can I Zoom from my patio, coworker is violating shelter-in-place, and more

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

1. Can I Zoom from my patio?

What are the stipulations around Zoom calls and location? Weather in my area has been very nice recently and I enjoy working outside when I don’t need my full monitor. My apartment has a private patio space — not huge, but enough for my dog to run around in. I have furniture outside to work on. Can I take calls that don’t require note-taking outside?

If it makes a difference, I am in an extremely high-cost-of-living area and very lucky to have an outdoor space. My position (and salary) is middling/low, so it’s not like I’m a CEO flaunting an expansive yard and pool oasis. But even if I was, would that make a difference?

Everyone always seems to mimic an office environment on calls ….meanwhile, it’s sunny outside! I just want to enjoy the sun while I can.

To some extent, it depends on your team culture — if everyone is in office attire and working from work spaces that wouldn’t have been out of place before the pandemic and your culture is pretty formal in general, I might not choose to be the one person outside on a patio, but otherwise I think you’re generally fine.

But yeah, if you were a CEO taking video calls while you lounged pool-side with your horses frolicking on your beautifully manicured acres in the background, a silver pitcher of iced tea glinting in the sun next to you, you would look tone-deaf to your workers. A more standard patio type space? Not a big deal.

2. Is it rude to forward someone an email to point out they missed instructions?

When someone sends me an email asking a question about something I previously sent them in an email, is it okay to re-forward the email to them, or is that really pushing it in their face that they missed it?

For example, on Friday I sent instructions for a virtual meeting to a group of volunteers, for a meeting this Thursday. I planned to send them a reminder on Wednesday, but on Tuesday, in response to another email in which I referenced the Thursday meeting, one of the volunteers emailed the group, “Are you going to send us the instructions and dial-in number for the meeting on Thursday?”

So, I responded to the group, “Sure, I’ll resend the instructions” and then I re-sent the original email from Friday (showing the date and time I sent it). That way, everybody had it (in case someone else had missed it).

However, I always feel kind of rude doing that, as if I’m saying “Look, you messed up.” I suppose I could just answer, “Sure, here it is” without referencing my previous email, but then I feel like then it looks like I never sent it and I messed up. Or I could say, “Sure, I sent it Friday but I know how easy it is for emails to get lost in the shuffle!” Can you recommend a tactful way to handle this kind of situation, where I can cover myself without making the other people feel bad?

It’s fine to forward the original email! Just make sure your tone when doing it is reasonably cheerful and doesn’t sound like you think the other person is inept.

You could add something like “I know how easy it is for emails to get lost in the shuffle!” but honestly I think that’s making too big a deal of it. They don’t need you to excuse their mistake for them (and that kind of language risks sounding patronizing, and will seem insincere if you use it more than once with the same person). It’s easiest just to treat it matter-of-factly — people are busy, they might not always retain everything in an email, maybe they missed it entirely, no big deal.

More here:
how can I tactfully point out to coworkers that a miscommunication error is theirs?

3. My coworker is violating shelter-in-place and we work in a hospital

I work in a in-patient hospital pharmacy, and last night a coworker posted online that she “would no longer be sheltering in place and if you don’t like it, don’t invite me to your house.” I’m a pretty “live and let live” kind of person, but I suppose that was pre-coronavirus. Is this something that rises to the level that warrants me flagging it to management?

This coworker is a pharmacy technician, delivers medications all around the hospital, and works shifts mixing IVs. My main concern is that we are still tracing asymptomatic carriers and she is exposing herself to the virus and then exposing us and by extension our patients. We are still under state-wide and county-wide shelter-in-place orders.

Yes, let your management know, since this coworker is in regular contact with patients and health care workers. If your management is fine with it, then they won’t act on the report and no harm is done. If this violates safety protocols they have in place, then they need to know about it because lives are at stake.

You can frame it as, “I was alarmed to see this given her contact with so many people here, including patients, and wasn’t sure if it was something I should share with someone.”

4. We’re being re-hired for work that doesn’t exist

I work at a large nonprofit theater company. My job laid many of us off. We were laid off for a few weeks, and now that their CARES package came in, they are “re-hiring” us at full-time. I believe this is incredibly short-sighted: All of the programming for the next few months has been cancelled. We are being hired back to do nothing. Additionally, with no work being done now that generates any revenue, there’s a high probability that many people will be laid off again in July, when the stipulations for their loan/grant are met. They are also saying that our hours are not being reduced. This disqualifies us for the additional unemployment stimulation (the extra $600/week from the federal supplement to unemployment payments, which ends in July), which would have been far more helpful to us who were laid off (none of the six-figure-making higher-ups were laid off). I feel frustrated because I, along with everyone else who was laid off, am essentially giving up almost $5,000 for the organization to employ us for “good” publicity, only to be laid off again.

If I decline to get rehired, how does that effect my unemployment? Due to this and many other short-sighted and bone-headed rhetoric from the C-levels, I am also planning to make a career change in August.

Yeah, this is not good. If they won’t have paying work for you once the paychecks funded by the loan run out, they will indeed have to lay you off again — and at that point the federal supplement to unemployment payments will have run out and may not be renewed. So they’re bringing you back to do nothing, and possibly releasing you again into conditions that are worse than if they’d not brought you back at all. I don’t blame you for being frustrated; this sucks.

If you turn down their formal offer of employment, you will be making yourself ineligible for unemployment benefits — so you likely do need to go back, if only so that you’re eligible for benefits once they release you again later this year. It’s also true that some people in this situation are talking to the employer informally to see if they can persuade them not to offer them the job back; if they don’t offer it to you, you won’t be turning it down and your unemployment eligibility should be unaffected. That said, that’s not in keeping with the spirit of how this is supposed to work (unemployment benefits and the federal supplement are really for emergency situations where you don’t have other reasonable options), and they may say no since their loan forgiveness depends on preserving their pre-layoff headcount.

Read an update to this letter here.

5. What’s reasonable for an employer to provide when you’re working from home?

Due to Covid, my employer is seeing that working from home is feasible (and I don’t disagree!). I am happy to see the company make changes that I feel are modern. I would, however, like to better understand what my company should provide for me outside of the standard computer and desk, now that I’m being moved into WFH permanently. I am also concerned about the fact that I live in a very small, one-bedroom apartment with one other person who is also newly working from home. Would it be reasonable for me to ask my employer to help me find and afford different accommodations?

In theory, your employer should pay for any costs incurred by you working from home (desk and chair if you need them, computer, printer, supplies, ergonomic equipment, additional data, better internet plan if necessary, etc.). In reality, employers vary widely in what they cover. Some will send you a computer and nothing else. Others provide generous stipends to cover whatever you need. I’d make a list of whatever costs you’re incurring and present it your boss — although if your company is not on the generous side, you might adjust your list to account for anything you’re saving as well (on your commute, etc.).

Generally, whether it’s considered reasonable to ask your company to help you find and pay for other accommodations — like renting a desk in a co-working space — will depend on how senior you are, how much standing you have, and what your company is doing for others (as well as for their reasons for making WFH permanent — if it’s to save money, they’re less likely to do it). But co-working spaces aren’t realistic in most locations right now anyway, so that’s something I’d wait a few months on regardless. (I’m assuming that’s what you were asking about and not whether you could ask your employer to help pay for a larger apartment. But the answer to that would definitely be no — and it would come across strangely to even ask, so absolutely don’t do that!)

{ 548 comments… read them below }

  1. Sue*

    #1 Please don’t work outside on your patio if your meetings are going to be heard by your neighbors. With so many people home all day, this would be very annoying to neighbors who had to hear your work meetings in progress. Your employer might also not be thrilled that strangers could overhear your work.

      1. Work Aunt*

        My boss was on his patio on a recent zoom – setting was lovely, lighting good. But noise from (occasional) traffic and even birds was amplified and made him difficult to understand or overlaid other audio. Your patio may be noisier than you realize – just something to consider.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Yes. Digital audio pickups cut speakers off depending on who is the loudest, and birds are shrill enough to get ‘priority’. So if you MUST be outside (if, say, multiple family members have conference calls and you’re low on uninterruptable space) use headphones with a mouthpiece–and keep yourself on mute unless you must talk.

          1. CupcakeCounter*

            This is what I did several weeks back. It was the first nice day we’d had this year and I had a few meetings that were either a team touchdown or a training session where I just needed to follow along and take a few notes. I plopped my laptop on my outdoor table, put on my headset and sunglasses, and was ready to go. About 5 minutes in all of the animals wanted to join so I had a doggo on my lap for the team touchdown. He was a hit since he has fox ears and they pointed straight up the entire time and could be seen in the video even though he was laying down in my lap.

          2. Tidewater 4-1009*

            I want to emphasize, *keep yourself on mute* unless you are talking. I’ve been on evening Zoom calls for volunteer work and the amount of distractions is amazing. When someone moves, or walks around, or reaches for their water bottle, or adjusts their ear-covering headphones, Zoom picks it up and puts them on the speaker screen. Twice we’ve had calls where there were apparently birds chirping in the background. The second time the meeting leader had to mute the person because they didn’t mute themselves and no one could hear. Other pets can steal the Zoom focus too – like cats meowing. And this is all indoors. Outdoors will be worse with traffic going by, people talking in their yards, and wildlife chirping, buzzing and barking.

        2. BethDH*

          Agreed. A lot of people in my office are taking calls outside when they can (for those with kids or other working adults in the house, it can actually be a more professional space!). Several of us made much more extensive changes than we expected.
          Practice ahead of time by actually calling someone like a friend or peer coworker and be prepared to change your angle to block the wind and test your headset for whether it picks up noises that you don’t normally notice. Bonus points for practicing on the platform you use for the meeting, because I’ve found that Zoom is somehow a bit more sensitive to random rustlings than Meet, even with the same headset.
          That said, it’s totally worth it. We’re talking about finding a way to hang some sheets on our porch to block more of the noise and control shadows so we can do it more often!

        3. Secret Squirrel*

          One of my coworkers has been taking calls from his patio. The noise of the birds is so amplified you’d think a flock of pterodactyls were flying overhead. It’s incredibly distracting.

          1. Triumphant Fox*

            Yes – one of my reports is working in his garage because there are three adults in his rented space and the garage space is relatively private, but when the birds are up – wow. It is so loud. He mutes himself on group calls and on longer working sessions with me I just ignore it – but he isn’t even outside and it’s so clear.

          2. Quill*

            Are you sure he’s not raising a village of pterodactyls?

            After all, we all have so much more time now!

            1. une autre Cassandra*

              If you don’t emerge from lockdown with a well-trained flock of pterodactyls ready to do your bidding, you never lacked time—you lacked discipline.

        4. LITJess*

          Yes! One of my staff did a work video from her patio and the wind noises alone almost drowned her out. Also, sometimes your network doesn’t reach as far out of your house as you like. So if you want to work outside, I highly recommend a test call shortly before your scheduled one. See if the person you’re calling has an audio or connection issues that could be coming from your end.

          But yes, I understand the desire. I super wish the wifi reached out little balcony so I could at least do some emails outside.

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            Wind, birds, shrieking kids sent out to play…. to say nothing of the leaf blowers and lawnmowers (home confinement is doing wonders for the curb appeal on our street).

            If you’re on mute and listening the whole call, probably fine; if you’re participating, probably not.

        5. MusicWithRocksIn*

          This is what I came here to say. I just had a zoom meeting with some family members who were outside, and the noise was super distracting. They had a big backyard away from traffic, but even just the (very minimal) wind and nature noises were picked up by the speakers and amplified a lot. It was much harder to make other people out, and zoom kept putting them front and center when they weren’t speaking.

        6. BadWolf*

          I was going to saw the same — even a small breeze picks up and crackles the audio. Cars and birds dominate the audio.

          If you are on listen only or mostly on mute, go for it.

        7. Generic Name*

          Yes. I came here to say this. I live in a pretty quiet area, but there is a street behind my house and sometimes big trucks (trash truck, furniture delivery, etc) drive by, which would be disruptive if I were on a work call. So I try to settle by having the window open.

        8. Person from the Resume*

          I live alone and work from home and only use my computer’s built in microphone. Of course everyone should mute if they are not talking. But if you will be in a noisier place – even just nature – please use a quality mic to limit external noises that you don’t want to share to include the wind. also don’t have the mic rubbing your face or clothes. That’s noisy too.

          But it would never, ever occur to me that talking a call on a balcony was unprofessional unless there was something more than just location.

        9. Ashley*

          I had a very informal check in with my manager and she was on her patio. During the call someone started doing yard work or construction and I stared hearing very loud machinery. It only lasted for a minute or two and since our call was a casual checkin it wasn’t a big deal. But in more formal or important meetings it could be a problem. You can’t control outside noise.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            I can’t tell you how glad I am to be away from the barking dogs next door to my old house.

        10. lyonite*

          I was coming here to say the same thing. One of my former coworkers lived on a flight path, and the sound of airplanes going over would drown out the entire call, even though they didn’t sound loud at all to him.

      2. EH*

        I have a neighbor who now spends large chunks of the day (like, 1-2hr at a go) walking up and down the side yard that our rentals share, talking on the phone. It is REALLY annoying, I can hear it from almost anywhere in the house (these are older buildings without much insulation). Hearing half of a conversation is incredibly distracting.

        1. bishbah*

          Are you in my complex? I also have two neighbors who have a daily “visit” with one of them standing six feet away … which is directly in front of my door. I can hear everything he says, for nearly an hour, every day.

    1. Competent Commenter*

      Eh, I’m regularly on cross-unit Zoom meetings with 20-30 people and only speak to give a 2-3 sentence report or sometimes just to say I have nothing to report. I can’t see how that’s going to bother my neighbors when I participate from my backyard, which I often do. Some people in that and other meetings are regularly on a patio and/or have their photo up until it’s time to speak and/or have virtual backgrounds. I don’t think a patio is less professional than a kitchen or bedroom (or your car!) and if you’ve got sleeping kids or a partner on their own Zoom call inside it’s great to be able to set up outside.

      1. Competent Commenter*

        I’m should add I always use earbuds outside. I have to use them inside most of the time due to sharing space anyway, so I didn’t think to mention it.

      2. Rexish*

        We have people taking walks while having a meeting or sitting outside if the weather is nice. I wouldn’t do it if I was leading the meeting, but if I was just a participant with a few lines here and there, I don’t see an issue. Headphones in use of course.

        1. Sylvan*

          Yeah, my coworkers and some managers do this. It’s been fine.

          We all mute ourselves when we aren’t talking, so we don’t have background noise from multiple sources. I guess that could get frustrating.

        2. Sparrow*

          Yeah, I think that’s fine. I probably wouldn’t do it if I had to speak at all, just because things echo from my balcony and it’s fairly windy here, but if that wasn’t the case, I think it would be fine for a sentence or two. Taking the laptop outside for answering an emails, etc. is definitely a good move, though – on the rare occasions it’s been warm enough to do that :(

      3. Elemeno P.*

        Yeah, I had a call with someone who was on his patio this week and it was fine. He had earbuds and a microphone, so I couldn’t hear any background noise (and he showed us the construction happening across the street, so there was some). I’ve had more trouble with people using really terrible microphones since I have to strain to hear them.

        1. LITJess*

          Eating during meetings. with. Airpods. It’s like my own personal hell as I have to wear a headset to hear over my toddler demanding to watch Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. Please all, if you are on a call and eating/drinking, just mute yourself. No one wants to hear mouth noises on 2 hour call.

          1. limoncello day*

            This isn’t meant to be snarky, but I’m curious what you think would happen if you said, “Woah, who is eating right now?” and if it keeps going, “I can still hear the person who is eating, not sure if they can mute for now or what.”

          2. E*

            Maybe you could ask your manager or the call organizer to send out a request to all attendees that they need to mute when not speaking due to extra noise being picked up on the group calls.

      4. ACG*

        I don’t see a problem with working outside. To me it doesn’t come across as less professional. And if you’re concerned with your co-workers seeing what your yard looks like, just change the Zoom background. The number of meetings I’ve had where people are everywhere from Lego World to Hogwarts to hanging out with a tiger and Joe Exotic have been hilarious.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          If you can. Mine won’t do it; it says my computer isn’t compatible and I don’t have a green screen. :(

      5. lilsheba*

        I’m not sure why taking calls outside is even a question. You’re at home, take calls wherever you want, and wear whatever clothes you want. I will finally be able to work from home soon and I plan to wear what’s comfortable, no shoes, and work in one of my spare bedrooms.

    2. Roscoe*

      Its no worse than a conversation between people honestly. If you live an apartment (I do) that is kind of one of those things you just deal with.

      1. Sylvan*

        Yep. We already hear what’s going on next door and the next floor up, so w/e.

      2. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Agreed. Unless it’s extensive or especially loud, a meeting during the day is not something I would get overly concerned about. I am also a champion eavesdropper, so I might even find your meeting interesting.

      3. Delphine*

        Yep. You really can’t tell your neighbors to stop talking because it bothers you. I expect no one is shouting on video calls or doing anything else that would actually be disturbing.

    3. LQ*

      The noise from everything gets picked up, at least learn to mute yourself because all the outside sounds are amplified. Audio matters. Even if it seems quiet to you, it may not at all be on the phone. If people have to say “Can you say that again.” you have to move back inside.

    4. Anononon*

      This is way over the top. There is nothing wrong with having normal conversations in your own yard.

      1. Amy Sly*

        I think the concern about neighbors comes down to the size of the yard. If your “yard” is 100 sq ft that’s just big enough to provide a spot for the grill and the dog to relieve himself, yeah, be considerate about how many calls you take outside so your neighbors can use their 100 sq ft without bothering you or you bothering them. If your yard is at least the size of a half basketball court, no need to worry about normal conversation being too loud. That being said, in either case, be sure that anything you say on the conference call not sensitive information that shouldn’t be repeated because you really don’t know who might be able to hear you.

        1. Lily Rowan*

          Yeah, there are yards and yards. On the other hand, I figure it’s on me when I am annoyed by my neighbors having normal volume conversations on their own porches. It’s not their fault we are 20 feet apart!

      2. Sylvan*

        Might be different if the homes are all very, very close together and you’re all conscious of the noise level? But chatting on your porch or in your yard has been normal in every apartment complex or neighborhood I’ve been in.

          1. Amy Sly*

            When I was house hunting, I’d see some of these tiny backyards that town homes have. Decided that if I ever bought one, I’d just buy the 12″ x 12″ artificial grass tiles they sell at Ikea to “carpet” the space and never have to bother with seeding, weeding, or mowing it. That kind of space, yeah, you just have to be courteous of your neighbors, and doubly so if you’re prone to “cell yell.”

      3. Blarg*

        I think it might be similar to in the Before Times when people talking on cell phones was way more distracting/annoying than two people talking to each other. We talk louder and you only hear one half (if using headphones) or just murmurs of the other half. I think it can be done but it isn’t the same as two people talking on the balcony.

        Also … I live in a large city in a high rise. The building across the way has balconies and I have so much outdoor envy. I want to be able to have sun on my face without elevators and lobbies and masks and stuff. Every apartment I ever rent in the future will have a balcony. Sigh.

    5. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I assumed a headset or earbuds. In fact, I do this when working from inside the house. My family members who live with me at this time, deserve some peace and quiet, and my coworkers deserve to not be overheard by random family members of their teammates. Win-win.

    6. Temperance*

      I would say that work meetings are no more or less annoying than general neighbor noise.

    7. bananab*

      Ha, came for this. There’s a plethora of people taking phone meetings while walking up and down my street these days and it drives me batty in my street-facing home office.

    8. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      I disagree. Unless it would cause some sort of security problem, I don’t see neighbors overhearing a work meeting as an issue. And as far as being annoying to neighbors, it’s no different than people having a conversation. If my close neighbor was on their porch in a meeting, I’d put on headphones and listen to some music – now is not the time to be unreasonable. I say as long as you live in an area that is generally quiet it’s ok to have meetings outside. We’re all stuck at home, and being able to go outside and enjoy the weather is one of the few pleasures we can safely enjoy right now.

    9. Lucette Kensack*

      I suppose I could be sympathetic to this argument if someone set up shop and had 8 hours of conference calls on their deck every day. But folks get to use their yards for things that their neighbors would prefer they don’t: smoke, sunbathe topless, blow their lives into a pile, obsessively weed-whack every inch of their lawn, whatever.

      Many of us are at home more these days, and of course we should be generous with our neighbors. But we don’t need to hide in our houses to preserve our neighbor’s unfettered right to the silent outside air.

    10. AKchic*

      All it takes is one screaming kid or barking dog (that won’t stop) to ruin whatever you’re trying to say…

    11. FuzzyFuzzyCat*

      Was coming here to say this too
      I totally get that it’s hard to work from home, though, and resonate w the need to get outside! Can you compromise and work outside when you have quieter activities?

    12. NotAnotherManager!*

      Our chief inforamation security officer also just sent guidelines for taking calls and specifically directed not to take them where you could overheard. On your deck/patio/balcony or in the yard was specifically listed as a no-go. Too much risk of inadvertent disclosure of confidential information. (We were also directed to turn off the listening features of Echo/Home type devices if we worked near them.)

    13. KoiFeeder*

      It’s also important to be mindful of your non-human neighbors. My dad got audiobombed by a pileated woodpecker recently- which I could have told him was going to happen, since they nest right near the house and ’tis the season for attracting mates.

    14. Betty (the other betty)*

      Ok, my anecdote. The other day, I answered Facetime when I was outside. Every time the dog next door barked, it took precedence and the caller’s audio cut out. I had to rush inside to continue the call.

  2. HMM*

    Re: the equipment – our (SF nonprofit) policy has always been that employees who are remote because of their job should get as much equipment and supplies as they need to do the job well. If the employee is remote by desire (i.e. they used to work at one of the offices, but wanted to live elsewhere), we do ask that the employee take on more of the cost of setting up their home office. We don’t not give them anything, but we are more stringent about what we pay for. Part of this is largely due to the fact that we don’t make cost of living adjustments when people move, and many folks are moving to lower cost of living areas intentionally (think SF to Texas, for example). The other part is that it’s just really hard to recover that equipment when they leave – nobody wants to ship a standing desk back and we don’t want to deal with that either. But this is, of course, all laid out during move negotiations so both parties know what to expect. I think it’s a fair and practical stance to take on both sides.

    However, during this coronavirus time, we have been more flexible with all employees regarding equipment given that people aren’t necessarily working at home by choice. As the person fulfilling these requests it’s a tough line to balance – at some point people will be coming back to the office and we have neither the resources nor the inclination to purchase full home offices for a few months use for all employees. I wish we could give a stipend and call it a day, but again – resources. So we’ve just erred on working with people as necessary, asking that they be flexible where possible, and then fulfilling requests when it’s clear the situation is causing them to struggle. It’s imperfect, but so far it’s worked okay.

    1. WorkingGirl*

      I think it’s actually pretty reasonable for employees to have to ship back company equipment? I had a remote nonprofit job and when I left, was asked to ship back my computer

      1. Elizabeth Proctor*

        I doubt HMM is referring to not providing a laptop (or even a desktop, but I would be surprised if that were common in WFH situations). They specifically gave a standing desk as an example of a thing one wouldn’t want to have to send back.

      2. MK*

        It’s not that simple. A laptop is fairly simple to return, but what about an office chair? Many items you have to dismantle before shipping, and not everyone can do that (or even has the tools, if it’s furniture). Then there is the packaging; you will probably have to buy appropriate packaging materials, and then do the actual package, which can be difficult with oddly shaped things.

    2. hamsterpants*

      My company provides a small stipend for things like internet and allows and encourages people to bring home their office equipment. The only piece office supplies that isn’t easy to transport in a car is a desk, and nearly everyone has some sort of desk or table they can use at home. We just had to document with the admin our equipment type + model before taking it home to ensure we’re returning the correct item.

    3. Case of the Mondays*

      For Corona Virus work from home, my office expects us to provide all of our own equipment. No big deal for me as a lawyer that already has an iphone, a surface, a laptop, an extra monitor, etc. PITA for the support staff that has never worked from home and doesn’t have any of this stuff and it’s near impossible to buy anywhere. I suggested they be allowed to take home their work desktops and the office said no without even considering it. I don’t think it would have been feasible the way that we remote in anyway but it’s unfortunate that we are all now on the hook for our own office supplies. I’m glad we are being allowed to WFH at least.

      1. Too old for this*

        It pushes the hell out of me that support staff should suffer disproportionately because “the office” doesn’t care. If you find it “unfortunate ” to have to supply your own office supplies I imagine that low level support staff would find it both difficult and expensive. Shame on your company.

        1. Anon Admin*

          I second this. I work for a nonprofit where there is no WFH except for C-level executives/executive directors. 3 days after we were shutdown my supervisor called to ask if I could receive work emails on my phone, could I take notes using my tablet, etc. and oh, you will need to let IT remote access this stuff and install programs. Nope. I’m glad to WFH if I can, but I’m not using my personal phone for emails, I can’t take notes on a tablet and I’m not letting IT install programs on personal devices. I know we have laptops that can be checked out and let us access our secure network and if they wanted me to work from home, I needed one of the loaners. It was a huge headache, but I finally got one but the battery is going bad and has to stay plugged up all the time.

          I don’t have a desktop or laptop at home

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        I had to raise the issue of people taking IT assets from the office with our head of IT, and it took them running into an associate with their second monitor in-hand to load into their car in the parking lot before they took me seriously about people actually doing that. There are issues with removing certain equipment from the office (risk of damage, violates the lease agreement, etc.), so we went with being more generous with home shipping on office accounts. Everyone had a laptop or confirmed alternate access before the office closed, we issued an allowance to key support staff to cover desk/chair/printer purchases (with no expectation of return), and I’ve used the organizational purchasing account to send items on an as-needed basis to others since we’ve been out, if there is a business need for it.

      3. SarcasticFringehead*

        I’m in IT at a law firm, and the difference between staff behavior (quietly going out to buy their own second monitor; getting their own adapters for their own equipment) and attorneys (realizing two weeks in to our stay-at-home order that his laptop screen is too small to work on and directing IT to give his assistant one of his monitors from the office to drop off at his house; constantly bringing up his billing rate and complaining about wasting billable time on IT stuff while refusing to assist in any way) has been…illuminating.

        And of course #notalllawyers, but some of these folks are genuinely awful.

      4. Is it Friday yet?*

        My company has more or less had this view, too. When it became clear that we were going to have to WFH for at least a few weeks, my boss started asking people if they had a computer at home that they could use. I do have a laptop, that I bring into the office sometimes for personal reasons, and said yes, mostly.

        For various reasons, using my personal computer has gotten increasingly frustrating and untenable, especially if I have to remote in to do work –can’t open a browser within the remote session without everything grinding to a halt and my computer overheating. I finally said I was mostly going to work outside the remote session when doing things with a browser but that then I would not see notifications from slack and outlook so sorry not sorry if you want to reach me! That got the attention of my boss who agreed to look into “reconfiguring” an old computer for me. Based on previous experience, I’m betting this is a 5+ year old laptop that will be little to no help. Bottom line, it should not have taken 7 weeks of WFH to get even that minor concession! Most of the staff are getting even less.

  3. AcademiaNut*

    For #5, my reading was that the LW wanted to know if she could ask her employer to help her find a larger apartment and pay for the difference in rent.

    If my understanding is correct, then no, this is not something an employer would cover, and asking for it would make you seem very out of touch with working norms. Asking if the employer would cover some of the cost of a co-working space would be more reasonable, but not an option right now.

    I definitely agree that full time WFH in a tiny living space is really hard even for one person, let alone two. But it’s not something you can ask your employer to fix.

    I’d say that a computer is the most common thing to be covered, followed by accessories like a web cam, good quality headset, decent office chair and printer (things you wouldn’t necessarily already have, or would need to be upgraded). Helping cover increased internet costs is also worth asking.

    1. Heidi*

      I also interpreted the letter this way at first and thought, “Are you going to ask your work to buy you a house?” Which I agree is not a realistic thing to ask for. However, now I’m wondering if the OP meant some sort of company housing, like how some remote jobs will rent out a place for workers or put you up in extended stay lodging for long stints. For some reason the only examples I can think of right now is how all the ranch hands live in a bunk house in old western shows and how the UK prime minister gets to live in Downing Street. But there are obviously more normal examples.

      1. Princess Zelda*

        My mom worked at a rural school that had housing for teachers, and Disney World (but not Disneyland) has dorm-style housing for interns. I think a lot of mining ops still have company housing too, especially if it’s in like rural Alaska.

      2. Ego Chamber*

        What is the logic behind people reading this as “housing upgrade cash-grab”? I assumed LW5 meant a coworking space or similar (I think those are closed right now but I’m not 100% on that).

        1. Avasarala*

          It’s the word “accommodations” which usually means housing. And that it seems weird to me to have an employee work remotely but pay for them to use a coworking space. At that point aren’t you just paying for them to work in a different office?

    2. TechWorker*

      Tbh even a coworking space could come across as a little out of touch imo (though maybe it depends how common they are). If a company already pays for office space you can work from it would seem a bit weird to me to ask them to pay for office space elsewhere. But then I guess it depends on the reasons for wfh.

      1. MistOrMister*

        I agree with this….at least, I do given the current general work culture. Right now the point of WFH is let people stay home and be safe and lessen the spread of covid. And if your job has an office and you need to not WFH for whatever reason, you go to the office, they aren’t going to, nor should they, pony up for a separate rented workspace simply for one person. The caveat being if you don’t work near the office and were offered a coworking space as part of your deal. That being said, I am sure a lot of places will rethink having thwir big offices as things progress. At that point, it could become more of a normal thing to offer coworking spaces. But, I just don’t really see it. I think most businesses will retain SOME office space, to be able to meet clients, have certain physical things, have places for in-person meetings, etc. In which case I would think anyone that doesn’t work from home will have a work station in the office.

      2. Jdc*

        If someone said they wanted to use a coworking space I’d say “great we have that at the office”. Kind of defeats working from home.

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          Unless you’re in a HCOL area. The rent on coworking spaces an hour or more away could be a fraction of prime office space. It could be cost effective to have a smaller office in the city for actual meetings, client contact etc, and pay for day-rate coworking spaces for employees near their homes in cheaper spaces further out.

          I agree that if you have space sitting empty in the actual office, duplicating outlay would become ridiculous.

          1. Frank Doyle*

            But the point of WFH right now is not cost savings, it’s keeping people at home and from interacting with other people.

            1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

              Yes, but the letter is about permanent WFH even when a return to the office would be safe.

            2. Ego Chamber*

              Right, but the fact LW5 is being moved to wfh permanently makes me think their company is doing it with an eye towards cost savings after the pandemic is over.

              If that’s the case, it makes sense to float the idea of a coworking space. If that’s already the company’s plan, they can decide whether they want enough space available for workers who don’t have a great wfh setup and might appreciate an alternative to that. (This assumes LW5 isn’t the only one being moved to permanent wfh.)

      3. That'll happen*

        I think it definitely depends. I’ve seen stipends for coworking spaces, but only at companies where most or all of the employees are remote.

    3. LGC*

      That’s how I originally read it as well – which I really hope she’s not asking for because I think that’s pretty inappropriate in this case! (Like, yeah, some jobs will pay for or provide housing. But those are jobs that generally ask you to travel far away from your home, such as being a miner or being a nanny.)

      As for LW5’s current situation…like, it does feel permanent right now, but she doesn’t say anything about the other person living with her being permanently WFH. And…the economy will reopen eventually, I think. We’re not all going to be doomed to our homes forever. So it might be the case that the other person she’s living with goes back to work after this blows over eventually.

      1. KHB*

        It looks to me like LW5 is asking about the situation where her employer (and potentially her partner’s employer) really does make WFH permanent, because they see that it’s working so well and they wonder what’s the point of paying for office space when all their employees already have spaces where they can work.

        If that’s what she’s imagining, I’m sympathetic to her for wanting to find a way to say “Sorry, but you’re not paying me enough that I can afford to live somewhere that this is a long-term solution.” If the company ends up saving a ton of money on office space by giving employees what’s essentially a downgrade in working conditions, that feels pretty crappy.

        And I’m sympathetic, but I’m not sure if there’s much she can do about it. “Buy me as house as part of my WFH setup” is obviously unworkable. But if she has a boss or another higher-up who she knows is willing to fight for her, she might be able to get somewhere by bringing this up delicately, preferably now, before any permanent decisions on office space are made. For example, “I’m worried that (company) might see that WFH is working so well during the pandemic and switch us all to WFH permanently, even after the pandemic is over. Can you tell me if there’s any basis for that worry? My home space really doesn’t work as a full-time, permanent office.”

        1. AcademiaNut*

          It could be tricky – a lot of people see work from home as a perk, so it would be hard to sell a significant raise when you no longer need to pay for a commute and office wear. But for some people, work from home is actually more expensive. It would be for me – I’d need to pay for running the AC all summer in a hot climate, and I wouldn’t save much on bus fare. And I have a place that’s big enough to have a home office. When I was younger, I lived in shared accommodation, and would have been spending 20+ hours a day in my bedroom even without a pandemic.

          Even if it’s not permanent, I think the “anyone who can work from home should” will be a fixture for at least a couple of years, to slow transmission of the virus. Maybe not as strict as the past couple of months, but with workers going into the office only when necessary, and on staggered schedules.

          1. AnotherAlison*

            Just one data point, but my office is considering making hundreds of people WFH permanently. That would allow for projected growth without constructing another building on our campus. They sent out a few different surveys asking people their thoughts (surveys were not anonymous and asked for personal info). They asked what other equipment you would need, and what stipend you thought was fair to start permanent WFH. I agree it might be at the far end of what the employer will help with, but I don’t think the OP’s question is out of line. My employer wants us to be productive. It’s not workable if you aren’t. OP’s employer should have gathered more data before making the change.

            In my case, my current WFH set-up is fine for a few months, but I didn’t take any work monitors or docking station and have to swap out my personal desktop computer and work laptop any time I need to use the home one. I also had a stand-up desk in the office and don’t have one here. They will offer all the computer stuff, headsets, and desks/stand-ups/chairs if you go permanent WFH.

            1. Nessun*

              I anticipate quite a few companies will have similar conversations. Why pay for a huge office space when your employees have now proven they can WFH productively? Let them choose to be WFH or office, and have some hoteling space for those who want a hybrid agreement, and then you can have smaller offices with lower overhead… it’s going to happen. My coworkers are already starting to ask about possibilities going forward – for those with a dedicated office space at home and a 1+ hour commute, they see no downside. I think the company will probably offer everyone the choice in a few months one we’re back to “normal”.

        2. LGC*

          Well, she already knows that she’s now permanently WFH. The thing is, it’s not clear from the letter whether her partner is. And it sounds like that might be the sticking point – it’s not so much that the space itself doesn’t work, it’s that sharing the space with her partner doesn’t work.

          That said, now that I think about it…you’re right that she should address her concerns now! Just…not like she did in the letter, because it really does sound like she’s asking her employer to buy her an office (or a new apartment).

          1. serenity*

            How would the employer address this, though? It’s a good faith question. How would an employer be convinced that your partner working from home is somehow their problem or their responsibility?

            I’m working with a lot of people right now who are legitimately grappling with the challenges of working from home and sharing that space (whether it’s a one-bedroom apartment or larger) with a spouse and/or kids and/or elderly relatives or parents. I haven’t heard one person say “You know, this is something my employer is going to have to help me deal with”. I just cannot imagine OP5 having this conversation and not sounding wildly out of touch.

            1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

              Yeah, expecting your employer to fund a bigger place to live is very tone deaf IMO. We’re all having to adjust to new circumstances right now, which can include working in a tiny space. But outside of providing the necessary equipment to do your job & being flexible based on an individual’s situation, it’s not the company’s responsibility to find you a bigger apartment.

            2. LGC*

              I’d say…maybe don’t push back on the current situation (and for the ones in the back, definitely don’t ask them to buy you a better apartment), but ask to revisit it in the future. Like, they can decide to bring her back in-office in six months? And yes, even this sounds kind of high-maintenance, but a lot more reasonable than asking to get her a better apartment or a co-working space.

              When I said that sharing the space with her partner doesn’t work, I meant that her current apartment might be fine in the future! It’s just that right now, it’s not working well. There’s different possible solutions short of LW5’s company paying her rent.

        3. iambrian*

          I don’t see she’s asking them to buy her a house though. She’s saying we are two people in a 1-bedroom apartment. We live in that because that’s what we can afford. For teleworking to work, we need a two bedroom, which will be $XXX extra/month. Will the company pick up the extra?
          Now I still think the answer is no, and I wouldn’t even ask, but if the only reason for moving to the bigger apartment is because of teleworking, then it’s not an unreasonable thought.

          1. Lucette Kensack*

            It really is, though. Our employers don’t pay for our housing. We make housing choices based on our needs, preferences, and budgets.

            Her needs or preferences are changing, because her work changed. So she needs to decide what she wants to do about it — move somewhere larger, find ways to make it work in her current apartment, or find a new job. Asking her job to pay for her to upgrade her housing is ludicrous.

            I HAVE heard of organizations that give stipends for folks who work at home, to cover the direct costs that have shifted from the employer to the employee: upgrading internet, increased electric and gas bills, etc.

    4. hamsterpants*

      I actually think this would be reasonable IF it were simply phrased as a request for a raise when a large, expensive amenity (the office) is taken away. It depends a great deal on whether long-term WFH is being seen by the company as a cost-cutting measure or a benefit.

    5. MoopySwarpet*

      When we have hired people specifically to work from home (meaning not people temp working from home now) we pay phone, internet, and equipment/office supplies. We haven’t been asked for reimbursement for furniture to date, but most of the people we’ve hired for remote work have been doing it long enough to already have appropriate work space.

      If the WFH is permanent to reduce in office staff and not because the office space is going away completely, I’d be careful asking for anything that they might see as extreme if you don’t want to be in the office. We would have an employee come to the office vs paying for separate space rental.

      1. Smithy*

        Depending on how this impacts work spaces long-term, I do wonder if employers that have stabilized their business models will begin to offer stipends/compensation for remote-work expenses. Maybe it would be a case of expensing phone/internet bills but as time goes on, I could see a case where a company perhaps gives remote-work employees a business card with a cap of X a month for work expenses. Maybe that would still just be phone/internet bills – for for others it might look like offsetting the cost of childcare, furnishing a home office, renting a co-share space, or even just buying loads of tea, coffee, and post-in notes.

        Obviously right now with unemployment being so high and the uncertainty facing so many sectors – this wouldn’t be an expectation I’d have more most employers right away. But at this point if my workplace came to us and said “we’re giving everyone an additional $100 a month to offset your home phone/internet bills” – that would be wildly appreciated.

    6. Arctic*

      I think by “afford different” housing LW means a raise, which is still a bad idea. Of course, you can always ask for more money at job and negotiating raises is an important thing to learn how to do. But your sole argument shouldn’t be “I need more space because I’m home more” in such a negotiation.

      1. Ego Chamber*

        “Accommodations,” not “housing.” Subtle differences. Since LW5 says the company decided they’ll wfh permanently, I don’t understand why it would be out of line to ask whether the company could help them find and pay for a coworking space once it’s safe for those to reopen.

        The employer changed the terms of employment, that makes it reasonable to revisit compensation just like any other time a significant benefit is removed from the overall compensation package.

    7. AKchic*

      That was my interpretation too, and I wasn’t very kind in my initial thought on it.

      This pandemic isn’t going to last forever. Eventually, people will start going back into offices and not need their WFH set-ups. No company is going to pay for upgraded living situations for a temporary WFH situation. Especially when there is only one employee they are “responsible” for and there are two adult workers in the residence who are sharing expenses. Where you choose to live is not the employer’s concern or responsibility. What you do with the money they give you for the work you provide them is your own business.

      I do feel for people in small living spaces who are in them for whatever reason and rationalized living there because “I won’t be here often, just to sleep, really” and are now stuck in there way more than they ever expected. Unfortunately, this is our current reality. We have to make do for now and figure out how we’re going to try to get better wages for everyone, better living conditions, better… everything.

    8. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

      I suppose the most-related thing you could ask instead of asking them to cover a larger living space is that you could ask them how often you’d be expected to come into the office once you’re permanent WFH, since you’d like to move someplace with room for a home office and to afford that you’d need to move further away from the actual office.

      If you and your partner both WFH and don’t need to come into the office regularly, it may make sense to move to a cheaper place to live, probably within your current metro area but further out into the suburbs or exurbs. In most metro areas, you can get a 2 or 3 bedroom rental out further for the same as a one bedroom closer in, and when I lived in a small town about a 60-90 minute drive from where I live now I paid less to rent an entire house than I did to rent an apartment back in the larger city.

      Of course, that’s a different lifestyle that you may not find appealing. I know I decided I wanted to live somewhere with good mass transit access and a variety of restaurants within walking distance rather than in a small town where I had to own a car and there was only one grocery store. (I am now stuck in my house just like if I lived in the middle of nowhere, of course, but in the bigger picture I’ll have those city amenities again someday.)

    9. Marmalade*

      People’s responses are kind of harsh, but I totally understand where the OP is coming from. I live with several other people, and it’s really difficult having us all work from home – we don’t really have the room, and aren’t set up for it.

      If I was working from home permanently, realistically I would have to move to my own place, and that would cost a lot more.* I would be poorer, directly as a result of my work closing the office.

      * my city is hellishly expensive, and I would only just be able to pay bills etc if I was living in my own.

      Would I ask them to spend some of the money they’d save on office rent on paying me more, so that I live in circumstances where i can do my job well?
      Probably not, but the impulse would be there. I mean, they’d be externalising the cost of the office on to me.

  4. sleepsinoctober*

    #1 Just be aware of how the wind might hit the microphone (which you wouldn’t notice, but is the kind of low-key noise that would drive the other people on the call up the wall) and how the sun hits you (can make you completely washed out). I hope it works out – meetings on the patio sound lovely!

    1. xristiana*

      yess the wind makes calls so difficult when i’m on video calls with people outside

      1. Quill*

        Even on the phone! my mom’s phone syncs to her car and every time she calls these days it sounds like she’s doing it from inside an air force wind tunnel.

    2. in a fog*

      Yep, this. A coworker was outside for our department check-in Zoom this week, and it was tough to hear her. Ambient background noise like traffic and lawnmowers can get distracting.

      1. Competent Commenter*

        Yes and I think muting is good practice anyway so no one has to hear you typing notes, your spouse using the microwave, your kid on a video game, etc. For Zoom meetings with more than about four people this is pretty standard where I work.

        1. Quinalla*

          Agreed, I even mute when I’m on a call with just me and another person if they are talking for a long time sometimes. Muting to me is the polite thing to do always!

      2. Uldi*

        Doesn’t do much when that breeze blows when you’re talking, though. Same for passing traffic and the like.

      3. BethDH*

        It’s still really annoying and often not noticeable to you as the speaker. I like to work outside and didn’t realize how incredibly hard I was to understand until I was checking a recording of one of our meetings. I’ve made some changes to help, but it was more than just distracting. Just talking a little louder does NOT work, by the way.

      4. peachie*

        PSA that on Zoom, you can set your preferences so you can temporarily unmute by holding the spacebar. Learned this recently and have spent a lot less time scrambling to turn mute on and off!

        1. Ktelzbeth*

          PSA for the PSA: the Zoom window appears to have to be the active window on your computer for this to work. If I’ve clicked on to another window (and even sometimes if I haven’t) it usually doesn’t. This has limited the usability for me (PC running Windows 10, using Zoom app).

          1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

            It also doesn’t work if your cursor is in the Zoom chat window. Many times I’ve ended up typing a bunch of spaces into chat while muted and trying to talk.

    3. allathian*

      Wind noise can be eliminated using an external mic and those furry mic covers that journalists use when doing interviews outdoors. I think that there are even some for collar/throat mics. I have no idea what those would cost, though! And it’s unlikely an employer would cover the cost of such equipment…

      1. Uldi*

        Not eliminated, just muted. Birds and traffic can still be heard, as well as lawnmowers and the like.

    4. Competent Commenter*

      I think if it’s windy, noisy or you can’t sit in the shade then the patio isn’t a good choice but that seems like just common sense. For me, a shady spot in my yard on a nice day is really no big deal technically. Some nice greenery behind me looks better than my kitchen for sure. I plug my ear buds into my laptop so no one nearby can hear the rest of the conversation and so I can speak more quietly.

  5. alienor*

    1. Several people I work with have been taking calls from their patios–the only reason I don’t do it too is because there’s occasionally a loud traffic noise from a truck or something going past on the street. If it seems iffy, Zoom does have backgrounds you can use to block the patio view out.

    3. Given the nature of the co-worker’s job, I’m guessing she’s a lot more likely to be exposed to the virus at work than anyplace else, so I’m not sure she’s putting patients at risk any more than she already was. The fact that she’ll be spreading her hospital-acquired germs around the community is another story (and horrible and selfish) but I’m not sure the employer can control that, can they?

    1. jm*

      she is more likely to be exposed at work, but she’s still increasing her chances of being exposed during her off hours, which puts patients, coworkers, and their families at risk, not to mention all the people she chooses to stop socially distancing from

      1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        The employer could fire her for wearing purple shoes to the grocery store if they wanted, let alone for disregarding public health directives.

    2. PollyQ*

      Every interaction with an extra person raises the risk of transmission. The fact that her risk is already high in the hospital doesn’t change that.

      1. EPLawyer*

        yeah let’s not have a repeat of Lisa. If the employer doesn’t care, let them decide. It’s not for LW to consider all the factors, possible reasons, etc. whether the co-worker is more or less of a risk with her attitude. LW has a legitimate health concern, she should politely raise it to her boss. Let the employer take it from there.

        Let me just add, I find the co-worker’s attitude just terrible. If you want to do something that only affects you, fine. But this affects others. You don’t get to decide for the in a life or death situation. It’s not only your life you are protecting it is literally everyone else that you come in contact with.

        1. Iron Chef Boyardee*

          let’s not have a repeat of Lisa

          For the benefit of anyone coming across this thread in the future via the “Surprise Me” feature (which I love and I wish other blogs would offer) may not get the “Lisa” reference: #1 at this link, with an update here.

    3. Different Kind of Doctor*

      I am a physical therapist who usually works in an outpatient department separate from the hospital. A month ago 8 of us got reassigned to the hospital to support the Infection Control team. 3 people opted out because they thought being in the hospital increased their risk. Fast forward 2 weeks and our entire outpatient department was shut down and quarantined because so many staff tested positive. No one that got reassigned to the hospital ever developed symptoms and all three who opted out did. Ironic, but our outpatient staff didn’t take precautions seriously and it cost us big. A skeleton crew is back after quarantine, 75% of our staff got furloughed, and most of those back are still ignoring mask and distancing precautions. OP2, definitely let management know.

      1. Ego Chamber*

        “most of those back are still ignoring mask and distancing precautions.”

        I was going to ask if there was any kind of trace to see how the 3 might have gotten sick but uh, yeah, this is how it happens, especially if you’re doing outpatient work.

  6. I coulda been a lawyer*

    I read OP5 asking for better accommodations as meaning that they want to move to a larger apartment and want the employer to help pay for that. And that would be outrageous IMHO. I’m working from home now; under normal circumstances I’m allowed to do it once a week but I never do bc my apartment is so tiny and I walk to work. If they make me WFH permanently I’ll have to move but I could find much cheaper housing in a different area. And the move would be at my expense.

    1. Irene*

      Agree with everyone re sound & privacy issues on patio. But can’t you choose your own zoom fake background in any case so it doesn’t reveal where you actually are?

      1. Pyjamas*

        Yes, I was also thinking OP could set up a green screen (required for fake backgrounds on my elderly MacBook though not on my iPhone)

      2. BethDH*

        It’s still really obvious. The background would hide the specifics of the patio, like a pile of empty pots or whatever, but the lighting and sound are obvious. It’s surprising how much we can tell about an environment through subtle cues even without consciously thinking about it. I still think that in most offices it would be fine, especially in internal meetings.

  7. Mike*

    Along the lines of #5, should employers be helping with the increase in electricity costs? Computers and other equipment use electricity and when you are home the HVAC costs will go up as well.

    1. MistOrMister*

      I don’t think employers would be required to cover those things. One person working from home is not generating so much extra electricity that they will notice a huge increase in their bill from the computer being on all day. It’s posible that if employers decide to make WFH a norm and downsize office space, some money might make its way into employee hands but also very likely there will be no change in compensation. They dont subsidize us for gas, wear and tear on our cars, etc, so electricity probably wont be next.

      I know I am in the minority, but my HVAC bills would go down, not up, if I can WFH over the summer. I rarely have the AC on when I’m home, but turn it on when I’m at work if the forecast is high enough, because I won’t be around to judge and I don’t want my cats to get hot. 9 times out of 10 I come home and find I could have left the stupid AC off!!

      BBC did an an article a couple of months ago about how WFH would probably actually increase pollution as people run their heat and AC more in individual houses since they wouldn’t be at work. Who knows if we’ll be working from home long enough to see how that pans out.

      1. Alice*

        Completely OT, but I wonder if you can wire your AC to a thermostat, so that it only runs when the indoors temp gets above, say, 78, or whatever a healthy cat temperature max is.

        1. Gatomon*

          If it’s a traditional a/c unit sure, but if it’s a wall or window unit it may not have that option, or it may not work as efficiently as you’d think. I was in a similar conundrum with my pet chinchilla for years and the portable a/c I had could set a temp, but it never turned the fan off.

          I’ve never been too worried about my cat though. I used to find him wrapped around my radiators in my old apartment during the winter, and I kept it around 72.

          1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

            Ugh yes, I had window units for years. They had an internal thermostat that did a fantastic job measuring the temperature outside and not the temperature inside my apartment.

            If it was mid-morning while the room was still cool from overnight but the sun was hitting the AC? The AC was on. But if it was evening, when the room was still broiling from the afternoon heat but was cool outside? AC was off.

            I often had to turn it to some ridiculous temperature to get the room cool enough to sleep in.

    2. Wintermute*

      I think that’s a bit of a stretch, a modern PC uses maybe five or six dollars a month of electricity (I leave mine on 24/7 and it’s got a very powerful 800-watt power supply to power all my gaming stuff, and my electric bill is still under 60 bucks a month, most of that is my electric stove).

      The HVAC costs are higher, it’s true, but again, it’s so minimal that it would seem really weird to ask for reimbursement, I can’t imagine any situation where it wouldn’t at minimum seem like you were trying to take advantage or nickle-and-diming the company to a ludicrous extent.

    3. snowglobe*

      I think before you start adding up all the small costs like electricity, you need to really look at the savings as well. I started full time WFH about two years ago, and my savings from gas, tolls and parking added up to about $275 per month. There is also the cost of professional clothing and dry-cleaning. That may be on the high end (I’m sure a lot of people don’t have to pay for monthly parking), but I’d guess savings on gas alone would be more that you are spending on electricity.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        I mentioned above, but my employer sent a survey asking what a fair stipend would be to start permanent WFH.

        For me, the gas savings would not be much. I go through less than a tank a week anyway, and once things reopen, all those personal things I did near my office will still need to be done. Now it’s just a special trip. (Not necessarily an expense the employer should cover, but it is not a savings for me.) As for clothes, my employer is one who wants people to pretend they wear work shirts around their homes, and we still have to own these clothes for meetings and travel. We may also have rotating weeks in the office. I have no tolls or parking costs to be saved, but I would upgrade my internet for permanent WFH. Meanwhile, my coworker who has a 45 mile commute will have a big savings.

        I think employers need to help make sure the costs balance out for each employee. The savings for the employer is huge.

      2. AnonAnon*

        My last electric bill was only $18 higher but there were so many other factors that I am not 100% sure it was because I am here all the time. But even so, $18 is not enough to go running to my employer to get reimbursed.

        I had one co-worker that asked to have her internet paid for. That was shut down real quick.

      3. Ego Chamber*

        “adding up all the small costs”

        Different chokes for different folks I guess? I live in a rural-adjacent community and we only have 2 flavors of internet: $45/month basic, it will run Netflix okay as long as no one else is online but more than a couple tabs open at once or any video chat = everything lags, or $100+/month for the internet that would make smooth videoconferencing possible.

        I would honestly be a little pissed off to have to upgrade for my employer’s convenience and the savings on gas would not balance that out (there are no tolls or paid parking here, I already paid for my work clothes and none of them are dry cleaned). Also I’m poor and an extra $55/month is kind of a lot right now, you know?

    4. Constance Lloyd*

      Mine is giving us a small “technology stipend” each paycheck while we’re wfh, but that’s because most of us have to use our own computers and phones to do our work. It’s a gesture I very much appreciate but wouldn’t expect, especially if computers were provided.

    5. MagicUnicorn*

      My employer is giving us a stipend to cover home internet during this time. We do need Internet access in order to WFH, but that is a steady expense that I paid for anyhow and it didn’t go up just because I’m now home. I just view my internet stipend as covering the costs that really did increase (electric bill, heating/cooling expenses, etc.).

      I wonder if the OP could reframe the question in a way that might make it less about them asking the employer to pay for a bigger apartment and more about “my current situation is not conducive to focusing on work, but a privacy screen/headset/laptop stand/supportive chair/whatever would help” and see if that could be covered.

    6. Lies, damn lies and...*

      This used to be something you could write off on your taxes if you worked from home full time but someone got rid of that. My employer doesn’t even pay cell phone or wifi for full time remote employees, which is kind of obnoxious….

      1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

        Do you use your cell to make work calls? And did you not have internet service prior to working from home? Not sure I’d call not providing those things obnoxious unless you were expected to use your personal cell as you would a desk phone/were on call all the time, or you didn’t have internet/had to upgrade your internet plan for work.

        1. schnauzerfan*

          We have DSL which was perfectly adequate for our pre WFH needs. Could do internet browsing, even stream 1(one) show. It’s woefully inadequate for two people working from home with others in the household trying to continue to watch a few episodes of Green Acres. Faster Internet would be only for works benefit. I use my cell phone to make work calls and as a hot spot when I need to zoom and can’t because the other WFH stuff has our WiFi shelled. Why would this NOT be something my employer kick in for?

          1. Ego Chamber*


            Do you use your cell phone to make work calls?
            Obviously. I live out in the sticks and no one’s going to pay for an employee to have a work cell phone unless the person doesn’t have one yet (then they’ll give you a $40 TracPhone, which will come out of your next paycheck, and you have to keep the minutes topped up yourself). And your cell phone is your work phone because they’re not going to waste money on extra phone lines when everyone has a cell phone.

            Did you not have internet before? (What are you, living out in the sticks where internet is expensive and limited, if it’s even available at all?)
            Yeah, actually, that’s about the size of it.

      2. pancakes*

        I don’t know where you’re getting your tax information from but this isn’t correct. My boyfriend is self-employed, has always worked from home, and always takes deductions for part of our rent. His taxes are prepared quarterly by an accountant. If you run a search for “ tax deduction for working from home” there’s no shortage of information.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          The new tax law got rid of the home office deduction and deductions for unreimbursed employee expenses, for everyone but the self-employed. Your boyfriend is self-employed, which is why he still gets it.

        2. BeadsNotBees*

          Yes, as Allison stated traditional W-2 employees can no longer deduct home office or other work-related expenses (we also lost the gas mileage deduction as well).

  8. Kiitemso*

    #5 I’ve gone to the office in the evening once to pick up some basic essentials from the office supplies cupboard, such as new batteries for my cordless mouse, a new notebook for my notes, a few pens and a packet of post-its. I’m also working in a one-bedroom and I think I would be more comfortable working in the office, in terms of ergonomic considerations.

    I think accommodations will largely depend on your status with the company as well as how permanent or semi-permanent the move to wfh will be seen as. For my position it seems to be temporary-for-the-time-being, though with the possibility of continuing wfh once or twice a week perhaps so my employer is not moving my desk to this rinky-dink one bedroom. I’ve not heard of any people who work from home permanently getting monetary support for a bigger apartment, for example (unless it’s baked into the salary somehow).

    1. CC*

      There is an office near here that announced their office lease is up in 2 months & working from home has been going so well that they are going to close their office.

      I am assuming they will allow their staff to help themselves to any of the office furniture they need for their home offices. (I don’t have personal knowledge of that though.)

      I am wondering how many of their staff members will end up needing to move to get a better home office space if they are on permanent work from home.

      1. Liz*

        This would be my concern if my company did this. I live in a 1BR, and as i’m working from home for the forseeable future, my dining room table has become my office. i don’t have space ANYWHERE to put a separate desk. while I’m managing pretty well, not sure how i would IF it became permanent. and rents for larger apts in my area would cost me an additional $200-300 a month more.

        1. pancakes*

          I’m in NYC and very, very few people here have a dining room in their apartments. I have one but have always used it as a home office. The idea that every employee working from home should have both a dining room and a home office seems unrealistic to me.

          1. Gazebo Slayer*

            Yeah, I have a table that folds very tiny and basically isn’t usable for much right now. I can’t unfold it – no room, because there’s so much work inventory stored in my tiny studio apartment. So I just eat and do all my work on my bed – there’s really nowhere else. (I’m in Boston, not NYC, but that’s still definitely a HCOL area.)

        2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

          Yeah, right now I don’t mind that my dining table has turned into a desk (I brought multiple monitors home when we went WFH, so my work space has a pretty big desk footprint) because I’m not having other people over for dinner. I can just move the keyboard out of the way to have room for one plate, and I don’t let the dog eat at the dinner table, so it’s not space I need right now.

          However, someday I’d like to have dinner with other people again, possibly many other people at once even, and if I’m still working from home at that point I’ll need a large desk that isn’t my dining table (and probably is in a room with a door that shuts so I’m not worried about guests seeing confidential things). In my case, I could get that space by re-arranging some things and making different choices about how I’m using an “extra” bedroom, but that’s because I’m living in a fairly large place for one person. If I lived in a smaller place, I’d have to move to find a private space for a home office in a home that I also wanted to have company over to, or else make other major changes in space usage. (For example, sleeping in a twin-sized loft bed so a desk could go underneath it in the bedroom.)

  9. CoderUnicorn*

    #1 could sensitive information be heard or seen from your computer on your patio? My company ask that we all work inside to limit others outside the company learning things they should not.

    1. pugsnbourbon*

      I was on a Zoom call with someone on the patio – he was on mute so no issue there – but he was wearing mirrored sunglasses. He didn’t have anything weird pulled up, but it made me think.

    2. JustaTech*

      That’s a very sensible precaution. Back in the days of airports I was constantly amazed at the private business conversations people (mostly dudes) would have at full volume at the gate. If you ever needed to do corporate espionage on Silicon Valley startups, I’d recommend the San Jose airport.

      But no one will ever beat the doctor on the commuter train in Boston who was returning patient calls on his cell phone (circa 2000). He was so loud, and the information so sensitive, that someone finally got up and told him off (which *never* happens on those trains, ever).

  10. Turquoisecow*

    The answer to #1 reminds me of something my husband told me recently. An executive at his company lives in a gorgeous (and expensive) area of California and the view out his home office window, which is behind him as he does video calls, is amazing. Several meetings started with people commenting on how wonderful his view was, and so the executive started putting up a virtual background. I’m not clear if it was because he realized it might be seen as flaunting his wealth or if he was just tired of hearing the comments about it.

    OP, if you have sort of a blank wall you can sit in front of, that might work best. I don’t know how well virtual backgrounds work when you’re outside, but that might also be something to think about.

    1. Roscoe*

      The concept of people being mad that someone is “flaunting their wealth” for having a nice view, or even a pool is just baffling to me. I think there are some situations where people are flaunting wealth, but often its just people living their life in the way they are able to. There is nothing wrong with that. If you worked hard and rose to CEO of a company, I’m not going to begrudge you the fact that you have an awesome view from your living room, or a huge backyard. Even if someone is laying by their pool, so what?

      1. londonedit*

        In normal times, maybe, but at the moment I think it definitely has the potential to come off as a bit tone-deaf. Plenty of companies have asked staff to take pay cuts, people have been furloughed, people are generally worried about money or losing their job, and people are having a tough time trying to balance everything they need to work from home efficiently. If the CEO showed up on a video call from their massive house with an incredible view, I think it would strike the wrong note with people who may be struggling to get by in the current situation.

        1. Roscoe*

          But I guess my thing is, they already had that house right? Like, a CEO driving a sports car now that he has had for years isn’t tone deaf. If he bought a new one maybe, but if its existing stuff, I just don’t understand being mad about it.

          1. yala*

            I mean, CEOs reminding employees of the fact that they make ~100-300x more than their employees in general is going to engender a little negative feeling, regardless. The specific insecurity related to Covid is new, but the general wealth gap isn’t

            1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

              I think it depends on the company and the situation.

              If Joe worked his butt off and made his way to the top, I’m not going to be mad because he lives in a mansion with a view and a pool. If he lied and weasled his way to the top, that’s a different story. Also if the company cuts pay or furloughs their employees while the Joes are still getting their regular pay, then yeah I’m going to be mad.

              But being mad at someone who has more than you is pointless, and that says more about you being mad than about Joe with his big house and sweet view.

              1. yala*

                I mean, at a certain level of wealth, no one really “earns” that much. Not really.

                It’s not about being mad that someone has “more” than you. It’s about being mad at a systemic wealth imbalance that’s spiraled out of control.

                But also, hey, maybe just don’t flaunt all your nice things in front of people who don’t have them, because it’s not a good look.

                1. Roscoe*

                  I mean really, what is flaunting? I think that is a subjective term. Someone having a nice living room decor might be considered flaunting because they aren’t doing their calls in a closet. Someone having a nice highrise view is just living their life.

                  I’m not going to get into the systemic balance issue. But I think people just need to understand that some people have more. Them living their life isn’t flaunting it at you, its just what they have.

                2. Gazebo Slayer*

                  “No one really ‘earns’ that much” is right. Sadly, there are plenty of farm laborers and restaurant cooks and EMTs and service workers with multiple jobs who work as hard as any CEO.

                3. Avasarala*

                  I think the fake background is the right choice. It’s distracting and doesn’t foster a collegiate environment. Especially if you’re discussing company finances like furloughing, salary cuts, asking employees to stay at home, etc. and all the workers can think is “Great, easy for you to say from your mansion with a view. I share a closet with my family. Glad one of us is doing OK…”

                4. Pomona Sprout*

                  This is one of those times when I wish we had a “like” button. I <3 this comment so much!

        2. AnotherAlison*

          I think context of the video call matters. If you’re the CEO of a large corporation and it’s a normal weekly meeting with your other executive staff, come on, they all live in expensive houses. So what? If you’re giving a COVID update to the entire staff, perhaps something a little toned down is more appropriate.

          People getting upset over this example are looking at it from a fairly narrow POV, I think. Honestly, you could live 30 miles outside my Midwestern city, have acreage, and a pool for a mid-level management salary where I’m at (and I do, no pool though). You could also buy a condo in the city for the same price. My friend has a low-rent town home with a small yard that would look very impressive on Zoom because she’s a great gardener and decorator. Appearances are just that – appearances. I’m fine with toning things down and being sensitive, but I also think people who are seeing something should consider we live in an Instagram world and everything can be fabricated.

          One of my execs joins calls in his garage. Doesn’t mean he’s broke.

      2. RecentAAMfan*

        I agree that at a time when people may be worried about buying food and paying rent, displaying a lavish poolside lifestyle is insensitive.

      3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        It gets more complicated when these are the people who determine your pay and benefits. If an exec tells me one day that there will be no raises this year, or that our benefits need to be cut because the company is financially struggling, and then the next day I see them on a Zoom call with their horses frolicking on their beautifully manicured acres in the background (loved that description, btw!), it won’t be anything I wouldn’t expect, but neither would it be a good look. It takes $0.00 to put up a virtual background. I see it as a thoughtful gesture.

        1. CM*

          Yes, exactly. If I’m an Amazon warehouse worker who gets hassled about going to the bathroom, has uncertain working hours, and is under constant pressure to work faster in a physically demanding job, I really question whether Jeff Bezos’ wealth comes purely from his own hard work, and I’m not impressed by his mansion and yacht.

      4. James*

        Seconded. Plus, having a nice view or a pool doesn’t necessarily mean you’re rich. My aunt has a nice pool with a deck she built specifically to lounge on, on a nurse’s salary. I’ve also got coworkers who have homes with beautiful views making as much as I do–they opted for a smaller house and a rural area because they enjoy hunting. I’ve had a few conference calls in the field, where the views were stunning–I’m talking snow-capped mountains above the clouds, or sitting on a hillside overlooking miles of desert, absolutely stunning vistas. I was there because I was working. The views were an unintended perk.

        Judging people negatively because they have nice things is just as wrong as judging people negatively because they don’t have the nicest things. It’s petty, and is often making up a narrative about this person that’s not supported by the facts.

        1. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

          Totally agree, but the difference between folks like a nurse and (possibly) your co-workers vs. a CEO is that they don’t have all that much power to influence other people’s livelihoods. Anyone who’s at a line manager level or below probably doesn’t have influence over many people’s livelihoods, and they’re also at the mercy of people above them; you’re just regular folk with nice things. The optics risk is a lot different when it’s someone in very senior leadership.

      5. Blueberry*

        Heh, I agree for kind of the opposite reason. Not least as a city dwelling peon, I would appreciate the CEO sharing with me the beautiful view he could afford in part because of the money he made off of my and the other peons’ work.

      6. Wow.*

        I’m with you, but some people have to find something to be offended by, always. Some people at my job are annoyed by the fact that the C-suite execs make 6 figures. Even though the rest of us are also fairly compensated for our work (yearly market analysis, equity raises on top of merit raises, etc).

        1. Ego Chamber*

          I mean, the C-suite is making 6 figures off of you and your coworkers’ labor, so they damn well better compensate you well enough to look the other way on that blatantly uneven split—unless there’s a true labor class below you and you’re all exploiting them to gain money that none of you labored for, in which case the point you’re making would make a lot more sense.

      7. anon for this*

        As a humourless pinko, I would question whether anyone really deserves extravagant displays of wealth–particularly in the midst of a crisis that’s precipitated by the lifestyles of the wealthy and whose impacts are pretty starkly divided to favour the already fortunate. Obviously I don’t think that means we should all show up at Executive Bob’s tasteful mansion with pitchforks, but I’m less inclined than usual to quietly accept the inequalities on display in Executive Bob’s Zoom call with good grace.

        1. Ego Chamber*

          No, I think we should all go over to Executive Bob’s and raise hell.

          I’m less irritated when it’s a coworker or someone just a step or two up the org chart, because the difference in pay isn’t 300x more so I can assume they prioritize their spending differently than I do. Not a big deal.

  11. evolution in action*

    One of my students would Zoom in from his front porch. He was on a porch swing, rocking, dog next to him. Everyone was quite jealous. The birds were really, really loud coming through on the call. He did the same thing later, but put up a virtual background – the bird noises were still jarring.
    If you’re mostly listening and not talking, and keep your mike muted, it should work. If you have to contribute, it’s probably not great.

  12. Uldi*

    LW #1:

    I would not attend virtual meetings from a porch, and not because it seems too casual but due to technical issues. First up are audio issues such as wind, traffic, or wildlife being picked up by your mic. It’s incredibly distracting to have that annoying dull roar most mics turn even the slightest breeze into, or the sound of nearby traffic passing. It’ll be inevitable that you’ll have to repeat yourself frequently, and that wastes everyone’s time.

    Then there is the issue of whatever you’re using for a camera. You should test it to see how it handles sudden changes is light intensity. It’ll look pretty bad if you’re just a silhouette half the time because of passing clouds.

  13. Candle light*

    OP 1: If it is a meeting where you are mostly going to be on listening mode, I’d start the intros/hellos inside then turn off the camera and mic and sit outside, but close enough to be able to nip back in if you need to contribute. I did this yesterday and it was lovely! I should point out I used headphones so neighbours couldn’t overhear.

  14. jman4l*


    I think your answer to LW4 shows the big problem with the unemployment change. If your company is still paying you full wage, you shouldn’t qualify for any additional unemployment.

    People are not going to want to go back to work If they can make more money sitting around at home. This needs to be fixed where people shouldn’t be able to profit from sitting at home. I know of a lot of public schools furloughing teachers one day a week and now they get a windfall with an extra $2400 per month

    This isn’t right and our kids and grandchildren will be paying this back forever in high taxes.

      1. Oh No She Di'int*

        Banks are not being “bailed out”, at least not by the provisions in the CARES act that you’re referring to. Banks are serving as the intermediaries for a defined set of small business loans. The portion of the loans that are not forgiven carry a very, very, very below-market rate of 1% interest. That means that once the banks are carrying these loans on their balance sheets, they quite likely to be losing truckloads of money on them. Now, whether the loan programs are being carried out efficiently and well is another discussion, but there’s no scenario under which this constitutes a bank “bailout”. There are plenty of reasons to be mad at banks; this is not one of them.

        1. serenity*

          Before we soft-pedal criticisms of banks, it’s worth pointing out that there’s been solid reporting recently that minority-owned small businesses have been *way* disproportionately rejected for these loans

          1. Oh No She Di'int*

            Indeed. That is precisely one of the reasons I refer to when I say there are plenty of reasons to be mad at banks, as you can see in my response. But again, that is not a “bailout”. I simply think that we should be precise, current, and factual in our criticisms, not recirculating criticism from the economic reality of 12 years ago. That is the only way such criticisms have a hope of gaining purchase.

    1. Princesa Zelda*

      I mean, it’s temporary, and will only cost a $2-300 billion; for context, individuals paid about $1.4 trillion dollars in income tax for 2018, and the military budget alone was a bit less than $700 billion. The UI is not all that expensive.

      Ideally, what would have happened was that UI would pay 100% of your previous wage, to stave off both the intense economic impact of lots of people losing their income all at once and the massive public health crisis that would be all of those people being out and about in the middle of a plague. Essentially, the perfect system would be paying people to stay in their houses until they could return to work, at exactly their previous income.

      The primary reason this wasn’t possible? Surprisingly enough, not politics! It turns out most states’ unemployment systems run on machines that are 30-60 years out of date. The computers my state is using are older than me. It’s simply impossible. So, they came up with a slapdash plan to try to replicate it as well as they could. Whether it was a good plan or not is something reasonable people can disagree on, but the ideal solution was physically impossible.

      Finally: I might be misreading you, please forgive me if I am, but it seems like you think people being paid full wages can collect UI? They can’t — you can only collect if you are 1) not working full time and 2) making less than the cap for your state. I make $10 more per week at my part-time job than the cap for mine, and I am fairly bitter because I work with several high-risk coworkers and customers, and don’t want to get a risky job and then spread the virus to them asymptomatically. Right now I’m living on my savings so I don’t have to, but that won’t last long.

      1. jman4l*

        The OP’s company was going to pay full pay but she didn’t want that because she could make more money on UI. That’s what I am concerned about

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

          She also said very clearly that there’s no work for her to do. It’s not that she prefers to get more money, her employer is rehiring to qualify for the loan and would probably laid them off again when it runs out. And that second layoff may be final, leaving her with less savings to live off while job searching in an post-covid scenario.

        2. rear mech*

          OP’s company is not paying full pay – the government is reimbursing the company and the company will be laying off OP and their co-workers as soon as the free money runs out. OP also says that there is no work to do and it’s just a publicity stunt. The company leaving them on unemployment seems more honest.

      2. Ego Chamber*

        “The primary reason this wasn’t possible? Surprisingly enough, not politics! It turns out most states’ unemployment systems run on machines that are 30-60 years out of date. The computers my state is using are older than me. It’s simply impossible.”

        Not the computers, the code—they’re still running COBOL on most systems. Also, starving a benefits system of financial resources so it’s can’t be kept up to date and easily used when needed is absolutely politics.

        1. Princess Zelda*

          You’re right, it is still politics; what I meant by that sentence is more that it wasn’t a McConnell vs. Pelosi Capitol Hill smackdown, but rather a physical limitation.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      If your company is still paying you full wage, you shouldn’t qualify for any additional unemployment.

      Right — but you don’t qualify for any unemployment payments in that circumstance.

    3. Mary*

      >>This isn’t right and our kids and grandchildren will be paying this back forever in high taxes.

      Economies are just a way of organising resources and can always be restructured or reshaped: there is absolutely no compelling necessity to pass on generational debt or wealth. It’s bizarre to be worrying about future taxes when we know climate breakdown is a far greater threat to future generations.

      1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        Not to mention that more of today’s kids will keep their grandparents around if we shelter in place. We *want* to incentivize people not to work right now if their working would spread disease. This isn’t a situation of “those lazy folks on unemployment.”

        1. Admiral Thrawn is Still Blue*

          I’m still blessed to be working full time and I pray that continues. And I have NO problem at all with people collecting UI, even if it means *gasp* they get a bit more than they would if at their normal jobs.

          1. schnauzerfan*

            Also, I think it’s best that they don’t die and leave their orphaned children as wards of the state.

            1. Observer*

              Yeah, that’s going to cost us a WHOLE lot more than the UI.

              It just boggles the mind that people are being petty about this stuff. So far, the we’ve allocated something like $2.5 TRILLION dollars, we know that the indirect costs of this whole mess are probably going to cut our GDP significantly over the course of the next years. And that not getting a handle on this is going to cost us even more. But what are we quibbling about? That some low wage people are going to get a few extra dollars to help them through the worst financial calamity in a century.

      2. Pennalynn Lott*

        Right. At any point, our government can rewrite the tax laws so that they (we, the citizens) claw back the billions of dollars that have been systematically distributed to the wealthiest 1% over the past 10-15 years, without affecting millions of people in future (or current) generations.

    4. Harper the Other One*

      It’s not just that OP will be making more, but that their work is still going to disappear in a few months because their organization is not making any income and doesn’t have plans to go so. So 1) it’s delaying the inevitable and 2) it means OP loses the top-up which isn’t guaranteed for long. I suspect OP would be quite happy to go back for stable work at an organization that had some actual plans for the future beyond “we’ll meet the requirements for this subsidy and then… profit?”

    5. Miri*

      On the other hand our children and grandchildren will only be paying taxes if they exist, because we haven’t all died in a pandemic because we went into to non-essential “work”…

      1. EPLawyer*

        Oooooh good point. We don’t HAVE an economy if millions are dead.

        Also I really really really want to see the numbers of people who are preferring not to work to get the munificient $600 extra month (until July) versus people going back to work for full wage. I strongly suspect this is going to be one of those enduring myths like the Welfare Queens showing up in cadillacs to collect their checks each month. 1. $600 extra a month for a few months ain’t all that much and 2. most of the folks collecting unemployment right now are not ones who are used to being unemployed. They are used to working and not taking “government hand outs.” They are going to go back to work at the first opportunity. Will there be people gaming the system? OF COURSE. There always are. But I think the number will be so small that its not worth throwing out the system to prevent.

        1. pentamom*

          It’s $600 a week additional, which for a good number of people, and not only people on a very low wage, adds up to more than full pay. That’s the sticking point.

          1. the Viking Diva*

            This kind of reasoning befuddles me. It seems to assume that everyone is making exactly as much as they “deserve” and there is something “wrong” in them getting more for a little while during a global health crisis. Part of the point here is to keep money moving in the economy. People who don’t have money can’t spend money.

            1. Ego Chamber*

              No, that’s exactly it. If people “have to work hard to earn a good living,” the reverse is also true and everyone who’s poor just isn’t working hard enough (like my mother working 3 part time jobs for 55 hours a week and still not being able to move my sibling and I out of my grandparent’s house until I was old enough to babysit because childcare).

              So it’s a financially-driven form of Calvinism that lets people turn a blind eye at best and blame the poor for their situation at worst. Gross.

          2. Pescadero*

            …most of those folks are losing more than just their salary. They’re losing healthcare, PTO, etc.

            It takes 50-100% more than your take home pay to cover what your employment actually costs.

          3. schnauzerfan*

            But they’ve also lost their insurance, 401K matches and any other benefits they might have earned had they been working. And yes, I know a good number of people weren’t getting any of those. I don’t have a problem with the most under compensated getting a windfall, for once.

        2. Friyay*

          Welllll….. my spouse works at a major freight/shipping company and several employees at his location took the voluntary furloughs to get the unemployment because they’ll make the same if not more money (and way better conditions right now) with the extra $600/week. It actually seems pretty appealing to me as well, but I can work from home and my work still needs to be done. There was a story in the national news about a salon employee who was super excited to get one of the small business forgivable loans, but her employees were angry because they had wanted to take the unemployment. Even if you’re not making the same or more (which I think I calculated in my state you’d have to make over 60k a year before you see a REDUCTION in salary by going on unemployment right now), making a significant % of your salary while not having to work with the general public right now is a huge plus.

          1. pancakes*

            Discouraging the spread of a deadly virus is an additional huge plus, no? But not even part of your thought process on this? Amazing.

            1. Ego Chamber*

              Seriously. I don’t understand how the workers that people think should be working right now instead of “just” “””sitting at home all day collecting unemployment””” are the ones in industries where they’re close to each other and/or close to clients all day. Wtaf.

              Yes, salons and body mod places are fine to open as long as they socially distance by making sure each “station” (defined as 1 worker + 1 client) is 6 feet apart from every other station but you know what? I have like a gallon’s worth of bleach powder and developer and I can do my own hair for now.

        3. LeahS*

          Yes, once my unemployment goes through I will be making more than I did but I will take a steady paycheck at my old rate over this uncertainty any day.

        4. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Well … I am getting a LOT of letters from people who don’t want to return to work because of the extra UI (combined, of course, with people’s health worries about going to work right now). I don’t think it’s a myth.

          1. EPLawyer*

            Oh I am sure SOME people are doing it. And having legitimate health concerns. But statistically the people who are doing it solely to game the system is probably pretty small.

            1. So they all rolled over and one fell out*

              I’ve seen a lot of questions like this on reddit as well. I suspect they are just the tip of the iceberg.
              $600/week is more than minimum wage, and that’s on top of the regular wage-based unemployment payments. It seems rational to not want to go to work and risk exposure just to get less money than you would for staying home.

              1. Observer*

                It IS rational – unless you are worried that you won’t have a job to go back to.

                Also, the idea actually WAS in part to give people an incentive to stay home rather than trying to work. Keep this in mind, a LOT of people are working because they don’t have a choice. If someone who is non-essential can do better by staying home, we WANT them to stay home.

                1. So they all rolled over and one fell out*

                  But then why also give businesses an incentive to hire the employees back?

                2. Ego Chamber*

                  @So they all | Politics, mostly. I mean it was supposed to be (“””supposed to be”””) to help small businesses that weren’t going to be able to make it on 25-50% of their usual revenue (based on physical distancing and reduced capacity, lower traffic = lower sales) but it seems like what’s going to happen is the small local businesses will fold and then their leases will be picked up by franchises that can swing a downturn like this.

                  Tl;dr: As hard was we millenials all really tried to murder the Applebee’s in favor of gastropubs and gin bars or whatever, gross chain diner food is going to become the new heart of main street. (I hope the Boomers are happy!)

        5. Resident*

          I’m an essential worker who makes minimum wage. The essential part means it’s highly unlikely I’ll qualify for UI. We play a very crucial role in hospitals, work for long hours, some in our field have died from COVID-19. It feels like a slap in the face to us and other frontline workers who earn less than we would on unemployment when we’re being exposed to greater risk by going to work. Society may call us “heroes,” but it refuses to actually help us when we were struggling to get by before the pandemic (minimum wage, huge debt burdens, and many of us have dependents), and we’re struggling even more now (child care is harder to find and if people are self-isolating away from family, it’s hard to afford another place to stay).

          1. Gazebo Slayer*

            The stimulus package should have doubled healthcare workers’ pay for the duration. (And probably supermarket workers too.)

        6. Quill*

          Honestly everyone talking about the extra $600 and who “deserves” it sounds like the people arguing that people who are poor must be wasting their money because they are wearing “designer” (i.e. has a recognizeable logo but could easily have been gotten good as new at goodwill) jeans.

          Gotta cover your bits but I guess if you don’t find a way to do it with ashes and sackcloth you’re responsible for your own poverty. I mean, how much can one banana’s worth of sackcloth cost, ten dollars?

          1. Pomona Sprout*

            I know, right? I HATE the way people who struggle to make ends meet are always blamed for their own plight, AND the way some people seem to resent every crumb the government tosses to people who desperately need a lot more help than they ever get. It seems SO mean-spirited to me.

            To paraphrase Ron in the first Harry Potter movie, some people need to sort out their priorities.

    6. Wintermute*

      Oh please, The entire cost of unemployment is really minimal in terms of taxes and the federal and state budgets.

      This is an unprecedented emergency. We all, as a society, need to stop worrying so much about a little abuse from a few bad actors stop us from ever helping anyone at all. Yeah, a SMALL PERCENTAGE of people will always abuse any system. But you have to balance the benefits and the costs.

      A few thousand dollars is beneath the government’s notice. Audits of government waste routinely find tens of millions of dollars spent basically accidentally or “lost” because no one can account for what happened to it. Now is not the time to worry about a small percentage of bad actors getting a few thousand dollars, when the unemployment increase is a tenuous thin line holding back a complete economic collapse.

      1. Quill*


        The government has lost:
        – thousands of dollars on missing atomic munitions (some of which we have an ok idea of where it is, but… it’s maybe safer where it ended up)
        – millions of dollars on oil wars
        – god only knows how much via tax shelters and shell corporations that cost a fortune to set up to keep another fortune out of taxes
        – it’s freaking mind.

        More people being alive and healthier is better for both people and your future ability to afford things.

        1. KoiFeeder*

          Wait, hold up. There’s a lot you make a great point on here, but I’ve got one sticking point.

          What do you mean, we lost atomic munitions? How do you lose those?! It’s not like it’s a matter of forgetting to cherish them, or putting them in the other pants pockets!

          1. Princesa Zelda*

            They’re called Broken Arrow incidents, and every single one of them reads as the intro to a supernatural mystery story. We’ve had planes go down for no reason over the ocean, a B-52 had a fiery crash in North Carolina, a bomb fell off a plane over Japan — we know they didn’t detonate, because we know what detonation looks like, but the actual bombs themselves were never found.

          2. Anony vas Normandy*

            There’ve been several incidents, most due to missing submarines/aircraft carrying them crashing into the ocean, etc. There’s a 24-megaton nuke that sank in a swamp in NC that’s never been found.

          3. Wintermute*

            The largest source of them is failed linkages causing atomic-armed aircraft to drop a bomb accidentally, or, even more common, a plane that is armed and has to make an emergency landing intentionally jettisoning the bomb (usually into deep water) unarmed, to avoid a fire and crash from causing a chemical (not nuclear) explosion that scatters plutonium everywhere.

            Others have been caused by plane crashes or sunken submarines.

        2. Ego Chamber*

          There’s also an argument to be made that the government lost the $1.5 trillion they threw at the stock market to hold things together for 5 minutes that one day towards the beginning of the pandemic (even though anyone paying attention knows that was so all the obscenely rich who’d just taken a loss in their portfolio could claw it back before the 401k investors realized what was happening).

          For perspective, $1.5 trillion means we could send $4,531 to every person in this country. Some of us might even figure out how to make that last longer than 5 minutes.

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

      It’s not about greedy people trying to get more money, it’s trying to cope with all the related costs of staying at home and (if they’re lucky) beefing up the savings for a post-covid scenario. I’m aware my 15% COL raise will be eaten by the electricity bill, food and cleaning products price increases and other related costs. For example, our car battery died and a new one costed three times more, and we’re buying cleaning products of dubious origin as some are super low on stock.

    8. pancakes*

      If you reframe this in your mind as people being paid to stay home in an effort to discourage the spread of a deadly virus, the “big problem” evaporates. You can and should do something similar with regard to taxes because you don’t appear to have even began to consider the many significant downsides to austerity. There’s no shortage of analysis of the UK’s recent austerity program, for starters — have you read any of it? Tripling the number of children who receive food from food banks, for example.

    9. Miss V*

      I’m 30, so looking at a good 30-40 years more of working and pay taxes on that income. I will GLADLY pay those taxes if it means people don’t go homeless NOW.

      Also, unless I’m misunderstanding, LW isn’t protesting going back to work because they’re going to loose that $600/wk now. Their concern is that they’ll go back to work now and when the PPP funding runs out they’ll get laid off again then and will no longer be able to get that extra 600/wk then.

      1. Pleiades*

        Exactly this! I’m not LW but I’m in a very similar situation. Laid off because my work had to close, started to collect unemployment (almost twice my regular take-home pay), PPP loan came through so I’m rehired for 8 weeks… but with no work to do, and at this point it’s very likely they’ll still be closed so I’ll be laid off again at the end of the 8 weeks. At which point I’ll have missed most of the window for that extra $600.
        Which I was not going to get extravagant with (although that shouldn’t make a difference) – the extra $600 was first to make up the extra to reach my regular salary, then anything on top was going to be saved to be able to pay rent and pay for health insurance once my work- sponsored insurance ran out.
        I’m glad to be “back at work” but knowing that it’s not secure is frustrating when I know I’m not able to get as much of a buffer as I could have for if this goes on too long.

    10. Grapey*

      High taxes are the cost of having a highly complex society where people want others to take care of their cleaning, food delivery/preparation, and child care. Pandemic or not.

      IMO taxes haven’t been as high as they should be since the 90% rate of the 1940’s. What isn’t right is people funneling their wealth to their kids and grandkids with no concern for the rest of society.

      1. Quill*

        The problem isn’t the existence of “high taxes” it’s the existence of people for whom a 10% tax is numerically large but makes zero impact on them, versus people for whom a 10% tax would be financially ruinous because they’re making $10 an hour.

        Killing 10% of a threatened species can doom it. Killing 10% of bacteria in a well established petri dish does nothing.

          1. Quill*

            Depending on the method of bacteria death you might even be taking baby steps towards a superbug!

            1. pancakes*

              What is the relevance of this? Who is proposing regressive rather than progressive taxation?

              1. Anonymous Librarian*

                Everyone who pushes for a flat tax or sales taxes in lieu of income tax.

    11. Blueberry*

      “I know of a lot of public schools furloughing teachers one day a week and now they get a windfall with an extra $2400 per month”

      1) “oh the greedy teachers” is a bit of a conservative dogwhistle, and I’m a bit surprised to see it rolled out now that many people have been realizing just how difiicult teaching is, but moving onwards, 2) Are you certain the teachers aren’t only being paid UI for that one furloughed day each week, rather than the entire month?

      1. Ego Chamber*

        They’re getting partial UI for the one day because roughly 20% reduced hours, plus $600/week for the CARES stimulus (unless there was something written in to exclude teachers, which I haven’t heard about but wouldn’t surprise me).

        I’m in favor of them getting the money though! Maybe let’s just call it a partial reimbursement for all the school supplies and classroom stuff and everything else teachers are expected to buy themselves on their super low wages because the school doesn’t budget for it.

    12. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I don’t think you understand income taxes.

      First we’re still all paying into them. Unemployment is taxed. They’re not getting a 2400 rebate monthly.

      All these people have been paying taxes to be eligible. It’s not a tax on future generations in the slightest.

      Nobody is going to fix a damn thing. It’s FOUR MONTHS and many people aren’t getting it because of the state’s who have a dumpster fire system.

      1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

        Also this is exactly why we pay taxes. To build a government to add protection. Military wise and financial wise. They’re here to serve us, not just build monuments and weaponsto maintain.

    13. Delphine*

      People are not going to want to go back to work If they can make more money sitting around at home. This needs to be fixed where people shouldn’t be able to profit from sitting at home.

      The problem isn’t that people are “profiting” from sitting at home, the problem is that temporary unemployment is providing people an income that they would never see working their daily jobs–jobs that they apparently need to live, but that don’t pay them enough to live on. $2400 is nowhere close to being a windfall.

      1. une autre Cassandra*

        Seriously. And they’re “sitting at home” to minimize the spread of a deadly disease. Everyone is safer if more people can stay home!

        1. Always Mute The Zoom Meeting*

          And if you are essential and you cannot stay home, you get to continue to live in poverty while risking your life. What a deal…

          1. Ego Chamber*

            This is the part that needs fixing. Hazard pay for anyone still working but especially needed for essential workers.

            Bare minimum, I’d prefer an extra $600/week just go out to everyone, no questions asked (that last part mostly to avoid the cost of processing any kind of means test). Anyone who doesn’t want it should be encouraged to donate it to a food bank or other public service, give it to a family member who could use it, or chuck it into savings (or out the window, whatever).

    14. Observer*

      That money is not a windfall – the teachers who are getting those furloughs are also seeing their pay cut – while still teaching and bearing a lot of the costs associated with that.

      If you’re worried about your grandchildren’s future, maybe think about how to treat teachers BETTER, not how to wring some MORE out of them.

      There are billions of dollars going to bail out industries that would have been in a MUCH better position to weather this crisis had they been more prudent. I’m not yelling, because ultimately I think we’re all still going to be better off if all of these major companies don’t fail. But if you REALLY want to think about what debts we are going to be paying for who knows how long, you should be looking at that money.

    15. Ego Chamber*

      “People are not going to want to go back to work If they can make more money sitting around at home.”

      Well you completely missed the point LW4 was making if you think this is the problem. Their company is “hiring them back” (to do no work) while their salaries are being subsidized by a government loan that will turn into a grant as long as everyone is employed until July—and then they’ll probably all be laid off again because there is no work to do and no money coming in except for the government subsidy. This gives the business some free money (I think 25% of the loan doesn’t need to be payroll?) and they won’t take a hit on their unemployment numbers/have to pay out claims and the fed will be saving the bonus unemployment even though they’ll effectively be paying all the employee’s full wage. Neat!

      A proper fix would include closing the loopholes that are letting employers game this system to the detriment of their employees and their communities in general, it would not involve punishing workers by forcing them to take less money while putting them in a more dangerous situation.

      “This isn’t right and our kids and grandchildren will be paying this back forever in high taxes.”

      I’m pretty sick of hearing this talking point, since it literally never happens and they’ll always find the money when the obscenely rich need another handout but the poor can just go f#ck themselves.

  15. Chocolate Teapot*

    2. I have gone for “I sent the dial-in details on Tuesday, but here they are again if anyone has missed them” response.

    1. AnonEMoose*

      I have, so often, lamented to my friends how much simpler my life would be if people would simply Read. The. Email.

      I know, people are busy, it’s easy to miss stuff, not everyone processes written information as well, and I’ve done it myself. But I tend to be a person who first looks through my email to see if I have something before I ask questions of others. It kind of bugs me when people don’t do that, because it feels a little bit like “I can’t be bothered to run a simple search on my email before I ask someone else to spend time answering my questions (to which I already have the answers, I’m just not looking for them).”

      But I also recognize that other people have different perspectives on that. So, yes, I will re-send the original email, and sometimes I highlight the portion that provides the information they asked about, so it’s easy for them to spot.

      1. Generic Name*

        Before we got a share point site where important information could be posted, my company would share new procedures and important announcements via email. The refrain “didn’t you get the email?” almost became a joke. But the problem was that sometimes the email was sent literally years prior and you forgot that the email even existed (this was before the search function on outlook was as good as it is now) or the email was sent semi-recently, but the person asking the question was hired after the email went out so there was no way for them to have received the info.

        So while it’s not rude to sent someone the original email as a reminder, if this kind of thing keeps happening, it might be a good idea to see if there are other ways to share company information besides sending out a one-time email.

        1. AnonEMoose*

          Oh, sure, those things do happen. The ones that annoy me are more the ones where I would send people an email saying, in essence, “reminder of this deadline, and these are your options,” and get responses along the lines of “how do I do X?” When the instructions for doing X were right there in the original email. Not long emails, either – 3 fairly brief paragraphs, tops.

      2. Ama*

        Part of my job is coordinating a group of busy experts who volunteer for my nonprofit — I have had to make my peace with the fact that some of them just never read the emails (we have one person in particular who regularly responds to my emails with a question that was answered in that very email.) I even train my reports not to take it personally, that they get a ton of email and sometimes they’re going to miss stuff — at this point the only thing that annoys me is when someone gets accusatory about it.

        We did have one volunteer whose assistant regularly blamed us for not sending them info when they were just forgetting to put it on the calendar — we finally sent an email to him and his boss (with my boss’s approval) saying something along the lines of “it looks like you are regularly not receiving our emails, you might want to check with your IT that it isn’t marking us as spam because we’ve double checked and you’ve definitely been included on everything we sent for the past year.” He still missed emails after that, but he got the message that blaming us for not receiving them was no longer going to fly.

        1. AnonEMoose*

          I’m glad he got that message, at least! I will admit that, based on experience, I tend to give heavy side-eye to “I never got the email” excuses, especially when I know I sent it. It’s rare for me to say anything for various reasons, but I do take it as a cue to CYA – more than usual – with the person who says that in future. Because I take it as an indication that they’re quite likely to try to throw me under the bus if it’s convenient for them in the future. Which may not be entirely fair, but…there it is.

      3. Pucci*

        I forward emails I previously sent to my boss at least once a week. He gets so many emails, most of which are merely FYI, that many many things get overlooked. He is not offended by someone having to resend an email, and I am not offended when someone has to do it for me.

    2. BadWolf*

      I don’t mind when people told me they already sent it. I usually go back and look. Is it in my inbox? If yes, did I miss it because I just missed it? Did it have an odd subject or sender (and I should try to remember to adjust for that) so I breezed over it. Does it seems familiar and I must have neglected to do the action? Is it not there and it is in my trash/spam/etc?

      So it helps me. Some people won’t care. Some people will be irked. I say forward the original.

      1. LeahS*

        I really appreciate it when people resend or point it out because it helps me identify when my ADHD is taking over and I need to slowww dowwwn.

    3. Delta Delta*

      I’m involved in a couple committees that have multiple very long email threads. We’ve got a weird situation where one person is usually the host of a meeting, but a different person sends the invitation. The invitation gets buried in the email hurricane. I’ve taken to flagging the ones with invites because otherwise I can never find them again. And I know my colleagues have a similar problem, because there are always lots of “hey can you send that again?” emails about 20 minutes before every meeting.

      Alternatively, people in may committees could learn how to actually appropriately use email as a communication tool, but we’re taking baby steps right now.

      1. Scandinavian vacationer*

        Also, for the love of God, could the invite sender also include the agenda and/or attachments in the meeting invite? Is this really so difficult to accomplish?

    4. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      For me it depends on who’s asking. If it’s someone who is a repeat offender and ALWAYS responds by asking me a question that was answered in my original email, they’re getting my “per my last email” response along with the text highlighted.

  16. Mary*

    >> how can I tactfully point out to coworkers that a miscommunication error is theirs?

    I am usually so grateful that it isn’t my fault that I have no difficulty being gracious. I don’t think I am particularly prone to this kind of error, but my self-image is of a chaos monkey just about holding it together, and any mistakes of this kind trigger my “oh no! the chaos monkey got out!” panic. Finding out that that I did do the thing I had said I was going to do and they just missed it is a balm to my soul and it makes me feel positively beneficent towards the recipient.

      1. New Job So Much Better*

        Yes on chaos monkey and being grateful it wasn’t our fault.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I love how this person assumed that the purpose of having a work laptop is to be able to go outside if something inspires you on the patio, and not to be available for work 24/7.

      I was that person for a short period of time, when I started a new job and, for the first time in my life, was issued a company laptop, cell phone, and pager. I felt so luxurious. Until they put me on the schedule and the 3AM calls started coming in, then I was “Aaaaah, *that’s* what this equipment was for! I get it now.”

      1. Beth Jacobs*

        Word! I often see company laptop and cellphone listed as a perk in job ads. It’s an important thing to know, but don’t call it a perk.
        I am considering dropping my personal plan though and just use my work phone for everything.

        1. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Keep it separate. The people from my company who were furloughed we are instructed not to use their company phone. So… If they didn’t have a personal phone in addition, they have no phone.

          1. LJay*


            I used only the company phone for awhile but there were too many complications and I wound up getting a personal line again. With all the furloughs and unemployment happening I’m doubly glad. It would be incredibly inconvenient to lose my job or be furloughed and then have the first thing I do afterwards be to have to go out and get a new phone and phone line.

        2. Zombeyonce*

          Many company cell phone agreements also include language allowing them to wipe the device completely at any time as a security measure, so you could lose all your personal stuff. Not to mention the possibility of then accessing your personal information and privacy issues. I wouldn’t do it.

  17. cncx*

    RE OP5, our office did kind of a lump sum where we paid for an extra monitor, keyboard, mouse up to X amount, and if someone already had that specific gear they could spend that x amount on chair, desk, laptop stand… the wording in our email was something like “this isn’t meant to kit you out for a completely permanent luxury wfh set up but rather to get you through the mandatory wfh during the pandemic.” Note our company already pays home internet and users have company laptops. I already have a standing desk at home so my cash went to a monitor and a footpad to stand on; another user already had a home office set up so they got IIRC a really fancy mouse and a gaming keyboard. And so on.

  18. Allonge*

    LW2 – I think you are really kind but overthinking this a bit. Anyone who gets an explicit re-send will not actually be feeling bad for more than a few seconds, if at all (unless _they_ are overthinking it, which is for them to manage). You are not the one making them feel bad!

    I am saying this as you should not pretend that you did not do your job correctly to save others 5 seconds of minor embarrasment. Re-share and use Alison’s texts all the way. It’s no big deal. If people perceive you as flaky / not sharing information on time that IS a problem, for you.

    1. Mary*

      >> Anyone who gets an explicit re-send will not actually be feeling bad for more than a few seconds

      I find it’s very much one of those things that confirms the existing view I have of the co-worker, but doesn’t change it. Slightly snitty co-worker does that: I feel snitted at and maybe a bit, “meh, OK, FINE, glad you got the opportunity to feel superior”. Generally friendly co-worker does it: oh whoops, my bad, I should’ve checked harder, glad they were so nice about it. It’s never been something that has made me think someone generally nice has been snitty!

      I will send a “Thanks very much, sorry for missing that!” email either way.

      1. yala*

        Reminds me of how my boss will sometimes respond to questions by sending me a link to a ~60 page manual (that isn’t always relevant to the question asked).

        Or in one case, when asked whether she wanted to be CC’d on something, just told “I think I emailed you that before.” Checked, no email relating except one linking to a walkthrough that said nothing about CCing her. Didn’t. Later she asked why I didn’t.

        Sometimes it’s nicer/less effort to just answer the question.

    2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I am saying this as you should not pretend that you did not do your job correctly to save others 5 seconds of minor embarrasment.

      Exactly. The other person did not have any qualms about copying the group on a “Well, ARE you going to send us the… (thing that’s been sitting in their inbox for several days)?” OP should not feel bad about what is simply setting the record straight.

      1. Jack Russell Terrier*

        That’s what I was thinking. I’d not mind a private email, but saying that publicly … .

  19. Erstwhile Lurker*

    #2 With me it depends, if someone has a habit of skimming/not bothering to read emails and expecting people to type out information again, then yes, I just send the original, or point out when it was sent so that they can retrieve it from their inbox.

    If it was a genuine oversight then I have no problem typing out the information again, or copying and pasting from the last email to save them a bit of embarrassment.

    1. CM*

      I don’t think re-sending is snarky at all — sometimes an email gets lost in your inbox. Saying, “Here are the instructions I sent on Wednesday” seems fine to me. It’s factual and neutral, and it’s silly to re-type something you already sent if there is no need to change anything. If somebody takes offense at that, it’s really on them.

      That said, obviously if it’s your boss or somebody else where it’s your job to make their life easy, then make it as easy and obvious for them as possible even if it’s more work for you.

  20. XxXxX*

    #5 – It appears that in order for the CARES loan to be forgiven, the following must be true: “The loan proceeds are used to cover payroll costs, and most mortgage interest, rent, and utility costs over the 8 week period after the loan is made; and Employee and compensation levels are maintained.

    This makes it appear that they do not have control over when they ask you to return – otherwise, the loan must be repaid.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Right, but they can also just return the loan funds, since it turns out the timing means they’ll be paying people to do nothing. No one benefits from what they’re doing — not the employees, and not the employer. The only advantage I can see is that it could allow them to extend health insurance by two more months. But otherwise, why not just return the loan funds instead of temporarily calling employees back to work to do nothing, and then laying them off into a worse situation afterwards? (That assumes the lack of work once the funds run out is certain, and it sounds like it is.)

      If I’m overlooking something, I’d be glad to have it pointed out!

      1. goducks*

        A few things. By using the PPP to pay salaries, the employer is also eligible to use a portion of the funds to pay rent and utilities, which may be a really big deal for them with no income coming in.
        Also, UI has a limit in time that an claimant is eligible. A return to salary for two months extends that window of eligibility.
        Third, it’s not lost on me that employers who at the outset sent staff home and just paid them administrative leave or gave them some low-key work from home tasks outside normal business were praised for being so thoughtful and caring and employee focused. Even though it’s entirely possible that these employers will only do this for a few months, at which point these employees will be laid off and on UI (quite possibly after the bonus expires). If this same employer had been one of those to ride it paying salaries for little or no work, the employee wouldn’t be feeling that they lost something. It’s only because the employee had been laid off and given that UI bonus that they feel upset their employer is willing to pay them to do little or nothing.

        1. Ego Chamber*

          Yes, I assumed it was to cover their rent and utilities so they can maintain whatever office space they have. I also assumed a significant amount of the money used to pay salaries would be going towards the 6-figure higher-ups mentioned in the letter.

          It also kind of sounds like LW4 is expected to actually go in to work since “no work being done now that generates any revenue” doesn’t technically mean “no work to do” so I think they’re feeling like they lost something because they’ve rightly calculated that their employer is willing to unnecessarily risk its employees’ health/safety to get some free money and good publicity—and some commenters think it’s inappropriate for LW4 to want some free money to save for their future layoff while avoiding more exposure to a pandemic. Wow.

      2. Exhausted Employment Lawyer*

        The PPP funds (allocated under the CARES Act) have to be used 75% for payroll costs DURING the 8-week covered period and the remaining 25% can be used for rent (or mortgage interest), and utilities. I think it’s too broad an assumption to state that “no one” benefits from what this organization is doing. First, the employer benefits at the very, very least from having 25% of the funds that can be used for non-payroll costs. But second, and this is where I disagreed with OP#3, being paid as a worker for the 8 weeks means (1) contributions to their group insurance benefits (as you mention, Alison), (2) contributions (if any) to any defined-benefit plans, and (3) payment of payroll taxes (an indirect benefit to the employee, but still). Finally, I am dubious that the OP sees the entire picture – there may be employees on the payroll who don’t qualify for unemployment, and OP may not know anything about that; there may certainly be employees for whom the additional two months of insurance benefits IS worth more than the unemployment. Would you counsel an employer to return the funds given all of those contingencies??

        All things considered, I think it was a little premature and harsh to characterize the employer as “sucking” here. High-earning executives notwithstanding.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yep, I’d overlooked that they can get the other 25% forgiven if they meet the conditions to get the 75% spent on payroll forgiven. That does make it make more sense. I stand by “this sucks” though — not that the employer sucks, but that the situation does.

      3. XxXxX*

        A few things come immediately to mind – the OP doesn’t have the big picture for the non-profit that the executives have. It could be that taking the loan now is the difference between keeping the non-profit going and hopefully turning things around, versus closing now. The OP said that many were laid off, not everyone – maybe the loan is required to pay those that are still on payroll and so OP is included. We don’t know what percentage were laid off versus how many were still working. We also don’t know what they planned to have OP do when they returned to work – it’s possible they have plans that will keep OP occupied that OP doesn’t know about. As I understood it, the CARES act was to keep businesses going and employing workers, and that appears to be what is happening. It’s unfortunate for OP that they make less regularly than they are getting currently on unemployment.

      4. Theatre Person*

        I’m not trying to question the LW’s knowledge of her own situation, but I do somewhat wonder specifically what her role is at the theater in question and where they are. I’m in the industry and while there are certain positions that certainly have nothing to do when there are no shows (FOH for one), a huge number of jobs do very much still have work. Even more so if they’re anticipating reopening before, say, January. There are a ton of logistics to be worked out for how and when to reopen, rescheduling shows, customer service about the cancelled shows, fundraising to try to not go under in the meantime, heck even costume shops and prop shops are frequently being paid by non-profit theaters to make PPE for local hospitals right now. I’m also thinking that even if it is the case that LW’s job truly is one that would be hired back to do absolutely nothing, it’s probable that a lot of the rest of that headcount being retained by the PPP very much have stuff to do. Heck Development could also be in the middle of trying to get challenge matches from big donors.

        It’s completely understandable to me that it would feel terrible to this LW if they were hired back on for the next 8 weeks when there really isn’t work for them – even work that’s not quite their normal work – only to be laid off again in 8 weeks, and I understand the fear of that happening. But so so so many (especially the big theaters) are working on switching to digital content, scheduling things in 2021 (and selling them now!) and just all sorts of stuff, these 8 weeks for a lot are a way to stay afloat while they get all that up and running even if it’s still true live productions are several months off.

        I know this doesn’t help the LW necessarily, and I’m not trying to dismiss their very real concerns about their own situation, but the official reply to me seems to imply the org is doing something shitty by getting the PPP since LW would currently have no work to do, but it sort of ignores the aspect that other positions may have plenty of work to do even when the theater is dark, and since the PPP requires retaining headcount, everyone is called back.

        1. Former Theatre Nerd*

          Used to be in theatre and had a few questions also about the LW’s specific job here.

          If they are in production, there are OSHA trainings or state-specific courses they can take cheaply (or free, depending on the state) at the moment, which could be easily pitched to the company to pay for if they are that desperate for this person to have “something to do.” Similarly, work on CFRE certification if in development… but if LW is, they are likely working harder than ever as this is the only revenue-generation at the moment (“Heck, development” made me laugh, there is definitely no shortage of work in any nonprofit fundraising department right now). Build whatever that skill is specific to your work so that you can add that extra credential to your resume when you need it.

          Also, depending on the department, LW may have the skills to start up a side hustle: making masks if they’re a costumer, construction freelance if they’re a carp, grantwriting or copy editing if they’re in the office, etc. Of course needs to be “side” for now, but perhaps could strengthen their network while employed so that when they must leave they land more solidly than otherwise.

          It will be very, very rough for those in the live events/performing arts industry for a good long while, and hard on everyone (if not immediately, then in several months). I wish LW the very best of luck.

  21. rudster*

    Video calls outside? Not sure how important the goings-on the screen are for you, but unless you are in very strong shade or have some kind of glare/shade screen set up, you won’t be able to see anything since the sun will wash it out.

  22. NoodleMara*

    #1 it depends a lot on your office culture to be honest. I participate in a lot of zoom calls where I don’t need to talk a lot and video isn’t required so those calls I can make everywhere. Sometimes I do! My job is partially in the field, so sometimes I listen to calls on my phone while out and about.
    If you want to do that, wear headphones because noise travels oddly sometimes and you don’t know what your neighbors might hear. Even if they can’t hear exact words, it might be irritating to them.
    Mute yourself unless talking. You don’t know what noises you’ve learned to tune out that might be noisier than you think.
    I’d go for it, if your office/zoom culture is good for it. I’ve taken some calls on our tiny balcony and it’s been great.

  23. TimeTravlR*

    I work for a (US) federal agency. I have done telework for a long time but only just recently full time. Our agency gives you your laptop and cell phone. If you know to ask, they can get you an external monitor and a printer. That’s it. No furniture of any kind. And, frankly, it’s unusual (from what I have heard) for federal agencies to provide as much as mine does.
    Not complaining, just explaining.

    1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      I’ve been full-time WFH for five years, and my org gives a computer, 1 24″ monitor (a second can be requested by the department with manager approval), and a few semi-optional* peripherals: keyboard and mouse, webcam, USB headset if you have a VOIP phone (team leads and above). Managers and above get cell phones. No internet (or any other utility) stipend, no office supplies**, no furniture, and hooking a printer up to your work computer is absolutely forbidden unless you’re on site (we work with patient records).

      *They just sent us all the webcams about a month before the world started melting. They were mandatory, then when all our org’s meetings switched to webex for everybody, they said to please not use video because of the bandwidth load on the webex servers. I did not take their keyboard, mouse or headset, because I am picky about all three things and chose to provide my own, which are much nicer than the IT-offered ones. :)

      **We’re a paperless office – I think, in over five years, the sum total of office supplies that I have provided and used for work purposes has been a pad and a half of sticky notes (I’m sure half of which were actually used as reminders to my husband anyway) and pens, which I have floating around my house by the gross.

    2. mlem*

      Yeah. I’m in the private sector, but in the Before Times, my company required that you demonstrate you already had a suitable working setup of your own before you would be allowed to work from home one (or two, in the more generous divisions) times a week. Your own desk, chair, computer, monitor, phone, internet service, unlimited calling phone plan, etc. If you needed to print anything, you printed on your own personal printer or waited to be in the office.

      Far more recently, they’ve slowly started replacing workstations with laptops, so in that sense, they’ve *kind* of been supplying computers, sometimes.

      For current events, they told everyone they could take home any equipment they needed, but anything beyond workstations and monitors had to be logged with management, presumably for later reclamation. What they’re going to do going forward is unclear, but the idea that my company would buy or issue desks, chairs, headsets, internet service, phone service, or new-space stipends … yeah, no. Any such proposal would be greeted with a laugh, followed by a stern talking-to if necessary.

      Then again, my company has always been tepid at best towards the idea of working from home. They’ve openly expressed shock that we are all still productive professionals this way, but they won’t be giving up our company-owned buildings anytime soon, so it’s not as if they would be shifting to an all-WFH all-the-time model while still expecting us to foot the bills for it.

    3. White Peonies*

      I’ve been work from home for 5 years now in Health Insurance, mid-level Accountant. We are provided a laptop, keyboard, mouse, headset, skype-phone, and internet services. Work from home employees print options are disabled for “privacy issues”. Also since we are trying to be an environmentally friendly company office supplies (pens, paper, sticky notes, etc) are not approved for anyone (work at home or in the office) we all received laptops a year or so ago, so there is not a need for pens and paper anymore (eye-roll). Furniture would not be approved unless you are in the C Suite and it was in your package when you start with the company, and neither would an option for them to pay for or allow an employee to rent an office space or office share.

    4. agmat*

      I agree (although I think the monitor and printer should also be default). All that equipment plus supplies like pens, paper, stamps, envelopes, etc.

      But furniture? No. You can incorporate your work area into your living area and use it during non-work hours. My office space is also used as a guest room and I can use this desk for my own personal paperwork, pick out the particular furniture I like for the spot, etc.

      If your employer buys you the furniture, it means they own it, and they might choose something relatively cheap and ugly. And then it’s in your house. They might not want to provide a subsidy either because what happens when you no longer work there? They would want to recoup the cost of the furniture by either taking it back to offer to another employee or have you give the money back.

      I get that it takes up valuable space – I was in a small apartment prior to my house. I carved out a nook in my tiny apartment with a standing desk and sat at the dining table when I wanted to sit.

    5. J*

      I’m also a fed, working in DC for a department that has been notoriously anti-telework under the current administration. I am now on “maximum telework,” and hope (mostly baselessly) that I’ll be able to continue once our facility reopens. My department, at least for low grunts like me, provides 0 in the way of equipment etc. My position is “telework eligible,” and I wasn’t even issued a laptop. I’ve brought my desktop home for the time being. Even in the beforetimes, telework employees received nothing more than a computer. Everything else is on you, any increased costs (my electric bill is appreciably higher now that I’m running this desktop at home) are on you, all of it. My director, the two unit leaders, and IT have work-issued phones. That’s it. Working from home costs me money. I tell myself it’s the price of not dying.

    6. CheeryO*

      State gov here, and my first thought was, “You guys are getting computers?” I’ve been working on my boyfriend’s gaming laptop for the last eight weeks. I have coworkers working from iPads because that’s all they had at home. There was talk of issuing laptops at first, but now the state is completely broke and all purchasing has been stopped.

    7. SlightlyBitter*

      I work for a large outdoor retailer (non-public company) with strong cash reserves and no debt. All HQ staff were required to begin WFH 3/2 and all company communications made it very clear that we cannot expense any equipment to support remote work. For the few people who didn’t have laptops, they were issued them. My computer has been on its last legs for months, and finally I’m getting a replacement, but when I asked whether they’d also be sending me a dock, the response was “No, you’d be responsible for that expense.” I’m a senior analyst, so I need dual monitors to support my data/collaboration-heavy work. This is in addition to salaries being cut 10% while workload has increased due to 25% HQ RIF.
      My husband’s employer, meanwhile, provided approval for $500 of equipment costs to be expensed, no questions asked.
      Maybe just a bit bitter.

      1. SlightlyBitter*

        Didn’t complete a thought–need a dock to correctly display to dual monitors, since the laptop itself only has one HDMI port. The dock for that laptop model costs $200+, and the dock I previously bought for the model that’s dying is not compatible with the new machine. I’ve additionally had to buy two monitors, keyboard, mouse, headset as the bare minimum to do my job. We’ll say the desk and chair are non-essential, but I wouldn’t have bought them either if it weren’t for the need for extended WFH.
        I actually wish I’d been one of the 25% laid off, to be honest. It’ll be easy enough to find a job down the road, and savings, unemployment, plus a severance package would get me by for quite a while.

        1. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

          Is it possible to use a 3rd-party dock? This seems to be a thing that exists now, although I haven’t been brave enough to order one myself.

          It’s also possible that the old dock will be semi-compatible, just not fully compatible. My old dock will still work for HDMI and USB with my new machine, but the headphone and mic jacks on the dock don’t work and it’s possible some of the other stuff that I don’t use (such as ethernet) also no longer works. In my case it was a newer same-brand laptop though, which may help with compatibility issues. (Since we’ve long been partial WFH, my department used department funds to buy us laptops, complete with docks and external monitors, keyboards, and mice 5-ish years ago at a time when many departments were using desktops rather than laptops. Then last year the company bought us all new laptops using company-wide rather than department funds, but did not buy docking stations or peripherals for them so I’m still using the 5 year old ones we bought with department funds. No idea if the formerly-desktop-using departments got docking stations when we all got issued laptops, but it wouldn’t surprise me if they didn’t.)

  24. Alice*

    #2 – does anyone else hate it when Zoom info shared in an email, and not the calendar item for the meeting? Drives me batty. Same when someone just puts the meeting ID and not the link + phone number.

    1. Miri*

      We do this because anyone who has access to the invitee’s calendar could see the login details. I agree it’s annoying but haven’t figured out a way to do it that means anybody in the organisation could dial in. (Private appointments don’t work as the subject and sometimes papers do need to be seen by people’s direct reports/PAs/etc)

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        What we’ve experienced here is for the meeting invitation to go out long before the meeting, but the Zoom link and codes to be released only just before.

        So on Monday a time is agreed for the Friday meeting, and everyone’s calendars populate with the meeting time, subject, etc. On Thursday, or even Friday morning, someone sends a totally separate email to confirmed attendees with the usual “Fergus is inviting you to a meeting on Zoom” etc. Only people with access to the relevant mailboxes can join the meeting.

        Also, use the waiting room function so that the host has to validate participants.

      2. BethDH*

        Try the waiting room function. The host can let in only the approved people. It’s really easy to do!

      3. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

        Do you have a problem with people you trust enough to see your calendars (PAs and direct reports) crashing meetings they’re not supposed to attend? I just find this strange. I completely get keeping meeting details off the public internet to keep zoombombers out, but it seems like within a company just telling people not to go to meetings they’re not invited to should work, just like it presumably did when the meetings were in conference rooms onsite and everyone could see the location in the calendar item.

    2. Information Goddess*

      Personally I hate hate hate hate getting meeting details in an email ESPECIALLY more than 3-4 days ahead of time. I’m getting a lot of these emails plus all the emails for the non meeting work and then the day of the meeting I have to search my email for the info and then wade through all the results that come from the meeting organizer. I’m trying to Delete emails as I finish them and still I have lost meeting details and had to scramble 10 minutes prior to the meeting.
      So I would totally be that person— but I’m definitely going to tell you “I know you already sent it, I can’t find it because of all your other emails can you resend”

      1. Anononon*

        I don’t understand this issue. I have terrible email management skills in that I don’t do anything with them except mark them as read once finished/dealt with. I don’t delete, use folders, etc. I just have literally over 100,000 emails in my inbox. My one saving grace is that I keep a very strict handle on my emails – I generally only have less than ten unread emails in my inbox despite getting probably close to 100 a day.

        All of that to say? I’m always able to find relevant emails through the search functions. If I know what it’s about, I can find it.

      2. Ego Chamber*

        Wow. Anywhere I’ve worked, asking a manager to resend you something super relevant because you “can’t find it because of all [their] other emails” would get you a training on email management to learn how folders and labels work and how to copy/paste meeting info from your email into your calendar.

  25. Bookworm*

    #1: So long as it’s not disturbing (outside noises and/or bothering your neighbors), it shouldn’t be an issue. But as Alison says: if your culture is more like an office as a background, you might want to consider at least faking a mock-up of your office (it doesn’t have to be fancy) and muting your sound.

  26. bananab*

    #2, this probably isn’t you, but I did want to say that if this is a common occurrence, it might be worth looking at your communication style. I say this only because you said you feel a bit bad “every time.” I don’t skim emails and seldom miss info, but I have one client that I miss info from routinely, and it’s because it was buried within other unrelated info, and they tend to go overboard on lots of low-value emails (please reply to confirm a receipt/just checking the status of X that’s clearly on track, etc.).

    1. Cheluzal*

      Or it’s the coworker. I managed a guy who never read emails and when I would forward the previous one would always get rude. Sorry but I have a hard time being tactful with adults who act like children.

      1. bananab*

        Of course, I mean that’s the premise of the letter. Just providing an alternate on the off chance it applies. I guarantee the client I mentioned thinks I’m error-prone, because he has no idea he’s the only one I have trouble with.

      2. Courageous cat*

        Sure but they’re just tossing out an alternative consideration. Obviously we can’t possibly know which is the case.

    2. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Could be, but IME it’s the other people who can’t be bothered to fully read an email. If I’m sending a lot of emails and only 10% of the recipients are asking me questions that could have been answered by READING the original email, it’s not me who’s the problem.

  27. Roscoe*

    #2 I’m actually going to disagree with this one. I do find it rude if I ask a question and someone decides to, instead of just answering it, fishes out the original email and forwards the whole thing again. Its hard to put my finger on exactly why, but I do. Its kind of like if someone responds to a question “per my last email” or “As I previously stated…”. I suppose if its something very long and detailed I maybe see it, but again, why not just copy and paste it into a response. I think its that you are answering the question while also feeling the need to point out that “I did my job by providing you with this info, you just didn’t read” or something like that.

    To be fair, I will admit I’m in sales, and I get things like this all the time. So I err on the side of being extra polite to poeple I’m trying to sell to, but I also extend that to coworkers and others I work with that I don’t sell to. My general thing is, if there is a way to do something that you know MAY come off rude, why risk it to save 10 seconds.

    1. Cheluzal*

      No, because we expect you to read emails and write things down. That’s why we put the thing out in the first place. Strenuously disagree with your position. When I get emails about things I write them down in my calendar and I expect my capable adult colleagues to do the same. If it’s a one-off maybe,but these things usually are repeat offenders.

      1. Roscoe*

        Honestly, your response is exactly why it DOES come off rude.

        Everyone has missed details in an email at some point. Just because it annoys you, doesn’t mean you need to be rude back to someone.

        I’d ask you this, would you handle it this way with your boss? What about a family member you care about offending, like a parent? If not, then I’d argue you know it may come off rude.

        And I stand by my point, if you know something may come off rude, I don’t understand the upside of risking it.

        1. EnfysNest*

          Well, because the choice isn’t just “risk sounding brusque” vs. “as nice as possible”. It’s “risk sounding brusque” vs. “risk looking forgetful and incompetent” (which could also be considered rude, in some ways). There’s a risk either way. They want to make sure their coworkers get the information, but they don’t want to make it look like they’re not on top of things in their own work, either.

          Plus, if it could be perceived as rude to send a reminder, then it could also be received as rude to assume your coworker didn’t send something they should have, instead of checking back in your email first to see if you missed or forgot something you already have, right? And you can’t make all decisions only on what people *might* interpret as rude – as we’ve seen in previous posts here, everything from opening an email with just a name instead of “dear” to not wanting to engage in hours of small talk during work hours can be perceived as rude by some people. There’s no way to avoid all risk, you just provide the information you can as professionally as you can given the circumstances, but “possibly rude” isn’t the only consideration at play.

        2. Show Me the Money*

          People don’t have time to be restating information already given. It is not at all rude to resend an original message. The recipient should apologize for wasting the sender’s time. It’s not the sender’s job to manage feelings. Geez.

          1. EPLawyer*

            This. I am not retyping all the information for one person.

            When I resend I just add a little note — here it is again so everyone has it handy and doesn’t have to hunt for it later.

            1. LurkNoMore*

              This x100!
              Let me put it this way, you’re asking this person to type the information again because you couldn’t take a few minutes to back check your inbox to see if you had already received the information.
              Seems someone thinks their time is more valuable than others…

            2. Roscoe*

              How long does copy/paste take? I’m being serious here. It takes maybe 10 seconds longer than forwarding and adding a message to go with it. I guess I just don’t see it as THAT big of an imposition.

              1. Allonge*

                How long does search by from + a keyword take? You already knwo who was supposed to send the info, look at their emails from a reasonable timeline.

                But people with this approach write an email instead, expect someone else to do the search, send the information to them and not even indicate that they already had it. That takes longer for sure.

              2. Windchime*

                It takes longer than 0, which is what it would take if you just read the email in the first place so it wouldn’t need to be re-sent at all.

          2. Sylvan*

            I agree it’s fine to resend an original message, but expecting someone to apologize for wasting 30 seconds of your time seems pretty harsh for a colleague you probably want to continue getting along with in the future.

        3. AvonLady Barksdale*

          I have done this with my boss. He emailed me a request, I fulfilled it in about 30 minutes, then two hours later he asked me where it was. I replied with something like, “I sent that to you two hours ago– see below” and copied the original email.

          I used to get questions like this all the time, and they’re pretty annoying, and I have always written back something like, “Details were in the original email” and I include the text of the original email. Usually because I spent time composing the first email, it has all of the information in it, and I wouldn’t want to forget to include anything. Once the original email is sent with all of the information necessary, why should anyone be expected to re-type it all? There’s no reason to be rude about it, but there’s also rarely a reason to re-do the work.

          When I miss details and someone does this to me, I’m embarrassed because I didn’t take the step of looking for it myself. But that’s on me. It doesn’t make the other person rude when they prefer not to repeat themselves.

        4. Amanda*

          Not only would I do this with my boss, I’d *specially* do this with my boss! And have, several times. I don’t ever want my manager thinking I’m letting my work slide or need to be micromanaged to remember my responsibilities.

    2. Barney*

      No, it’s not rude to point out that the information is already available to you and its actually annoying to ask for the information before double checking the invitation. It sounds like you just don’t like being called out on your mistakes. I’ve actually done this to my boss because I would rather point out his mistake than for him to think I’m not on top of things.

      1. Show Me the Money*

        BINGO! Somebody doesn’t like being called out on their mistakes. This person would rather it seem like you made a mistake. Bull.

      2. Jennifer Strange*

        Same, I’ve 100% done this with my boss. It’s not me trying to point out her mistake, it’s me wanting her to know I’m on top of what needs to be done (thankfully she’s incredibly easy going and takes it that way as well). I’ve been on the other side of things (missing information that has already been given to me) and I don’t take it personally when people forward something already sent or something – it was my fault for not reading carefully enough and/or not saving the information in an easy to find place.

        1. That'll happen*

          I’ve had to do this to my boss too! He will ask me for a document that I sent days/weeks ago, so I forward him the original email so he knows that I completed the work on time.

      3. Roscoe*

        Its amazing the conclusions you jump to for thinking certain actions are rude when they don’t need to be. But go ahead, make your judgements about me. I’m sure that makes you feel great about yourself

    3. Dilly*

      Well the question the OP was being asked was “are you going to send the info?” The answer to that question is that the info was sent last week. So forwarding the original email answers the question.

    4. Susie Q*

      Because then you end up spending your entire day answering questions like because people refuse to act like adults and thoroughly read their communications.

      1. Grey Coder*

        Yep. If I can deter someone from asking me to repeat information they already have by pointing out where they could have found it (at the risk of being a bit brusque as EnfysNest says), in the long run I will save myself a lot of time.

        (I’m a bit sore about this right now as I have just spent time digging out an email to forward on to a colleague asking for information. Colleague’s job is to keep track of the information in the email. The most irritating thing is that the email I forwarded was from that same colleague, who has forgotten their own information…)

    5. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I have experienced this before, where they just resend their previous email, and you have to reply and say “thanks for resending – that email addresses the llama combs but not the curry combs for which we need final numbers by close of business”.

      An effective and courteous resend has some introductory content such as “here’s our email of 24 April – I am also reattaching the cost forecast, in which you’ll find the numbers for Q3 in the second tab. Let me know if you need anything further to proceed”.

      Outlook has a useful but inexhaustive tool where it automatically scrapes email text for tasks being assigned – particularly if you @ someone in the email, eg “TPS reports are due Friday 12pm – @Fergus please make sure these are on Celeste’s desk first thing Friday”, and Fergus’s Outlook says “it looks like you have an outstanding task from this email make sure these are on Celeste’s desk 8am Friday. Imperfect and not exhaustive, but a good idea nonetheless.

      1. Allonge*

        It absolutely happens that an email does not answer all questions someone had.

        But for me in these cases when you (general you) request the info again, you need to spell out what is missing. Because “please send X” will result in my resending the original email (maybe with some highlights / short explanation) if I think I took care of your issue already. If you say thanks for the alpaca numbers, I still need the same for llamas, then I know what I left out.

        As usual, good communication needs to be exercised by all for it to work.

    6. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Oddly, I found the email with the question rude. Maybe it’s a Midwest thing, but here, even if someone had genuinely never received the email, the inquiry would’ve looked something like “I cannot find the email with the meeting info, could you send that to me in case I misplaced it?” (And they *would* have done a search for the email before sending the inquiry.) And it probably would not have the rest of the group copied on it. OP’s colleague just assumes that OP never sent the email, to anyone in the group, that they probably could’ve found in their inbox in under five seconds if they’d bothered to look. Being that OP is not trying to sell anything to the colleague, I see no reason for her to be all “oh I am such a scatterbrain, I totally forgot to send it, thank you and here it is!” If the colleague feels mildly embarrassed? good. Maybe next time they’d check before emailing.

      1. Morning reader*

        We are overlooking that the example provided is about volunteers. Yes, people should know how to use email. But I’m a volunteer for a few things and I get a few emails with needed info but a ton of other email re news, politics, things I’ve purchased before, etc., often from the same organizations for which I volunteer. It’s hard to sort and keep track of, it’s all in my personal email, and I’m not considered professional and I’m not paid.

        If I missed a date/time email and asked if it was going to be sent, I’d think “oopsie, my bad,” if I got back “here it is, resending details” with the old email attached. I might even respond, “thanks, sorry I missed it.” I would never think the resender was rude.

        Herding volunteers is a skill different from coworker communication.

        1. Ego Chamber*

          It’s a little condescending to say volunteers don’t know how to use a calendar app (usually bundled with the email app) and there’s no reason not to expect a basic level of professionalism. I get that volunteers aren’t being paid but they can still be fired if they need excessive hand-holding.

    7. MoopySwarpet*

      I would use this approach as well. Something like “This was in my email sent last Friday, but I’ve copied it below for convenience.” (Or attached it here for convenience if it’s not a copy/paste thing.)

      Mostly because at that point I’ve had to go back and find the email to make sure the glitch wasn’t on my side (like I forgot to hit send or didn’t copy everyone). Why would I intentionally make it more difficult? I do, however, think that forwarding the original email is acceptable as long as there isn’t any snark in the forward note.

    8. bananab*

      Depending on the question, it can be passive aggressive. If it’s like a yes/no sort of thing, digging up an old email is kind of mean spirited. Takes more work than just answering the question and the point is clearly to make the recipient feel foolish. If it’s something fairly complex, I can see finding the old email and re-sending.

      1. Roscoe*

        Agreed. You said it with more nuance than me. But even something like “what are the meeting details”, it seems easy enough to just copy and paste that in a response. But also, yes no questions met with reforwarding email just seems petty

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          But honestly, it was the “have you stopped beating your wife?” type of yes/no question.

          “Are you going to send us the meeting info?” The correct answer is “no”, because OP had already sent it, and wasn’t planning on sending it again. But that’s not a very useful answer.

        2. Jennifer*

          I agree with you. I’d only disagree if someone was accusing you of being incompetent and not sending it correctly in the first place. Also, if someone has a habit of always asking for details multiple times instead of checking, then I think more needs to be done. But just a one-time oversight, it’s okay to be kind. Welcomed even.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        But…. you *have* to dig up the old email to get the meeting link and passcodes? Surely OP did not have that information committed to memory?

    9. Grapey*

      “why not just copy and paste it into a response”

      Because then I have two threads to keep track of in case you reply to the newer email when everyone else correctly got the first one.

    10. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I agree.

      I only forward an email back to repeat offenders as a snapback. Along the same lines of changing my tone when time calls for it.

      I don’t say is necessarily rude but it’s very much a message of “you need to pay attention.” It’s basically saying “hey. Pay attention.”

      9 times out of 10 I’ll repeat it without adding the original email coming up. Most people genuinely are just having a brain fart and we all get that.

    11. Ferret*

      TO flip your stement I would say that I would say I find it rude/careless for someone to ask a question instead of ‘just’ looking at the original email chain or searching the information they already have. I will admit I am biased due to dealing with a similar situation right now where someone has repeatedly requested sumaries which can be found in emails they sent themselves, and where they need the reminders because the meeting has been delayed for 2 months – by them.

      Also, many people struggle with the vast amount of emails they receive nowadays so adding several more onto the chain because of your own forgetfulness/laziness – and then sneering because someone happened to provide the information in not quite the right format is a bit rich.

      Attaching the original email with the right information also makes sure it will show up in searches on the original chain/subject as well which is a benefit to people who want to keep all the relevant information/ conversations well organised.

    12. LGC*

      I mean, I agree that it’s rude to just re-forward it – it’s a bit “Let me Google that for you.” But I think it’s more reforwarding without saying, “Hey, not sure if this got lost in the shuffle” that’s rude than adding in a note about it.

      For what it’s worth, I haven’t had many issues with reforwards. On the other hand, I’m painfully aware that my coworkers are…not very organized with their emails. (I have seen their inboxes. It’s just…an inbox of EVERY EMAIL THEY RECEIVE. I don’t know how they live like that.)

      1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Oh, for sure, I’d definitely reply with something like “Hmm, odd, I sent it out last week. Must’ve gotten lost in the shuffle with how busy everyone is! Not a problem, here it is again!”

        I admit, my inbox is one of EVERY EMAIL I RECEIVE, because my Outlook search works so well at this point, there’s really no point to spend time sorting through the emails. Eventually they get archived anyway.

        1. filosofickle*

          Totally — I have 15 years of email, basically in one big box. I used to meticulously sort everything by project or context, but once search functions got good enough it truly is more efficient not to.

    13. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      If it happens once in a while, it’s cool. We all miss stuff. But if you’re a repeat offender, you’re getting a “per my last email” reply. And if it comes off as rude, I’m okay with that. It’s rude of you as the recipient to never read an email and expect me to spoon feed you the information that was clearly provided in the original email.

    14. Janon*

      I work with some repeat offenders who like to tell me that I didn’t do something or tell them something when I know I did. For that, I tend to answer but sometimes do it in the original thread or attach it. Not for everyone though, but those who make it like a thing I didn’t do. That’s the culture where I am though – no one would be surprised by seeing that.

    15. J.B.*

      This got a decent number of replies. I’ll say that, sometimes the information is presented clearly and sometimes it is not. Life happens and I don’t in the slightest blame someone for missing an original email. If someone didn’t phrase it clearly in the first place, sending the email again does — nothing. It depends on the situation, and best to assume benign intent I think.

  28. Angstrom*

    #1: We have team members working from noisy settings. In Zoom, staying muted and using the space bar as a push-to-talk has worked better for us than constantly muting/unmuting. You might have to enable that feature in the settings.

  29. Cheluzal*

    3: meh we’re all crazy more exposed just walking into Publix or the dollar tree! I think most of the stuff is a ruse at this point. I can’t get my haircut in a room with 4 people but I can have 50 people in Walmart crowd around me. Makes no sense…

    1. Roscoe*

      Oh, you are wading into it by saying that on here. Have fun trying to deal with all the anger this will generate.

      To be clear, I’m practicing social distancing and more or less isolating myself. But I also agree with your larger points

      1. yala*

        What point is that? The claim that “the stuff is a ruse at this point?” Or the idea that 50 people inside a massive store is the same as one person right up next to you for 10 minutes to an hour in terms of exposure?

        1. Ego Chamber*

          Qanon, probably. The conspiracy theorists are all stuck at home bored and they keep being drawn into foreign destabilization tactics and alt-right astroturf campaigns that are all over social media these days.

          “The virus is fake” has really taken off, along with “the elites already have a vaccine” and somehow also “the eventual vaccine will kill us all.”

          I’m in one of the states that gave the all clear too early, I hear all this stuff every time I leave the house (pharmacy, groceries, that’s it). I am super not happy about the turn it’s all taking and am not looking forward to the abrupt (predictable) spike in cases in another 2-3 weeks.

      2. Roscoe*

        Not about the ruse. About the logic of how you can go to a walmart or target, but not other places. The idea of what places can and can’t be open is just arbitrary

        1. Blueberry*

          OK I will agree with you on that. :) The lists of what various states have deemed ‘essential’ vs ‘not essential’ have definitely looked pretty arbitrary to me in a lot of cases. But then if I were in charge (which I’m not) those lists would generally be a lot shorter.

          1. Anonessential*

            Might be an interesting Covid topic. What do people consider essential and nonessential?
            Hair cuts?
            Fresh air/sunshine?

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          The thing is about calculated risks and limited exposure though.

          You have to buy food, you have to take SOME risk. You will live without a haircut, you won’t live without food very long. Sure, we could all stockpile too but that’s not reasonable given storage issues.

          It’s really not that hard to comprehend.

          1. yala*

            Yeah, it doesn’t seem all that arbitrary to me.

            Heck, even the liquor stores. I doubt governors were expecting folks to riot over haircuts, but they probably figured folks would reach their breaking point that much sooner if alcohol was restricted.

            1. LJay*

              And also actual alcoholics going through withdrawal could/would need medical care, clogging up the hospital systems we’re trying to free up. Or they could resort to things like drinking hand sanitizer or mouthwash to get their fix, again causing them to need medical care.

                1. The Other Dawn*

                  Yes. I didn’t understand it myself until my niece’s girlfriend explained about the dangers of alcohol withdrawal. She and my niece are both recovering drug addicts. I also have a sister who is an alcoholic and recovering drug addict, and is always at varying stages of those addictions, sometimes sober and many times not. Niece is studying to be an addiction counselor and GF works with various associations to educate people, speaks publicly, etc. I knew withdrawals existed for drugs, but didn’t even think about alcohol.

    2. Sylvan*

      Your haircut’s not necessary, and it requires someone getting in your personal space. Your groceries are necessary.

      1. Show Me the Money*

        In all fairness, Walmart, Target, etc. sell a lot more than necessary groceries. You long-haired people who rarely darken the doorstep of a barber shop or salon really shouldn’t weigh in on whether or not hair grooming services are needed. Pet grooming businesses are being allowed to reopen, for heaven’s sake!

        As long as stand-alone liquor stores are considered essential, when in my state you can buy liquor at grocery and drug stores, I should be able to get my short hair trimmed using every precaution such as temperature checks of staff and patrons. This essential vs. non-essential determination is arbitrary. What I want to do is essential, what you want to do isn’t. Ridiculous.

        1. Show Me the Money*

          BTW, Walmart and most other stores are retricting the number of people allowed inside at one time.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            Lol Walmart is absolutely not doing that. (They’re pouring sanitizer on all the carts though.)

        2. Anononon*

          Just because you think your state wrong classified certain businesses as essential, it doesn’t meant they should continue to do so. (And, while I think I may ultimately disagree with it due the severe dangers of alcohol withdrawal, I understand your frustration about liquor store classifications. I feel the same way about gun stores.) Haircuts are not necessary to live. I read an article about a salon owner in Georgia who had to reopen (or likely risk her business closing permanently due to losing clients), and she was terrified, both herself getting sick and getting others sick.

          1. yala*

            Man, that’s the other thing! I feel so bad for small businesses where the orders get lifted. Or even partially lifted (I’m very worried about our many awesome local restaurants).

            Once the order is lifted, they basically HAVE to open up, which means they have to risk illness or worse. But also, in a lot of cases, since many folks are still staying at home, they’re not going to see the kind of business they need to stay afloat.

        3. Crivens!*

          Long haired people need haircuts too. Ever heard of split ends? The ends of my hair look like a broom right now. But I suck it up for the greater good because nothing bad is going to happen if I don’t get my hair cut. Nothing bad is going to happen to you if you don’t get your hair cut for a while longer.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Yup, same here! Whenever I had long hair, I had to get regular trims because of the split ends. At the moment, I’m growing my hair out (because what else can I do, lol), but am kicking myself for saying, when I got my last haircut in January, “can you make it shorter and more layered?” It looks like an… interesting experiment. But what do I care? Nobody sees it anyway, except for the family members I live with, and a few random passerbys on my walks/in grocery stores about once a week. The former don’t mind, and the latter don’t care.

            Oh, and I colored my gray roots a couple of weeks ago, as I’ve been doing for years. (Before we get into “but I need to color my hair, and none of you understand, because I get my hair colored and you don’t.”)

            1. AnotherAlison*

              You can say who cares, no one sees it, but essential workers with short hair have to go to work looking ridiculous at this point. I cut my husband’s hair this week. Shops were supposed to open this week, but our county extended it and he couldn’t wait any longer.

              1. yala*

                I think “looking ridiculous” isn’t really as bad as “exponentially increasing the vector of infection”…especially since it looks like that last one is creating more opportunities for covid to mutate and become even more dangerous.

                1. AnotherAlison*

                  If so much wasn’t open, sure, I’d be on board. However, Home Depot looks pretty crazy in the garden department on a Saturday. I’ve posted before that HD needs to be open for essential trade folks to get their work supplies, but is lawn care essential if haircuts aren’t? Planting flowers? People are serving takeout food with no masks. You can walk any direction in Wal-Mart. Not saying that’s good, but in light of everything else, having one chair open in every salon, with mask requirements, seems as feasible as the rest of the stuff. I wouldn’t want to see stylists declared essential and required to work, but if they wanted to, why not allow for the choice (esp owner-operators) since, you know, we allow the Bass Pro Shop to be open.

                  I would have a different opinion if I lived somewhere else. The positive tests in my county work out to 0.09% of the population and statewide deaths are 0.005% of the population. I know it can get worse as we all return being in public, but we aren’t seeing the dire situation forecasted play out even though we don’t seem to be doing a great job of social distancing.

                2. yala*

                  Maybe the issue there should be more “Home Depot should be closed/curbside only” not “salons should be open.”

                  How on earth do you get a haircut with a mask? What does it matter if there’s one chair, if multiple people come in and breath all over everything?

                  “why not allow for the choice (esp owner-operators) since, you know”

                  Because the honest truth is that “allowing for the choice” just basically takes the choice away, but in a different direction.

                  If you “allow” those businesses to open, you basically cut off their support. If there’s no legal reason they can’t be open, well, then…they’d better be open. If they’re open, then the employees have to come in to work too–if they don’t, if they quit, they lose their benefits. If they’re open, but not seeing the traffic their used to because some yahoos aside, a significant portion of the population understands that open =/ safe, well, now they’re not breaking even.

                  At this time, “allowing” small businesses to be open just hurts them more. Especially since larger chains CAN weather a month or two of sub-optimal business.

              2. New Normal*

                2020 is basically the ‘80s – ridiculous is in and wear the shaggy, stupid hair with pride. And I say that as someone sporting stupid fluffy hair who’s still working in public and appearing in Facebook live videos twice a week. We’ll survive a bit of looking silly. We might not survive the virus.

                1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

                  +100, it’s a fashion statement right now. I admit I have not noticed how the hair looked on the grocery store and Costco employees that I’ve seen in the past few weeks, but I’m sure if I noticed it not to be in perfect shape, I’d be okay with that, because neither is mine!

                  I have a long history with the person that cuts my hair, and would never put her in danger over a trim. She’s like family to me now :)

                  Also, I have two sons in their 20s. The youngest is going shaggy, and the oldest, who lives alone, bought some kind of a contraption online and gave himself a haircut. I thought it looked a bit wacky when he showed it to us on Skype, but it’s a haircut and it works. And, a few weeks ago, my FB feed was full of photos of my various middle-aged guy friends with newly shaved/trimmed to a 1/4 inch length heads. Also an option.

                2. AnotherAlison*

                  My husband is a balding man in his mid-40s. No reviving the 80s here, sorry.

              3. EnfysNest*

                I mean… okay? And? It’s not like essential workers’ coworkers don’t know why their hair looks different than normal. Same as how everyone is going to understand why there’s a work gap on many peoples’ resumes for this time, everyone knows why hair isn’t getting trimmed. No one’s going to judge for it. My brother’s an Air Force pilot and his hair is longer now than it has been since he graduated high school. If the military isn’t making a fuss of it, I don’t see why anyone else should. I work at a medical facility (though I’m not in patient care) and I still have to go in to my office and my self-trimmed bangs look a bit silly right now. No one cares, because we know the reason and slightly un-stylish hair just isn’t a big deal right now.

              4. Dahlia*

                Well, I’m sure when a hairdressers ends in a covid-19 unit at the hospital, she’ll appreciate that her nurse has nice hair.

            2. New Normal*

              I’m on the fence about coloring my own hair because I don’t want to make things harder for my stylist when I’m able to get it done in-store. Plus I haven’t decided if I’ll stick with my reddish highlights or take advantage of the fact that I’m furloughed from the job with a strict natural-color-only rule to go purple …. and I’m perfectly fine slowly debating those options and rocking my Doc Brown with roots look until I decide because even though salons are reopening here, cases are skyrocketing and I’d rather be unstylish than part of the reason more people die.

        4. Archaeopteryx*

          Just because short hair looks messed up sooner still doesn’t make it essential. It’s a frivolous reason to put people at risk; learn to cut it yourself if it’s so dire. Groceries are a necessity.

          Haircuts also result in a lot longer exposure than sharing a grocery store aisle with someone. And people at stores *are* supposed to be maintaining a distance.

        5. Seeking Second Childhood*

          BTW it’s not just “long-haired people” who agree. My husband grew up cutting his own hair military short for restaurant work. He’s been using a barber for years, but isn’t right now because that’s 30 minutes next to someone who may be infected WITH NO SYMPTOMS.

        6. yala*

          I don’t have to get right up next to someone if I were to go to a liquor store.

          You have to be right in someone’s space to do a haircut.

          This isn’t complicated.

        7. New Normal*

          I had a pixie cut and was due to get it trimmed and colored the week after everything closed down. At this point I’m rocking a Doc Brown fluffy white- girl poof with serious and it is NOT a good look on me. And you know what? I’m fine going the next 6+ months finding new ways to corral it if that’s what it takes to keep my stylist safe and get this disease under control. Because I can read the literature and know how easily this spreads and that the best thing we can do is isolate as much as physically possible. If all I have to sacrifice is my vanity for a few months then I’ll gladly do so.

        8. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Oh stop. Get a pair of clippers and do it yourself if you find it necessary to have short hair.

          “You long haired people”, LMAFO this nonsense.

          Pets are dropped off like luggage with limited human to human contact and you don’t come in contact with the groomer. Try, harder.

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Clipping it all off worked great for Walter White! Just saying!

            1. NightOwl*

              And he looked better bald, IMO… (Happy I understood this reference, since I just binge watched Breaking Bad) :)

        9. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

          I usually get my hair cut every 4-5 weeks, which means I am now overdue for two haircuts. This is not a big deal, even when it gets in my face.

          Whenever they decide it’s safe to reopen businesses that only work if you get close to the other person, I’m going to be asking for an in-person appointment with my doctor to figure out if I need more physical therapy. Being shaggy is annoying, but it doesn’t literally hurt if I move my left wrist slightly wrong.

        10. Dahlia*

          Why are hairdressers disposable because you have short hair? Temperature checks won’t tell you if someone is pre or asymptomatic. Haircuts are not essential.

      2. Extroverted Bean Counter*

        And people in Walmart shouldn’t be “crowding around” anyone and if they are it’s not okay.

        I’m sure they are, however. The one time I physically went into a Target it was an anxiety inducing hellscape with people actually bumping into me and leaning really close to grab something I was standing near – that never happened in the Before Times and it’s extra baffling and enraging that people are doing that now. It really angered me that I couldn’t get my groceries and laundry detergent without Asymptomatic Arthur breathing down my neck.

      3. On a Break*

        Maybe Cheluzal is actually Chicago mayor Lori Lightfoot who deemed her haircut essential while shutting down salons and telling her constituents haircuts are not necessary. Come to think of it, I haven’t seen a single politician or television personality who has looked the slightest bit shaggy despite a couple of months of hairdressers being allegedly non-essential. Some animals truly are more equal than others.

        1. Humble Schoolmarm*

          Our mayor did post a pretty hilarious tweet with a picture of clippers saying that through all his campaigns and many years of marriage, the first home haircut might be the biggest risk his marriage has ever faced (have not seen the results, though).

        2. mlem*

          If it’s any reassurance, Sherrod Brown’s home haircuts have been on Facebook (and he always looks a bit shaggy anyway); I think Stephen Colbert said his wife is cutting his and he’s been playing around with its rougher state on-camera; and Samantha Bee did a bit about having her kids coloring her roots. So *some* politicians and personalities are walking the walk.

          1. Ego Chamber*

            I think the comedy news channels all made a pact or something. Trevor Noah broke first and started shaving his face again sometime last week, but they’re all looking a bit scruffy now and I say GOOD.

    3. Seeking Second Childhood*

      And that is why stores have restrictions on how many people can come in (my local BJs has someone at the door with a clicker), how traffic patterns go (one-way aisles), 6ft distancing within the store, Lexan between you and the cashiers, and people paid to sterilize your grocery carts. It’s why those of us with people in the family on immunosuppressants are shopping for them.

    4. Anononon*

      It actually makes a ton of sense, but I guess you know better than actual experts and, well, science.

    5. CheeryO*

      Of course it makes sense. It’s risk management. We all need to eat and get outside for fresh air once in a while. but we don’t *need* salon haircuts.

      1. Jennifer*

        Of course, but the large point is true. The few times I’ve had to go to the grocery store it was nearly impossible to social distance. People come too close, they reach over you, they stand right behind you in line. It made me so anxious. So it’s kind of silly to act like this woman and everyone there isn’t already putting anyone who comes into the hospital at risk because of grocery store visits and other essential errands.

        It just emphasizes once again how poorly this has been handled by many governments at the federal and local levels in some places.

        1. Blueberry*

          But risk isn’t an either-or; it’s a matter of more or less. Grocery shopping introduces some risk (especially when people insist on climbing over others, WTF). Not social distancing in general introduces more risk. And so on.

          And I think that someone saying the pandemic is “all a ruse” is arguing for less/no government intervention, not more or better organized government intervention. I’m still unconvinced of that point.

          1. Jennifer*

            Of course, I don’t agree that it’s “all a ruse” and agree that we should be minimizing risks. I’m just saying that a lot of the messaging we’re getting from the people in charge doesn’t make a lot of sense and we should be further along than we are when it comes to testing, contact tracing, etc.

            1. Blueberry*

              ” we should be further along than we are when it comes to testing, contact tracing, etc.”

              Oh hell to the yes we should be. I definitely agree with you on that and on the confusion where there should be leadership.

        2. Anononon*

          The large point is not true. Going to a grocery store once a week is NOT the same as daily socializing and interacting. Everything about this pandemic is minimizing risks. We have too many people thinking that their actions don’t matter, we run into massive, tragedy of the commons, death tolls.

        3. New Normal*

          Two wrongs don’t make a right. Essential stores aren’t as safe as they should be because of failures on every level but the answer should be to fix that, not throw up our hands and decide things are futile and it’s not worth trying. It’s like discovering you left a toddler alone with permanent markers. Do you try to fix the problem or do you hand them more markers and a bottle of bleach to drink?

          1. Ego Chamber*

            To be fair, that bleach wasn’t for drinking: the toddler was supposed to use it to clean up the mess they’d made with the markers, and any babysitter who’d never worked with children before could have made the same mistake. I mean you hired me because the other babysitters had experience babysitting whereas I’ve never had a real job in my life, I just thought I’d get more attention on Tinder if I had some photos with a baby, and who could have guessed I’d be so utterly inept with kids?

    6. yala*

      Then…don’t go into Publix or the dollar tree? Most grocery stores have delivery or pick-up, especially right now.

      It’s not a ruse, and frankly, it’s horrible of you to say that.

      1. Jennifer*

        Not everyone can afford delivery, and good luck getting one scheduled anyway in some parts of the country.

        1. yala*

          Walmart does pick-up, which is free. You schedule it a couple days in advance, drive up, they put it in your trunk, no contact. And walmart is, sadly, just about everywhere.

          But also, there’s a massive difference between “going into a large store with a limited number of people inside” and spending 30 minutes right up in someone’s personal space, especially if said person is spending the whole day right up in people’s personal space.

          And there is again, the whole thing where food is essential, haircuts are not.

          1. Jennifer*

            I’m aware that Wal-Mart does free pickup. I live paycheck to paycheck and can’t schedule a pickup a few days in advance. We’re nearly out of food by Friday when I need to get groceries. Waiting 3 or 4 days for a delivery or pickup slot to open isn’t an option for me. Not everyone is in the same situation.

            1. yala*

              Ok, so since you have to go into Walmart…do you think you should also just nix social distancing and go to salons etc? Because that seems to be what OP is saying here–that since we may have to take some risks, why bother trying to minimize any risks.

              1. Jennifer*

                I do understand the need to minimize risks. Like I said above, a lot of the messaging we’re getting from the powers that be just doesn’t make any sense.

    7. Ask a Manager* Post author

      You think public health measures designed to limit the spread of a deadly virus are a ruse? Toward what end? To intentionally decimate businesses?

      The measures are not perfect because they are based on the reality of what people will accept.

      Do not post anti-science propaganda here.

  30. Heat's Kitchen*

    For context, I WFH full time and ~ 50% of my company is remote throughout the country.

    1. I did this yesterday. I got called out and made fun of a bit for doing it, but I don’t care. A coworker who lives in a southern state says she generally doesn’t do it in winter when the majority of us (midwestern) are in bitter cold, but again, we just give her crap for it, in a jovial way.

    5. My company provided two monitors, laptop, docking station. Also wireless mouse, keyboard & headphones. The headphones are like $300 retail and amazing. I had to buy my own desk, chair, and printer; and only states where it’s required to reimburse for wifi do they do so. I’m okay with it.

      1. Heat's Kitchen*

        I maybe should’ve added a caveat. I’m not 100% sure if it’s law or what, but my colleagues in Illinois get reimbursed, while others do not.

        1. IT Guy*

          Interesting. I did not realize Illinois had a new law that went into effect at the beginning of 2019, which requires employers to cover reasonable employee expenses, including a home office.

  31. Alex*

    On broader terms than #3, when should we be reporting violations of the stay at home orders? When should it be live and let live?

      1. On a Break*

        Be aware that if you report, you are subject to FOIA requests. In Missouri, many people who made these reports have recently had their personal information published online.

        1. Anon for This*

          I’ve called my local police department and declined to give my name. It probably depends on your precinct, but for 3 calls to 3 different precincts (because I didn’t know the right one, and they didn’t direct me well), I just didn’t give my name when I said hello and they never asked.

          Even when that’s not an option, threats of non-anonymity should not stop us from stepping up as citizens and letting the proper authorities know to look into an issue.

        2. pancakes*

          If you report to who, exactly? Seems like a critical piece of information you’re leaving out.

          1. On a Break*

            I presume it would be whatever your appropriate local authority is. In the story from Missouri, it was St Louis Co. But I believe sunshine laws would apply to any public agency.

            1. pancakes*

              Right, and sunshine laws do not apply to private employers. A person who reports to their supervisor that a coworker isn’t following guidelines is not going to have “their personal information published online.” My point is that the comment from Anon for This is too broadly trying to scare people.

    1. mlem*

      Is it truly a “stay at home” order? If it’s simply a “practice social distancing” order, report it if you’re 100% certain it’s truly a violation. Do not assume that a mixed-race group of people cannot possibly be a living-together family out for an exercise walk, for example. Do not assume that a group of teenagers is inherently a collection of unrelated irresponsible punks.

      We’ve got people being murdered in some states (and threatened with knives in my state) for jogging in compliance with requirements. A friend of mine worries some yahoo will shoot her family if she and her three teenage sons go out for exercise as allowed and encouraged under our state’s policy.

      If someone tells you they’re being an inconsiderate ass? Almost certainly report it, keeping in mind the ludicrously disproportionate response that is often wielded against minorities. But be very, very careful about your assumptions.

      1. Jennifer*

        +1 Someone was killed in Michigan for asking someone to put on a mask. Store clerks are getting death threats.

        It’s really starting to feel less about “saving lives” and more about people trying to outdo each other with sanctimony.

        1. pancakes*

          You think the security guard who asked someone to put on a mask and was shot was being too sanctimonious?

          1. Jennifer*

            No, but I do see how you could get that from how I phrased it and I apologize. The store clerk was just doing his job.

        2. Lucette Kensack*

          How is that what you took away from that? This isn’t about competing sanctimonies; it’s about a man who did his job, following the law and the instructions from his employer, and about murderers who (sanctimoniously) believe that preserving their freedom of choice gives them the right to literally kill others.

          This is not a “both sides” situation.


          Sanctimonious, I Guess

          1. Jennifer*

            See my response above. I mistakenly conflated two things and apologize for the confusion.

    2. Sylvan*

      I’d look for local advice on it from people in public health, since the situation and stay at home orders are different everywhere.

    3. Roscoe*

      I mean, I”d ask what the actual problem is. In the case of #3, she works at a hospital, so I think its fine. If its people who you deem walking too close to each other outside, just let it be.

      Also, make sure you know what your order is. I’m in Illinois. We have “stay at home” but you can go out for walks, and excercise, and grocery shopping etc. So its hard to really identify where a problem lies. If a family is out for a walk, that isn’t a problem.

      1. yala*

        “In the case of #3, she works at a hospital, so I think its fine.”

        I’m not sure how you feel that doesn’t make it worse.

        1. Ferret*

          I might be wrong but I think Roscoe is saying that the fact that OP3 works at a hospital makes reporting ok, as opposed to another job where a generic facebook post with no other evidence or detail behind it might not be enough to justify raising the alarm.

          1. Roscoe*

            That’s exactly it. I understand reporting a hospital worker. But reporting someone just because the are doing more than you personally would is too far.

    4. remizidae*

      It’s not clear whether the coworker is violating anything. In my state, gatherings of <10 people are allowed, so you could have a pretty big dinner party without violating it. Your sanctimonious Facebook friend's idea of social distancing may be very far from what the government is actually advising.

      1. EvilQueenRegina*

        I see a lot of rants on Facebook about “There was so much traffic on X Street today, it’s just like normal! And I was on my way to work before anyone moans at me!” Yes, and so might any number of those people have been.

        Also for context, one street that has been moaned about is in a part of town that has Sainsburys, Aldi and Tesco Express supermarkets, and you have to take that street to get to all of them. Any number of those people may be doing their shopping. I think a lot of the “sanctimonious Facebook friends” are sometimes making a fuss when they haven’t actually got the full facts. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that flouting lockdown doesn’t happen. I know it does. But I do think people have judged when nothing’s really been violated at times.

  32. Llellayena*

    #4 One thing to keep in mind is that the PPP loan does not only get used for wages, but half of it is required to be used for wages. So the half that is not going to wages may be being used to keep the building going, pay monthly expenses and *make sure there’s a company to come back to.* But to keep the loan, they must hire back I think 80% of their staff and pay them full wages. It’s not a shot at you in taking away the extra $600, it’s making sure you don’t need to start job hunting because there’s nothing to come back to.

    1. MeanieNini*

      That’s not accurate. 75% of the loan has to be used on wages which includes employer paid health insurance premiums, 401k contributions, and a few other things. If you want to get full forgiveness of the loan, only 25% of the loan can be used on rent and utilities. They were pretty specific on what you can use the funds for and still get forgiveness. Also, the current clarifications are that you have to have the same headcount as was provided for your loan application by June 30th. The only exemptions you get are if you offered to return a furloughed or laid off employee to work in writing and they said “no thanks” in writing. So if someone leaves voluntarily and you don’t replace them by June 30th your loan forgiveness will be reduced by a small amount … which will obviously increase if more people leave. Right now, lots of industry leaders have been lobbying to get clarification on what happens if an employee voluntarily leaves not related to COVID. The SBA has still been silent on that to date.

      1. Llellayena*

        Thanks for the clarification. I wasn’t familiar with the specific details, but I did know that it didn’t all need to go to payroll.

    2. Extroverted Bean Counter*

      As MeanieNini said, those figures aren’t accurate. 75% has to go to payroll related expenses, and you have to maintain 75% of your employee headcount for the loan to be fully forgiven.

      My husband and I got a PPP loan for our business and do have work for our employees – work slowed down a lot but we gave them a choice to either be “laid off” and get unemployment or to keep getting paid at their regular weekly average and to do work when we had work for them to do. Because of the $600 extra a week several chose unemployment. They’re all part time workers, only working 15-20 hours a week so that extra supplement is a huge income boost. We get it.

      A few have asked not to be called back for the same reason, and again – we get it. It just means only the part of the loan that does go to wages will be forgiven and we’ll have to pay the rest back. Which… is fine? Whatever won’t be forgiven we just won’t spend, and will pay back ASAP so not too much of that 1% interest is incurred. It’s not an all/nothing scenario, and I’m struggling to have empathy for businesses that are being hardliners about having employees return to work when there’s not really work to be done.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Actually, you can have that part forgiven too if you get it documented in writing that they turned down your offers (this is new guidance from this week).

        PPP Loan forgiveness relating to individuals refusing to come back:
        FAQs on Treasury website (

        The information about the Treasury Dept Guidance:Question #40: Will a borrower’s PPP loan forgiveness amount (pursuant to section 1106 of the CARES Act and SBA’s implementing rules and guidance) be reduced if the borrower laid off an employee, offered to rehire the same employee, but the employee declined the offer?

        Answer: No. As an exercise of the Administrator’s and the Secretary’s authority under Section 1106(d)(6) of the CARES Act to prescribe regulations granting de minimis exemptions from the Act’s limits on loan forgiveness, SBA and Treasury intend to issue an interim final rule excluding laid-off employees whom the borrower offered to rehire (for the same salary/wages and same number of hours) from the CARES Act’s loan forgiveness reduction calculation. The interim final rule will specify that, to qualify for this exception, the borrower must have made a good faith, written offer of rehire, and the employee’s rejection of that offer must be documented by the borrower. Employees and employers should be aware that employees who reject offers of re-employment may forfeit eligibility for continued unemployment compensation.

        1. Extroverted Bean Counter*

          Interesting to know! I hadn’t read that yet.

          We likely would not report it/will just pay back whatever doesn’t get turned into a grant if needed. Our goal is to support our employees in the best way we can, so going that route would be detrimental to them. We like all of them, and want them to stick with us for the long haul (assuming the business survives to the long haul).

  33. WellRed*

    I’m glad I’m not the only one bothered by birds chirping on a call. One coworker works in a southern state so when this all started, she called into our weekly mtg from outside. Everyone loved the birds at the time (starved for spring) but I find it really noisy.

  34. Seeking Second Childhood*

    LW2 Thinking about your question I may have figured out why my new manager sends a repeat meeting invite just before a meeting. I know from experience her old manager gets inundated with emails and loses or overdeletes … I bet she started resending so he’d never have to ask & possibly get annoyed. Clever!

  35. I Will Steal Your Pens*

    #1 – for the first time in my life, someone has painted a nice picture of being a CEO. I think I need the life Alison painted.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Replace the horses with a lot of big fluffy dogs, and I’ll agree that I need this life too!

      1. Environmental Compliance*

        Why not both?

        Throw in some miniature donkeys too. I love me some mini donks.

        Shout out to the time I was interviewing for a position via phone home for a spring break during college, during which I was working at the farm where I boarded my horse, and the mini donk choir decided to make their presence known. In my defense, I had tried to go to the quietest area of the farm, but then the Jerkface Rooster started stalking me, and I had to hide in the mini’s barn because JR was scared of the donkeys.

  36. Charlotte*

    Do you have some sort of water feature you can’t turn off on the patio? Because someone I chat with on the regular does, and luckily she’s quite understanding of me having to get up every fifteen minutes to pee, but your boss might not be :p

  37. Impska*

    I reforward emails all the time. I don’t care if it’s rude. I think it’s rude when someone doesn’t take 2 seconds to type my name into the search bar of their email provider to check to see what they missed.

    It happens to me all the time. Clients pay me a lot of money for my expertise and then some of them ignore me. The ones who ignore me like to come back a few months later and blame me for their problems, saying I didn’t warn them or tell them something. Those people get a reforward.

    I always email a follow up on phone calls, summarizing what was discussed. People have terrible memories and like to interpret or remember things in ways that are favorable to them. “You told me…” is responded to with a reforward of my email.

    And especially things as minor as Zoom instructions. Just type “zoom” into the search bar. Don’t disrespect my time. I don’t need to apologize or protect your feelings when reforwarding something you could easily have found yourself. It’s Zoom instructions. You know there’s a high chance you just missed them.

    1. Alice*

      I have 40+ Zoom meetings this week — and some people are just sharing the meeting ID, not the word Zoom. “Just type ‘Zoom’ in the search bar” doesn’t work so well for me. Share the Zoom details in the place where they will actually be useful: the meeting invitation.

  38. Amethystmoon*

    I have to wonder, where does the coworker in #3 live that they have a choice? All I can do where I live is go to work, go to the grocery store, and visit a park if it’s not too far away. Those are my choices. Everything else is either closed or has gone on Zoom. I have been visiting parks on the weekends, but that is it. Yeah we might reopen in a couple of weeks, but my gov has been listening to the experts, so if they are still saying to stay closed then, he will extend the lockdown again.

    1. Extroverted Bean Counter*

      I suspect they live pretty much anywhere, and by “refusing to social distance” they mean “will be visiting friends and family in their homes and not standing six feet away or wearing masks or whatever tyranny has brought upon us”.

      I have friends who are ER nurses, factory line workers, delivery people, restaurant management, pharmacists, and other “close contact” type jobs who may at any given moment be carrying the virus, whether in their bodies because they’ve just become infected or in their hair, on their clothes, on their hands etc… It would be really irresponsible of me to be having dinner parties at their homes, and really irresponsible of them to be seeing other people. No, we can’t go bar hopping together, but there are very good reasons we’re supposed to be limiting social contact at all. All those tragic stories of someone with mild symptoms going to family Easter dinner and then having four family members pass away because of it (as an example).

      1. JustaTech*

        Exactly this! I have a friend who lives very close by who is an ICU nurse. There is exactly and precisely no way in heck I am getting closer to her than dropping stuff off at her front door until there’s a vaccine, or at least better testing.

        I know she practices excellent infection prevention at all times, but I don’t want to take any more risks than necessary with her health or mine.

      2. Sacrificial Pharmacy Tech*

        I’m overly exposed between my job and my sister’s (who I live with) healthcare job, and I haven’t seen my family or friends since the beginning of February so I don’t risk their health. I was wearing a mask at work before my state made it mandatory because I was worried about potentially being asymptomatic and making someone sick.

        I would love to be done with social distancing. It’s completely terrible for my mental health, and I need to spend some time with people who actually care about me. So I can completely empathize with people who want to be done with social distancing. I don’t think they realize that people refusing to follow guidelines are going to make the guidelines continue forever.

    2. remizidae*

      They might be visiting friends or family, which is allowed in most places for small groups (e.g. less than 10 people).

      1. fposte*

        I don’t know the exact counts, but there are a lot of states where that’s not allowed, and I’m guessing the OP is in one of them.

        1. londonedit*

          Also not allowed in the UK, for what it’s worth – we’re specifically not allowed to visit people in their homes, even friends and family. There is talk of starting to ease the lockdown somewhat after this weekend, but at the moment we’re only supposed to leave the house for exercise once a day (alone or with someone else from within your household), to buy food/essential supplies or to pick up medicines etc. We’re specifically not allowed to sunbathe or picnic in parks (those are two things that may be relaxed soon, but people will still be expected to stick to doing that alone or with their own household, and to observe 2m social distancing rules with everyone else) and we’re not allowed to go to other people’s houses.

        2. Amethystmoon*

          It’s currently not allowed in my state, though it may be easing at some point in the near future. I would agree though if the job restricts it, they should not be doing it.

      2. WellRed*

        I think most places do not allow you to visit with anyone outside your household.

    3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Parties. (Not allowed in my state until at least May 29.)

      There were dozens of cars parked up and down my street on Easter. Then after Easter was over, they all magically disappeared. I did not call anyone, because that’s not what I do, but definitely made a mental note to be careful being out and about my street.

      1. Alice*

        I wonder if these people who are so eager to re-open realize that I get less likely to go back to normal anytime soon every time I see people doing risky things unnecessarily, or failing to wear PPE when doing necessary things. I bet I’m not the only one.

    4. LGC*

      That was my first thought! Not only that – to stop social distancing means you need a bunch of people to stop social distancing with, otherwise you’re just being a jerk. Like, she can’t undo the fact that most of us are still firmly convinced IT’S CORONA TIME. She’s not going to get back to any semblance of normal, even in most of the US.

      1. Amethystmoon*

        Yeah, they can maybe not wear a mask legally, but that’s pretty much it. If you go to a store and you don’t stay the 6 feet away, security may ask you to leave. They may ask you to leave if not wearing a mask also, and if people refuse to comply, police can be called in some areas.

    5. New Normal*

      I live in one of the states that apparently decided our population is too large and needs to be purged and the list of places I can’t go is pretty short and getting shorter.

      1. Ego Chamber*

        Samesies. It’s so short-sighted and I almost can’t handle it but I guess some people really need the object lesson of a drastic increase in cases/deaths before they’ll agree to the obvious best practices.

        Good luck. I hope you make it. :)

    6. Gumby*

      That was my thought too. “I’m done with social distancing” means less when there are no restaurants open for dine-in, no stores that allow you in w/o a mask, most stores are closed anyway, all events of any size are cancelled or moved to Zoom, and your friends are still following the recommendations. Not that I would want to ignore it all and do my own thing, but if I wanted to, I couldn’t! (Though I continue to be miffed about the 10-miles from home thing because it means that instead of hiking on a Tuesday morning and passing 3 other people in 2 hours I get to walk on a path in my town and pass 3 people in 2 minutes. Or more, depending on time of day. Weekends I don’t even try.)

      1. Amethystmoon*

        We don’t have a mileage limit, but they don’t want anyone to travel anyplace where they would have to stay overnight. So that is the definition of close to home they are using.

  39. Aria*

    At my company plenty of people are working outside. We have t had the type of tech issues inexplicably brought up here, no one has shown us their grand country manor, and it’s been kinda nice to see something other than people’s bedroom walls.

  40. Jennifer Strange*

    #4 – I also work for a nonprofit theatre company and we’ve been able to keep all full time employees on during all of this despite also having to cancel our programming for the rest of the season. While we’re not bringing in any earned revenue for this season, we do have subscribers renewing their packages for next season (which is providing a good amount of cash flow). In addition, our fundraising team is still doing very well (including an appeal we’ve created specifically for the health crisis).

    You don’t mention what area you work in, but is it possible your organization has renewal purchases coming in and a fundraising plan in place that they feel will help see you through this ? If so, the stimulus package may have been necessary to make sure your box office and fundraising teams are able to continue their work (and you needing to come back to satisfy the loan forgiveness clause may have been a necessary side effect).

  41. Nea*

    OP #4 – Have they expressly told you there’s no work? I ask because of the theater groups I know, there is work, it’s just not typical theater work. In addition to maintaining the IT structure (and in some cases, expanding it to stream old performances), some theaters have rolled their costume & set departments over into creating masks, scrubs, and other PPE, an effort that also requires admin/marketing to keep raw materials coming in and finished product going out.

    It’s like a local brewery – they laid everybody off when they were told booze was nonessential, but they soon hired everyone back to make, bottle, and sell hand sanitizer with as much of their product as applied.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      That’s a really good point. There is almost always organizing to be done, files to be cleaned out, walls to be painted, cables to be untangled…

    2. Jennifer Strange*

      Not only that, but we’re still planning for next season as though it’s business as usual (with an underlying understanding that things might change, and with some back up plans for how things might shift) so even our production departments – while not actively building/creating/designing anything – are involved in planning and design meetings for shows next season.

        1. peachie*

          In my theater company, “next season” has been pushed to starting early 2021. Normally our season goes September through August; we’d already pushed back our programming due to COVID and have now pushed them back even further. So, 2021 (until August) is going to functionally be our “2020” season (and we’ll hopefully get back to our normal season schedule in fall 2021).

        2. Jennifer Strange*

          Best case scenario (which is incredibly optimistic) we open our season in September with social distancing measures in place (including fewer tickets sold per show). Obviously, there is a high chance that won’t happen, so we’ve got several plans in place that involve pushing the season back (either by having shorter runs of specific shows or cutting specific shows) and one that involves pushing the entire season into 2021-2022.

    3. A. Ham*

      Yeah. I work for a fairly large performing arts org (mostly presenting, though we do produce a few things each year as well). And while the performing arts world’s future is a bit bleak at the moment, it has amazed me how much work there still is to do. ticketing is working on credits/refunds/donations and all sorts of subscription stuff. marketing is working on digital content (hopefully that will be a small source of income shortly) and programming is working on *optimistic* programming for late fall/winter/spring. not to mention everyone working on what the plan is once we DO open the doors to our venues again. we are unique because have some smaller venues (black box, cabaret, etc.) that *may* be able to open (still with less audience and special rules) before the larger houses will. So we have a chance to test it out.

    4. A. Ham*

      Yeah. I work for a fairly large performing arts org (mostly presenting, though we do produce a few things each year as well). And while the performing arts world’s future is a bit bleak at the moment, it has amazed me how much work there still is to do. Development is doing what development does- and keeping at least some income coming in, ticketing is working on credits/refunds/donations and all sorts of subscription stuff. marketing is working on digital content (hopefully that will be a small source of income shortly) and programming is working on *optimistic* programming for late fall/winter/spring. Not to mention everyone working on what the plan is once we DO open the doors to our venues again. we are unique because have some smaller venues (black box, cabaret, etc.) that *may* be able to open (still with less audience and special rules) before the larger houses will. So we have a chance to test it out.
      At this point we are (again, optimistically) looking at having some programming in late fall- even at way reduced capacity- we are hoping to get people comfortable with coming back to the theater before we have some blockbuster broadway tours coming in, which will hopefully help our bottom line a lot if we can sell them. (we’re lucky that those tours were already scheduled for winter ’21. fingers crossed we can have an audience by then).

      1. A. Ham*

        sorry for the double post! I got an alert that the first one didn’t post… but apparently it did? whoops!

  42. Buttons*

    My Zoom call location really depends on who within the company I am talking to and what the meeting is about. For our weekly “stand-up” style check-in I am almost always on my front porch. Often if one of my direct reports calls for a specific reason I am usually at my desk so we can solve the problem, if after the call we are catching up on a broad range of subjects, and not necessarily problem solving, then I will grab my laptop and head to the porch.
    For leadership calls and anything formal, I am at my desk.
    My biggest problem with taking my calls outside on the porch is when the chickens hear my voice they want to come over to say hello and they can get rather loud. Then the donkeys in the pasture start braying and the cows start mooing, I can’t hear anything! :)

  43. Jennifer*

    #3 I was a bit confused by this one. She’s an essential worker and I’m assuming like most of us she still has to go to the grocery store or run other essential errands. I don’t see how she could really do anything that most of the people that work there aren’t doing.

    Still – let your boss know just in case. Maybe all of her relatives are nuts also and will be having her over for barbecues where social distancing is impossible.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I assume she wouldn’t make a FB post just to say “I am going to a grocery store whenever I’m out of groceries, and that’s final!” seeing that this is most certainly allowed. My mind went to barbecues, too.

      1. Jennifer*

        That’s true. I’m just wondering if she wanted to post something political and offensive on Facebook out of ignorance or anger, or a combination of both, but can’t really do anything beyond that.

        In any event, it should be reported.

    2. Clementine*

      It sounds clear from the context that the co-worker was talking about (extensive) socializing. The fact she said to just not come over to her house if it bothers you suggests house gatherings.

  44. Oh No She Di'int*

    #4 There is a huge factor being left out of both the original letter and Alison’s response. Namely, that the CARES act funds OP is referring to are strictly time-limited. When the disbursement arrives, businesses have exactly 8 weeks to spend that money on salaries (and a few other items). If they fail to spend it within that exact timeframe, guess what? They end up with a big chunk of money they have to pay back with interest. Businesses and organizations have precisely ZERO control over when the money arrives and ZERO control over when it can be spent for qualifying expenses. It’s certainly a difficult situation for employees now with the way UI is working, but it’s inaccurate to paint a picture that the organization simply chose to rehire its staff at this moment out of the clear blue sky. It is literally written into the legislation that they have to do it now.

    Given they’ve received the funds already and have already rehired staff, it seems likely that their applications were placed in early April. Recall that back then the pitchforks were out for any company that was furloughing or laying off workers, revenue be damned. So businesses were scrambling for any way to keep people on staff or to be able to promise that they’d be rehired. Nobody knew what was coming. Nobody. Nobody knew how long the pandemic would go on, what the unemployment benefits would turn out to be, when revenues would start flowing again. Nobody knew any of that. The one mission at the time was: Keep people employed. So many businesses sought any way they could to make that happen.

    A few weeks later, times have changed. But many businesses unfortunately now find themselves stuck in a system where they now must* pay staff regardless of workflow. It’s a terrible situation all around. It sucks for everyone. Really everyone.

    *Some new guidance has just been released by the Treasury Department that does nuance the scenario of what happens when someone refuses a rehire; but given the timing of this letter it seems safe to assume that the rehire preceded Treasury’s new guidelines.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t think the OP or I left that out of our assessment. It still makes no sense to bring employees back to do nothing, only to need to lay them off again when the loan funds run out. I agree that the business may not have fully realized those would be the terms when they applied for the money, but here we are. (And another option would be *not* to bring them back and simply repay those loan funds rather than jumping through these hoops to convert them to a grant.)

      1. Nacho*

        It makes more sense to our country/tax payers for people to be re-hired at their previous wages, instead of being given significantly more money from unemployment. I wouldn’t be surprised if what is happening to OP is an intended method of reducing how much money the federal government pays out with its $600/week supplement.

        1. Ego Chamber*

          This cost/benefit will almost never work out in favor of the fed, it’s just more free money being given to rich people to distribute to their workers instead of going to the workers directly.

          In this pandemic, the federal government is paying either a) $600/week in unemployment or b) each employee’s full wages + wages for the 6-figure higher-ups (because their salary counts as part of that 75% salary requirement) + the 25% of the loan that isn’t salary.

          Option b) is a lot of free money for the employer! But everyone’s upset at workers for wanting option a) because it benefits them over their employer? This is madness. (And shit math skills.)

          1. Reality Biting*

            “money being given to rich people to distribute to their workers”


            You’ve never actually met a small business owner, have you?


      2. Oh No She Di'int*

        I totally agree that it makes no sense to bring back employees to do nothing in the current climate. But I think in the absence of explicitly acknowledging the time constraints businesses are under, it risks leaving the impression that these decisions are just completely free, unconstrained decisions designed to screw over employees. And that’s just not what they are. It’s all very wacky because in the run-up to the CARES Act, business owners were told that the loan was precisely for keeping people on the payroll even though there might not be any work or revenue coming in. That is, they were explicitly told this loan/grant was for the purpose of keeping people employed even without anything to do. In late March/early April that looked extremely noble. But then the mood whiplashed in the other direction when UI benefits became clear. OP’s company didn’t catch up with that mood change fast enough. OP’s organization is not alone.


    #2 – I agree with the poster who said most people won’t be offended by a resend of the email – even with “Here are the instructions I sent last Friday.” I could see how you would get annoyed though.

    I think if this is a pattern with different groups of people, you probably need to change the original communication. In my communications class in grad school we were told one question/directive per email. People tend to respond to only only one question/directive regardless of how many are in the email. It comes across as lazy, but it is just how the human brain is wired.

    You could put the agenda in the meeting invite and attach the instructions. There are still two directives, but it is all right at the top.

  46. agnes*

    #3 I am conflicted about this letter and the response. On the one hand, I understand and agree with the concern. On the other hand, this person just happens to be open about her choices–how many of your other coworkers are doing something similar and just not talking about it?

    1. pancakes*

      What is the conflict? If other coworkers are or were known to be doing the same, the same concerns apply.

    2. Observer*

      So? The idea that you should not stop the things you KNOW about because it might also be happening in a hidden makes no sense. By that token, if a parent boasts about beating the living daylights out of their kid, no one should alert the authorities because “his person just happens to be open about her choices–how many of your other acquaintances are doing something similar and just not talking about it?” You could apply it to almost any type of situation.

      1. agnes*

        Please–beating your kids is not the same thing at all. . I’m happy to discuss what I am conflicted about and to listen to differing opinions, but let’s not get into that type of hyperbole to try and prove a point.

        As far as I know right now, choosing not to socially distance is not a crime and in fact, I am not even sure exactly what the person means when they say they are going to stop doing it. Does that mean they are going to a “Catch the Covid party?” Are they going to a family BBQ? Are they going to gather at a protest? See friends?

        So why not start with talking to the person about the post? For them, “not” following social distancing might not be much different than what a lot of others are doing already (and thinking they are following guidelines). It might also mean doing some truly risky and dangerous things that could put you and others in danger. I don’t think you can tell from the post exactly what behaviors the person is going to engage in.

        If your workplace has set standards for you to follow, or a policy about what they expect you to do when you aren’t at work, then yes, talking to your boss might be the right first option. Otherwise, maybe finding out what they mean about what they said seems to me a logical next step. you can always escalate it to your boss if what you hear validates your concern.

        We are all so quick to talk to everybody else about what somebody is doing or saying, but very hesitant to talk to the actual person. I was taught that I shouldn’t expect other people to deal with the situations that I personally find offensive until I had first tried myself to address it-(some exceptions of course for situations of violence and dealing with volatile people). It seems to have worked pretty well and I have sometimes found out that my assumptions weren’t accurate.

        1. Ego Chamber*

          So you know nothing about this specific situation but you’re stuck at home and bored so you wanted to get into an argument about it on the internet. Cool hobby.

          Seems LW3 either lives in a state with a current stay at home order or has reason to believe their employer is advocating social distancing. Either of these is a reason to bring the post to the employer’s attention.

        2. Avasarala*

          Someone who posts something inflammatory on FB like that is looking for a fight. Choosing not to socially distance is a crime in some areas and morally reprehensible in all areas. The guidelines are clear and all the examples you gave of what they could be doing are not OK to do right now. This person is dropping a gauntlet and saying “I am choosing to act badly and choosing to advertise it to all of you.” At least the ones quietly socializing seem to know they’re in the wrong. The ones who say “come and stop me” aren’t going to be convinced by a come-to-Jesus talk.

          We are all dealing with the same situation right now. None of us like social distancing. But we have to for the greater good. If you want to pick fights with incendiary people then go ahead–I’d save my breath and report the coworker to the employer.

    3. New Normal*

      Then at least they have the sense to hide it and not normalize it. The trouble I’m seeing, as a boutique manager sticking with curbside service in a town cleared for reopening despite our Covid cases TRIPLING in the last fortnight is that there’s a huge number of people looking at what their friends are doing and thinking that since Susie and Lisa are going out, everything must be fine! Mask wearing and adherence to social distancing measures in stores are the lowest I’ve seen around here since this mess began. Again, despite the fact that cases are skyrocketing and community spread is happening and our testing here is so meager that we have no idea what percentage is actually infected.

      So, yes, it’s bad that people are likely sneaking around violating safe measures but it’s worse that someone, especially someone with the influence of working in a hospital, is telling people that going out and serving as vector of disease is no big deal. And then increasing the already high risk to others in the hospital!

  47. Miss Mouse*

    “…you lounged pool-side with your horses frolicking on your beautifully manicured acres in the background, a silver pitcher of iced tea glinting in the sun next to you…”

    Oh my God, that sounds like nirvana to me.

  48. Nom de plume*

    My company has several people that work from home all the time and they get a fairly generous monthly stipend to cover the costs of maintaining a home office. For those of us who have been asked to work from home during this crisis, we have not gotten anything (although I was allowed to bring home my monitor from work). If no one was receiving a stipend, I wouldn’t care but it does seem incongruous that people that normally work from home are continuing to receive it but no one else is, even though we’re now all in the same boat. Would be interested to hear what others think.

  49. cmcinnyc*

    #4 Unless you’re the General Manager–and you’re not, or you would probably be the person who decided to rehire everyone–you don’t know the business case for reopening. There may be a major grant that will be lost if they don’t rehire now, or they will lose key staff permanently and won’t be able to function. Most theaters operate very, very close to the bone. This might be a stupid decision–or it might be the best of bad options.

    If they’re willing to bring you back and pay you, you’re not doing yourself or them any favors by refusing, are you? You’re just second guessing their business decisions. You might be right. But there is a good chance you are wrong.

  50. Nacho*

    OP#4: You’re not being re-hired for good publicity, you’re being rehired because the stipulations of the grant your employer took was that 75% of the money would be paid out as payrole within the next 2 months. If they don’t meet that, or if they don’t re-hire to their pre COVID levels, they’ll have to pay it back as a loan instead of a grant. What’s happening to you is the intended result of the stimulus bill as it was written.

  51. lazy intellectual*

    #1: People who are not me (I live in an apartment) have definitely been doing our Zoom staff meetings from their backyards/patios. I don’t see what the big deal is as long as it’s not disruptive in any way. But we are also not a super formal organization.

  52. Keep Each Other Safe*

    LW #3, please follow Alison’s advice and alert your management about your coworker. I am so exhausted, sad, scared, and angry that this kind of cavalier attitude of others is likely what killed people I know who were doing their best to stay safe. One of them was a Holocaust survivor… it’s so profoundly unfair that he survived those atrocities only to die totally alone from this, and not even get a proper funeral.

    1. Blueberry*

      Oh my goodness, I am so sorry. You have all my sympathies. May you be comforted.

  53. Something Something Whomp Whomp*

    #5: I’m not an accountant or anything, but I wonder if the OP has looked into how home office tax deductions might benefit them in the longer term if they were to move to, say, a 1bdrm+den or 2bdrm apartment and used the den or second bedroom exclusively as office space. If they’re going to be doing WFH permanently and need better work space, moving to a bigger apartment and exhausting whatever WFH-related tax stuff they can might be a better option than asking an employer to pay for coworking space.

    In any case, it’s probably a good idea for the OP to really do the math on how much they can benefit through the tax system before they ask their employer for non-standard subsidies.

    1. Rollergirl09*

      Ever since the tax changes starting 2018, it would rarely benefit someone to take the home office deduction over the standard deduction.

    2. Ego Chamber*

      Itemizing deductions for work went away for W2 employees, that’s only an option now if you’re a contractor.

  54. lilsheba*

    Question, when working from home, can you utilize that as a tax deduction somehow? and if so how would you track it? I worked from home a day here and there in the past, but now I’m finally going to get to work from home for the foreseeable future and have actually thought about the tax deduction possiblities.

  55. ..Kat..*

    #3: I am a nurse in a hospital. I see what the pharmacy tech is doing as being irresponsible to coworkers and patients.

    Personally, I am social isolating in my non-work hours to protect myself. But, also, to protect my family, patients,and coworkers. Due to my training, knowledge, experience, skills, and access to PPE, I am much less likely to be exposed to COVID19 at work (in a manner that I will become infected or transmit that infection to others). The fact that my hospital also screens everyone at the door and requires everyone (including visitors) to wear masks also decreases my chances of catching COVID19 at work.

    1. ..Kat..*

      Good Grief. Rereading my post, it sounds as if I could be saying that hospital workers who do catch COVID19 at work are to blame. THat is not what I am saying. I am lucky that I am not on the east coast (for example) where they are having much worse PPE shortages than my hospital and very extreme working conditions.

      1. Avasarala*

        Made sense to me! Healthcare workers are in ultra-careful mode at work, but may be more vulnerable elsewhere, where the same hygienic protocols aren’t in place. Nobody cleans their house like a hospital gets disinfected. It’s risky where there’s a congregation of sick people but it’s also risky where standards are more lax and people are less careful. They could catch it from an asymptomatic person and pass it to a vulnerable person in the hospital.

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