how do I respond to colleagues who are jealous of my furlough?

A reader writes:

I’m furloughed, along with about 98% of my organization (~35,000 people), the vast majority of them public-facing retail.

When the corporate furloughs came, one of the “reassuring” points leadership widely circulated was that, at some compensation levels, with unemployment plus the federal stimulus and our company paying our insurance premiums, an employee stands to make more money while unemployed.

This stands true for me:
– My premiums are paid so I don’t have to buy insurance.
– I receive my weekly unemployment.
– I receive an additional $600 per week via the federal government package.
– I am bringing in more cash than when I was working.

I would obviously keep this to myself, but locally, these calculations are popular in the news, the calculators are widely circulated online, and our company shared this. After initial sympathies, I had several coworkers tell me they are jealous and wish they would be furloughed.

I get it, who wouldn’t want to not work and still bring in more money? But I’m not doing well. Financially, I’m fine, but my mental health is struggling without my job and it’s difficult to find purpose in my days. My young kids and their schoolwork keep me busy, and I try to remind myself that it’s a blessing to give them the attention they need and to cherish this time with them. But they’re assholes sometimes! And I would sometimes prefer to deal with my asshole coworkers instead. At least most of them know how to spell.

Not to mention, my anxiety has my head spinning with the “what ifs” like “what if they decide to eliminate my position permanently?” Or “what if this goes on longer?” I get to think about this stuff all day.

How do I handle friends and colleagues who are vocal about their jealousy of my situation?

Yeah, the reality is that no matter what companies are hoping, a lot of people who are currently furloughed won’t ultimately be brought back to their jobs — they’ll end up unemployed in a terrible job market that’s flooded with other applicants. For many of the people who will end up in that situation, getting an extra $600 a week for 15 weeks (the length of the federal supplement to normal unemployment benefits) isn’t enough to make that worthwhile.

And most people in your shoes aren’t living large. They’re stuck at home, freaking out about how to navigate (and pay for) their futures.

To be fair, it’s understandable why people who haven’t looked closely at the numbers — and especially people who are working outside their homes, with all the risks that currently entails — can look at someone who’s temporarily getting paid more to stay home and think, “That must be nice.” And the media and the government haven’t done a good job of educating people about the math. But a lot of people in your situation would gladly trade that extra money for a job they could count on.

But people who are currently working don’t necessarily have jobs they can count on either. So from their perspective, they might be risking their health (and their family’s safety) for less money than you’re getting staying at home, only to end up in the same position as you later this year too, just minus the additional financial help. They shouldn’t take that out on you, of course; they should be angry at the conditions that have led us here. But feeling jealous is understandable.

While we’re on the topic, it’s worth explaining where this $600/week federal supplement to unemployment benefits came from. Normally unemployment only pays a portion of your previous income, but the original goal of the pandemic assistance was to pay people 100% of their previous salary (to counter the massive economic impact of so many people losing their income at once). But most states’ unemployment systems run on computer code that’s decades out of date, and there was no way to quickly program in the kind of flexible calculations needed to do that (especially at a time when many state systems were already crashing under the weight of so many claims). So they settled on this $600 supplement because it was the average; for some people it will add up to more than they were earning and for some people it will be less, but there was no way to program a customized payment for each person.

Anyway, all of this is just background that doesn’t answer your question, so…

When people tell you they’re jealous of your situation, one option is to gently point out that you’re not excitedly rolling around on a bed covered in cash while your spouse pours champagne over you:

* “Honestly, I’m in a panic most days. I’m saving for when the extra ends in two months, because I have no idea when I’ll be working again.”
* “It’s temporary, and I don’t know what will happen when it ends. I’m saving as furiously as I can.”
* “It’s really stressful not knowing when I’ll be working again, so the help is appreciated.”
* “I wish I were working! My stress is through the roof.”

Another option is to assume the comments are at some level expressing concern about their own situation and respond accordingly:

* “This is such a hard and stressful situation for everyone, working or not. How are you doing?”

What do others think?

{ 279 comments… read them below }

  1. ThatGirl*

    I really think you can be honest! Having more money for now doesn’t make things not stressful. I suspect the folks who are suggesting you’re on Easy Street aren’t really thinking it through.

  2. juliebulie*

    I’m aghast that the employer is practically bragging about the fact that they pay worse than unemployment.

    And I don’t know what to say about people who are jealous of people who are out of work. “Be careful what you wish for”? Maybe don’t say that out loud.

    1. Daniel*

      Well…don’t forget the supplement, even if it’s temporary. Getting $600 a month is equivalent to $31,200 a year. And that’s extra on top of what you’d get before. So if you’re income is $1,000 a week, and your UI is half that (which seems to be plausible in a lot of states) and add the supplement, you’ve gone from $1,000 a week to $1,100. And $1,000 is a week is a reasonable salary in a lot of jobs, and totally livable in a lot of places.

      Not to discount any of the OP’s worries. The supplement is temporary and there’s no telling what is going to happen after that.

      To answer OP’s question…if they are up for it, I’m a fan of acknowledging the stress, i.e. “Honestly, I have no idea when I’m going back to work, and I’m doing what I can to save up now, since the supplement is going away in July and I’ll have less after that.”

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Getting $600 a month is equivalent to $31,200 a year.

        Why do people keep saying this? It doesn’t matter what the extra $600 a week would be in a year because it’s not available for a whole year. OP only has a month and a half left to receive it and, presumably, has expenses she still needs to pay in the meantime. Sure, she’ll probably have a little more savings than her colleagues thanks to this extra cash, but it’s not an outrageous amount extra.

        1. Daniel*

          I 100% agree. But it does demonstrate some people are going to make more from unemployment, temporarily.

          1. JSPA*

            Unless Alison changed her answer, this is, literally, included in Alison’s answer. Twice.

            1. “can look at someone who’s temporarily getting paid more to stay home”
            2. “for some people it will add up to more than they were earning”

            It’s also a good bet that the majority of people who can competently read at the level of this blog can also multiply $600 by the 52 weeks in a year, to understand what the mistaken / illogical / bone-headed / inapplicable calculation Alison references, might be.

        2. hbc*

          It matters when people are saying, “Oh, this employer is terrible if you make more on unemployment.” The weekly equivalent of a $30K salary added to your normal unemployment pay is not tiny, and coming out ahead in a week is not a sign that you worked for a company that was screwing you over.

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            It could be though – but that’s dependent on the industry, region, and market rate for an individual role. Some companies are severely underpaying their employees.

              1. Diahann Carroll*

                Right, but that has nothing to do with the letter (OP isn’t complaining about being underpaid), so that’s why I made my initial statement saying none of this talk about the additional money being the equivalent of a whole other salary is relevant here.

          2. KayDeeAye*

            Exactly. You cannot compare “I am earning more on unemployment!” now with “I am earning more on unemployment!” during more normal times. Even people who were earning decent and fair wages while employed are in many cases earning more right now *just* because of that substantial subsidy. So it’s neither accurate nor fair to automatically assume that any company who has employees who are earning more on unemployment were paying poor wages. Some were, of course, and some still are, but definitely not all.

          3. Batty Twerp*

            I think it’s because of equivalency. It makes for easier unconscious biases and mental arithmetic to know what the equivalent annual salary is being paid.
            Example – would you take out a small loan of $100 for a month knowing that you’ll pay back $110 (10% interest) if you were told the actual APR was 214%? Now, you’re not borrowing $100 for a year, but maybe it would help you consider other loans/credit options knowing what the equivalent charge is.
            It sounds like the same mental shortcuts are applied to the $600 = $31k. How does the unemployment supplement compare to my normal basic salary?

            (important caveat – I’m in the UK, so I have no idea if your $600 is before tax and other deductibles, nor what the base level of unemployment is. Our furloughed staff are being paid 80% of their basic salary pay up to a maximum, by their companies who then claim this value, plus deductions, back from HMRC – it’s quite a complicated system)

            1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

              (FWIW the maximum furlough employers can reclaim from the government is £2500 per calendar month, which is approximately equivalent to $700 US per week, which is 80% of an annual salary of ~$45k. If you earned more than that before furlough, you top out at £2500 pcm, unless your employer chooses to top up from their own funds)

              1. Batty Twerp*

                Crud – yes, thank you (tiny facepalm). I’d noted the £2500, but then went off on a tangent working out if this included NI contributions etc., and forgot to go back to it. Once I wander down an accounting hole it’s not easy to get me back on track!

                The latest announcement is that the furlough scheme will run until October, but will be reviewed in August with a possibility that companies will need to take some of the burden of payment.

      2. Annony*

        But I think the important calculation is the extra. If you made $1000 a week before and with the supplement you make $1,100 a week, that is only $100 extra a week or $1500 total extra when it ends. That means you will have an extra week and a half salary saved up, which isn’t exactly giving much security when your company has already told you that you are not essential and therefore more at risk when it comes to layoffs.

        1. Extroverted Bean Counter*

          The aggregate $ total isn’t necessarily what’s driving the jealousy though – it’s the idea that for a lot a people they’re imagining how much less stressful their own lives would be if they themselves were furloughed. Many of them are likely also caring for young children, or trying to homeschool older children, or care for other family members while still putting in their 40 hours a week of work, and netting less money for it all. They’re thinking “what a relief it would be to be able to focus on my kids and not have to also be worrying about work while still getting paid – let alone with an extra $100 a week!” It’s a quality of life jealousy with the veneer of economic jealousy.

          It neglects the long view burden of the terror that being furloughed might very well mean it’ll last longer than the $600 supplement, or there very well will be no job to return to. But the short view of “I’m living the same life but also have to work, for less compensation” can certainly (and I don’t think wrongfully) sting.

    2. Exotrix*

      To comment on the bragging about the fact that they pay worse than unemployment, some numbers-
      TN ($275 max +$600) = $21.88/hr for 40 hrs
      MS ($235 max + $600) = $20.88/hr for 40 hrs

      (Those are the states that I’m easily familiar with and two of the lowest in the country. MS is the lowest.) In those areas, $20-21/hr is well above minimum wage. Almost 3X. So yes, that is a benefit to let furloughed people look as a small “positive.”

      That being said, unemployment sucks and the unknown in this case sucks even worse. I don’t think anyone should be jealous of unemployment/furlough. My company offered to let people apply to be furloughed if they weren’t making enough hours so that they could make more on unemployment. However, they are supposed to be called back on 07/31/2020. I didn’t apply.

      1. I coulda been a lawyer*

        I’ll confess that I was a little jealous for a hot minute. I recently received a promotion to an essential management position. My replacement got 2 weeks off at full pay when this started. I tried to be grateful for the pay bump. After 2 weeks that staff level had to take leave if they wanted to be paid, and that’s been 7 weeks now. I’d be out of leave and out of income now. They will most likely get called back, but when? I’m worried for all of those not working.

      2. Dagny*

        Massachusetts’ maximum unemployment is $823/week. Add in the $600/week federal supplement, and some people are receiving $1,423 per week while unemployed. For extra fun, an unemployed married couple would be making almost $3,000 per week.

        1. Sacred Ground*

          For a couple of months, then they’re back to standard unemployment, and will have used about half of their *lifetime* allotment of UI (in my state, it caps at 6 months total for life) and still jobless.

          Yeah, that’s way better than an actual job.

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            Wooooow. I didn’t know there are states that have lifetime caps. That’s wild.

          2. Ann O'Nemity*

            Federal benefits have a maximum duration of 26 weeks, but that’s not a *lifetime* cap. During the last recession the duration length was extended; I’m expecting that to happen again.

          3. emmelemm*

            Yeah, I’ve never heard of a “lifetime” allotment of UI. What the heck state is this?

          4. Dagny*

            The question was why people would be making more on unemployment than their regular job. I answered that.

            States do not have a “lifetime” cap. After six months, they will stop paying benefits, but you can apply for and receive benefits again after you have had (and lost) a subsequent full-time role.

    3. Barney*

      Alison addressed this in her response, but the only reason they pay worse than unemployment is because of the temporary $600 supplement.

      1. QCI*

        Where I live, 15/hr$ isn’t that bad, so the 600$ a week by itself is pretty good for a lot of us. The downside is, a lot of those jobs may not reopen at all.

    4. NerdyKris*

      Because any job that pays less than $60K is going to be making more weekly with the supplement. Unless your argument is that minimum wage should be $35 an hour, there’s no shame in pointing out that your employees are making less than 60K.

    5. Koala dreams*

      Yes, it’s a weird thing for the employer to brag about. Even though the unemployment is temporarily unusually high, it isn’t something that the employer has reason to be proud of. Just like you wouldn’t brag about a former employeee getting paid more at their next job. No matter the source of the money, the current employees will easily feel they are under-paid, even if they aren’t.

      1. HannahS*

        Even if the employees come back at full pay at the end of the furlough, the way the company is phrasing things is going to stick in people’s memories. It’s hard to make the mental leap from January/February when companies (not all, of course, but plenty) were sending out all the “look at our beautiful profits, we take care of each other and everything is awesome” to tossing their employees onto the mercy of government aid and saying we have no money to pay you. Everyone may be receiving that message, but the delivery matters.

    6. OP*

      Just to clarify, I can’t speak for my retail colleagues, but I believe I am fairly paid and I generally think the org pays their corporate employees well. Our benefits package is excellent, too. I don’t think the intention was to brag about paying worse than unemployment, but seeing your interpretation, I can see it that way now, too.

      But no, I don’t believe we’re underpaid, but I do think widely circulating that information was poor practice on management’s part.

      1. Annony*

        They probably were trying to make people feel better about being furloughed. “You’ll be on unemployment but look at the math! You make more money this way!” It probably didn’t work but did frustrate those who had not been furloughed since they probably have extra work now and are being told they are actually making less money than those who aren’t working. Definitely a poor judgement call.

  3. nep*

    So important to keep in mind, and help people understand, what might look like a windfall is strictly temporary–nothing like long-term job/financial security.
    LW, wishing you all the best.

    1. Threeve*

      Yeah, if I was explaining why I wasn’t in an enviable position on furlough, I wouldn’t go into any of the “things are emotionally stressful/scary right now and I wish I was working.”

      It would strictly be “this is a temporary bump, and my job security and finances in the long run aren’t looking good.”

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

      Yes. I see it as a opportunity to grow your emergency funds for a post-pandemic world. I’m saving like mad, even though I have a job.

      1. SunnySideUp*

        So are we. My SO works in luxury sales and has seen a sharp drop (as expected). Who knows what the future will bring?

      2. Doug Judy*

        Same. I have my job. My husband was temporarily laid off, went back to work last week. He did get an extra $3,000 from being on unemployment. It’s sitting in savings. Normally we would have done something fun with that money, but it’s going to remain in savings.

    3. Tuckerman*

      It’s true, and a very important point, but I’m sure a lot of people who haven’t been furloughed are still wondering about their long-term job security. They may be thinking they’ll all be laid off at the same time, but those who were on unemployment might come out ahead.

      1. Anonymouse*

        I’m currently looking at this. I’ve been essential since this started, so I’ve still been coming into work. Now it’s looking like I might be laid off or furloughed at the end of this week. If that happens I’ll make more on unemployment than I do for my regular salary (I’m really not underpaid- I live in a low cost of living area)

        So now I’m looking at having come into work for the past two months, potentially exposing myself and my family, and I still might loose my job. And now I’ll only have six weeks to collect that extra $600/wk, whereas if I had been laid off at the beginning I would’ve had longer to save more.

        I’m not trying to discount anyone’s struggle- this isn’t the suffering Olympics- but it’s really hard not to be envious of people who got to stay safe at home and ended up in a better situation than I’ll be.

      2. Bananarama*

        Yeah, I’m thankful to still be employed and able to work from home, but I took a noticeable pay cut for the rest of the year due to my employer’s rolling furlough program. I’ve been desperately trying to keep up my work productivity while having to do crisis online homeschooling for our two elementary school-aged kids mostly on my own, because my husband can’t do his essential healthcare job remotely.

        It’s pretty demoralizing to do all this and know I could *still* find myself laid off – except without the extra $600/week in UI, and after months of constant stress from trying to juggle work and family.

  4. Diahann Carroll*

    But they’re assholes sometimes! And I would sometimes prefer to deal with my asshole coworkers instead. At least most of them know how to spell.

    I’m sorry, OP, but this made me laugh out loud for real. Honestly, I’d be tempted to tell my coworkers exactly this – while taking out the part about them being assholes of course, lol.

    1. EPLawyer*

      I laughed too. You love your kids, but you are honest about them.

      I would go the general “hey it’s stressful for everyone route.” Your coworkers may say they are jealous, but they really don’t want to be in your shoes. They would know this if they thought about the reality instead of “cool money is solved.”

    2. Kimmybear*

      I laughed as I love my kiddo but totally get this…and then wanted to know where she has coworkers that can spell :)

      1. OP*

        To be fair, I said “most of them.” The rest of them actually typically come to me for editing, ha!

    3. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      Same! I’m glad that the OP hasn’t lost their sense of humor in this hellhole we’ve found ourselves in.

    4. Turquoisecow*

      I suspect most of my coworkers only know how to spell thanks to spell check, if their general sentence construction is any indication.

    5. LifeBeforeCorona*

      My daughter is working from home and trying to homeschool her 2 “assholes” at the same time. You have my sympathy. The grass is not greener on the other side, it desperately needs to be mowed.

      1. JSPA*

        I’m wondering if, at least relative to other salaries, teachers (who have taken so much flak for 30 years as if they were “overpaid”) will get better salaries and more appreciation again. Or at least (once you figure in needs for distancing) even smaller class sizes and more pay for prep time.

        1. just a random teacher*

          Given that teacher salaries are paid out of state and local tax revenue, I doubt it. Locally, we’ve been told to prepare for massive budget cuts next school year. Rather than the conversations I wish we were having around how to hire (and where to locate classrooms for) the people needed to get class sizes down to something where social distancing would be remotely possible, it’s a case of “what else can we cut to keep class sizes under 40?”

          I suspect that we’re instead going to be expecting the existing teachers to be doing more work (creating both online and staggered in-person versions of everything) for less money.

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

      One of my coworkers (or should I say “cowoers”?) has her 8-year-old glued to her side, and another has one tween and a primary schooler fighting pyhysically over the gaming pc, when they’re not chasing each other through the house.

    7. Midwest writer*

      That line resonated so much. I love my kids, but being home all day with three boys (8, 6 and 2) and trying to keep them busy/distracted and off screens has been so much harder than I realized it would be. All the props to their teachers and daycare providers.

  5. Willow*

    “This is such a hard and stressful situation for everyone, working or not.” This is so, so true, Yes, some people have it worse than others. But this is a traumatic time for everyone. Let’s not play “my pain is worse than yours.” We’re better than that.

    1. nep*

      Great point. It does seem to turn into a competition in some realms…who’s suffering more, who’s bearing more, who’s doing better at picking up new skills during all their free time, who’s being supermom or superdad, who’s being calmest in the storm, and on and on.
      Last thing we need in these times is more of this comparison stuff.

    2. denise*

      I agree with this. I don’t think there’s any advantage to attempting to argue that your situation is not enviable. That’s just going to result in an argument about how actually, their situation is so much worse than yours! And that hasn’t solved anything. Whatever you respond with, it should be something that recognizes that things really suck and you wish it was better for everyone.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      I agree and would lead with that response, especially the “how are you doing?” at the end.

      I worked for the feds during furloughs, and while that is nothing like the current economic crisis, it is incredibly demoralizing for everyone. You don’t have to be in the most sucky situation for it to still suck. In my experience, “jealousy” in this context is a fear response, much like the anxiety OP is experiencing. Sometimes helping people redirect or give voice to that underlying fear can help them feel more connected and supported than if they were stewing on their own.

      OP’s stress and anxiety are also legit. This entire situation SUCKS. But ultimately, graciousness and compassion are going to be the most effective way to redirect folks who are stewing in their own (reasonable, justified) fear and anxiety.

      1. Alex*

        “graciousness and compassion are going to be the most effective way to redirect folks who are stewing in their own (reasonable, justified) fear and anxiety.”

        This. There is no point trying to one-up others by pointing out how you have it worse, even if you think you do, in the long term.

        When people are trying to work from home *and* school their kids, for less money than others are getting for doing nothing, it can feel demoralising. Or even worse, they’re working on the front lines, in hospitals or grocery stores, coming face-to-face with the not-so-lovely-at-the-minute public, putting themselves and their families at increased risk, whilst trying to sort out childcare and homeschooling.. again, for less money than others are getting for doing nothing. And whilst they do have jobs, there is no guarantee they will keep them. It’s not a straight trade – there will be those receiving the extra benefits who will have a job to go back to, and there will be those working hard through the pandemic who will be laid off and unemployed in the future when a recession hits.

        When you look at it like that, being home and being paid $600+ per week for doing nothing *is* an enviable position to be in right now to many people. Descending into a tit-for-tat “well at least you have a job” “well at least you’ve got time to learn new skills” race to the bottom helps no-one. However, you don’t need to be apologetic about it, just graciously accept it, acknowledge that it’s tough for everyone right now and that everyone is doing the best they can with the circumstances they’re in.

        1. BB*

          Wait, why are we throwing whether you have kids or not into the mix in relation to what people feel they should be paid? Stress level, sure. But salary? What? Why would I expect to get paid more than someone doing nothing *because I’m also watching my kids*? Demoralizing a but in terms of them doing nothing vs. me still working, but that’s where it ends. Yeesh.

          1. Bananarama*

            That’s not what Alex actually said, though. Don’t twist it to suit some militant CFBC worldview.

      2. myswtghst*

        It’s easy to get tied up in your own stress and anxiety, and assume that pointing out the “positives” in someone else’s situation is somehow helpful, rather than tone deaf. Acknowledging that everyone’s situation sucks is a lot more productive right now than trying to compare and contrast the different ways our lives suck right now.

    4. MissGirl*

      I’m going to keep this in mind as I interact with people. I’m going to ask more about how they’re doing and stop comparing.

    5. CheeseGirl*

      I kept having to remind myself of the same thing. I work at a hospital, but I don’t work directly with patients. So I am lucky that I have job security and my paycheck has not been affected by this. But they were also making us come into the office and work when 100% of our job duties can be done just as effectively at home. Now they have settled on having us in the office 50% of the time and at home 50% of the time. I also moved on April 1st which was stressful in itself. I live 4 states away from any of my family, which is also stressful in a time like this, but also, if the moving companies were to shut down, I would have had no one to help me move. I also have unmedicated anxiety that is generally manageable but has run unchecked in this trying time. All in all, it’s been a pretty frightening two months. But then I would feel even worse for complaining because I know there are so many people who have it so much harder than I do. I still have a job and a paycheck. But in the end, everyone’s feelings are valid and everyone’s situation is different, so I just have to remember that we are all struggling in our own ways.

      1. Glitsy Gus*

        I feel you. I also work in healthcare, but not patient facing, so my office went 100% WFH pretty quickly. That said, with pandemic response stuff, we’re busier than ever. Last week I easily put in 65 hours and even though I’m at home, it’s still as hectic and stressful as in the office. Normally, a ‘really crazy week’ might mean 48-50 hours. My managers usually try to make sure we don’t have to log any more OT than is really necessary, but Covid stuff can’t slow down or wait until tomorrow. While I really am glad I have my job, and that it isn’t going anywhere, I will burn out soon if things don’t mellow a bit.

        Being in this boat, hearing my friends talk about how bored they are being furloughed, or talking about the classes they’re taking, hikes they’re going on, etc. I sometimes can’t help but think ‘must be nice!’ But overall, I do know that this really is hard for everyone, it’s just that stress and difficulty takes different forms for different people. As so many others have said, this isn’t the Pain Olympics, and the grass always looks greener from the other side of the fence.

    6. MistOrMister*

      This is a very good point. Overall I think I am coping with this whole thing pretty well. I am very thankful to currently still be employed, but every day is a reminder that my job might be gone tomorrow. And while I am glad to have my job, I have to mentally bite my tongue to stop myself from wishing I was one of those fuloughed employees so I could get my house in order and read a billion books and knit 50 sweaters. Because that is not what I actually want. What I *WANT* is to be rich and be able to loll about and not have to worry about money. That is not what is going on with furloughed/laid off people and I try to remember that.

  6. Amber Rose*

    Maybe a jokey response like, “yeah, too bad I can’t pay for a cure for this cabin fever.”

    I don’t know, avoidance is gonna be your best bet, because what you’re looking at is people without financial security being envious of people who somewhat have that, but no future security, which is what they kind of do have, and then it just becomes a “who’s suffering worse” fight that is a waste of everyone’s time. We’re all suffering in our own ways, and part of wanting other people to understand how we feel is understanding how they feel and just not getting into it with them. Nobody benefits from us lashing out at each other, no matter how frustrated we are.

    But augh, this highlights a huge pet peeve of mine.

    Complaint: “If we just give people money, they will be lazy and just take the money without contributing to society!”

    Reality: Overwhelmingly, furloughed and unemployed people are miserable without work to do, suffering mental health problems and many are desperately trying to find some way to give back, through creative means or community service.

    Funny how reality be proving wrong people’s assumptions about how lazy and useless people are over and over and over. :/

    1. nep*

      “If we just give people money, they will be lazy and just take the money without contributing to society!”
      Right. It’s just such a cheap shot. And it makes no effort to know a context, a story, a reality.

      1. bleh*

        And it ignores both human nature and our enculturation into being “productive” – sigh. Truth means little to people who lob this insult.

      2. Wintermute*

        No one said “oh if you give them a foam pad to sleep on they might never want to go home!” about the Katrina evacuees housed in emergency camps. and that’s really what this is, it’s not even a tent, it’s a foam pad on the field of the superdome, in terms of how much comfort it actually provides

        I fall very firmly into the “people have no respect for what they’re given for free” camp, but I think you also have to look out the window and acknowledge reality.

        1. Blueberry*

          “No one said “oh if you give them a foam pad to sleep on they might never want to go home!” about the Katrina evacuees housed in emergency camps.”

          Barbara Bush pretty much did, if not precisely in those words.

          And she’s not the only one. I actually lost several friendships over Katrina, when I found out how racist several of my friends were, saying things like “breaking up refugees’ families will be better for the children” and “it’s their own fault that they live in a hurricane-prone place, I don’t want my tax money wasted on helping them.”

          Which leads me to my larger point, which is that in my experience of growing up watching people invest as much time and work into their churches as they did into employment, and then doing the same to help science fiction conventions and events get off the ground, I have seen that people are very willing to work for other reasons than money and that when people have enough to live on it does not generally mean they are unwilling to work. Also, I’ve often seen “people have no respect for what they’re given for free” used as an argument against charity, disability benefits, and generally the entire existence of a social safety net, especially when coupled with ideas about the “sort” of people need assistance.

        2. Blueberry*

          Barbara Bush pretty much said that, and half the US agreed with her. Link and longer comment to follow.

          1. Former Employee*

            I don’t believe people said that about the victims of Hurricane Harvey, probably because there were a lot of white middle class/upper middle class people affected by that disaster.

            I, too, was horrified by the reaction, or lack there of, to what happened to so many as a result of Katrina. Things improved after General Russel L. Honoré and his people came in as well as a number of celebrities who stepped up to help.

            Bad times often result in people showing their true selves and sometimes it isn’t pretty.

            It’s unfortunate that we see who people really are

    2. Blueberry*

      Funny how reality be proving wrong people’s assumptions about how lazy and useless people are over and over and over. :/

      TRUTH. So much truth.

    3. Gumby*

      Complaint: “If we just give people money, they will be lazy and just take the money without contributing to society!”

      I mean, if you gave *me* money and health insurance I would not take another job all that quickly. The only reason I got up off my butt and looked for a job the first time I was unemployed (when my company shut down the whole division) is that COBRA was about to run out. I was living off of savings, not unemployment, and the odd job here and there – no more than 5-10 hours of work per week – but was kind of happy like that. I wouldn’t say I didn’t contribute to society; I did several volunteer things and was happy to have the free time when a parent had a health situation. But I know myself and I am quite capable of goofing off for much longer than anyone would expect.

      1. Gumby*

        And I realize that sounds like I am somehow arguing against unemployment – I am not!!!

        I’m just admitting that I can be quite “lazy” myself.

  7. Everdene*

    I think this is really tricky, several of my colleagues have been furloughed, many more have gone to 80% hours & pay and I am still working at 100+% hours on full pay. As is Oak. Financially we’re fine but I am Ex. Haust. Ed! I am a bit jealous of people with more free time and less/no work stress, I see photos of home made bread and videos of musical ensembles made by one person or other creative endeavors and just wish I could do something similar – you know, embrace the ‘improve yourself this pandemic’ mantra.

    For me I am just trying to recognise that we all have different stressors and I really appreciate a call with a friend/colleague where I can ask ‘how is furlough? Remember to look after yourself. Is it weird being back home with your parents?’ and they can say ‘are you swamped? Remember to look after yourself. You will see your parents soon.’

    1. alienor*

      I’ve had some of that feeling too. I wouldn’t really want to be furloughed and I know people are baking and making things because they’re bored and anxious, but I’m experiencing all the downsides of confinement while also having a doubled workload and the stress of trying to perform well enough to stay employed when the inevitable cuts come. There’s not a lot of room for banana bread and morning yoga. (I would never say this to a laid-off or furloughed colleague, though.)

    2. OP*

      I actually had a call yesterday with a colleague who is still working and she said the same: she’s stressed and exhausted and frustrated. BUT, she’s grateful to be working. Definitely gave me some perspective. For the briefest of moments before I was furloughed, I was seeing those homemade breads, too, and thought the same, “wish I could be doing that.” Now I don’t want to spend the money on yeast, just in case. I appreciated the call, because she asked those questions of me, and shared the sentiment you outlined, “Take care of yourself.” And I was able to hear what’s going on at work, to the extent that I wanted, and sympathize about some of our mutually frustrating coworkers, and remind her to take care of herself, and commiserate about her asshole kids, too. She’s a good friend and I think it was valuable for both of us to hear what’s going on and take in each perspective for what it is.

      Also, this “improve yourself” stuff is generally BS, IMO. It feels like, across the board, we’re all just trying to survive.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Yup. I’ve been trying to do online classes to improve my job skills, but I just can’t focus. My mind is just not here anymore.

      2. JSPA*

        Not to derail, but you can start a tiny sourdough starter for the price of a tablespoon of flour, and feed it up larger if it bubbles nicely and smells OK. Or make Bitman bread (using 1/8 tsp of yeast per loaf) if you’re someplace where you still need heating / it’s not silly to run the oven so high. Or a combination of the two. Only, of course, if you actually want to make bread, and have some flour.

      3. Everdene*

        I think you’ve just hit the nail on the head, we need to hear each others perspective because we all all just surviving right now (and sometimes that comes out is less gracious ways).

    3. Fieldpoppy*

      I’m coaching a lot of people who are unemployed. Even when they’re baking bread or singing, they’re ALL having massive moments of falling apart, fear about the future, etc. The IG version of “oh look at my sourdough” isn’t shorthand for “I’m having SUCH a good time!” It means “can I do SOMETHING today that feels creative and productive, because I’m PANICKING”

      1. Kyrielle*

        Right? I am short on time, but I am still posting TONS of adorable cat pictures. If you went off that, my life is great now. (My cats think theirs is, anyway.) But mostly, it’s what I have the energy and time for.

    4. Shirley Keeldar*

      Everdene, I just wanted to say that you sound like such a lovely, kind, and generous person. I hope your colleagues appreciate you!

    5. Kesnit*

      This is how I feel. My wife is furloughed (and may not get her job back). I am working full time, partially from home, partially from the office. I get so jealous when I see my wife playing Animal Crossing while I am frantically answering the phone. I know she is stressed about her job, but what I wouldn’t give for a few days where I can just focus on what I want to do.

      1. MommyMD*

        I’m still working and am thankful my job will always be essential. I’ll take work over furlough any day. I’d be a wreck sitting at home everyday. It may look like fun but there is immense stress in having your job up in the air. And the money will end. And so may the job.

      2. Glitsy Gus*

        This is me. I’m actually going to talk to my manager about taking a PTO day next week. I’m fried and it’s really starting to affect things. I need to add an extra weekend day to be able to really just do what I want to do for a few hours.

  8. Buttons*

    I have heard so many people say “people won’t come back to work because they make more on unemployment” However, I think the majority of the people feel like OP. People are struggling being at home all the time, people are worried that at any point things will change and they won’t get enough money, that their company will go under or cut off their benefits, that when things reopen they won’t be able to get a job. I haven’t heard from one person in the OP’s position who wouldn’t take their job back if/when it was offered.
    No one has it great right now. Even those of us who already worked at home and our jobs didn’t really change that much- we are all stressed and scared, and not functioning at full capacity. Let’s be kind to each other and realize your situation probably looks pretty good to someone else.

    1. nep*

      Unemployment benefits aren’t forever. A good, secure job with benefits is the best place to land in the end.

      1. RobotWithHumanHair*

        And some of us are still waiting on unemployment too. I was furloughed back on April 9th and have yet to see an unemployment payment. I’d rather be working than sitting in limbo like this.

        1. OP*

          I am so sorry to hear you’re still waiting on unemployment. That makes my heart hurt. I recognize I’m fortunate. I was accepted immediately, and now I request payment on Monday, receive payment on Wednesday. It’s been consistent and favorable and I’m grateful. I’ve heard from others that’s NOT been the case, and waiting on hold with UI has been a nightmare. I wish you the best and pray you get the payments you’re entitled to. Good luck.

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          A family member just got their EI payments dating back to mid-March. I’m sorry that the system has been broken so frigging badly and you’re suffering due to it.

    2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      On the flipside, I’ve heard this “I’m making more on unemployment, so I don’t want to return.” in real life situations. My small business owner friends are having this conversation with their probably former employees frequently. They secured a payroll loan and are working on reopening, a good portion of workers have pushed back because they’re making more on unemployment. They don’t see it as the short term fix that it is meant to be.

      So in the end, they will now be unemployed after the bans are lifted and the employment opportunities are getting snapped up so quickly. But that’s their life and that’s their choice. Nobody I know is mad about it, they’ll hire new people who will indeed want to work verse the people who opted out.

      1. bleh*

        They may have been afraid they would just be let go again when the loan runs out – and then have less saved for the next bit of time…

        1. Nobby Nobbs*

          They may also be afraid of dying. That bit always seems to get left out when people poo-poo not wanting to go back to work in the middle of a pandemic, for some reason.

          1. Kettricken Farseer*

            so very much this. I’m terrified because I’m in a high risk group. While I’m glad I’m still employed, that means diddly-squat if I get the virus.

          2. Loubelou*

            For most people, going ‘back’ to work means working from home, at least until restrictions are lifted, so nothing changes in terms of risk.

            1. new kid*

              If by “most people” you mean “most of the people I personally know”, maybe? The average worker is definitely not working from home right now, and there’s a huge class divide.

              1. Diahann Carroll*

                Yup. Where I live, remote work is not really a thing because we don’t really have the industries here where that would make sense. I work from home full time regardless of this pandemic, but my company is based in another state. Most of the people I know are still going into an office (or prison) full time or part time, not working from their couch.

              2. Oh No She Di'int*

                Thank you, thank you, thank you for saying this. According to experts in the field, something like 34%–37% of people are working from home right now. A large chunk to be sure, but by no means “most” people.

            2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

              Huh? No…what? These are workers going back to physical work, anyone who could do their work from home, already have started quite awhile ago.

              Everyone I know is in the restaurant industry, people are opening to X capacity or being able to operate take-out/delivery with adjustments. Or in daycare where they’re slowly able to open up over time with more restrictions.

              I think you’re forgetting many states are somewhat throwing open the doors much faster than others!

              1. Nobby Nobbs*

                My best friend is a hairstylist who lives with her high-risk father, and her work is opening up on the 16th. I’m terrified for them.

            3. Bananarama*

              There’s a big class divide on that. I’m an upper middle class professional, living in a predominantly blue collar/working class/lower middle class community. Many of our neighbors were laid off or furloughed back in mid-March, and the majority of those still working are in “essential” jobs that cannot be done remotely. The perspective here on “reopening” is very different than in more affluent communities.

            4. Avasarala*

              How many desk workers do you know who could work from home but were furloughed? I’m sure there are some but I think many many more furloughed workers are in in-person, can’t-be-done-from-home fields.

        2. The Man, Becky Lynch*

          Oh I don’t blame them, that’s for sure.

          But knowing the actual people in my cases, they aren’t saving money. They’re just buying stuff like this money is going to keep on rolling in. Which is terrifying for myself to see unraveling because I can see the brick financial wall and eventual homelessness this may cause but again, people make their own decisions. And that’s okay!

      2. WellRed*

        Agreed. Not everyone who is out of work is qualifying for help. I hope they get hired.

      3. Kettricken Farseer*

        Wouldn’t they lose UI if they’re saying they won’t come back to work when offered?

      4. Reality Biting*

        Oh lord, don’t get me started on this one. Basically what happened was early in the pandemic, small businesses were desperately scrambling around for a way to keep everyone employed. The rallying cry was No Layoffs and No Furloughs. So congress hatched a payroll loan program to deal with that, but then in the very same legislation they said, “Oh, and by the way, we’re going to create an incentive for your employees not to stay employed. Good luck figuring that out small businesses!”

      5. Glitsy Gus*

        I don’t say this to disparage your friends by any means, I don’t know them or how they treat their staff. I do, however, know a couple of people saying they don’t want to go back right now as well. Their reasoning isn’t that they don’t want to go back to work, it’s that their wages are so very low that they don’t even come close to making a living wage, so this extra $600 is finally getting them to an income that is actually livable, rather that the poverty that they usually struggle with working 40+ hours a week.

        On top of that, most of these jobs deal with the public, and are therefore rather risky. So, especially folks with elderly family, or kids that they would need to somehow find daycare for, going back to work before the pandemic really is under control and the general infrastructure of society is back up and running is really not a great situation for them on multiple levels.

    3. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      It’s unfortunate, because it plays into a lot of stereotypes about human psychology and social welfare programs, and those stereotypes do not appear to be widely supported by data. Being unemployed because of this crisis is terrifying, destabilizing, and miserable, but even being partially employed right now is a real mental health onslaught.

      I think sometimes folks concentrate on others because they feel so powerless in their own life. Like right now, you may be unemployed or underemployed because of this massive macroeconomics problem. People can understand, in the abstract, that it’s not about them individually, but it doesn’t make it easier to weather, and the lack of certainty makes it that much worse. It’s much easier to look at someone else and critique their decisions or incentives, because ultimately, there’s very little any of us can do to predict what comes next.

    4. Quill*

      Also a lot of people weighing the benefits of staying on unemployment have some combination of high risk jobs, high risk household members, or abysmally low wages versus their risk to begin with.

  9. The Rain In Spain*

    I think people are making flippant comments because the grass seems greener on all other sides- it’s a rough time for most of us in different ways, I think perhaps just focusing on that might be more helpful (and might help them reframe their thought process as well). So I am a fan of the last language offered, and if someone thoughtlessly mentions something about it being easier for you at that point you can share some of your more concrete concerns or difficulties you’re facing!

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Agreed. If you can, put the remark under the heading of thoughtless and conversation-void filling chatter.

      I have watched for too many years and I believe that it’s a basic human need to contribute to society or create something. Getting cut off from that opportunity can gut a person. I mean break them at core level. Go back through and look at crime cases in the news, many times the perpetrator has absolutely nothing that they are contributing to society or to their locale. This stuff kills people on the inside. Because I believe this, a comment like this to me is on a par with, “I am so happy that you are without basics that are necessary in life!”

      Then it hits me. The speaker has NO clue what they just said. Absolutely none. I don’t want to have that deeper discussion so a redirect like what Alison suggests is ideal to me.
      People need something to do. It’s a necessity for overall health and well-being.

  10. Ms. Ann Thropy*

    How about, “During this pandemic I have more important things to worry about than my financial circumstances. Don’t you?”

      1. The Original K.*

        Exactly what I was thinking. If someone said this to me, I’d think “wow, they DO have it made on furlough” because generally it’s only people who don’t have to worry about money that say stuff like this. I have an ex with a wealthy relative who likes to say “the only problems money solves are money problems,” which is very dismissive of how serious money problems actually are.

        1. Mid*

          Oh man. That would infuriate me. Health problems, food problems, education, shelter, clothing, transportation, safety…those are all “money problems.”

        2. Not So NewReader*

          I’d like to know what is happening in their life that drives that comment. This person sounds like they could be having friendship problems or problems with family/SO.
          There is some reason why they are very aware that money does not fix everything. I cannot go into too much detail except to say my own perspective. I have been doing life on my own for a while now. Life has put me in a spot where money will always be a concern. But there are some things that money cannot buy and relationships with other people is one of them. Sometimes our friends/family/cohorts can enrich our lives and carry us beyond anything that a multi-millionaire will ever have or ever see in life.

          I think that the relative was commenting on the holes in their life and not even thinking about how others would hear that message.

        3. Quidge*

          Totally agreed. Money problems are housing problems, physical and mental health problems, quality of life problems, debt problems that impact you tens of times longer than the initial interruption of income…

          Even here in the UK, where at least your healthcare and medicines are 98% covered, not eating high-quality food, being able to afford your preferred hobbies/exercise regimens, putting off major purchases that affect wellbeing and the stress of navigating financial issues all take a huge toll. Insufficient cash flow spirals fast and often costs you more in the long run than having that money in the first place.

    1. denise*

      Yikes, idk. I think for a lot of people, their financial circumstances are always at or near the top of the list of the most important things to worry about. Financial circumstances (in the US anyway) basically dictate the quality of everything else in your life (including your ability to survive covid-19)

    2. IHerdCatsForFood*

      Finances are my constant concern. Covid at this point is secondary. I think a lot of people are in that position right now, especially those of us who live in HCOL cities.

    3. Sacrificial Pharmacy Tech*

      Personally, despite being a front line worker and potentially exposed every day, financial circumstances ARE my number one worry. Sure, I have a job, but my company keeps cutting the budget and therefore everyone’s hours, has crappy policies for dealing with covid-positive employees and people potentially exposed to them, and is being really shady about shift coverage. So I feel completely unstable about my job on a daily basis because if I lose my job, I’m also homeless. I can’t afford an apartment in my area by myself, nobody wants to live with someone who’s potentially exposed every day, and my current roommate will kick me out.

      And, while it’s an anecdotal sample, the vast majority of my coworkers, my friends, and my family are worried about money more than anything as well.

      1. The Original K.*

        Everyone I know is worried about money, myself included – even those who are still working full-time. I’m an older millennial so my peers and I have all lived through the 2008-2010 recession as workers; we know exactly how fast you (general “you”) can lose a job, and how quickly things can spiral from there.

        1. Quill*

          Junior millennial and stuck in an endlesss contract treadmill… good thing I went into pharma.

        2. Buggy Crispino*

          This is me as well. And as someone who has worked into a higher pay grade that to me just means I’m a bigger impact to payroll savings when they’re looking for the next cut.

    4. Princess Consuela Banana Hammock*

      Oh wow, I wouldn’t respond with that. I can’t imagine a tone in which it could sound anything other than condescending and callous.

      And it has the added negative of making light or dismissing a really big and scary issue in people’s lives right now: their financial circumstances. Most Americans did not have a financial safety net to begin with, and many people are going mad with worry that they will be destitute, homeless, and without food…. and they’re not wrong to worry about those things. Suggesting that OP is financially stable so others’ lack of stability doesn’t matter is not going to go over well.

      1. NerdyKris*

        Yeah, it comes off like “Some of us realize money isn’t the only thing that matters” while the person you’re talking to is starving or about to be evicted.

    5. Alice*

      I wouldn’t actually say it, but I’d like to say, “During this pandemic I have more important things to worry about than OTHER PEOPLE’S financial circumstances!”

    6. LQ*

      Someone tried this on me recently and I basically snapped back “No, death means I don’t have to pay rent anymore.”

      I understand that somewhere people are living just fine without money or any concerns around it, but for most of us money is needed to you know, eat and have a roof. So no, I don’t think that worrying about financial circumstances is less important right now.

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        but for most of us money is needed to you know, eat and have a roof

        And to seek medical treatment when you’re ill.

    7. Koala dreams*

      I don’t get the idea that there are important or less important things to worry about. It’s not just this comment here, it’s the general idea that worrying can be more or less “valuable”. Yet you don’t get more money by worrying about money, you don’t get better health by worrying about health, you don’t stop the pandemic by worrying about the pandemic. Why not let people worry about whatever they like?

    8. A*

      Wait, what? Man, I wish I was privileged enough to have my health as my top priority. Unfortunately I’m not, so my financial circumstances are top priority, and directly impacts my health.

  11. AAM the initials*

    Yes, I think these responses are perfect. Something like “There’s a lot of uncertainty right now and I’m not sure when the company will be able to bring me back.”

    I know our CEO (of a tiny firm) asked the me and a colleague (the newest and two most junior employees) to do the math of if we’d make more on unemployment or while working and if it was on unemployment, he’d do that to save the firm money and furlough us. Aside from the ethics of that, the uncertainty is terrible. My colleague and I said something like “While we would make marginally more on unemployment, the current situation is precarious and we were hoping to complete a number of projects during the “less busy season.” As such, we’d really prefer to stay on continue contributing to the team.”

    That was a long and unnecessary story to say, you are right to feel annoyed by these comments. Hopefully following these scripts will gently remind people that having a job right now is objectively better than the alternatives.

    1. crchtqn*

      I think this is the perfect response. I think ignoring the fact your being paid more or make a joke about your kids or cabin fever is very tone deaf to financial situations but acknowledging that the fact that you are considered essential to your company and have uncertainty definitely shows both sides of the situation.

  12. LDN Layabout*

    I think any response that acknowledges that the situation sucks for everyone works in this situation, as well as just changing the subject if they won’t stop until you admit that you’re the luckiest person in the world!1!!111

    The one response I’d probably struggle with would be: “I wish I were working! My stress is through the roof.”

    I realise that it’s a response to someone being insensitive but I had a moment of lockdown induced rage just reading this and if it came from a friend who’s furloughed (which I know is different to the US situation), I’d be fuming.

    We’re all jealous of everyone else at this point. I’m jealous of my non-healthcare essential worker flatmate because she’s getting full time pay for working on average 4-5 days out of 15 right now. She’s jealous that I’m wfh full time and have an set schedule. Those living alone are jealous of those people living with family, people living with families are going to be jealous of anyone with alone time. And so on and so forth.

    Everyone is struggling right now.

    1. Uranus Wars*

      This was my line of thought as well – everyone is struggling in their own way. And no matter what your circumstance it’s going to be hard…and it is almost essentially out of our control to change it. There isn’t a simple way to navigate any scenario right now.

  13. London Calling*

    OP, in the UK we get comments like ‘encouraging people on furlough back to work’ and equating us with people who live on welfare. Er duh – furlough is your employer’s decision, you don’t CHOOSE it as a lifestyle. I’m pretty OK with it because my WFH was becoming more and more difficult and stressful due to not having a proper office setup, bit I’m starting to resent the implication that those of us furloughed are workdodgers battening on the graft of people who have no choice but to work.

    1. duckduckround*

      You don’t want to be equated with welfare? Plenty of people on welfare didn’t choose to be unemployed either, it’s not a lifestyle for most.

      And when the Government is paying part of your wage that is welfare, so yes UK workers being paid by the Government are indeed on welfare.

      1. LDN Layabout*

        Yeah, using the ‘people living off benefits’ argument while simultaneously saying ‘we’re not like that!’ is why the narrative is WORKING.

        The very small percentage of people who game the system are vastly outweighed by those who are struggling and need that help. Many of whom have died since austerity has come in.

        The issue isn’t that furloughed workers are seen as benefits scroungers, it’s that as a country anyone receiving government help is viewed as a benefits scrounger.

      2. EBStarr*

        I’m guessing that part of the reason why people are acting like the $600 extra per week is some kind of extravagant reward is the decades of propaganda that people who use the social safety net are lazy and just looking for a free ride. Maybe the mass unemployment will at least teach everyone that that’s not true: there but for the grace of Adam Smith go they.

        1. LDN Layabout*

          I think across the world there’s a lot of middle to upper class people who are experiencing for the first time how precarious life can be and they do not like it one bit…

          1. London Calling*

            I was freelance for years, I know first hand how precarious working life can be, thanks.; and I learned that life in general is precarious when my father dropped dead aged 40 when I was 13 leaving my mother with three children to bring up. And I’m not upper class, either. Middle class, maybe.

            Anyway, I’m out before I say something that gets me banned.

            1. LDN Layabout*

              I apologise if my comment came off that way, but I stand by it.

              There’s a lot of people out there who’ve had a general safety net that’s now been yanked away/shown to be not that much of a safety net. People who would talk about people ‘living off benefits’ who are now also…living off benefits.

              It exposes how nasty the existing system is because more people are affected by it now.

            2. BB*

              Whoa. The comment was in general, not directed just at you, personally as one individual. Way to take it to an extreme. We should all be able to express our non-targeted opinions without getting jumped on with super specific personal tragedies that ultimately, from a general perspective, are anecdotal. Deep breaths.

        2. Quill*

          Yeah, like… $600 per week will go fast.

          Car payment? most of one of those. Rent? MORE THAN THAT. Health and car insurance? whatever’s left from car week, plus some in week 3 after you’re done paying out rent.

          Student loan? There’s week 4, oh it’s the next month already, bills are due, you’re treading water all while wondering if you’re going to end up in lifetime debt if you get sick and recover, or if your loved ones are going to end up in lifetime debt if you get sick and die…

          Of course I’m in a generation whose ability to access a safety net is pretty much entirely dependent on family connections. None of us can get a full time job with benefits, most of us rushed to get surgery or dental work done before getting kicked off our parents’ insurance at 26 and can’t afford better than catastrophic insurance on our own… We still manage to produce some deeply clueless Muleholes somehow, though!

      3. Lalage*

        Well, in the uk, it’s more like the company is on welfare (the money goes to the company in arrears, not to the workers)

        1. duckduckround*

          Sure, that’s how the system works it pays via the employer. It’s just weird to have a crack at people on welfare when they’re also receiving one way or another what is basically welfare as well. The poster is not working and the Government is in effect paying their wage – spot the difference?

          There’s all kinds of welfare. Normally welfare for anyone but the poor is dressed up with another name, like calling it a ‘bail out’ because they are ‘too big to fail’. That is also welfare, corporate welfare. It’s all welfare when the Govt gives you money even if they call it another name for political reasons.

          1. Lalage*

            Yes, I don’t like the implication either (who is choosing the lifestyle?). But there is the slight difference that it’s not your decision, you do not apply for it, it comes in form of your standard wage. Which is quite strange as benefits go.

            1. LDN Layabout*

              For many people claiming benefits is a ‘decision’ only in the fact that the alternatives can range anywhere from not being able to feed yourself or your family, being forced into sex work, homelessness, ending up in prison or death.

              Dressing it up as people didn’t choose to do it is pretty useless unless, if it required employees to opt-in, you think people wouldn’t.

            2. duckduckround*

              There is no difference. Most people on welfare didn’t make a ‘decision’ either, they lost their jobs usually.

              This is welfare. They are being paid money by the Govt for being out of work. That it comes via an employer or is a different amount doesn’t change what it is.

              The reason they don’t call it welfare or run it through the normal system is they want people on ‘real’ welfare to remain quarantined from the rest like middle class professionals. If you put ‘regular’ working folk onto existing benefits they’d go – hey! This isn’t right, this is a threadbare social net.

              All of these new programs for working people out of work suddenly are designed to keep them from really knowing what the normal social system is like. And it is working, you have people on ‘government pay’ having a crack at those on ‘real welfare’ and the us v them is working as intended.

          2. Koala dreams*

            Yes, and I guess that’s one reason for this kind of “welfare”. Instead of individual people lining up at the desks of over-worked social workers, the companies do the work of applying for benefits and then the work of distributing the money. Since they pay their employees anyway, it’s not that much extra work compared to filing all the new welfare applications. As a bonus, society gets useful work out of it too. It still feels weird to me, though.

            1. LDN Layabout*

              The new UK system for claiming benefits is completely hideous, has a large number of known issues associated with it and has done since it was brought in recently.

              It’s definitely easier to send that money directly to businesses that can then pay employees via existing pathways, but there’s also the factor that if a majority of people had to claim on the existing system, they’d see what it was like firsthand and it would be very difficult to justify its existence.

    2. Koala dreams*

      I’m sorry you get rude comments. I’m also sorry the people on regular welfare get rude comments. People can be so thoughtless.

  14. duckduckround*

    These people are not too bright. As mentioned in the response, you wouldn’t want to end up out of work long term. I would say “I can’t enjoy this time because I am very worried about the long term outlook which will be here before you know it”

  15. Mazzy*

    The money part aside, I think comments like this will naturally die down soon. I’ve seen a big shift in this in my family and friends over the past few weeks. I won’t get political or talk about policies or numbers because this is a work advice site, but I’m seeing that even the most fearful people in my family are getting more comfortable now that so much more information is coming out. Remember what the news was saying a month and two months ago and how much we didn’t know then. Also some people I know are calming down because testing is available everywhere now and some of them have gotten antibody tests. While I don’t understand why they’re happy their antibody tests are negative, I think it’s having a calming psychological effect that they have some control over their lot in life. So I see certain types of comments that came across as inflammatory are dying down

    1. Coalea*

      “Testing is available everywhere now” Say what?! It most certainly is not!
      Furthermore, few of the antibody tests being used in the US right now are highly accurate. And even for those who do have antibodies, it’s not yet known if they are immune or for how long.

      1. Mazzy*

        You can go to many of regular doctors now and get one the same way you can get a cholesterol level tested, I know a lot of people who’ve done it. And this disease will most likely behave like other diseases, there is no reason not to believe so, so the “not yet known if they are immune or for how long” is mostly the media pondering rather than science. Either way, this isn’t a coronavirus thread it’s a workplace thread and IMO the OP doesn’t need to do anything because there are shifts in public perception happening this week and last which will lead to the comments naturally fizzling out.

        1. kt*

          Agree it’s not a coronavirus thread, but the science of this virus is still very much unknown. It’s well-documented that many coronavirii (?!) give relatively short periods of immunity.

        2. Quill*

          The current test that is most widely available in the US (where availability varies) has a high false negative rate, and many related diseases to coronavirus (viruses in the same family) are not an automatic “one exposure and lifetime immunity” variety. The length of immunity varies and best practice is not to assume that, like chickenpox, you can get it once and be automatically protected.

          It is not just media speculation: scientific best practice for infectious diseases is to always assume, in the absence of evidence, that permanent immunity is not conferred. A lack of concrete data does not mean “this disease will behave like other diseases” (which ones? there are plenty. Not all are viral. Not all viruses are similar) it means that medical advice is to take the most stringent practical precautions until we know more.

          1. Diahann Carroll*

            This. I really wish people would stop coming here and spreading dangerous misinformation.

            1. Quill*

              If this goes on much longer I’m just going to start braining people with my microbiology and immunology textbooks.

        3. Malarkey01*

          Umm I’m in the US, and I can’t even go into the doctors office yet. So no we can’t walk into any regular doctors office. I also know that our city’s health department doesn’t have tests so they are definitely not at the local labs yet here.

        4. Barney*

          “not yet known if they are immune or for how long” is, in fact, based on science. It is scientifically hypothesized that COVID-19 will behave like other coronaviruses, but we don’t know that for sure until we have more data and there are variations in the way that other coronaviruses behave anyway.

          Also, just because testing is available at your “regular doctor” doesn’t mean that it’s available everywhere. A lot of people do not have easy access to a regular doctor.

          1. biobotb*

            And even if SARS-CoV-2 does behave like other coronaviruses, they behave differently from each other, so we don’t even know which one(s) it might mimic most closely when it comes to immunity!

            1. Quill*

              Viruses! Little sacks of RNA (usually) pretending to be alive (sort of) parasitizing us (except the bacteriophages I guess) and honestly I studied in a related field and I only know enough to keep telling People On The Internet that sometimes “we don’t know yet so take as many precautions as possible” is a scientific answer, it’s just not as precise a the one you want.

        5. Diahann Carroll*

          You can go to many of regular doctors now and get one the same way you can get a cholesterol level tested, I know a lot of people who’ve done it.

          No. Your small, anecdotal evidence does not make this a fact across the board. Stop it.

        6. biobotb*

          Which diseases do you think it will naturally mimic? There are a lot, and so many behave differently when it comes to long-term immunity, including the endemic coronaviruses we already contract regularly.

        7. soon to be former fed really*

          Coronovirus and work: I know no one who has got a test just because they want one and are without symptoms, including me. And cholesterol tests are ordered by a medicl professional and must be performed in a lab, in the US they are not done in the doctor’s office.

          If I had to return to an office or other work environment, I would want everyone to be tested prior to being cleared for duty. It’s just common sense. Even then, there is always a margin of error and false negatives and positives, results should be confirmed. Testing should be periodically redone, negative today doesn’t mean negative tomorrow. This is the way to keep workplaces open, not just open them just to close later because everyone got sick. Testing in this nation is woefully inadequate.

          Its a NOVEL coronavirus of relatively short existence, not seen before. So yes, there is little known about it at this time, and no guarantee that it will behave like other diseases. Workplaces and businesses have been significant disease vectors and this will get worse if extreme caution isn’t used.

      1. Archaeopteryx*

        Yeah we still can’t test asymptomatic patients by and large unless they’re healthcare workers (for Covid itself, not the antibodies)

      2. soon to be former fed really*

        Yeah really, maybe it’s available everywhere but surely not to everyone. My doctor couldn’t even get one and his office is on a hospital campus. Testing is inadequate, and now treatment is being politicized (distribution of remdesivir). People who return to work and public spaces too early are taking a grave risk.

      3. AnonWestCoaster*

        In Los Angeles County, it is available for free to all residents (tests for the virus, not antibody testing). Just FYI; not expressing an opinion on the reliability of the tests or whether one should be tested.

  16. Chili*

    With friends and close colleagues, I agree that being honest about what you’re worried about is the best move. When people say stuff like, “you’re so lucky ” or “I’m jealous!” most of them aren’t trying to make you feel any differently than you feel, they’re just reacting to the parts of your situation that they understand (in this case, no work, more money). Most of the time, people haven’t thought through every potential repercussion of something. It’s not weird or rude to say, “It was nice to have a break from work for a little bit, but honestly I really miss work and am struggling without it.”

    With people who you’re not as close too, I recommend a platitude like, “Ah, well, the grass is always greener.”

    1. CM*

      Agreed, “grass is always greener” is a good one here to remind people that while the temporary money is nice, it doesn’t compensate for the uncertainty about the future or the lack of purpose you’re feeling. With any period of unemployment, it’s easy for people to say, “Must be nice to get paid for not working!” but in reality it’s stressful and often depressing. If you were 100% sure you’d have a job again soon under good conditions (salary, commute, etc. that you’re OK with) then you could treat it like a paid vacation but that almost never happens.

  17. EBStarr*

    “you’re not excitedly rolling around on a bed covered in cash while your spouse pours champagne over you”

    Ahh, finally I have an idea for what to do on my staycation later this month!

    I think people are just kind of bad at math. They think, “Extra $600 a week!” when it’s actually “Extra ($600 minus the difference between your original pay and your base unemployment).” And they don’t realize how little that will add up to if you end up out of work at the end of it. It’s not like you just get a free vacation and a few hundred bucks, worry free.

    I would probably be the kind of person who did the math and then, every time someone naively expressed envy, just gave a sad laugh and said, “Well, it will even out in X weeks if I don’t get brought back from furlough before my unemployment benefits end.” That might put a jolt of reality into the conversation for others, if you’re comfortable doing that.

  18. kittymommy*

    I really like the fourth answer “I wish I were working! My stress is through the roof.”(and probably what I would use if I was in that situation).

    There always seems to be a grass is greener mindset in times like these not realizing that what it looks from the outside isn’t how the other persons life actually (likely) is. We definitely need to give each other a lot of grace and a lot of compassion, especially right now.

    Good vibes ad virtual hugs from FL to you, LW!

  19. Lulu*

    I think people are stressed. And maybe wishing for a break without thinking through all the issues you are facing. I am working from home with no childcare. It’s hard and I’m burnt out. I need a break. But I’m smart enough to know a furlough would not solve all my problems and add a level of uncertainty about the future.

  20. J!*

    I think it’s a hard and stressful situation for everyone and every worker who’s feeling angry about what’s happening (whether they’re furloughed, facing dangerous working conditions, or something else) should be organizing a union in their workplaces.

  21. CatCat*

    My spouse is in this boat and would so much rather be working. As someone switching fields at over 40 years old, he struggled to gain entry into that field. He landed a position in January with Teeny Tiny Company. Pay is not great, benefits almost non-existent, but he loooooves the work and because the company is teeny tiny, he was getting a lot of great hands-on experience that he hoped to leverage into a higher paying opportunity in the future. Then, two months in, laid off. His boss is hoping to bring him back if Teeny Tiny Company makes it through. A little bit of extra in unemployment benefits doesn’t counteract the blow to career prospects and uncertainty. Even if he can only get part-time return to begin with, spouse wants very badly to be back at work.

  22. Jennifer*

    “When people tell you they’re jealous of your situation, one option is to gently point out that you’re not excitedly rolling around on a bed covered in cash while your spouse pours champagne over you…”

    I don’t know about y’all but this is our nighttime routine. Dolla dolla bills y’all!

    1. ggg*

      I would 100% send my co-workers this picture. Half would see the humor in it and the other half would think I was crazy and back off.

      1. Jennifer*

        Hey, OP, if you’re up for it, this is one way to get your jerk coworkers to shut up.

    2. CM*

      This reminds me of Steve Almond, author of Candyfreak, a nonfiction book about the candy business, who said someone wanted to make a TV show out of his book. He walked away from the TV show when they insisted on filming him rolling around in a pile of candy, which he felt was beneath his dignity. But it’s better than rolling around in wet sticky cash IMO.

  23. hmmm*

    I kind of feel like it’s a catch 22 no matter how you look at it.

    Those furloughed are stressing about having a job to go back to. Let’s face it when restrictions ease up, everyone who doesn’t have a job is going to be rushing to find one.

    Those who have to work are probably doing the work of more than one person and would love a little downtime.

    1. LDN Layabout*

      It’s also important to note that a lot of those working won’t be guaranteed to keep their jobs. There’s a lot of businesses that will fail during/after this epidemic and people will be worried about their own situations, probably knowing that they’re unlikely to get that boost.

      1. soon to be former fed really*

        They should contact their elected representatives about this.

    2. Kiki*

      Yeah, I think the truth is that everyone’s situation is a little shitty in some way, which makes it really tempting to look for people with the “opposite problem” and be jealous, even though that situation is also shitty in its own different way. I was (privately, I didn’t say this to them!!) a little jealous of my friend who was on a two week furlough because my own work has been absolutely nuts and I’m adjusting to WFH from a tiny apartment that currently has a bat problem. If my friend had expressed jealousy towards my situation, I would have felt a little annoyed because while I am grateful to have my job and be able to keep doing it from home, working 70 hours a week has been really stressful! Also, bats!

      1. Diahann Carroll*

        Bats?! Oh dear…I would be too frightened to be there. You have my sympathies and respect for being able to work through that. I would be a teary, scary mess!

      2. Glitsy Gus*

        I have a picture in my head of you wrangling the bats and turning them into your overnight typing pool to take care of your extra work, like little shoemaker elves, but with typing and, well, bats.

        I’m very sorry you have to deal with the bats. I’m also WFH from a shoebox studio so I feel your pain on that part.

  24. Rebecca*

    I’m grateful to still be employed so far, and working from home. I’m also covering work for furloughed employees, though, and I’ve only had 1 1/2 work days off this year so far, and I’m tired and want some downtime. In my job, it doesn’t matter if I’m handling orders for 100 teapots or 100,000 teapots, the keystrokes and paperwork are basically the same. So I might be working on small orders, but it’s still the same amount of work, then add to it covering clients that are completely new to me. Another layer of fun is because the people normally handling it are furloughed, so I can’t ask them any questions. So, I’m relying on good common sense and hoping for the best. So far, so good. My real fear is the company won’t bring the furloughed workers back for a while, or at all, and I’ll be stuck with an unmanageable workload for the foreseeable future.

    I’ve gotten wind of some furloughed workers from my company bragging on social media about all the money they’re raking in, spending it on this and that, how they can do whatever they want during the week, etc. I”m just glad I’m working.

    1. virago*

      “I’ve gotten wind of some furloughed workers from my company bragging on social media about all the money they’re raking in, spending it on this and that, how they can do whatever they want during the week, etc”

      Wow. Your furloughed coworkers are definitely not doing the math. I hope they know that the extra $600 a week ends after July 31. (And no, social media is not helping.)

      1. Rebecca*

        Me too, because if they find themselves unemployed, with a ton of other unemployed people (like here in my state, 26% are now unemployed or furloughed) it’s not going to be easy and they will wish they saved that money.

  25. Honoria, Dowager Duchess of Denver*

    I definitely sympathise with this letter writer! I am furloughed in the UK, where the government are paying 80% of my salary for me to sit at home and it’s driving me crazy! All my friends are telling me to take advantage and learn new skills like crafting or a musical instrument but honestly? I want to use my current skills to do something useful, not putz around the house all day. The industry I’m working in may never recover from this, so it’s very much a patch until inevitable unemployment which takes the fun out of it somehow…

    (not that crafting or music aren’t skills that contribute to society! People can and do make their living doing them. But it’s not really my thing and I’m sick of this being suggested)

    1. nep*

      I feel for you.
      This note reminds me, it’s so much better to listen than to speak (and spout unsolicited ‘suggestions’) most of the time.

    2. Blueberry*

      I have seen some excellent responses to the “use this as an opportunity to learn a new skill!” narrative, pointing out that this is a traumatic time, not a windfall.

      1. Honoria, Dowager Duchess of Denver**

        I think it’s also very dependant on what kind of learning works for you that affects what kind of things you are able to take up from home. I do best in a structured environment for learning, so a lot of the free learning facilities aren’t helpful for me. And while I’m lucky to get a good chunk of my salary at the moment, I’m trying to be cautious so that money lasts as long as possible, so the more expensive programs that might work for my learning style are off the table for now.

        Rightly or wrongly, it’s also harder to hear this kind of stuff from people who are still in a two income household who can work from home. My response would not have been considered excellent! (swearing to myself and going for a long run)

  26. LizArd*

    You know what? My future may be fucked but I AM significantly happier and less stressed since being laid off a week and a half ago. It’s different for everyone but it’s not necessarily projecting. Before I got laid off I was a bit envious of people who were. Then I got laid off and… I was like “yep, I wasn’t wrong, this is in fact doing wonders for my mental health.”

  27. Mimi Me*

    My husband is still working and for a few weeks right after all the restrictions went into place there was a slight dip in hours worked as his company and their clients tried to figure out how to safely navigate their work. One of the guys at my husband’s small company has been pushing for the company to furlough them because he has friends who are making more money while unemployed. It’s driving my husband nuts that this guy thinks that being unemployed is a better deal than having a job in the long run. Several of our close friends are in similar predicaments as you, LW, and the anxiety of not knowing what the future holds is really doing a number on them. And I have several teacher friends who are sick of their own children. LOL!

  28. Mama Bear*

    I think OP’s management was not smart to point out that some people make more on unemployment right now. Depending on the coworker, I’d use some variant of “how are YOU doing?” and “It’s temporary and I’m stressed not knowing what will come next.”

  29. AnotherAlison*

    What’s really unfortunate is how the government computing and accounting is so lacking that the answer has to be “Eh, just give everyone on unemployment $600. . .oh, and stimulus/relief checks all around.” Are the coworkers mad about their stimulus checks that they’re getting even though they’re working? Ever situation has pros and cons right now. If you’re working, it’s stressful. If you aren’t working, it’s stressful. Just MYOB, OP’s coworkers.

  30. Hey Karma, Over Here*

    Yeah, people were jealous of me when I had a compound leg fracture and got to work a limited schedule and still got paid for the full day.
    I think of that when I get jealous of someone who has something worth being jealous of. Is it worth having? Most times, no. It isn’t.
    Even people who have seemingly luxury items. Yes, he has a nicer car than I do. But he made trade offs and sacrifices that weren’t worth it to me.
    Working 60 hours a week isn’t worth it to me.
    Not having a job to collect some extra dollars for a limited time is not worth it to me. it’s not EXTRA money. It is “ahead of time” money. You will get unemployment till XX date. Well, this is like getting unemployment till XX date plus what? 50% longer?
    You can’t change human nature.
    Like you write, we are pretty much assholes from day one.

    1. soon to be former fed really*

      People are jealous of me because I have congestive heart failure and can’t walk far, so I have a handicapped placard. And I don’t look sick enoughto have one, to them. Yep, people can be assholes.

  31. Megumin*

    “But they’re assholes sometimes!” LOL thank you for saying this. I am at home with my two kids (both under school age), and I feel like that sometimes. I cherish my children, but I enjoy going to work and getting to be “office worker” instead of “parent” for a while each day. re: dealing with asshole coworkers….you’re not having to parent them and think about all that entails (at least I hope not! some coworker do require parenting…).

    I’m sorry you’re dealing with this. In response to people who say they are “jealous” or say stuff like “must be nice!” I would keep it brief – I like Alison’s scripts. And then turn it back on them by asking how they’re doing. I’m guessing most people are panicking underneath and could use someone asking how they are.

    1. Diahann Carroll*

      Your first paragraph reminded me of when I was little, maybe around 7 or 8, and my little brother was about 4 or 5, and we had a blizzard in our small town that trapped us all inside our houses. The snow was literally halfway up our front door and covered most of our windows – it was insane. Schools were cancelled and my mom obviously couldn’t drive into work because she couldn’t get out the door (she tried, several times), so she was stuck in the house with us for a few days until the snow could melt away. I swear there was a point where she grabbed a shovel and tried to dig her way to the city where her job was just so she could have a moment’s peace without hearing the yelling from her two asshole kids, lol. We were such pains in the asses.

    2. soon to be former fed really*

      I think OP shoud just ignore those comments, they are mean-spirited and passive aggressive even if said nicely. If anything, just say “Yeah, well not my choice”.

  32. DogsrUs*

    I feel that this is going to be a huge burnout issue for a lot of essential workers. I am an essential worker (social services) and I am still working full time, going out on emergencies, and doing more stressful work than ever with very limited resources. I am lucky to still have a job, but it does sting knowing I’d be making more to sit at home on unemployment. It’s hard to not see it as a middle finger when I’m sobbing at my computer for the third time in a week knowing My friends hanging out are making more than me. Maybe this will be used to reevaluate those of us in the essential services and realize we need to get paid more, or even get hazard pay. The long term financial security is 100% true, most (not all) of essential employees won’t be affected by layoffs it can be hard to see the forest from the trees right now. Still that’s not an individual on UE fault, it’s a bigger overall issue.

    1. soon to be former fed really*

      This too shall pass. Friends didn’t choose the idiotic manner in which the government decided to supplement unemployment. It’s temporary anyway.

      My CNA goddaughter is getting hazard pay, all essential workers should. Yes she is burning out because PPE is so inadequate and she must bring her own supplies. CNAs are low paidand she would definitely have more cash on hand with the unemployment supplement, but she wants to work, go figure.

  33. Chronic Overthinker*

    I don’t know how many friends and relatives (especially business owners) are furious about this whole situation. (U.S.A.) They see the money that unemployed people are getting and only see the greedy side of the issue. No one I know wants to be unemployed. And even with the bonus, most unemployed/laid off/furloughed folks don’t have health insurance. So that $600 a week goes towards health expenses and rent and utilities and bills and necessary items. I’ve also heard that rent and some utilities are being put in forbearance. What people forget is once that’s lifted, ALL that money will be due immediately.

    I’m so thankful for my current position. There’s no doubt or concern that my position will be eliminated. I even have the potential to advance! But for now I will work with my firm and make sure our clients feel safe in these uncertain times. We need to lift each other up during this crisis, not hold each other back.

  34. Blueberry*

    Unsurprisingly, I really like Alison’s advice on this one, especially the second suggestion, which notes that when people say they are jealous of *you* they are largely talking about themselves. It would be very graceful and kind and generally awesome to be able to respond to such annoying comments by gently asking how they’re doing, and pretty likely to lead to them leaving the conversation feeling better in general and about you in particular.

    (That said, we’re all human, and if you don’t have the emotional bandwidth to do that right now, I thought I should explicitly say that that’s ok.)

    Good luck with the kids. Hoepfully they will show you their charming sides today. :)

  35. Koala dreams*

    Don’t take those comments too seriously. It sounds like the kind of thing people say when they aren’t thinking. They feel they need (?) to comment on the fact that you are unemployed and they are still employed, but don’t know any polite things to say. You can just answer in the same tone: “I’m jealous of you, I wish I still had a job.” Then change the subject to something else. “Did you see any cat videos recently?”

    If it’s close friends that say these things, it might be worth it to tell them that you are hurt by these kind of comments, and ask them to refrain from them in the future. A friend would want to know if their comments hurt you, so they can do better in the future. If it’s just random former co-workers and such, just let it go, and don’t take it personally.

  36. A Simple Narwhal*

    One thing to keep in mind is that just because some people still have their jobs, it’s not business as usual. Especially for those at companies that have furloughed/laid off a lot of people – they’re trying to get their work done with less coworkers to share the load, they’re stressed that they could still lose their job, perhaps their salary got cut, and all of the other stressors happening right now.

    So to them they see scenario A: they still have a job, but they’re doing a lot more work (potentially) for less money, don’t feel secure that the job may last so maybe they have to job hunt and still survive the madness going on, or scenario B: they don’t have a job but still get paid (potentially even more than they were before) and can focus on surviving the madness and job hunting without working 40-60 hours.

    Both scenarios are stressful, so I guess my suggestion is to try not to get caught up in a “grass is greener” mindset and be mad they don’t appreciate what they have – these are rough times for everyone. You’re certainly still allowed to be annoyed in whichever scenario you’re in, but we probably should be offering everyone a bit of grace in these times.

  37. Public Sector Manager*

    I think there is really nothing the OP can say to stop family and friends from being jealous. Because no matter who you are dealing with, there will be a couple of people who will see your situation differently and be jealous. I think the best course of action for the OP is just to tell others that you’re looking for work full time because the one thing I hate more than a pandemic is looking for a new job. I would respect that answer.

  38. ElenaA*

    I feel for you OP, although I am in a very different position. I have been able to WFH, and keep my job, but 80% of my job has vanished… So now I am sitting at home, nothing to do, but feel guilty and anxious about the situation. I am in a priviledged but also very depressed, anxious mood right now, but I fear talking to anyone about it… I dont want to have To explain myself…. I guess, what I am saying is that I wish we could all just take care of out selfs and out families, and, as much as we can, be there for each other, listen but not judge or think we know how the other person is feeling and how they are affected.

  39. Batgirl*

    A few hundred in return for job insecurity is a bet for either the foolhardy or for armchair theorists. Its particularly strange to envy the situation of a parent who is now doing the unpaid job of teacher without resources or training.
    The cash isn’t going to cover that kind of “sitting at home doing nothing”.
    I’d put aside the understandable snark though and just assume people are trying to say something positive and look on the bright side for you. I’d probably go with “It’s kind of you to look on the bright side. I’m worry about how long that’s going to cover us if we don’t get back to work; but you’re right – let’s stay positive”.

  40. Keymaster of Gozer*

    This may not be suitable for all, but I’ve had to make an effort to not read or listen to anything regarding ‘who has it worse?’ from news, friends, family etc. I’ve politely asked a number of people to drop the subject when I’m speaking to them. (Same goes for any talk on how this is all ‘made up’ and the virus isn’t dangerous’).

    My reasoning is, I have to take measures to protect my mental health here. Getting into conversations about whether I’m better or worse off than others will only add more stress to an already unhealthy level of it.

    I do not in any way mean anyone is bad for wanting to think about such matters! Just reassuring them that refusing to get involved in such conversations is valid as well.

  41. Anon Anon*

    I really like these two responses:

    * “It’s temporary, and I don’t know what will happen when it ends. I’m saving as furiously as I can.”
    * “It’s really stressful not knowing when I’ll be working again, so the help is appreciated.”

    I think that there are many people, including those people who are furloughed or unemployed collecting the extra $600 a week, who I think genuinely think that this situation is very temporary and everything will go back to normal once the states re-open. I don’t think that they are considering that year from now they may still be unemployed and may have run out of unemployment completely.

  42. Nance*

    I’m not furloughed, and while I’m lucky enough to be working from home my spouse is an essential worker, and out of the house 10-12 hours a day. So I’m trying to work and trying to parent and homeschool my special needs kid solo, and I think there is a good chance I won’t have a job in a few months anyway. I would be making more on unemployment with the $600 bonus, but fear that by the time I am let go that bonus will have run out.

    So yeah I’m jealous.

    1. Kage*

      I’m of the opinion that they’re going to be forced to extend the unemployment bonus program. Particularly because of the problems with the way the PPP loan program is working out. A bunch of companies have gotten their loans/brought staff back “to work” even though they have no substantial income coming in. In 8-weeks when those loans have passed their forgiveness mark, all of those folks are going to be laid-off again and then with very little time left within the current federal unemployment boost. I think the backlash against the reality of the results of that program and the timing of the current boost expiration is going to be such that they’ll be forced to extend that boost until at least the end of the year…

  43. Alex*

    I think it is important to keep in mind that part of this is human nature to think that the grass is always greener on the other side. No matter what advantages people have, people have problems and no one gets to walk on this earth problem-free. So I’d say you don’t really have to “respond.” They have problems, you have problems, and that is just how things go and no one can tell others’ problems from the outside.

  44. HannahS*

    Nobody is winning at the pandemic right now. I’m in sort of a similar situation as the OP (furloughed, still with health benefits). My furlough started on April 20, and the first unemployment check only came through yesterday, and even that is only part of what the payout should be. Yes, I’m technically making more on unemployment when it comes through, but my roommate is terrified hers won’t come through, and I may be carrying more of the bills for a while, not by choice, but merely to avoid being homeless. I’m watching my coworkers frantically asking everyone on Facebook if they know why the unemployment website is giving this weird error, because the bills are still coming in.
    Almost everyone I know would much rather be at work just for the stability, and because most of us actually enjoy the day to day work of our jobs. The people I know who don’t want to go back are mostly not wanting to go back because they are high risk and would rather not die for their non-essential job. I’m really fortunate that my coworkers are taking this seriously and recognize that as much as we would rather be working, we’d also rather not be racking up a body count by opening too soon and causing the infection rate to dramatically spike. Everyone’s trying to save our excess cash, because we don’t know that we’ll be open by July 31 when the benefits run out and no one has confidence that our state government will look out for us (but also grappling with the fact that not maintaining our usual spending habits is hurting local businesses, so we’re just a small cog in the breakdown of the chain of consumerism). We might reopen, but we might not all be called back right away. And sure, we may do a bit of flashy shopping, but some of that may be a poor coping mechanism in the face of a looming crisis. In the grand scheme of things, the $50 spent on something stupid now probably isn’t going to be the difference between making rent in September if we don’t have a job and unemployment runs out.
    A lot of us are without work are facing a terrifying existential crisis of “who am I when I’m cut apart from my relationships and community as well as the way in which I contribute to the world?” Usually people recommend volunteering to fill the time, which is objectively a good thing, but still makes everyone have to do the individual risk assessment of whether the risk of infection is worth it. It’s not fulfilling to look back at how you spent your time and realized that all you have to show for the last week is an empty pizza box, a pile of laundry, and far too many hours of trashy reality tv, because that’s the only thing you have the mental bandwidth for after all the anxiety.
    If anyone pulls the it must be nice, I would answer honestly, “You would think so, but I miss it so much. I miss my coworkers, I miss the guests, I miss my 401k contributions, I miss my routine and everything else. Here’s hoping we go back soon.”

    1. Office Plant*

      I feel you! I’m furloughed too and have yet to see a dime from unemployment. Some of my coworkers have gotten it, others haven’t, and it’s not clear why. It is clear that the state’s unemployment system is completely overwhelmed, leaving people desperate.

      I consider myself fortunate that I have an emergency fund so I’m not in immediate dire straits. But I worry for others who may not have the extra money right now. And I don’t know when I’ll go back to work, but it won’t be soon (my job involves large groups of people gathering together).

      At least I’m not dealing with coworkers who think I’m living large on unemployment- most are in the same boat as me, most are furloughed, and those who aren’t know that the unemployment system isn’t paying out regularly if it pays at all.

  45. Paisley*

    I’m one of the people who are still working, while my husband is home but receiving a monthly CERB payment (we are in Canada). Sometimes (for a very brief second) I feel jealous that I have to go to work every day – and am busier than ever covering for people who have gone on requested medical leave to self-isolate. My manager has been great and I have the opportunity to work from home as needed, which I did in the beginning but now have mostly eliminated because IT’S HARD TO WORK AT HOME! It’s also easier to get caught up in worry over the unknown when you are at home – especially with a spouse who is very much caught up in the minute by minute updates and media focus. So I am grateful for my job and happy I have a safe place to go to every day. One thing I no now is I take Fridays off and go to work on Saturdays when no one is in the office. It’s quiet, no interruptions and I get a TON done. Since weekends don’t really matter right now it’s really worked out well. I’m glad I have the flexibility to find what works best for me.

  46. Reluctant Manager*

    I’ve been thinking of the “extra” as what you’re getting paid for child care, which is hidden unpaid labor.

    In “normal” times, there is a moral hazard issue of paying people more not to work than to work. Right now, though, there is a greater benefit to the country for you to stay home! That’s your job! If it paid less than working, people would have an incentive to work. Also, when people who earn less get extra money, they tend to spend it on necessities, which keeps the economy going in an inelegant way.

    1. pancakes*

      There’s arguably a moral hazard. And there arguably isn’t, particularly now that there’s two years worth of data from Finland’s experiment with UBI available.

  47. VanLH*

    Well, I think that in the states I have lived in, unemployment benefits do not come solely from the employer. There is a deduction from the employee’s paycheck that also goes towards the benefits. This is why I think it is despicable for employers to manufacture a false reason to fire someone in order to deny them these benefits.

    1. Mediamaven*

      If you fire someone, you pay them unemployment. There are almost zero false reasons to fire someone that would prevent them from receiving unemployment. I think you are not clear on how it works.

      1. Nevercomments*

        I think you are unclear as to how it works. If you are fired for cause you are not eligible to receive unemployment.

  48. YoungTen*

    Just my two cents, I have to go out to work every day. So far, I’ve been blessed enough to keep earning what I always have been. But its only May and the ramifications of this pandemic are still in its infancy. I don’t know what my industry will look like come August. If you are home, try to take this time to see if they are creative ways to earn money. Many successful entrepreneurs came up with their ideas during times of uncertainty or job loss. If there was ever a time in your adult life where you can really think about what you want and the steps to get there, ITS NOW! Focus your mental energy on what you want and turn your anxity into positive energy. You don’t have the distractions of work so go for it!

  49. Anon Today*

    My salary was reduced and I’m making 75% of my normal income. It’s not enough of a reduction to collect any unemployment. Some of my colleagues were furloughed, and others have had no impact.

    I have to admit to being jealous of and angry about all of them: my colleagues who are still making their full salary AND my colleagues who are furloughed and as a result, bringing in more than I am.

    None of our jobs are secure. We’re in the exact same boat. We work for a nonprofit with a July-June fiscal year, and none of our jobs are secure past July 1. My job isn’t more secure because I wasn’t furloughed. The only difference is that I’m going to spend April, May, and June working and they’re not, and they’re going to end up with more money than me.

    And if the organization DOES right itself, and we go back to something like normal in the new fiscal year? Then they did that on my back, and I’m not going to see any benefit.

    So, yeah, I’m angry as hell. I’m not angry WITH my coworkers, but I’m also not even remotely interested in hearing about how stressful it is to be doing nothing, or how worried they are about losing their income.

    If you’re getting static from coworkers like me who are carrying the brunt of the pain in the hopes that it will save your job, I’d recommend saying thank you, and maybe buying them a meal or two from that extra money you’re collecting.

    1. Tanya Myers*

      If you aren’t interesting in hearing about it, then you probably wouldn’t say something like “you are so lucky.” There are ALWAYS challenges for other people that they may not see or can be obvious. The LW might have this. There will certainly be inequities here, and that is always the case. Someone who makes less than you and works longer hours may be angry that you get what you get. It’s not a challenge about who suffers more. Then no one could ever complain, be sad or stressed than the very poorest poor person in the poorest country that have had terrible things happen to them. And again, you really don’t know what that other person is dealing with.
      Do you generally buy dinner for your friends that make less? It may be a good idea to just sit back for some perspective.

    2. Koala dreams*

      If you don’t want to hear about it, you presumably wouldn’t bring up the topic when speaking to people you know either. When you start a conversation about something, you need to be willing to listen to the other person too. I’d recommend you to stick to other topics. Cat videos maybe?

  50. Tanya Myers*

    I wouldn’t say “I wish I were working”. It just one of those things that kind of negates the challenges the other person may be feeling. It’s kind of along the lines of “at least you…” when someone is trying to be postiive to the other person but it actually just shows a lack of empathy. I’d keep all the rest of Alison’s suggestions though.

    1. Koala dreams*

      I think it’s perfectly fine to respond in the same tone that the other person used. It’s not necessary to show empathy to people who aren’t interested in that sort of conversation. Sure, if you want to take the higher road and answer with one of the more polite answers, more power to you, but that should be for your own sake, because you want to be proud of your manners, not because you feel you have to show empathy to people who don’t care about your struggles.

      1. Blueberry*

        On the one hand I agree with you from an ethical standpoint, but on the other, responding with something that sounds more nerve-soothing to the other person can help keep the conversation short and pleasant. I wouldn’t want to risk a lengthy “who has it worse” competition.

    2. HannahS*

      The people the OP and others are responding to are showing a lack of empathy to the OP. I don’t think it’s out of line to say you wish you would rather be working if that’s genuinely what you feel; it might not be worth getting into it with passing acquaintances, but I think it’s a fair conversation to have with someone who you’re close enough to discuss these issues with. The OP shouldn’t feel responsible for managing the feelings of others. This has been a big enough issue for several months now that everyone should realize by now that this sucks for everyone in some way right now.

  51. Kettricken Farseer*

    This isn’t a zero-sum game, nor is it a race to see who has it worse. I’d be inclined to say, “Yeah, it sounds great, but it’s also temporary and I have no idea what will happen when it ends.” So then you’re not comparing your situation to someone else’s, you’re just naming the specific boat you happen to be stuck in.

  52. Potatoes gonna potate*

    Thank you for the scripts. I have heard many iterations of “ur so lucky!” over the years that I just roll my eyes and burn inwards. I mean if someone is venting to me about their job I understand it and commiserate and I don’t tell them they’re so lucky I just wish they would think the same.

  53. rr*

    Oh man, I am going crazy in a similar situation. I don’t have children though, so I don’t even have access to that kind of a distraction. It is very, very hard to feel like I am sitting here not contributing to society in a meaningful way, especially when I have a skill set that would be useful during a public health crisis. I am actually at the point where I feel like I’m “burning out” from unemployment as I’ve been working extra hard to try and find work, or make work for myself that I’m not sure anyone actually appreciates or wants me to do – I seem to be continually setting myself up for rejection after rejection while I’m already existing in a pretty anxious state.

    I have had the conversation with a couple people who sort of laughed at some of the things I mentioned doing to occupy myself, by saying “It is very, very hard for me to feel like I am not contributing right now. I know it seems like I can just do yoga and bake sourdough all day, but at my core I’m a person who needs to have a purpose, and accepting that I am “non essential” right now, and not knowing when I’ll be able to contribute again, is much more stressful than I ever would have imagined.”

    1. Honoria, Dowager Duchess of Denver*

      I completely relate to your second paragraph! You are not alone, and I wish people would understand this better. This is not a relaxing week off doing your own staycation thing.

    2. OP*

      I really love this reply. It’s powerful without being insulting. I thrive on a purpose and I feel like I’m not doing anything to move forward. Best of luck to you!

  54. Blue Sky, Green Grass*

    I just wanted to say this post and the comments have been helpful for me to read. Intellectually, I know many, many people are struggling financially, juggling child-care and home-schooling, worrying about their family members who are essential workers, and more, but seeing other peoples stories has been humbling.

    Emotionally, some days are hard for me because even though I’m safely working at home, I’m burning out under my workload, and being alone so much has ramped up my anxiety.

    My employer switched to all remote work in mid-March and has continued to pay everyone their full pay, regardless of whether they’re able to do any, or all of their job remotely. While they haven’t announced any layoffs or furloughs yet, there’s a hiring freeze on open positions, people who’ve left are not being replaced, and OT is not allowed.

    It’s been hard not to be resentful of those who are doing less, when my work has increased by 50% to cover for those who aren’t able to work remotely. This was a reminder that those at home are worried about having a job to come back to.

    So, thanks for sharing your stories, and I sincerely wish the very best to everyone.

    1. OP*

      I agree, the advice is super helpful. But even moreso, an unexpected benefit of Alison choosing to publish my question is seeing the comments with so many alike and then totally different situations, and the complications associated with all of them. It’s really given me more perspective and a chance to see the true nature of what’s been said all along, that this is tough for everyone. I knew this before, but now it feels so much more real to share with the AAM community. Boy, I am grateful for this blog. Genuinely, this is probably the most uplifting thing I’ve read throughout all of quarantine. Thanks, Alison and all!

  55. Kay*

    I agree with part of Alyson’s reply. I wouldn’t mention the savings part at all..

    * Honestly, I’m in a panic most days. I have no idea when I’ll be working again.”
    * “It’s temporary, and I don’t know what will happen when it ends.
    * “It’s really stressful not knowing when I’ll be working again.”
    * “I wish I were working! My stress is through the roof.”

  56. Clementine*

    I think it’s okay to acknowledge that one is getting some sort of slight benefit, even if it definitely doesn’t feel like it. I haven’t had this specific situation, but for other things I often say something like, “Yes, I am lucky in that respect, and I appreciate it.” (There are other ways in which I have a complete lack of luck, but let’s not go into that.) No need to get into all the details, and it validates their feelings.

  57. Understanding*

    I agree with being gracious and kind with the responses. When you respond with grace at some point it always seems to work out for you even when the other party in the conversation doesn’t behave the same way.

    This situation is hard on everyone one. As someone who has been considered essential, there have been times I have been a little jealous of individuals that have been able to stay home. I would love the extra time with my kids. I would love to get to know them better. Work with them more on what they are going through…stress, school work, etc. However, I also feel very blessed at the same time.

    I agree there is stress for everyone in this situation it is just different.

  58. J.B.*

    My contract ended and I’m now looking for full time work. Working at home with kids at home and not working with kids at home are both exhausting. Both situations are impossible, the first because there are only so many hours in the day and the second because of the uncertainty and because the kids have had time to get really stir-crazy. My husband is employed and that plus savings will last us a while, however I feel stupid because I’m not working. Which doesn’t really make sense but there you are!

    1. OP*

      YES! “I feel stupid because I’m not working.” More like, I feel purposeless and I’m not fulfilled and not using my talents, but I’m feeling your vibe. The kids are batshit crazy and spouse is working, so here I am. Not using my skills, coaching my kids through Google Classroom and demanding “NO! CLICK HERE!!”

  59. JJ Bittenbinder*

    I am lowkey loving that you admitted that your kids are a-holes sometimes, OP. Just…you are my kind of person.

    That’s really all I have to add. Best of luck!

    1. OP*

      I love them dearly, don’t get me wrong. And I am grateful that I have the time to focus on their school, one being special needs and nobody was thriving those weeks when I was working and trying to facilitate school. But sometimes…yeah…they assholes.

  60. Panda Bear*

    “you’re not excitedly rolling around on a bed covered in cash while your spouse pours champagne over you”

    Best laugh I’ve had all day!

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