costs.

      7. kt*

        I’m feeling the same way. Being able to make the masks is a bit therapeutic. My spouse is a frontline medical worker. I can’t do anything to help them in their job except small things like this.

        And here’s where I’m at on money vs free: if you’re immunocompromised, no problem giving you a mask free. If you’re a friend, free if you want but see below. If you’re a health care worker, retail worker, need to go out to serve others in any way, free. If you’re laid off or low-income, free. If you’re rich, pay me money — the money helps pay for the fabric, and then I’m not competing with people who need money who are making masks to sell.

        I consider myself very well off, frankly, looking at the range of incomes and situations in the US. I don’t begrudge *anyone* in my community selling fabric masks for money — for the tailors in town no longer doing hemming and alterations, for the women who know how to sew but are laid off from their food-service jobs, for all those folks, this can be a bit of cash to offset the effects of unemployment. I don’t want to undercut these folks either.

    5. snarkalupagus*

      I’m spending today making masks for my own company. They’re paying for half my time and I’m using PTO for the other half (fortunate and so grateful to be working). I’ve also had friends and family ask for masks and I’ve asked them to pay it forward by donating whatever they can/wish to a COVID-19 focused charity, a food bank, or an animal shelter, on the honor system. Would that be a solution?

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        Strictly speaking and depending on jurisdiction, there could be a tax liability on any “income” for this kind of work, whereas if the recipient simply provides the materials or makes a donation to a suitable charity it wouldn’t. I know people who think the odd ten bucks of additional income not worth the paperwork.

        (disclaimer: in my country most people with an employer don’t have to file a tax return, but those who have income from this kind of side hustle would have to)

        1. TardyTardis*

          In the US, you can make a profit of up to $400 before having to file Schedule C (the self-employment one). Gross income can be reduced to net profits by costs (like the cost of the materials), depreciation on the sewing machine, and a number of legitimate expense, see the IRS website for examples, since I think various circulars on Fun With Schedule C are on there.

    6. A nonnie non*

      Personally I don’t think anyone is forced to do anything. A lot of people who sew, sewing and find it therapeutic. I know I and it sounds like that’s the case for LW. I really don’t think anyone is expected to sew anything. But those that find themselves with the time and energy to make masks are doing their part to help.

      1. A*

        Seriously. I hope they just had a moment of over reacting, cause otherwise it sounds like they are deeply unhappy and projecting in a way that isn’t indicative of good things.

        1. JustaTech*

          The mask sewing thing has turned out to have a lot of stress/drama in it. There are several very large groups coordinating, but within those groups there is a lot of disagreement about the right pattern, right materials, what’s “good enough” (surger vs regular machine vs hand sewing).
          I think a lot of it is just an outlet for everyone’s stress, especially when you’re making masks for health care providers, so the stakes are high. I think that’s where Cafe au Lait is coming from.

          Right now I’m just making masks for family, friends and coworkers, because there aren’t specific pattern requirements.
          (Wash your mask every time you wear it!)

          1. OP #6*

            I’ve seen that in the mask making groups too, and it’s probably why I didn’t read into Cafe au Lait’s comment too personally.

    7. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Your outrage is a little unnecessary here. If you don’t want to do it, then don’t. But it’s clear from OP’s letter that she wants to help.

      1. pbnj*

        I guess I’m the only one not reading their reply this way. It’s understandable to be frustrated at the situation. It is crazy that now we are expected to make our own masks. It’s also ok to remind folks that when they are providing something (much like a freelancer), that it’s ok to ask for $ if they want to. The LW states that the $ will help them pay for fabric for more donations, so why not charge?

    8. MusicWithRocksIn*

      My brother and sister in law who’s income usually depends on going to lots of events and conventions are getting by, by making and selling those old timey plague masks that look like creepy birds, for people who want a more *dramatic* end of the world I’m going to the grocery store kind of look. I’m just super grateful they found a way to generate income right now, but what they are doing is a far cry from a simple cotton mask.

    9. Spencer Hastings*

      It’s not emotional labor, it’s *labor*. Which people are entitled to donate to a good cause if they so choose.

    10. A*

      Wow. This took me by surprise. In my mind it’s no different than the overall request that has been made in most impacted countries that everyone that can help out, should. Whatever that means to them based on their skill sets etc.

      Yes people who are able and willing to sew masks are being asked to help out, but how is that any different than the request that anyone who is not in a vulnerable group and has time/transportation availability help out their community doing supply runs etc? Gosh, I’m just happy to help out in this situation. I can’t even imagine getting all hot and bothered about ‘expectations’.

      Discouraging volunteer work is 100% not the answer. I think you have a lot of thoughts/feelings you need to sort through that are being projected here.

      Take care.

    11. Ana Gram*

      As a volunteer EMT, I have to disagree. I appreciate that the OP wants to contribute in this way. Volunteering in the face of adversity is a really neat thing to see, especially right now. Are folks who hold food drives or run domestic violence hotlines or mentor kids doing emotional labor? I think we volunteers are doing something really satisfying and making use of skills and talents that would otherwise go to waste.

      There’s no need to tell the OP to feel devalued by not charging. She’s made the choice for herself and I think Alison’s advice is spot on.

      1. Marillenbaum*

        That’s a really good point. Friends of mine in Baltimore are volunteering to make PPE kits for staff at local hospitals. My dad is checking in on his elderly neighbors. As horrible as it is that our governmental response has been so poor, it remains encouraging to see people looking to give what they can.

    12. TurtleIScream*

      I went through the museum under the Solider & Sailor monument in downtown Indianapolis a few years back. I normally don’t care at all about military history, but my friends wanted to go. I was struck by letters from mothers and friends to their soldiers listing some of the uniform pieces they had made and sent. Of course, none of us want to return to days when the government did not adequately provide for military members, but I was struck at the sense of community and camaraderie. I feel like these are similar circumstances. Regular people not on the front lines want to be involved and support others as much as they possibly can. We can be both disappointed in government response, and proud of people like OP 5.

      1. TardyTardis*

        Let’s not talk about the ceramic plates that families had to send to their sons and daughters during the Gulf War and say we did.

    13. Curmudgeon in California*

      So, I sew masks. I have a giant fabric stash.

      For my friends and family, all I ask is $5 per – that covers the cost of materials (fabric, interfacing, elastic, triglides for elastic, thread) plus a small amount toward my time.

      If I sold them they would be $15 or $20 – they take about an hour to make, from cut, iron interfacing, inside seam, wire insert, turn, topstitch wire, pin pleats, sew pleats and finish topstitch.

      If they’re someone who matters to you, yes, free or discounted. Random strangers? Charge them a reasonable rate.

      For reference, one of my coworkers paid $20 for a single use N95 mask. A washable cotton mask with non-woven interface and a nose wire is worth at least that.

  9. Aggretsuko*

    #1: Maybe just mark emails from them as spam?

    #2: Now that everyone has Zoom meetings instead, you can turn off the camera (or just dial in to staff meetings). Lord knows I have been crying in meetings, but nobody’s known about it!

    But I concur with Alison that you can’t ask people to stop announcing happy news in public. It won’t fly.

  10. Karol*

    Actually, I think #6’s husband can’t say his wife will make masks for people IF they donate.

    I think he can say my wife will make you a mask. BTW, she’s accepting donations to cover the cost of fabric and thread. $$ will cover the fabric for XX masks.

    1. Hrovitnir*

      Well, he can, just some people may not like the phrasing. Honestly, I would waive the soft language and say this is the price for materials and I’m donating my time – there is no need to feel bad for not being able to afford to buy the fabric for masks, and even donating your time is likely to lead to people demanding a lot of you, so take care of yourself!

    2. Venus*

      I’m pretty sure that the OP and Alison aren’t expecting a donation from everyone. Some people have asked to give money to the OP in exchange for their work and materials (very reasonable) and it would be easier for the OP and husband if they could respond with something reasonable. In this case it would be “If you would like to donate, then know that $X covers the material costs for 5 masks, so you can contribute toward helping others too.” I don’t expect this line to be used with everyone, just those who insist on contributing.

      1. The Rural Juror*

        If they state a suggested donation, I’m sure some people will want to donate more than that. If $X covers 5 masks, someone might want to donate twice that, while others might not have the disposable income at this point. The OP feels like they’re contributing, keeping themselves busy, and easing their anxiety. It may help some of the recipients of the masks to also ease their anxiety to donate to this cause where they know exactly how the money and materials are being spent and used. I think you’ve hit the nail on the head by saying “just those who insist on contributing.” That way there’s no pressure! OP, keep up the good work!

  11. Red*

    LW6:
    My coworker’s friend is making masks. She’s donating the bulk of them but also offering 5 masks for $5 for anyone who WANTS to laybfor the mask.

    Another sewing friend is making masks everyday primarily for donation but she’s selling custom themed masks (like masks made with Marvel themed fabric) for people at a marked up price to help cover the cost of more fabric and supplies to make the donated masks.

    1. User 483*

      That’s the standard I’ve seen among those who make masks — they donate to hospitals, fire departments, and others working on the front line. Then they charge a couple dollars or so for people with a less urgent need.

    2. Blueberry*

      We should have a thread (Friday? Saturday?) of people who are making and selling/accepting donations for masks from the general public.

  12. Kat*

    #3 I think it’s worth cutting the paralegal some slack. I can see why you would be surprised and upset by her e-mail, and her behaviour does come across as a bit odd. However, just about everything going on is a bit odd right now. There might also be some other context to this situation that you are unaware of. Unless it’s a pattern, assume her stress was getting the better of her and let it go.

    1. Allonge*

      Yes, this – if it’s a one-off think of it as ‘giving one away’ by taking a deep breath and letting it go. If someone is anxious / in a bad place emotionally, a breath transmitted by a shoddy microphone can sound like a laugh, and sometimes people just don’t have the self-control not to bring it up.

      Another consideration is that if this is not a pattern, the easiest way to prevent it from becoming a real issue is to ignore it. If you / anyone reponds and questions her experience, she might feel even more attacked. In general, ignoring a problem is not necessarily a good idea, but sometimes it works!

      That said, if this were to continue, that is a different matter, so by no means take this as ‘go with it forever’.

      1. Mongrel*

        “Yes, this – if it’s a one-off think of it as ‘giving one away’ by taking a deep breath and letting it go. If someone is anxious / in a bad place emotionally, a breath transmitted by a shoddy microphone can sound like a laugh, and sometimes people just don’t have the self-control not to bring it up.”
        It could also be background noises. We’ve just finished our team meeting and had at least two people making cups of tea during it, a decent headset picks up a lot of stuff that may seem inconsequential to users especially they have noise cancelling switched on.
        Headsets can also make it hard to discern where the offending noise was coming from, again noise-cancelling can make it weird, it could also have been something at their end (You Tube, TV, someone outside the open window) that wa then misinterpreted as being from the call.

      2. MusicWithRocksIn*

        Plus you never know what is going on in the background at someone’s house that they could be laughing at. Meetings are boring, and it’s way more likely that someone’s kid did something weird or cute or the dog did something adorable or their husband got his hoodie stuck in a door or something. If I laugh in a meeting its way more likely something happened at my house that caught me by surprise than me laughing at the rundown of last quarters lama data.

        1. Amy Sly*

          the rundown of last quarters lama data.

          We’re not getting enough profits from meditation, people! This is serious!

          And one more joke:

          A one-l lama is a Buddhist.
          A two-l llama is a pack animal.
          A three-l ‘lama’ is a big fire in Boston.

          1. JustaTech*

            Clearly Ogden Nash owes you a pair of silk pajamas!
            (A one-l lama is a priest,
            A two -l llama is a beast.
            But I’ll bet you my silk pajamas,
            You’ve never seen a three-l lllama!)

        2. LJay*

          Yeah.

          When I worked in an Old Time Photo studio we had a couple bad reviews from people who were convinced we were laughing at them for being ugly after they walked in the door to look at our photo books.

          I 100% know that that never once happened.

          We had fun at that job. So we probably were laughing at something – a joke or anecdote from a coworker, one of us acting goofy in costume, something one of our customers said about one of their photos, a new prop idea, etc.

          But it was never at a person who had just walked in the door or about someone’s appearance.

        3. Ellllle*

          I mean if that’s the case they should be muting their audio so their giggles aren’t heard. It would be considered rude to laugh at something unrelated in an in-person meeting, so it should be avoided in VC meetings. Honestly this has been happening to me a lot during calls where I’m presenting and its distracting and rude. I really sympathized with this person even though I think it was a bit dramatic to send an email about it.

          Also if someone was like “well this meeting is boring so I’m not paying attention to it anyway” idk if that would help me feel much better haha

  13. Rectilinear Propagation*

    LW #1 – Have a hearty laugh and then stop reading work emails.

    LW #3 – It’s possible that she did hear laughing, just not from the meeting. It could have been people from outside or audio from another room that she misheard. I think it’s also likely that she didn’t mean laughing literally and that she thought she heard something disparaging. I wouldn’t see this as low self-esteem or anything like that unless this is a regular thing she does.

    LW #6 – There’s a comment farther up arguing that you should just be paid. I do think that either way they make a good point that your time is valuable and you should make sure that gets respected. If you tell your husband to tell them you can make them, make sure he also makes it clear how many you’re willing to make for non-charity reasons at a time and how long it takes you to make them.

    You don’t want a situation where a bunch of people expect you to somehow how churn out hundreds of masks in a couple of days.

    1. TimeTravlR*

      I absolutely temper expectations in my mask making. If someone who is not a HCP requests one or more, I let them know about how long it will take as my focus is churning them out for medical facilities. Everyone has been incredibly understanding. (And I guess if they weren’t then they would get to wait even longer!!)

    2. EvilQueenRegina*

      Yes, this! I remember once at my old job, someone had called to complain about something. While I was taking this call, my coworker burst out laughing after she had swivelled back in her chair and collided with another coworker as he got up to go to the printer. The caller heard the laugh and thought she was the butt of the joke, which just made her angrier and she asked to bring that up with our manager. She took a lot of convincing that that was just unrelated background noise. I can quite easily see something like background laughter happening on this call.

        1. LJay*

          Yeah, my husband burst out laughing loudly yesterday. (He and his coworkers were goofing around on a Zoom call. Husband put our dog on camera with a headset on in place of himself, which apparently delighted one of his coworker’s kids who loudly exclaimed “OMG you have a DOG on your team?!” which husband thought was the funniest thing ever.

          I take all my conference calls on mute, but if I didn’t someone would definitely have heard him laughing in the background of my call. We’re in a 700 sq foot apartment. When both of us are on calls there is going to be some cross-noise happening.

    3. JSPA*

      #3 can clear the air (and encourage coworker to reconsider presumptions) by saying,

      “you may have heard my neighbor’s kids [my spouse, neighbor’s TV, etc] through the window / the door / the wall. They [he / she / it] can be loud. I’ve learned to tune it out to the point where I don’t even notice it. If there’s laughter or any other noise that’s loud to the point of being distracting, shoot me a message and if it’s my background, I’ll mute. I’m probably not the only one in this situation, though.”

      This statement is true for just about anyone who doesn’t live in a hermetically sealed environment. So it’s not even a “white lie.”

  14. Marion Ravenwood*

    Re: LW2 – firstly, I’m so sorry for you loss.

    I agree with Alison that it’s perfectly reasonable to ask for a heads-up or to be allowed to slip out -maybe if the announcements are put to the end of the meeting as part of ‘any other business’. Or just turn off the camera, but then I guess you still have to hear it… I do think a full on ban on baby topics might be a bit much though.

    That said, don’t assume that your boss has your co-workers’ permission. I’ve been in meetings in previous jobs where directors announced colleagues’ pregnancies, and said colleagues looked visibly uncomfortable with it. This boss was just one of those sorts of people – she was obviously thrilled for my colleagues and just wanted to share the news – but although it was well-meaning it did feel a bit out of line. Personally I’m of the view that the only person ‘announcing’ a pregnancy, at work or otherwise, should be the pregnant person or their partner (and even ‘announcing’ it doesn’t mean a big ‘ta-da!’ moment, it can just be a private conversation with a select few who need to know, or who you want to tell. And by that logic, people shouldn’t ask you if you’re pregnant either, even if they suspect it).

    1. Milk of Amnesia*

      Sorry for your loss, nothing can compare to the loss of a pregnancy. It is hard hearing the about new pregnancies when you are still grieving about yours. But, unfortunately pregnancies do happen and you will to learn some coping strategies to deal with it. Where I work now we do not do official announcements but everyone is told eventually as they cannot be assigned certain work due to exposure to harmful teratogenic substances.
      I got engaged and my finance passed away. At that time pretty much everyone was getting married and I heard the announcements and saw the happy the happy people and hated every moment of it. I had to learn coping mechanisms. It was hard, but it had to get done so I could function without the thought of ripping that ring off their finger. It took time. Find some support, talk to someone, talk to your supervisor to get a heads up, find out what you need to do to meet your needs to accept what happened. You do not have to like the acceptance, but youu just have to understand it.

      1. Meredith*

        I’ve been through therapy to deal with recurrent pregnancy loss. I think there’s a misunderstanding that something like that makes it easier emotionally or dulls the pain over time. It doesn’t. The OP isn’t asking to never have to feel those emotions – you learn in therapy that sometimes feeling the grief is good – but to have to avoid those feelings at work, in front of all of her colleagues, where everyone can see her reaction, when there are other options, like being told in advance, or potentially skipping that meeting if it’s feasible.

      2. Valancy Snaith*

        There is a lot of misconception around this. No one, least of all OP2, is asking that people do not announce at all. It’s entirely plausible that announcements be moved to the end of a meeting, or that she gets a heads-up beforehand so she can miss just that part. No one is ever saying that no one can announce joyful, happy things. Infertile people are not stupid, we know that other people’s lives go on. But if a company can alter one small thing to make a person’s work life much easier to manage…it’s possible, and it’s a kind thing to do.

  15. TimeTravlR*

    If #4’s former employer really wants the equipment back, they could send everyone a prepaid shipping label and the UPS/FedEx/USPS could pick it up at the former employees’ doors.

    1. Pescadero*

      Yep…

      This is what Dish/DirecTV do when you need to return equipment. They mail you an empty, pre-labeled, shipping box with appropriate packing material.

    2. (Former) HR Expat*

      This is what we do. We print out the label, put a box together for the person, then enclose it in a larger box. Everything is pre-labeled and includes packing materials. We also put a note in there that they can schedule a pickup at their home. FedEx boxes don’t need packing tape, generally. They have adhesive already on them.

  16. TimeTravlR*

    #6- Thanks for your letter. I am in the exact same position. I don’t want to charge, but I could use fabric donations (and elastic…. does anyone have elastic!?!?!?! LOL). I had one person insist on giving me a large donation but for the most part, I just need supplies. If I am mailing the finished masks I do allow some people to cover the cost of mailing but I have eaten a lot of that cost too for family and friends in the healthcare field. It worries me no end to have them out there without everything they need.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I hear people are using seam binding instead and it’s actually a little more comfortable.

      1. EPLawyer*

        I made exactly ONE mask with ties and hated it. Soooo much bulk. Elastic — quilt shops have some. Google around. One well known quilter who used to have her own PBS show and has dozens of books has SPOOLS of the stuff.

        When people ask me if they can pay me, I say no, I’m using up my stash which makes my hubby happy. It’s a funny way to deflect. But there is NOTHING WRONG with asking for donations.

      2. Chinook*

        Could you try finger crocheted string or wool? It is what my grandmother used on mitts to keep them from getting lost (think long string through both arms and over the back on the inside of a coat) because it wa thin and had some spring. Baby wool is machine washable and soft.

      3. Curmudgeon in California*

        It takes 2 yards of bias tape to make the ties for one mask. One of those little bundles of 3 yards costs about $3. Expensive. Shoelaces would be cheaper (a pair of 36″ cut in half).

        We had some 3/8 elasatic and triglides around, so I can make masks with adjustable, around the head elastic.

        The other style I scored a couple spools of round elastic off of Amazon before they ran out. The masks still take 24″.

    2. OP #6*

      Seriously, the world was not prepared for the increased demand in elastic!! I’ve given up on finding any, so I’m making mask ties instead. It’s sooo time consuming, but I do feel like they’ll be more durable in the long run. I’m part of a local mask maker group on fb, and someone posted a 3D printed jig recently that folds the fabric strip for you while you feed it into the sewing machine. It’s going to be an absolute game changer if I get my hands on one.

      1. Carlie*

        There is no elastic. I tried to get a bit ahead and order some over two weeks ago, and I was already too late. Same with bias tape.
        I read someone say they are using elastic from fitted sheets, but it’s sewn in awfully tight and not easily removed. Recently heard someone using strips of ace bandages, might try. I did grab a bunch of elastic headbands at the dollar store, which sort of work (if a bit spangly… )

        1. Partly Cloudy*

          I don’t think spangly is a bad thing. Anything that brings a smile is welcome these days. I made a couple of those no-sew masks with bandannas and rubber bands (I was spring cleaning and found two bandannas and a nice stockpile of rubber bands – who knew how convenient that would turn out to be). Anyway, one of the bandannas has the phrase “Blaze Your Trail” printed on the edge – I got it at a conference many years ago – so I folded it to make sure that would be the display when I wear the mask. Kind of looking forward to grocery shopping with it, not gonna lie.

        2. Anne of Green Gables*

          I’ve also heard that if you have bungee cords, you can cut them open and they are full of elastic. I have not tried this; I’ve been using the bias binding I already owned. (Have not made many)

        3. Quill*

          A thousand burst hair ties that I ruthlessly discarded over the years are standing over my shoulder, ghost-like, moaning “you could have recycled us!”

          1. JustaTech*

            I’ve made so much bias tape (ugh, my iron and I have started to be fused together) and I think “this, this will be enough” and then poof, it’s gone in 5 masks.
            Far and away the most time consuming part of making masks.

            1. Curmudgeon in California*

              Yeah, we made some, and decided that it was not cost effective in terms of time.

      2. Anne of Green Gables*

        OP #6: one of the quilting blogs I read regularly had instructions for making a folding board for the pleats out of a cereal box. I haven’t tried it but it looks like it makes that step much faster. Blog name is “Pretty Piney”

        1. TimeTravlR*

          I saw that but my method is to fold the fabric in thirds and press. Then hold the pressed line and pull slight down to make the first pleat. Work my way from bottom to top and then press again. Then I stitch the sides to tack. It sounds harder than it is and really fast!

        2. HQB*

          I believe OP #6 is talking about a completely different folding mechanism; she is hoping for a bias-tape maker to fold the raw edges of straps over.

          1. Anne of Green Gables*

            Ah, HQB, I bet you are right! I’ve considered getting a bias tape maker a few times and bet one would be really useful right now….

            1. Curmudgeon in California*

              We have one, but it still requires standing over an ironing board to use. Tedious.

      3. New Normal*

        My first sewing machine was my grandmother’s and I think she owned every foot available for it. And each one was brand-new since she didn’t actually like sewing. Among the haul were two bias binding feet and, when I could get them to work (they required some patience and care, both of which 20yo me lacked), they were amazing. Unfortunately that machine died a dramatic death and the feet aren’t compatible with my new machine. Most of the time it’s fine but right now I’m missing those feet.

        I do have a bias-binding maker that folds the fabric strips for pressing and that would be so helpful…. if I could find it.

        1. Ktelzbeth*

          That submitted before I was entirely done. The link for the 3D printed jig would be extremely helpful, since I know how to hand make straps, but find it fiddly, boring, and time consuming.

      4. Witty Nickname*

        I found elastic on ebay. I had to click into a lot of listings until I found one that would ship immediately, but I managed to find it. That was a couple weeks ago though (it was a 200 yard spool of it so I’m set for elastic forever now), but it might still be worth looking there if you haven’t already.

        I’ve been making masks for friends (there are a lot of local groups making them for health care workers, but now everyone has been ordered to wear masks if they need to make an essential trip in my area so we all need them) and last night I cut out enough to make a couple of them for each of the dieticians and cafeteria staff at one of our local hospitals. I’m not taking payment for any of them since I’m using up stash quilting fabric, so the only financial investment I’ve had to make is for the elastic. I just got a new sewing machine, and would be spending my time sewing anyway. But people want to pay, so I’ve asked them to make donations to a charity I support that would normally be in their biggest fundraising campaign of the year right now. I have also accepted payment of gin and citrus fruit from their trees. :)

        I haven’t looked for bias tape makers online since all this started, but they are a common quilter’s tool. Just search for “bias tape maker” (i just did a quick search on etsy and see several, but haven’t clicked into the listing to see if they are available now or will ship in a month like a lot of things). I have metal ones, and they work great.

    3. Ali G*

      Someone posted on my NextDoor with a genius idea – bungee cords are full of elastic strips! If you have some or can get a few there is tons of elastic inside.

    4. Miss May*

      I found that a specific type of hair band works nicely. They’re the ones that are basically 1/2 inch elastic that are tied off? When they first became popular, I was dumbfounded because I was like, this is just elastic that you can buy at a craft store! Just with glitter on it! If that makes any sense at all. Good luck!

    5. TimeTravlR*

      I have used everything under the sun! Elastic hair bands, binding tape, made my own ties (fold, press, fold, press… ugh!). Now I use strips of jersey knit. Much less work and very soft and also a bit stretchy!

    6. greenius*

      My mom has been making masks too, and allll the stores seem to be out of elastic. So instead, she’s using dollar store headbands. They’re made of the same material as hair ties, just a little wider.

      1. Mr. Shark*

        That’s smart! I have an old fitted sheet that I was about to throw away. I’ll pull the elastic from it and make my own mask.

    7. BusyBee*

      A local person is making masks, and she sent out a notice for elastic and leftover fabric. She’s also providing them for free, but accepting donations. I thought it was a nice way to handle it, and extremely generous of her. I made a monetary donation, but also found some 1980s elastic in my grandma’s sewing kit that I found in the basement :)

        1. BusyBee*

          Shockingly it seemed fine! I gave it a little tug and it was springy. No weird discoloration or anything, either. I was really surprised.

          1. Arts Akimbo*

            I think storage in cool environments like basements keeps elastic from going bad for a longer time. What a lucky find!

  17. Fikly*

    #1: I’d approach this from AAM’s excellent standard phrasing when companies are asking employees to do something illegal. Phrase it as if of course they don’t want you to do something illegal. Working unpaid is illegal – and they will get in a lot of trouble for it! So of course they don’t want that to happen!

    1. Dave*

      I had someone tell me they were “volunteering” While they were laid off. This person is defacto HR and payroll. The company where they were “volunteering” is for-profit in the US.

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Honestly unless they were being sent to OP’s personal email, I’d play dumb. I mean, I have been laid off twice in the past and my access was immediately removed, so even if I wanted to check email I couldn’t check it. So I wouldn’t have even attempted it.

      1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

        A lot of part time or front line jobs do send emails to people’s personal email, though. Many of the places I worked wouldn’t issue those titles an employee email.

        It’s tricky because on the one hand, you don’t want people working off the clock but you also want people who work evenings, weekends, early mornings, or are subs to be aware of what’s going on so they aren’t blindsided the next time they’re in.

        1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

          It isn’t tricky though. Being “off the clock” implies you’ve taken time off or it’s not your day to work. In that case, reading emails or staying up to date isn’t as big of a deal. The OP was let go, as in, they no longer have a job, and they shouldn’t be expected to do any work (not to mention it would probably have legal ramifications if they did).

          1. Fikly*

            +100

            It’s not tricky even when employed. Unless something is such an emergency that it cannot wait until they next are on the clock (and there is a high threshold for that) they do need to know. And if they are reading work emails while off the clock – regardless of what email they are sent to – they are working unpaid, which, again, is illegal.

    3. Junimo the Hutt*

      I offered this advice to a cousin whose company won’t keep calling and texting him with questions on how to do the job he was laid off from. An uncle condescendingly told me why this was a bad idea and that “No, he should be a good soldier.”

      A good soldier gets paid. (Though I do understand it’s a tightrope to walk in hopes of getting your job back, etc. etc. But still!)

      1. TootsNYC*

        a good soldier is serving their country!
        For the good of all their fellow citizens. And in exchange for any benefits that being a member of the country’s society and citizenry offer him.

        An employer is not a country to whom you owe loyalty.

        1. Fikly*

          Everyone who is being told that they will get anything back (their jobs, their original salary, benefits, etc) needs to get that in writing, signed in blood, because the past tells us that this often does not happen outside of crisis times, nevermind now.

          I don’t understand why so many people seem to think the majority of companies are going to do what they say. Even assuming the best of intentions – and I sure don’t – who knows if they will be able to?

          1. Athome44*

            I don’t even have confidence my employer can remain in business should this go a couple months. I could easily see a short sale taking place. I think there will be many changes implemented across the industry.

        2. James*

          From a military history perspective, that hasn’t been the case since somewhere around the late Renaissance. Sure, many people do join up for patriotic reasons–maybe even most. But the reality is that modern warfare requires professional soldiers, and professionals require payment. There were a lot of debates and arguments in the past about the efficacy of a paid military–the term “mercenary” was tossed about quite freely–but in the end professional armies won the day.

          There’s a great story about the American Civil War. A European general was asked what he thought of the war. The USA followed the older “volunteer soldiers serving their country in a time of need” model, while Europe had moved into the “professional, career soldiers augmented by conscripts” model. The European general said (paraphrasing) “I don’t follow that war. I have no interest in the actions of untrained rabble.” In WWI the Allies wouldn’t let American units enter combat themselves for a while–they didn’t trust USA soldiers, since they were, by European standards, untrained and wildly undisciplined.

          This isn’t just me saying that, either. Whole books have been written on this. I like Albion’s “Introduction to Military History” myself, though it’s hard to find.

          The relevance here is that if you don’t pay soldiers, you don’t HAVE soldiers. Expecting any professional to work without pay is immoral, amounting to nothing more than theft. And people respond appropriately.

  18. Rexish*

    #6 as part of my hobby we volunteer at a few events and provide coffee and a muffins etc.. We have noticed over the years that people give more money if we ask for voluntary donation than if we were selling the coffee. Could there be a donation jar or something to make it less direct?

  19. Mel_05*

    OP 4: If it helps, FedEx is one of the companies that is handling this pretty well (at least in their stores). They’re limiting their hours and how many people can go in the store at once as well as other precautions.

    It probably doesn’t help much, but if you end up in a spot where you have to go, it’s safer than the grocery store.

  20. Beatings Will Continue Until Morale Improves*

    LW3 I had something similar happen with a client and a Ring doorbell. My company provides a very high emotion service in clients’ homes and one client decided to watch the doorbell footage after we left. She was absolutely furious that we had supposedly made a very inappropriate remark as we left and we didn’t remember anything of the sort. My boss requested that she play us the footage and it sounded like the teacher from Charlie Brown. Completely indescribable. I later remembered the comment and it was just telling my coworker to be watch his step. In her high emotional state she heard what she “wanted.”
    I would just chalk it up to coworker being stressed and oversensitive and ignore the email unless it’s a pattern or she directly contacts you.

  21. Not So NewReader*

    OP 2. So very sorry for your loss. It’s hard to watch this stuff, for sure. When my husband passed, it was hard to act smiley when someone said they were getting married. Life goes on but it can feel like the world needs to stand still for a bit. Time will mellow some of this out for you, OP. It won’t stay as raw as it is now. Do in vest in your self-care, hydrate, take walks (if possible), eat good foods, rest. And allow yourself time to cry. I did a lot of crying in the car. I dunno why I cried “better” in the car but I did. Other times stuff would build up inside me and I could not push the tears out. So I would listen to a sad song or two that would help me release those tears. Tears trigger a chemical reaction in the brain to help keep it healthy. Oddly, I usually felt a tiny bit better the next day after a bit of a cry.

    But, yeah, it can be really hard to watch other people progress through their lives when our own lives have screeched to a halt. I am very sorry for your loss, OP.

    1. Jean (just Jean)*

      I’m also sorry for your loss, OP2.
      >it can be really hard to watch other people progress through their lives when our own lives have screeched to a halt.
      +1

    2. cmcinnyc*

      Yes, this is the sad truth. Sometimes we go through wrenching losses, of many different kinds. It’s terrible, and grieving is a mess. But other people are going to go right on with their lives and that is 100% ok. We don’t get to pause everyone else’s joy until we have our own. People in my town are dropping from COVID, terrified of giving birth during COVID, dealing with sudden unemployment–it’s not useful or healthy to all feel as sad and as anxious as all our friends and neighbors, all the time. I do what I can to help, to lend an ear if needed, and to have my own joys as they arise. That’s life.

      1. OP #2*

        I’m not asking people to not go on with their lives, to not to celebrate their good news. Just don’t blindside me with it, especially not at a work meeting.

  22. Not So NewReader*

    OP3. I think you are probably right about her insecurities coming to the foreground. But at this point, most of us are showing our insecurities, so there is that. Many times the quickest way to calm and upset person is to walk into their problem and sit with them, figuratively speaking. In your setting, I would suggest waiting until she actually says something to you directly.
    Then I would suggest saying, “Gee, I am so sorry that happened Jane. I was probably distracted but I did not notice when that happened. If you want to tell me more about it, I’d appreciate knowing.” (Walk in, figuratively.) Then listen. (Sit down, figuratively.) There might be a plausible explanation such as Bob had a muffled sneezing fit or kids ran into Sue’s work area. You may have noticed it but recognized what it was and let it go. It could be that when she describes it, you know exactly what she is talking about and you are able to tell her. (Respond if you have some thing of value to contribute.)

    Going the other way, it could be that the “offender” emails her privately and offers an apology and explanation. This is why I would tend to wait for her to open the conversation with me.

    I do think that it appears she is using her “rank” as a more senior person to push people along here. Notice I say “appears”, I’d bet my last chocolate donut that she did not even think how she appears saying this as a more senior person. Try to put that toward the back of your thinking and just think about her as a fellow human being. I believe this approach can carry us through a lot of odd or difficult situations.

  23. MissDisplaced*

    For #1
    My company is enacting temporary furloughs. During our furlough weeks, we have been instructed that we are not, under any circumstances, to keep working, nor are we to access the corporate systems, emails, training, webinars, or anything else, we must completely disconnect. Apparently, there are legal ramifications for the company should we be doing any “work” on the sly while furloughed. I’m guessing this has to do with the company’s ability to receive aid from the government stimulus.

    Perhaps this varies by state or company size, but your employer could be in noncompliance if they keep pushing this. Likewise, this could invalidate your unemployment claim if you participate.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      It’s possible it’s just that everyone was on that list, not that they’re really expecting everyone to participate. But jeez! Terrible communication!

    2. WellRed*

      Has your company communicated whether you can file for unemployment? I’m assuming we can, but our furlough has to be taken in non consecutive weeks, so I’m also assuming it will be an extra hassle.

    3. Clisby*

      I don’t know about the ramifications in relation to the stimulus aid – but it’s illegal for a company (in the US, at least) to allow employees to work without paying them.

  24. Panda*

    #6 Right when this started, I ordered 144 yards each of black and white 1/4″ elastic. I was one of her last orders (from an eBay store). I gave away most of that elastic to local people who were making masks for healthcare workers because I realized I wouldn’t have time to make all those masks since my grandmother moved in with us two weeks ago. She needs a lot of care.

    I am now making masks with the elastic that’s left. To non-family/friends, I sell for $5 each to cover my costs to make some for family/friends who are essential employees or otherwise at risk. Around here, they’re going for $7.50-$10 each so I don’t feel bad charging $5/mask. And now that the CDC recommends everyone wear a mask outside the house, everyone wants one.

    I’m still working full time so I’m pretty slow at making masks. I made 80 over the weekend and another 40 Monday and Tuesday. Those are all spoken for.

    Once I run out of elastic, I’ll make masks with ties. I just bought an attachment for my serger to make them quickly.

    1. Witty Nickname*

      I am super impressed that you made 80 in a weekend! I managed to churn out 50 and thought that was a lot (and that was with making my husband cut a lot of them out for me). I cut out another 50 last night but also work full time, so it will take me a few days to get them all sewn. It takes me just under 10 mins per mask for the sewing.

      I got my elastic on ebay too – I was too late to get any white elastic, but managed to snag a 200 yd roll of black a couple weeks ago.

      And I am really grateful for my walking foot right now! It makes top stitching all the layers so much easier!

  25. Geomancer*

    LW3 appears to lack empathy and the statement “I found it wildly unprofessional of her to accuse someone of laughing at her, let alone the raw display of her low self-esteem” seems very judgmental, especially given the raw and sensitive time we’re in. I would expect a coworker in her situation to reassure and calm the person who was hurt, versus questioning them so much.

    1. Alan*

      Agreed. I can completely understand the person on the call being upset if she thought someone was laughing at her. Sending an email asking people not to do that seem say reasonably professional way of dealing with it

    2. Rexish*

      Agreed. I feel like the natural response should be to talk to them about why they fel that way and assure them that you pay extra attention to this in the next meeting and not automatically jump to the person being unprofessional and displaying low self-esteem?

      Me and a colleague have been accused of laughing at a client By another client. We were mortified that it had translated like that and made sure it would not happen again. Basically me and my colleague shared an office and were reading something funny and chatting and lauging about it. Then the client called. I asnwered and we handled the transaction and then went back to lauging and chatting about the funny thing. Client in the main space then assumed we laughed at the client who called.

    3. James*

      I’m not sure about the psychological aspects–there’s a LOT of subtext to this letter that we’re not in on.

      That said, yeah, it’s perfectly professional to ask that mikes be muted on conference calls unless you’re speaking or about to speak. It’s not just the laughing thing (whether it happened or not). It’s pretty common in my experience for folks to confer with one another during a call–you say something that makes Jake and me realize that we’ll need to do something to support you, and we discuss it together for a few moments before bringing it to the group, for example.

      The fact that the person waited until after the call, and only commented to her group (instead of bringing it up during the call in front of everyone) is pretty professional; most people I’ve met will just say “Jake, can you mute your mike? We’ll have a comment period at the end of the call” when it happens.

    4. Potatoes gonna potate*

      That was exactly my thought, not that I disagree with Alison’s answer but OP is coming across as really judgmental. I’ve been on the other end of that, saying something and someone laughing for whatever reason (maybe its me, maybe it’s something completely different, but either way it’s not nice). Seems like there’s a lot of personal issues with that coworker that that kind of attitude is coming out.

    5. A New Level of Anon*

      Yup, the subtext of OP’s explanation is why I phrased my comment above as harshly as I did. Either there are other issues with OP’s colleague that have led them to BEC territory, or the OP is someone who ought not be trusted with other people’s humanity and may be dangerous to work with.

  26. Mannheim Steamroller*

    [ Assured us “we still have a job,” but where I sit, if I’m not on the payroll, I don’t have a job. Encouraged us to immediately file for unemployment.]

    If you’re (1) not on the payroll and (2) eligible to apply for unemployment, then you DO NOT “still have a job” and should not answer any company emails. Feel free to start the job search.

    1. Jedi Squirrel*

      Yeah, it really feels like the company is trying to have it both ways ‒ have employees when everything is over, and still get those workers to do work on the public nickel. I wouldn’t feel very loyal to this company.

  27. Amethystmoon*

    #3 — is it possible someone had a radio or TV program on in the background and forgot about it? Sometimes, such programs do include laugh tracks. Or possibly someone in another room was laughing, and the sound carried? That is the thing now when families quarantine, you may or may not hear things you otherwise would. A guest in our online Toastmasters meeting last night had a young child who kept making random comments until she muted herself. It happens. Either way though, she shouldn’t assume the laughter is directed at her. If someone is actually dealing with mental health problems, a crisis like this is going to exacerbate them.

    1. Jedi Squirrel*

      I live alone and I have had Star Trek TNG playing in the background almost constantly. I’ve seen these shows so many times I don’t really have to pay attention to them, and the actors’ voices are so familiar to me it’s like being at work. It’s not the same, but it helps.

      1. Quill*

        Let’s play youtubers have seen a surge in viewership lately, possibly for the same reasons.

        1. Jaid*

          Bingeing Time Team for the background noise and occasional education on British history when I pay attention…

          (✿◠‿◠)

          1. JustaTech*

            Like, King George III raised kangaroos and was forever trying to give them to the aristocracy who really didn’t want any.

            I wish I could listen to Time Team while I work, but it’s too interesting. So I listen to it while I sew masks.

      2. Amethystmoon*

        I live alone also. I’ve been listening to my local radio stations instead of the online computer-programmed ones. It makes me feel less lonely knowing there’s an actual live DJ on the other end, and even some of the music stations have been playing local COVID-19 briefings.

    2. TootsNYC*

      I think I might be really tempted, as a public service, to email her back privately and lie, saying, “Oh goodness–I think that came from my computer. My spouse was listening to a TV show using headphones, and he laughed at their jokes a couple of times–probably at exactly the worst moment. I’ll put myself on mute next time, or get him to leave the room. I’m sorry it made you feel self-conscious. You’re doing a great job with managing all this stuff remotely. I appreciate the Zoom meetings.”

    3. hamburke*

      This was my immediate thought too – that it was background noise. My husband has a blue mic that he uses gaming with his friends. It picks up *everything* in our house (not a particularly small house either!) – his friends know when I start laundry or the dishwasher! Even his phone headset picks stuff up – his work team heard most of my conversation with a client today and I’m sure she heard his part of their meeting.

  28. Jenn*

    #1 – “As this COVID crisis emerged, our firm was quite slow to react. 18 hours after the governor announced sales had to cease operations, our manager finally called to tell us we were being laid off.”

    I just wanted to comment on this. In my small business, we took longer than that, because we were genuinely trying to save jobs, have all the questions around benefits and everything else ready, and then be ready to shut down – turn emails off, get keys returned, recode security, all those things. Plus communicate to our customers. Plus start talking to our landlords, etc. Plus take all the calls. Plus our own kids were home from school.

    Staff was our highest priority but we also didn’t want to say anything stupid. So I think 18 hours is pretty reasonable. I know your brand was corporate but sometimes I find the advice here assumes a huge team ready to go in a crisis and a lot of workplaces just…don’t have that.

    That said, we then turned all the emails off, made it clear that if you’re not working, you’re not working, etc. My boss communicates with the team because the intention absolutely is to hire everyone back as soon as the doors shut, but it’s more like ‘how is everyone.’ I think the question of webinars, etc., is pretty personal. I personally am soaking up as much as I can because I see this as a chance to learn a few things professionally I don’t normally have time/energy for. But it’s certainly not an expectation.

    1. Meredith*

      My company (of fewer than 20 people) started preparing for a possible shut down about 3 weeks before our state actually shut down (March 14th). It’s not like this came out of nowhere and there was no way to anticipate needing to shift your workforce to a remote situation. By the time we started working from home, everyone had appropriate internet service, our office phones hooked up to wi-fi extenders, and all our local files on the cloud. And yes, we unfortunately had layoffs too.

      1. Jenn*

        That’s great for your company! I’m sure it’s great you did things right. You don’t have to be nasty about it though. In my industry, we were fighting fires the entire way and did not anticipate a total shut-down in the way it came down. Our company is more a service/retail type industry, and our income went to zero the day we shut out doors.

    2. LGC*

      I was actually in the same boat – although to be fair, 1) we’re an office-based setting, so we’re closed on weekends, 2) upper management wanted to get their ducks in a row, and 3) my state’s shutdown took effect at 8 PM on a Saturday. So I could have either called when the shutdown was announced and gotten yelled at by my bosses for not saying The Approved Thing at The Approved Time…or waited for my bosses to get everything sorted out and then made the announcement in time for Monday.

      (I will say that I…have pretty strong feelings about how my organization has handled everything, and I’m not going to go any further than that. Suffice to say, I’ve worried every day that someone that worked here is going to die.)

  29. James*

    #4: Not sure if this helps or not, but some office buildings have FedEx locations with secure shipping locations–you can drop off the box in a locked/secure FedEx repository, then they pick the boxes up at a later time. You can drop the box off when there are few people, so no interaction with people, and if you wipe the handle on the box with a Clorox wipe first there’s very little risk of infection. My wife and I returned some equipment that way recently. The only issue is that you have be able to print out a FedEx shipping label, but if the company wants their laptop back this badly they should be able to email you one to print out.

    I’m not saying you need to do this, but it is an option if you know of an office building nearby.

  30. Observer*

    #3- Why on earth would you forward this to management? What are you hoping to accomplish? Lots of people have “low self esteem”, even in normal times. It doesn’t make them terrible employees and colleagues. So I see absolutely nothing actionable here that anyone needs to take action on or even know about.

    Now if she starts getting abusive, derailing meetings or turning this into a thing that legitimately takes time and energy to deal with, that’s another thing. But “ONG, she showed her stress levels! Terrible! Something MUST be done! The authorities must be informed!” (which is pretty much what you are sounding like) is every bit as unprofessional as what your coworker did.

    I get it – you are stressed in a BIG way. But so is she – cut her the same kind of slack you want to have. And take a step back, breath and engage in some self care. You sound like you could really use it. I’m not being snarky – it really sounds like you are having a hard time. Try to find something that helps.

    1. Malarkey01*

      I think management would read it as “Yeah she’s right, we need to reduce ancillary noise on these meetings and stay professional. What’s the problem?” Explaining that no one laughed at all during the call or that it reflects on someone’s self esteem would make the LW look bad, not the original senior paralegal.

    2. A New Level of Anon*

      Yeah, I also wonder about OP’s motivations here. I’m trying to assume good faith, but they made it very difficult to do so with just a few words.

      Maybe it’s just everyone’s stress level leading them towards choices that are uncharitable; to some extent that’s understandable. However, if OP’s typical response to someone not drawing right inside the lines 100% of the time is to alert management to their not being on-brand, they need to really carefully interrogate those responses.

  31. Lucette Kensack*

    Re: #5 (interview accommodations)

    Here’s the language about accommodations that was in a recent interview-scheduking email that I got:

    “We are committed to providing an inclusive space to meet your needs. Please contact me at EMAIL to request accommodations.”

    And this was in a follow-up:

    “Please let me know if you have any concerns or questions or if you need any accommodations. We want you to be able to present your best self!”

    1. Felix*

      I recently applied for a job that used:
      “If you require a disability related accommodation in order to participate in the recruitment process,
      please contact us to provide your contact information. Recruitment Services staff will contact you within 48 hours.”
      Having your end initiate the conversation (after them providing their contact information) allows you to tell them about the interview process first and doesn’t put the burden on them to disclose too much information up front.

      1. Anax*

        I love Alison’s language about “interviewing at your best” – I’m technically ABLE to interview without accommodations, and I’m worried about people judging me harshly for requesting an accommodation (even though they shouldn’t), but accommodation does help me present myself at my best.

        (Specifically, video interviews are easier for me than phone – I lipread, especially when the connection isn’t great, or when the person I’m speaking with has a particularly strong accent. Autism plus a pinch of hearing damage means phonecalls are really tough for me to understand, especially when, say, I’m being interviewed by a panel on speakerphone.)

  32. Jostling*

    LW #6 – I agree that suggesting a donation is a great way to navigate the “I’m donating my labor, but not to you” conundrum, but I worry that Alison’s phrasing is a bit confusing. (Just me? Do I just need more coffee?) “… She’s happy to make them for others if you can donate to help with the cost of the fabric. $X covers the fabric for five masks,” to me suggests that for $X, your coworkers will RECEIVE 5 (or however many) masks. I would get really specific, which can be awkward when talking about money but is totally appropriate here: “[Wife] is focusing on making masks for healthcare workers, but she has a few set aside for civilians. If you would like to support her efforts, she is accepting small monetary donations for supplies – $X supplies materials for Y masks for people on the front-lines! We suggest a donation of $Z per mask if you would like her to make you a mask for personal use. Please let me know if you would like to request a mask from her and/or make a donation!” This way, your messaging is less commercial, donations aren’t tied to goods received, and you build in some flexibility for people who are concerned about their own health but can’t spare the cash right now. You may also want to build in a per-person cap up front, just to get ahead of any craziness.

    1. Colette*

      Yeah, I agree that I’d expect to get 5 masks (and would wonder why they thought I’d need 5.) “since my focus is on masks for medical professionals, I charge $x for non-medical workers. This covers your mask and allows me to buy supplies to make 5 more for the people most at risk”.

    2. Xandra*

      I like your wording! I can see how the original suggestion would have been potentially confusing.

  33. Call me St. Vincent*

    Alison, just a note. Not all accommodations requests are medical in nature. For example, the disability community has worked hard to ensure people do not treat deafness as a medical condition. I don’t think mention of medical conditions is even necessary as you can just say that you will provide accommodations for individuals with disabilities. However, solely listing medical conditions as grounds for accommodations is too limiting.

    1. Mimmy*

      That caught my attention too. For example, I have a vision impairment and would likely request application materials in larger font; yet, I don’t consider myself to have a medical condition.

      OP#5 – Thank you for considering those of us with disabilities! When access needs are considered, we can definitely shine!

    2. James*

      There are also language issues (I’ve known people who can understand English fine, but have real trouble speaking it clearly enough to be understood) and, with remote work these days, geographic issues (someone in CA is going to have different availability than someone in FL). Religious issues, too–if they keep kosher or halal that can affect lunch options, to give one example.

    3. Angelinha*

      Yes! Just say “if you need an accommodation due to a disability” and leave it at that. The mention of “a medical condition” is exclusive to non-medical disabilities (even though the intent of the language is inclusive). Thank you for pointing this out!

  34. LJay*

    I nested my previous comment incorrectly.

    But for shipping the laptop, first of all they shouldn’t be passing the cost of shipping back company equipment onto you.

    Second, laptops often have lithium batteries in them, which are regulated as hazmat/dangerous goods for shipping. The batteries in laptops are almost always small/weak enough to not require being fully documented/regulated, but the company does have specific obligations to ensure you are informed of the danger of shipping lithium batteries, and to ensure you package and ship the item correctly.

    I’ll add a link to a comment below that has some basic facts about shipping lithium batteries, and a section that outlines the company’s obligations when they have someone shipping lithium batteries in small quantities on their behalf.

    1. LJay*

      https://www.iata.org/contentassets/05e6d8742b0047259bf3a700bc9d42b9/lithium-battery-guidance-document-2020.pdf

      This is the document I mentioned above. Letter C of part 2 (top of page 12) is what would apply to shipping a laptop or cell phone or tablet on behalf of the company.

      These regulations apply to all lithium battery shipments done by air, including UPS and FedEx Express shipments and USPS air mail and those companies can have their own more restrictive requirements as well.

      49 CFR governs shipments done by UPS and FedEx ground. The regulations are not the same but are similar.

    2. B Wayne*

      Originally I was to be furloughed one week mid April and would have to ship back the laptop and company phone to insure a non-working week. Then I got laid off April 3rd instead and had to ship the laptop, phone and company badge back for this open ended layoff (or perhaps pre-termination, who knows?!), plus they are keeping me on insurance and use of the company vehicle until April 24. They sent a ground label (Ground verses Air and lithium batteries) and the only thing I couldn’t get right was scheduling a home pickup with the company account. I’m usually out in the field with the customer and ship wherever, never from home. So I made my weekly or so foray out for groceries, birdseed and a stop at FedEx. The birdseed is for the feeders outside, not for me….yet.

  35. myswtghst*

    Yes, this, thank you. I can absolutely write the address by hand, but FedEx isn’t gonna like it if I try to draw the barcode myself.

  36. Meredith*

    LW2, I have similar issues after 5 years of infertility and 4 (first trimester) pregnancy losses. I was ECSTATIC that when the sales manager at my company played a video of his daughter telling his mother that she was pregnant, I was working from home that day and calling into the meeting so I didn’t have to worry about my facial reactions. Ditto for the fact that when they threw my other coworker a baby shower, I had a pre-scheduled vacation day (which also coincided with my due-date for my first pregnancy).

    Is there an opportunity to get a heads up and then quietly miss the all-hands meeting or take it from home/another office? Work from home those days? I would imagine that would be an accommodation your supervisor can easily provide for your mental health without having to essential alert the team to the issue, if that’s the way you want to go. Banning baby announcements during the meeting will inevitably bring up questions and push back from others, but obviously your own mental health is important, here.

  37. Anono-me*

    OP 4

    The company may want the laptops back to sell them. If the company needs an infusion of cash right now, toilet paper and laptops are both selling like hotcakes.

    However, that does not negate your need to stay safe and follow your SIP directions.

  38. Employment Lawyer*

    1. We’re laid off but being “strongly encouraged” to attend work webinars
    I don’t entirely agree with AAM and I wonder if your manager is correct here. I think that there are some “work things” which really only happen for pay, but there are a LOT of things which you would do at work *and* which you would be well-advised to do while out of work. Keeping up with the brand may be one of them.

    You certainly don’t have to! If you’re not getting paid, your time is your own. But if you want a job as a Teapot Brand Sales employee, there’s something to be said in keeping up with Teapot Brands, *even if this was something you would normally do at work.* It’s a bit like the folks who never had the job in the first place (but wanted it): In an effort to move to the top of the hiring list, they, too, would have good reason to keep up with things.

    This goes across multiple fields. An out-of-work attorney would be well advised to keep up on their area of law, even though they would normally do it as a work duty. An out of work charter captain would want to spend time on the water, and so on.

    Again, your time is your own, and you can do what you want.

    2. Can I ask my office to stop announcing pregnancies at staff meetings?
    Honestly, no. While I am sorry for your loss, it isn’t reasonable to expect everyone else to tamp down normal celebrations to accommodate your issues. As AAM notes, you may be able to get a heads up so you can leave first, though.

    4. I’m being asked to return equipment during shelter-in-place
    FedEx does pickups, so this should not be a big deal. You pack it; they pick it up. It costs the company about $5 extra, I do it all the time.

    But frankly it sounds like your refusal to drop is based on your judgment that they “don’t really need it,” which is irrelevant here. It’s theirs, not yours: If you would drop it off if it was new, you should drop it off now. If you would refuse if it was new, you should refuse now.

    1. OP #2*

      I’m not asking people not to celebrate. I’m asking not to be blindsided with information that causes me to burst into tears in front of all of my colleagues with no advance notice so that I could possibly prepare myself. These announcements typically come mid-meeting, and excusing myself from the meeting is not possible.

      1. Employment Lawyer*

        Well, maybe your job would try to work with you in some fashion. That said: I would expect this to happen anyway, because it’s so common and is standard for people to discuss at work. And because of that, I would expect them to want you to take such happenings in stride.

        You may want to proactively offer the “…and of course if it happens, no big deal; I would just appreciate the attempt” part. I say that because what they probably DON’T want is to have you be doubly upset: not only that you heard the info, but that they “broke a promise,” or ‘broke a rule,” or were ‘thoughtless,” etc.

        IOW, are you asking for a favor, or a new rule? They may be willing to try to avoid this if they can, as a favor, but they really don’t want to get yelled at because someone forgot to follow the “rule” and now you’re upset and someone is in trouble. OTOH, a rule is sometimes more clearly enforced.

        You can ask for what you want and it’s a balancing act about which works better, but that is worth your consideration.

        Also, you’ll get the best results if you come up with a viable solution which puts the load on you, rather than them. Maybe you only have all-staff meetings once every two weeks, in which case maybe it’s on you to email the manager “any announcements today?” rather than expecting her to remember to let you know. Etc.

  39. TootsNYC*

    “She’s mainly making them to donate for health care workers but she’s happy to make them for others if you can donate to help with the cost of the fabric. $X covers the fabric for five masks.”

    I’d make one small but (I think) important tweak. “if you can donate to help her buy more fabric.

    Because the OP isn’t asking to be reimbursed for what she’s already made (and it would sound “off” if she were); she is actually asking for help in expanding her efforts.

    1. Data Nerd*

      TootsNYC, that is an important tweak. I just dropped in to tell OP6 that she’s awesome. Thank you for supporting your healthcare workers and community!

  40. Dee*

    #1

    I work for a non-profit and was laid off/terminated/furloughed (we have been told we’ll get our jobs back, but all our apps say ‘terminated’ so who knows). We keep getting emails asking us to advocate to our political representatives for funding for the nonprofit and asking us to keep making the donations that would have normally come out of our paycheck. We were also told it would be a great time to do some webinars to stay on top of our game. It all feels remarkably tone-deaf and gross. It’s made me go from a #1 cheerleader of this org to looking for the exit, stat.

  41. gbca*

    #5 – I interviewed with google a while back, and I remembered them having specific language about this, so I dug through my emails and found it: “It’s important to us to create an inclusive workplace for everyone, so please reach out if you’d benefit from interview accommodations, like a sign language interpreter or specialized equipment. We’ll then connect you with our candidate accommodations team to confidentially discuss your options.”

  42. Flustered*

    For #5, I really appreciate that Alison wrote “also, when inviting people for interviews, spell out what the interview will include (for example, timed exercises, length of the meeting, any plans for a meal, etc.), and then make the offer again in that context — since people are better able to judge what accommodation they might need when they know exactly what the interview process involves.” I have a disability that in many cases does not interfere with interviews. It is my policy not to disclose it during the hiring process unless absolutely necessary. There’s nothing worse than getting to a job interview and finding out they want you to take “just a little timed test” after you talk with the recruiter. This puts people with conditions that affect reading or concentration in a tough bind. You can request an accommodation on the spot, but then the recruiter might say “I gave you an opportunity to disclose in the interview invite! We’re not able to provide large print text/provide a quieter space for you to take this without any notice.” Or you can take the test without any accommodations and risk failing – I’ve done this before and it cost me a job. It’s a delicate dance because candidates don’t want to anger the interviewer who is holding all the power.

    One of the worst interviews I ever had involved a healthcare company with multiple sites in the town. The invite said to show up at Site A (the corporate office), so I went inside and interviewed with a recruiter. She then handed me a slip of paper with directions to Site B, which was “just five minutes” down the road so I could meet the supervisor for my position. She called the supervisor to let her know that I was leaving for Site B. As someone with a learning disability, it is really hard for me to follow oral instructions. My processing speed is slow, so I often miss turns even when my GPS is directing me. I oftentimes have to pull over on even short and straightforward trips so I can read the steps in advance. It ended up taking me over 20 minutes for me to get to Site B. The supervisor seemed irritated that the recruiter told her I’d be “right over” but it took me that long to get there (then add in the additional time spent trying to find the right entrance!). I was afraid to explain that I got lost because I didn’t want to seem like I couldn’t handle following simple instructions. Moral of the story: hiring managers, please notify applicants in advance if an interview straddles multiple sites. If you have candidates who have learning disabilities, visual impairments, or motor skill issues, it may not be that simple for them to go to another building on your campus or drive to another site to continue to the rest of the interview. Candidates may need to call a paratransit driver to pick them up, or have an assistant help them navigate. Had I known about this in advanced, I would have been able to rehearse the steps it would take to get from Site A to Site B. Instead I ended up feeling rushed and embarrassed, which made it hard to concentrate and provide coherent answers in the second interview.

  43. DB10DropTopKindofGirl*

    For #1 – I used to work for a high-end luxury dealership. Your email does not surprise me, at all. While I found all of the sales people to be exactly the opposite of the stereotype, the owners were everything the stereotype is and more. The owners were among some of the worst bosses I’ve had, were completely out of touch with any sense of reality, and despite their running diatribe of the good Christians they claimed to be, were some of the most un-Christian people (think fired a single mother 4 days before Christmas). I’m guessing if you’re maintaining your work email, it’s because you want to keep an ongoing relationship with your clients. Allison would need to weigh in here, but I’d encourage those customers to contact you through a professional personal email to maintain that relationship so that if you go to another dealership, you haven’t lost your clients.

    1. Athome44*

      All of the clients I work closely with have a contact method to reach me that isn’t provided nor pair for by my former employer. I’ve been extremely forthright with all of those who’ve reached out since the lay off occurred.

      Had my employer handled things in a more
      professional manner, or in a way similar to how some of our competition has chosen to handle it, the need for the original question wouldn’t exist. None of these webinars would even constitute “keeping up with the brand”. If I posted the titles of each here, I think that would be obvious to all. The ones that are non remedial, are, at best, guesses as to how clients may wish to be handled post-virus. I don’t think I’m being obtuse by having the opinion that in reality, no one knows what people may and may not want going forward, let alone when that going forward point will take place. I don’t fault the brand for hosting the webinars at all as many who are in my position still have jobs. Some are actively working, some aren’t (region dependent). I fault the owner of the company for being time deaf, and urging me to do work related tasks. Not to pat myself on the back, but I’m their top salesperson. As such, I’m not at all worried about being able to take
      my skills to a competitor once this is looking like we are approaching being back to business in my state. This whole handling of the situation may just push me to do so. I’m very fortunate personally as well, as I don’t need to work there, or anywhere for that matter, for an extended period of time. So I have nothing but options going forward.

  44. hayling*

    I like the language for accommodations giving an outline of what’s happening in the interview. I have a lot of food allergies, so I need to know up front if the interview is going to be over lunch, but otherwise I don’t need any accommodation. Someone who uses a wheelchair likely wouldn’t need accommodation in most modern office buildings (assuming they’re ADA compliant), but my last office had stupid layout with an escalator that you’d take to the second floor elevator banks—only deliveries and anyone with a physical disability could use the service elevator from the first floor. If our recruiting coordinator knew that a candidate couldn’t use the escalator, she’d meet them at the entrance so they didn’t have to take the service elevator alone. I liked that kind of thoughtful inclusiveness—it’s a small thing but it makes a huge difference.

  45. Mute Button will save us*

    For Letter 3: Oh my goodness, everyone responding saying “noises just happen” please PLEASE learn how to mute your audio. It *is* rude to let the whole call hear your partner making breakfast or your dog barking or your own tittering at a meme because you’re not paying attention. Especially if it’s more than just two people on a call

    I don’t know of a single VC service that doesn’t allow easy muting. You will save your co-workers a lot of annoyance

    1. Arts Akimbo*

      But, nobody’s perfect all the time. People are going to have accidents, and their coworkers should really be cutting everyone some slack. It’s particularly easy to mute your mic, then forget about it, then “mute” it again (unmuting it!) when talking, going to the restroom, making kissy faces at the dog. We can have the best intentions of keeping a mute mic, but even so, noises are still going to happen.

  46. Not gonna do it. Wouldn't be prudent.*

    LW4 here. Too many comments to respond to individually, so here’s some context and updates:
    Original instructions were to bring equipment to Fedex with company’s account number. They’ll pack it and provide a receipt. I just wasn’t comfortable going into a retail establishment for something I didn’t think was urgent.
    My whole department has always had laptops due to the nature of our work. It hadn’t occurred to me that hundreds of employees at the corporate office never had laptops and didn’t transition to WFH as easily as we did. I see now that the return of the laptop actually is urgent.
    They did, albeit reluctantly, agree to accept delivery at the corporate office mail room, but wanted me to drop off a sealed box. Hard pass. It took some convincing, but they agreed to accept delivery, inventory contents, and give a receipt. The exchange was completed. I still have 2 monitors and some other miscellaneous stuff that is theirs. I’ll be returning that when I’m able to retrieve my personal stuff.
    Thanks for all your suggestions!

  47. Dancing Otter*

    Alison, if there’s a better place for this comment, please move it.

    As a former auditor, I am wondering where the disaster recovery plans for all these companies were?
    I remember reviewing the plans for a large beverage manufacturer ~10-15 years ago. They had procedures for everything from ice storms in the orange groves, to poison in the water supply, to bombs or ten-alarm fires in the plants/warehouses/offices. Switching all HQ employees to WFH at a few hours notice was definitely in there, even in those less well connected days.
    Obviously, the current world-wide pandemic was way out on the end of the probability curve: the Ebola and anthrax scares together weren’t this frightening and disruptive. Still, having office locations unusable for any reason should have been in the DRP.

  48. Alice's Rabbit*

    OP 2, believe me, I know where you’re coming from. I have recurring pregnancy loss. The grief, frustration, and yes, anger is real.
    But no, we cannot ask other people to stop normal, happy (for them) parts of life because we’re grieving. Yes, each pregnancy announcement will be salt in your wounds. But you can’t demand that others shoulder your pain for you. They don’t have to stop living and celebrating because our world has come crashing down.
    We just have to go on living… until we’re alive again.

Comments are closed.