I want to return to the office but we’re still working from home, a computer-illiterate coworker, and more

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

1. I want to return to the office but we’re still working from home

My organization has been working from home since mid-March. Luckily, the work we do can be done remotely so we have adapted pretty well to the change. My state has gradually re-opened and will be in phase 3 soon. However, my grandboss has insisted that we will continue to work from home even into the fall. Employees are not to return to the workplace unless they are essential workers.

I’m having a tough time with this. While I am fine with working from home one or two days a week, having to work every day from home until 2021 is not something I want to do. I’d like to suggest something like you shared several weeks ago, about a company reopening well: allowing employees who want to work from home to continue to do so while at the same time gradually allowing employees who want to return to the office to do so. I guess I’m asking for a reality check: am I being selfish? I appreciate my grandboss’ desire to keep his employees protected, but I think there are employees who are having a tough time working remotely and would like to start making the transition back to office life.

Well, every additional person in the office raises the risk for everyone else so from a safety standpoint, if you can do your job from home, you should. I’ve received a lot of letters from people whose jobs require them to be in the office and who are frustrated by other people choosing to come in when they don’t have to — because it’s raising everyone’s risk.

That said, there may be ways to return to work that don’t increase other people’s risk, depending on what the physical space is like. If you can remain relatively isolated without contact with others, it’s more reasonable — but if your reason for wanting to return is to be less isolated, that may not work.

I don’t think you’re being selfish in wondering about this — if you don’t work well at home, that’s a legitimate concern. But when it’s optional, the priority should be what is and isn’t safe right now.

2. How to tell a computer-illiterate coworker I can’t keep helping her

I work at a childcare facility and we have tools we use both on a computer and an iPad. One of my coworkers is an older (60+) woman and is constantly asking for help with technology. She blames the assistant who came before me for not teaching her how to use the technology, but the program offers specific trainings if you need them. My coworker constantly makes mistakes or asks questions about how to do a procedure she should know how to do. I have offered to help her during work hours with the technology, but it’s wearing on my patience. During the COVID-19 outbreak, she has continued to call or text me with questions about technology, claiming our boss won’t answer her.

How do I politely say to her that I don’t want to help her any more, that it’s not my responsibility, and to not bug me when we’re not at work? Should I tell my boss about this or should I just keep helping her?

Say this in response to the next question: “I’ve been happy to try to help, but since you’ve continued to have questions, I think you really need to take the program trainings. Here’s a link to info about how to sign up.”

And then when there’s another question: “Have you taken those trainings yet? I’d ask that you do that because this is a lot of questions for me to field.”

(This assumes, of course, that it’s not part of your job to help her.)

3. Should I tell candidates to stop applying for jobs they don’t meet the requirements for?

I work as an agency recruiter, so I write a lot of job ads, primarily on LinkedIn. They can receive anywhere from 100-800 applicants depending on the role and location. It’s my job to work out what the essentials are, and what the preferences are from the client’s point of view.

I generally agree with the advice that you give that you don’t need to meet 100% of the requirements to apply for a job and often I will still contact candidates who don’t fit the “ideal” candidate but still have the essentials necessary. However, I’m finding that more and more people are applying without having the essential requirements, almost as if they haven’t bothered to read the ad. For example, I recently posted a job where the candidate must speak either French or German fluently, and I would say 80% of the applicants did not meet this criteria. I checked my wording and the ad specifically says “professional fluency in French and/or German is essential.”

Reading these applications wastes my time. Each CV doesn’t take long but when I’ve got 800 to get through, it adds up. Part of me wants to mention it in my rejection email in the hopes they will read job ads more carefully in the future, but this will probably set the wrong tone. Is there anything I can do at my end to limit this issue? Or should I just accept that this is part of the problem of job ads (and if it is part of the problem, do you have any theories as to why candidates do this?).

You’re seeing more of this because of the economy; you have (a) more candidates in general and (b) more desperate candidates. Both those things lead to people resume-bombing, where they indiscriminately send their resume in for anything they feel remotely qualified for.

This is just part of the deal when you hire. There’s no way to avoid it. Don’t add language about it to your rejection email, since it’s not likely to change anything — and besides, sending those people a different form letter than everyone else will take up more of your time! Accept it as something that comes with the territory, and let it roll off you.

4. My manager won’t stop contacting us when she’s on vacation

I work for a small company (36 employees) that has a generous vacation policy. Generally speaking, when people are off, they are truly off. No Slack, email, phone calls, or meetings are expected. It’s lovely!

The only person who tries to work through their vacation is my manager. She leads a team of five and when she’s on vacation she’s constantly checking in on projects, offering up new ideas outside our current workload, and generally getting involved when it suits her. It’s inconsistent when she’ll chime in, leading to plenty of confusion and miscommunication about who is in charge. Her additional ideas feel like a burden when we’re already swamped.

She’s joked before about not having any boundaries, so she’s at least vaguely aware it’s thing, but how do I/we bring it up in a way that shows her compassionately that her sporadic involvement while she should be unplugged sets a bad example for her team, feels like micromanaging (or at the very least, she doesn’t trust us), and leads to a whole lot of headaches? Her vacation should be a break for us, too.

Well, “her vacation should be a break for us, too” isn’t really an established principle of how this is supposed to work, so I’d leave that out of it — but it’s reasonable to raise the points that (a) doing this is causing confusion and miscommunication and (b) she’s modeling bad habits for everyone else and signaling that people shouldn’t truly disconnect from work when they take time off.

Assuming you have a pretty good relationship with her and she’s open to input, you could say, “I know you prefer to check in when you’re on vacation, but it causes a lot of confusion. Because you’re out, you don’t always have the full context about other things we’re juggling or other direction we’ve been given, and it can cause a lot of miscommunication and inefficiency, like (example) and (example). It also worries me to see you always working through vacation — it makes me wonder if it’s really okay for me to disconnect when I’m out, and I’m sure it raises similar questions for other people. Would you be open to experimenting with really unplugging the next time you’re away and seeing how it goes?”

5. Is it weird for my resume to note an internship was full-time?

When the pandemic hit, I had been unemployed for about two years and volunteering for a non-profit for the previous year. Let’s say the non-profit ran a Meals on Wheels programme for the sake of illustration. Well, when lockdown began, it was suddenly responsible for a wide range of services for every elderly person in town. To help deal with the administrative carnage, I was offered two paid days a week. After three weeks (and a large government grant coming in), I was offered to go up to full-time hours for the next two months. We are coming to the end of those months now, and one of the staff members is going on maternity leave, and I’ve been asked to stay on as her cover.

My question is about titles and hours. My pandemic job has the title of “intern” because the board had already approved having a summer intern in the office and it was easier than trying to devise a new hire. I feel a little disappointed putting that on my resume; I’m in my mid-30s for one thing with an advanced degree, but setting my pride aside, I’m worried that it sounds very part-time when I’ve been a full-time member of the team during, well, you know. The maternity cover will be another nine months of full-time work, and I don’t know if the month at part-time will matter much at the end of that but equally I don’t want to seem like I’m inflating the truth. I’m really grateful to be finally working again; I just want to be able to take advantage of this stepping stone as best I can. Can I / should I include on my resume that I was full-time or that going to look silly?

People don’t automatically assume “intern” means part-time as a general rule, but more importantly, part-time versus full-time doesn’t matter much when we’re only talking about a two-month period. Plus, you’re going to have the nine-month interim (non-intern) job after that, so by the time you’re applying for jobs again, no one is going to care what hours you were working for two months nearly a year earlier. (And I’m assuming it has a non-intern title, too.) I wouldn’t worry about this at all.

That said, if it really bothers you, there’s no harm in noting it as:

Intern (Full-Time)

{ 620 comments… read them below }

  1. Kate*

    If a recruiter told me to read a job ad “more carefully” in the future… well, it would solve the problem of me ever applying to that company! I understand the writer’s frustration, but I would find it really rude; it would negatively colour my view of the company and the specific recruiter. Bad rejection letters have ended up on social media before (Discord’s overly cutesy, “funny” one springs to mind), and I could absolutely see this doing so. Hang in there letter-writer — a lot of jobs are being asked to do more with less right now.

    1. Ginger ale for all*

      I think that certain people will always think they can talk their way into a job that is over their heads. I work in a library and when we advertise for librarians, we always get applicants who don’t have their masters in library science or even any undergrad degree but who make sure that we know that they really love to read.

      1. allathian*

        Oh dear, this is absurd! I’m so sorry you have to deal with this.
        I’m not a manager but I’ve been involved in selecting who to interview when we’ve hired a few coworkers for me. I’ve only seen the resumes and cover letters of good or excellent candidates and never those who weren’t even meeting our basic requirements. I guess we’ve been lucky!

        1. College Career Counselor*

          You have been VERY lucky! Some years ago, my office was hiring someone to do employer relations (ie, outreach to employers to offer jobs and internships to students at the college). I think we received around 50 resumes (including the ones I saw that were auto-screened by the ATS–you always want to see if something inadvertently got flagged when it shouldn’t have). The breakdown was roughly something like this:

          Approximately a third of them were appropriate for credential and experience, which included quite a few career services professionals who had badly crafted application materials (given the recent letters about bad career counselors/advice, this will not shock you). Those with poor materials did not advance.

          About 35% of them didn’t meet the credential requirements (no graduate/professional degree) or previous experience requirements (no higher ed background, no corporate background, no nonprofit volunteer/donor cultivation, etc.).

          A little over 20% of them were people in HR (which could have been great, if they’d been in recruiting) who spent their letter talking about how much experience they had doing EMPLOYEE Relations and how good they would be at it in this role (which was not the job).

          10% of them were “I can do this job because I have a law degree” with absolutely no connection made between their law experience and the skills required and/or without any indication of why they wanted this particular job/career change.

          FWIW, we hired a person in the first group (who also happened to have a law degree) because she made the connection between her previous work and ours and was able to articulate why she wanted to make this move.

          TL;DR: Sifting through applications that don’t match what you’re looking for is endemic to the process most of the time.

          1. Alex Konigsburg*

            Wait are you telling me you *can’t* do everything with a law degree?! That all those people who told me I could, despite no legal training of their own, were wrong? Well, I never!

            Someone who uses basically none of her subject matter legal training and hasn’t in years

        2. dragocucina*

          At old library I added that to applications. It was more helpful to know that someone’s hobby was gardening, quilting, canning, being on the Legos robotics team, etc. We didn’t get to sit around and read for pleasure. We did get a lot of questions about permaculture, bee keeping, coding, etc.

          That’s not even including the privacy issues and the public library as a limited public forum.

      2. DaisyGJ*

        I think some professions attract this more than others. Libraries attract people who just generally like books. My previous team in child protection used to get a lot of applicants who just “really enjoyed working with children” but had no qualifications, despite the adverts always saying “must be a registered social worker”.

        1. doreen*

          I think your mention of child protection provides a semi-explanation for why this happens. I totally believe that being a registered social worker was a requirement for your previous team – but it isn’t always ( where I worked as a child protective specialist , a bachelor’s degree was sufficient) and it’s easy to understand why someone who has multiple years of experience might apply even if they don’t have the degree.

          1. Venus*

            Based on my recent discussion with a nurse, the key is ‘registered social worker’, not the degree. Same as with nursing, engineers, and other professionals, the fact that they are in a registered professional group means that they have known qualifications, and more importantly in some cases they can lose their careers if they mess up. Someone explained this to me recently about an administrative position which required a nursing degree, because it required working with health information and if that was ever shared then the employee wouldn’t just lose their job, but would lose their ability to be a nurse. That company wanted a registered nurse because they wanted a high standard of care for that information. This was explained to me by a friend who was a nurse.

            1. Deanna Troi*

              I don’t know if this is true for librarians, but in some states, you cannot call yourself an engineer if you don’t have your Professional Engineer license. And in some states you can’t call yourself an archaeologist professionally if you don’t have a master’s degree and meet the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards. I don’t think its common across disciplines, but it is a thing in some industries.

            2. Tidewater 4-1009*

              When I worked at a hospital it was not unusual for nurses to specialize in data management or other administrative. The positions needed someone with experience in patient care to understand what was happening in the charts. IME this was completely appropriate.

      3. Calanthea*

        I realise this probably is very dependent on the type of library you’re in, but my friend is the manager of a whole borough’s libraries, and she has been quite vocal about how important it is to consider people for roles even if they don’t have the formal qualification. They serve a predominantly black area and having a masters is a barrier for many people. If someone is enthusiastic and skilled, they can do a lot of the job and gain the Masters (even have it paid for by the library).
        I get that qualifications are a great way to confirm that someone has a certain set of skills or knowledge, but they aren’t the be all and end all.

        1. Greige*

          Yeah, but really liking books is not even close to that certain set of skills or knowledge. I feel your pain, Ginger Ale!

        2. Dust Bunny*

          I work in a library. “Liking books” does not even remotely you to be a librarian. You wouldn’t hire somebody who just “liked books” to teach your kids, would you?

          Sure, libraries can hire people without an MLIS, but not as librarians. It’s a much more complex job than simply sitting at a desk helping people find the latest bestseller.

          1. Tomato Frog*

            Not holding the MLIS and not knowing the first thing about librarianship are two different questions, though. I know people who have all the skills and knowledge to work in a professional librarian gig but not have an MLIS. Some places will hire them to librarian positions without the degree, and some won’t. It’s an ongoing discussion in the field.

          2. A*

            I’m pretty confused here. Of course JUST liking books isn’t enough, I don’t think anyone has insinuated otherwise. However, one of my closest friends is a librarian at our local library (promoted ~1 year ago) and she doesn’t have an MLIS. She started working there after graduating with a bachelors in library studies, and worked her way up. She has no intention of returning to school nor has it been posed as a requirement.

            So either this varies, or there’s something unusual with her arrangement I guess?

            1. anonifriend*

              It’s both. There’s a generational divide in the profession where MLIS weren’t always standard, so some libraries take experience in place of degree, but it’s not as common as it used to be.

              Also, FWIW to other readers, I’m also a librarian who specializes in the more nuanced, proprietary part of the field that probably does need a degree, and who would push back on insistence that a degree is necessary and the whole field is far too complex to be otherwise – for exactly the same reason listed above. The system funnels in a dearth of middle-class white women and fails to recruit or retain non middle-class white women in a meaningful way. Librarians need to stop associating their worth as a profession with the level of degree and be okay with reaching outside of that system to make meaningful demographic change in the profession.

              1. HumbleOnion*

                MLIS holder, middle-class white woman here. I totally agree with this. Every library I worked at had white, mostly women, in the librarian jobs, and people of color in the para-professional roles. There’s a serious divide.

                1. anonifriend*

                  Every time someone indignantly says that you can WORK in a library but unless you have the MLIS you’re not a LiBrAriAn because of how important that 50k piece of paper is, I thumb my nose and blow a raspberry internally. Did it before school, did it during my MLIS, and I do it now. How they can claim to be invested in a field that supposedly purports social justice and socialist ideals and not recognize the ivory tower we’ve constructed that specifically deters and excludes people of color is beyond me.

              2. AnnieG*

                “The system funnels in a dearth of middle-class white women and fails to recruit or retain non middle-class white women…”

                “Dearth” means a lack or scarcity; I think you mean “abundance” or “wealth.”

            2. Rachel Morgan*

              Just so you’re aware (and the other people who might now know): There’s a large group of people who believe that if you don’t have your MLIS (or equivilant) then you aren’t a librarian. MLIS = librarian. To them, your friend may work in a library, but she isn’t a librarian. That education is there for a reason.

              You have to have education in most professions to hold titles. Nurses, Doctors, teachers and librarians. By calling anyone who works in a library a librarian, it’s essentially degrading the degree and the title of librarian.

              1. Forrest*

                >You have to have education in most professions to hold titles.

                I would disagree with the word “most”. There are job titles which are legally protected where you absolutely cannot call yourself that thing unless you have training, chartership, registration, a licence or a combination of the above, but they are a minority. Most job titles simply describe what someone does regardless of their qualification and are not protected at all. There is also a big grey area in the middle where there are versions of the title which aren’t protected, some which are, some which people would like to be protected but which aren’t, etc. But it definitely isn’t *most* professions. Relatively few professional titles are protected, especially in their simple form (as opposed to chartered accountant, registered nurse, etc.)

              2. A*

                In the case of my friend, her formal title is Librarian. I can’t speak to the nuances of course, but I do know that is her official title and she does not have a MLIS. I have no skin in this game, I’m just stating the facts of her circumstances and was requesting clarification because I was confused. Based on the other comments, it sounds like this is an unusual arrangement but one that certainly does and can exist. As far as I know, we are not acquainted so I’d appreciate it if you held off on telling me that my friend’s job title is… not real? Or fake? Or something… not quite sure, but either way – not my circus, not my monkeys.

              3. Cat*

                Plenty of teachers don’t have teaching degrees and are still teachers. And there are multiple types of education you can get that entitle to you to get licensed a nurse.

              4. Eukomos*

                Mm, that is a problematic approach to say the least. I taught for years without ever taking a single class from the education department, and I assure you everyone agrees I was (and occasionally still am) a teacher. I have other, non-education degrees, which makes that less of a mental leap for people, but I don’t think it’s really that different from someone who got a job that can require an advanced degree with a BA and several years of experience. My advanced degrees are valuable, and I learned and discovered a lot, but at least half of their value comes from the respect they command from others rather than a darned thing I learned getting them.

            3. V8 Fiend*

              Depending on her state, she may not need an MLS. School librarians in some states don’t need an MLS, but they do need to have a teaching license and classroom experience. In order to be a public, academic, or special librarian, you typically have to have an MLS, and sometimes an additional advance degree in a subject area.

      4. LunaLena*

        “I think that certain people will always think they can talk their way into a job that is over their heads.”

        Yes, this exactly. I even remember seeing this given out as “gumption” advice years ago. It’s advice akin to that old lottery slogan: you can’t win if you don’t play, so what do you have to lose? I suspect that this is also what motivates the old advice to just go into a business and demand to see the manager, because if you can just get your foot in the door you can talk your way in, right?

        I have to say, though, I remember all too well how sensible and impressive this kind of advice sounded way back when I was but a naive college grad. I cringe now to think I even followed some of this advice.

      5. Argye*

        I once served as an external reviewer from the University on a search committee for a PhD Biblical Archaeologist*. We had one applicant who listed as his experience, “Read the Bible through over 50 times and spent the last 20 years thinking deeply about it.” I was told he applied for every single job they ever posted, and was very frustrated that he never got hired. Some people are just clueless about professional qualifications.

        * This position was split between the Religion Dept. and the School of Theology, and the two sides hated one another. I was there as a mediator and to push the hiring process through. It was a massive amount of work on my part, but ended up being successful.

    2. Quoth the Raven*

      Furthermore, you can have candidates that read the ad carefully and still think they have the necessary qualifications when they don’t because the requirements themselves are not clear enough, so in that case being told be more careful would upset me even more.

      I say this because OP mentioned ““professional fluency in French and/or German is essential” — but it is very hard to accurately evaluate your own fluency, and OP might be getting candidates who subjectively consider themselves at that level when objectively they aren’t. It’d be a whole other thing if the ad said something like “equivalent to a C1-C2 level / must have a DALF and/or Goethe-Zertifikat C2 certificate”, which are tangible and objective.

      1. Ping*

        I think “essential” is too soft.

        I would use the word “required” or “non-negotiable”

        If there is a need for technical fluency then that language should be included too. That’s a whole new level of fluency.

        1. Quoth the Raven*

          Yes, absolutely, it’s definitely not the same to hold general professional conversations than it is to deal with specific fields (I see this all the time as a professional translator).

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            TBF translation and interpreting are the two professions which require total fluency (along with copious cultural knowledge and specialist knowledge of the field you specialise in).
            Yet you see people who’ve worked in a London pub for six months thinking they would do fine at such a job. They think they’re fluent, because their English is way better than that of any of their peers who didn’t work in London. Yet it doesn’t qualify them to be a translator.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          Yeah, I think essential is too easy to miss. And there can be that mindset in our own personal lives where something feels essential and we limp along with out it.

          I think it would be better to say “Applications that do not show a professional fluency in French or German will NOT be considered.”

          But brace yourself because people will still try, OP.

          1. Grapey*

            lol make the requirement that the resume is in German or French. Easier to eyeball and toss.

          2. Yesplease*

            Just respond to all the applications in French and German, and request that they contact you.

        3. MCMonkeyBean*

          “Essential” seems like a *stronger* word than “required” for me. I’m honestly baffled anyone would consider it too soft.

          I guess this just shows there’s probably no universal wording that will make it clear to everyone…

            1. Sacred Ground*

              “Essential” has become soft in our current usage. In this pandemic, businesses and jobs are called essential in ways that are so inconsistent that the word is losing meaning right in front of our eyes.

              A store that sells work uniforms and shoes is not essential and stays closed while a store that sells liquor and tobacco is essential and never closes.

              There’s also this massive disconnect between jobs deemed essential and how those workers doing those jobs are treated and paid. It’s increasingly obvious that while the WORK being done is essential and necessary, the people who do that work are interchangeable and utterly disposable.

              So yeah, “essential” is currently flexible. Use another word like “required.”

          1. Koala dreams*

            Yes, I also feel that essential is strong enough. The vagueness is in the “professional fluency” part. (Hopefully there are examples of the actual skills needed in the ad, though, and just not included in the question for length reasons.)

          2. Deanna Troi*

            I agree with MCMonkeyBean. The definition of essential is “absolutely necessary.” You can’t get any stronger than that. Also, ironically, the first definition of required that came up for me is “officially compulsory, or otherwise CONSIDERED ESSENTIAL.” I don’t think that anyone who ignores “essential” will pay attention to “required.”

        4. irritable vowel*

          Agreed – I think the job ad needs to say “Do not apply for this job if you are not fluent in French or German.” The recruiter thinks that saying it’s essential is communicating this, but it’s too soft.

        5. Venus*

          I don’t think essential is soft, but it may depend on how it is used.

          In my field the job applications tend to list:
          Essential qualifications
          Additional / Preferred qualifications

          In that case it is quite clear where there is flexibility. I have also seen parts where Essential qualifications have a list of options, such as Master’s in X or Bachelor’s in X with Y years of experience or…

        1. Reed*

          This is a very good solution.

          Assuming the issue is languages and the OP is not using languages as an easier-to-explain example.

        2. Cambridge Comma*

          Great idea! But please also remember to say that the CV could or should be in English!

        3. Dust Bunny*

          I studied Spanish in school but am not at all fluent. I can read French pretty well, though, because of the similarity but don’t speak it at all and understand it only poorly (hilariously, I understand it best if it’s spoken with a really atrocious American accent). And in general I read all of them far better than I speak them. Granted, I know that I wouldn’t be qualified on this count, but just posting the ad in another language won’t weed out that many people.

          1. Yorick*

            I think posting the ad in the required language WOULD weed out people. I majored in a foreign language and read it pretty well, but my conversational skills are now terrible. I would probably not apply for a job if the ad was in that language because it would be clear they want someone with more fluency than I have. The job would have to otherwise perfectly fit for me to consider applying.

          2. Eukomos*

            I’m the other way around, I know French and only understand Spanish well when spoken with a broad American accent, preferably very slowly. I could probably tell you the gist of a job description written in either language, but it wouldn’t even cross my mind to apply to them. The intimidation factor of reading in languages I’m only ok in and being reminded how many words I’m missing alone would scare me off!

          3. Taniwha Girl*

            I think it’s also not a perfect solution because wherever the ad is posted might not be able to display foreign language text perfectly, and the people reading and evaluating the position (like HR/recruiters) may not speak the language.

        4. Applesauced*

          What about some additional requirement is written in German/French? Like: “Bitte fügen Sie das Wort ‘shibboleth’ in Ihr Anschreiben ein.”
          (“Please include the word ‘shibboleth’ in your cover letter”)

          [CTL] FIND “shibboleth” and you find your German speakers.

          1. Eukomos*

            That would put off the people who think that’s nuts, though. And the people who were intrigued enough to run the sentence through Google translate would still make it through.

      2. Lilian*

        I would have to disagree here as someone professionally fluent in a couple of languages and having no “tangible and objective” qualification – I think you would know if you have business proficiency in a language or not. Having things like “must have a TOEIC score of xyz” is, in my experience, somewhat adding an extra hurdle for multilingual folk, and things like TOEIC and equivalents in other language really don’t reflect your language proficiency in the real world.

        So while there surely are unclear ads, I think the wording OP used is not the problem in this case.

        1. MK*

          “I think you would know if you have business proficiency in a language or not”

          No, many people can’t accurately judge their own proficiency. And there is probably not universal consent about what “business proficiency” means.

          1. UKDancer*

            There isn’t. Also a number of companies / people don’t understand that interpreting / translating are different from business proficiency.

            I can work reasonably well in German and French in my subject areas but I am not an interpreter or a translator so I get the important documents professionally translated and when I need to have a critical meeting I get an interpreter.

            As I explained to a former boss when he expected me to interpret in a meeting in French I can work in a language but I don’t have the type of brain that makes for a good interpreter because I am usually knee deep in trying to find the perfect synonym for the concept that’s been expressed while the conversation has moved 3 subjects on.

            Also it really annoys me when people try and do things on the cheap. If you want an interpreter, pay for one. Don’t hire someone who is fluent (whatever you think that means) and assume they can do a highly technical and specialised job.

            1. Mongrel*

              Also, as I had explained to me, there’s a huge difference between conversational language proficiency and technical\business.
              A friends partner was highly paid because being able to translate English to another common European language for insurance documentation is a rare commodity and expensive if it’s done incorrectly, which they also bore the responsibility for.

            2. allathian*

              I’m a professional translator and there’s absolutely no way I could work as a simultaneous interpreter. Consecutive would be marginally possible if it’s a very limited vocabulary and a more or less scripted conversation that I could prep on. But it’s still way out of my comfort zone!

            3. Lilian*

              The OP wasn’t asking about translating/interpreting though, that’s a completely different thing.

          2. Wednesday*

            There is in the US. It’s called the interagency language scale for measuring language proficiency and 2 of the levels are “professional working proficiency” and “full professional proficiency.” I’ve seen plenty of job ads that require proficiency at one of these levels as measured by an an assessment. Do these sort of proficiency assessments not exist in Europe? I would be really surprised if they didn’t.

            1. Lady Heather*

              We have the Common European Framework of Reference, that has 6 levels (A1-C2) that has detailed descriptions in 5 fields (reading, listening, spoken interaction, spoken production, writing) of what constitutes a certain level.
              E.g. Reading A1 is:
              I can understand familiar names, words and very simple sentences, for example on notices and posters or in catalogues.
              Reading C2 is: I can read with ease virtually all forms of the written language, including abstract, structurally or linguistically complex texts such as manuals, specialised articles and literary works.

            2. MK*

              The problem isn’t the existence of a scale, it’s that people won’t accurately place themselves on it.

          3. Annony*

            Exactly. While people who have “business proficiency” generally know that they have it, people who don’t often mistakenly think they do because they believe that a couple of years of high school French is the same thing as “business proficiency”.

            The other problem is that it can be difficult for an applicant to decipher what is truly essential and what is more flexible in terms of requirements. Not every ad that says something is essential really means that it is non-negotiable. There really isn’t anything you can do to make it obvious that you are serious about this requirement short of putting in a writing sample or asking for certification, which would also discourage good candidates from applying.

            1. Quill*

              This is why my job had me do an interview in the target language with a native speaker. Because even though I did minor in spanish and have the piece of paper to prove it, conversational fluency may not be the result of a minor in a language.

            2. Che Boludo!*

              I workde with a guy who was hired as the South American sales manager. He had lived in Costa Rica 11 years and I swear that he only spoke 11 words of Spanish. He would send the worst incomprehensible emails to the client (often drunk which is an entire different story). He livedf briefly in Brazil and thought they spoke Brazilian. He was a really nice guy and talked his way into the position but was not qualified. Most people with high school Spanish would do about as well as he did.

          4. Colette*

            I suspect the issue is that the people apply can’t hold a simple conversation in the languages the OP is hiring for, not that they speak the language but are not completely fluent.

        2. Taniwha Girl*

          In my experience, many bilingual positions require “score of XYZ or equivalent” or “business level (X1) in Quenya” where it’s clear that the test is a barometer, not an actual requirement.

          Yes it is an extra hurdle, but in my experience it’s very important to have a mutual understanding of “business level” or “fluent”. I know many heritage speakers/upper intermediate speakers who would consider themselves “business proficient” but really aren’t. And similarly many monolingual employers that can’t really evaluate what business proficiency looks like (perfect grammar but an accent=”broken English” vs. heritage speaker with no accent who can barely read/write). As with all standardized tests, they are helpful when used in moderation, but unhelpful when wholly relied on.

          1. Eva Luna*

            Amen to that! I am not a native Spanish speaker, but I have a degree in Spanish and used to be a court interpreter. In a previous position, my employer attempted to hire a bilingual admin. We are in a large city with a very substantial proportion of heritage Spanish speakers. The screening test was very simple – the ad specified that fluency in writing and speaking was required. Most applicants passed the speaking portion just fine (it was a brief conversation). The writing portion was another story. I am sorry, but if it takes you an hour to write a one-paragraph letter asking a client to come to the office for a meeting, and it still has two dozen grammar and spelling mistakes, you are NOT proficient in writing in Spanish.

      3. MusicWithRocksIn*

        I think where it is in the ad is also important. Put the absolutely most essential/ hard to get skills at the very top, so people can stop reading and move on. If it’s at the bottom (where for some reason language skills usually are?) and they have already read and matched up to a lot of the other skills and gotten excited about the job, they are more likely to overlook it because they already think they are a great fit. I’ve read job descriptions that were perfect for me and gotten to the bottom and found “Must be able to speak Japanese” and gone WTF, why didn’t you put that in front of the long list of admin skills that a lot more people will have. If there is something that is going to eliminate a lot of candidates, put it at the top and save all those people a lot of time and investment.

        1. Robin Sparkles*

          Yes definitely – I have had similar experiences not just for job descriptions but for even plain ol requests via email. Don’t bury your actual question at the bottom of ten paragraphs! Put the things people tend to miss upfront.

        2. That Girl from Quinn's House*

          I worked somewhere where HR used to kitchen-sink the job descriptions. So if I was hiring a llama trainer, there would be 1 line about “advanced llama rider with llama training certification” and then 500 words about the company’s standards of customer service, paperwork requirements, uniform and dress requirements, and scheduling and attendance policies.

          So someone would read the job description, say “Cool I can do 80% of this job!” because they can do 80% of the description, whereas for me, if they are not already an advanced-level llama rider there is nothing I can do for them. If they are already an advanced level llama rider, but not a certified llama trainer, I can hook them up with a llama trainer class and then hire them when they finish, but that’s it.

        3. JustaTech*

          This is extra especially true of anything that requires a degree and advanced training.

          I had a recruiter contact me about a job a “a hospital in my area” who was supper pissy with me when I sent them my resume and all the other application information they asked for, and it turns out I don’t have a nursing degree or license. Which I never, ever said or implied in any way that I had. Not in my resume, not on my LinkedIn, not based on my current or past jobs. But I felt like *I* was expected to apologize for “leading them on”.

          Nope nope nope. If a job requires an advanced degree of any kind that needs to be at the top of the description.

      4. Artemesia*

        I am guessing that they never go to the point of testing applicants for language fluency and so they are not just French or German speakers who are not good enough, but people who have NO competence in the language. The LW implied that the resumes did not show proficiency in these languages not that they were tested and found wanting. I was once proficient in German but would never pass a test for that now after 50 years of non-use — but I can imagine claiming it if I were out of work. The LW is not really talking about people like me.

    3. JoJo*

      The LW is trying to get fewer people to apply. Your reply indicates that their idea would work. And asking applicants to read the qualifications carefully is unlikely to end up being mocked on social media.

      1. I can only speak Japanese*

        Yeah, but the people you’re rejecting have already applied, so they won’t help with the next wave.

    4. I can only speak Japanese*

      A recruiter did that to me recently. I met all the requirements for a job but the one saying “experience translating X” – my experience was in translating Y, but I did know a lot about X.

      Instead of saying, “sorry, others met more of our criteria,” the guy wrote back, “as it says in the ad,” you don’t have the required skills. I can read, but I’ve had so many recruiters trying to get me jobs I was maybe 50% qualified for that I didn’t think I’d get such a… patronizing response.

      1. Liz*

        Agreed. This response would be infuriating for people who read the ad carefully but missed or misinterpreted something, and will be ignored utterly by those who did not bother. (And there will be a lot of the former. I had a college assignment once with very vague instruction. I pored over it for days, asked for guidance, checked and rechecked the brief, and eventually submitted what I thought was required. I received a barely passing grade and my only feedback was “read the assignment brief more carefully”. It was honestly quite insulting.)

      2. Forrest*

        It’s also not entirely uncommon for the hiring manager to be like, “We wanted to put X is preferred but not a requirement, but HR said we had to put it as an essential” or similar.

      3. Deanna Troi*

        Alison noted that it would take more time to respond to those who don’t meet this criteria, but if it truly is 80% of the applicants, I don’t think it is a waste of time to make a different form letter for that.

        I would probably say something like “As the advertisement for the position states, professional fluency in German or French is required. Your resume does not indicate that you have this fluency, therefore, we will not be moving forward with your application.” I’m not sure why I can only speak Japanese thinks that’s rude. We get so many letter writers wondering why rejection letters don’t tell them why they are rejected, and I don’t think it is patronizing to note that you were rejected because your resume doesn’t demonstrate the essential skills.

    5. MK*

      Frankly, I think the OP’s mental framing is mistaken here (and a little off-putting). As a recruiter, weeding out unqualified candidates is not “wasting your time”, it’s literally what you are being paid to do, partly. I get it’s a boring and unrewarding part of the job, but, well, all jobs have those tasks.

      1. MCMonkeyBean*

        This is actually helpful to think about! This is something I’ve been working on myself. I get easily frustrated at work and often feel like people are wasting my time, and I’m trying to remind myself that they are paying me to be there and if this is how they want my time to be spent then that’s their call.

        Obviously this doesn’t work if you are totally swamped with too many things to get done in working hours; then “wasting your time” has a more immediate downside by keeping you from other things you need to be doing. But since as Alison said this is likely something unavoidable, simply reframing it as a normal part of your job might help with your level of frustration.

        Good luck!

      2. Ray ray*

        Thank you for pointing this out. I get so frustrated with all I hear about how they only spend 6 seconds looking at your resume and don’t have time for this or that. It’s their job!! For Pete’s sake, I wouldn’t get away with just glancing at things and tossing them at any job I’ve ever had.

        1. Happy Pineapple*

          I’ve worked in recruiting screening resumes, and while yes it definitely was my job, it was also incredibly frustrating if 6 hours out of an 8 hour day were spent reviewing resumes that should never have been submitted. I went through thousands of resumes from cashiers, store greeters, and high schoolers for positions like CEO and Senior Accountant with a minimum of 10 years of experience required.

          It’s like if you went to a shoe store and asked to try on every red pair of heels in size 7, and you’re given 500 boxes, only 30 of which are what you asked for and the rest are sneakers, different colors, or different sizes. But you still have to go through the effort of opening each box and trying them on if it’s close enough.

          1. Jaydee*

            Your shoe analogy is excellent. Employers should expect to get applications that are the equivalent of magenta heels in a 7.5 or dressy red flats in a 7. Not quite what I was looking for, but I understand why you brought those and maybe they’ll surprise me and be my new favorite shoe. The lime green running shoes in an 11? Not even close.

      3. NotAnotherManager!*

        This is true, but, having looked through hundreds of resumes that did not meet the criteria at the very top of the add that were both bolded and marked “REQUIRED”, I entirely understand the frustration. In my case, I was helping with recruiting on top of my normal job requirements (not recruiting related) because they were short-handed, but my full-time recruiter is often sourcing multiple job openings at one time, so she’s not just reading 100 unqualified resumes, she’s reading 1,000+ unqualified resumes AND communicating/scheduling with qualified candidates AND dealing with follow-up from the not-always-pleasant rejected candidates AND doing offer packages AND handling the internal paperwork to make sure jobs are approved, properly scoped/described, and closed out on hire. We also have a no-ghosting-period policy, so every candidate who applies, regardless of qualification, gets at least a form email letting them know they’re not in the running.

        I am, frankly, surprised that she’s always so bright and cheerful because, when I was doing resume review, I got irritated by the volume after the fifth resume that did not meet a single requirement of the posted position. Stretch applicants are not a problem, and I have hired a few really great ones. It’s the ones that have no remotely qualifying experience that grate.

    6. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

      “but I would find it really rude; ”

      Do you think it matters if the person in question read the job ad carefully? I think it does. YMMV.

      1. Artemesia*

        Yeah but this will not insure a single person reads the job ad carefully before applying to your jobs in the future, so all it is, is a slap. It is not your job to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony.

    7. James*

      Depends on the context. My first interview for a job as a geologist went badly. Like, embarrassingly badly. The guy flat-out told me five minutes in that I wasn’t getting the job. He spent the rest of the interview going over what I’d done wrong–including the need to read more carefully. It sucked, I was mortified, and it was a painful discussion, but in the long run it was one of the better things to happen in my career.

      I think it may be worth pointing out errors in, say, the application of someone fresh out of college (assuming you have time and the inclination to do so, of course). They’re young, they’re inexperienced, this may be their first time, and we should expect them to screw up from time to time.

      Someone in their mid-30s just fishing for any job they can get? Toss the application and move on. They know better, they just don’t care (sometimes for good reasons, sometimes not).

    8. JessaB*

      Honestly I think it also ties in to the unemployment crisis, those on it have to apply to x number of places a week in order to keep getting their benefits. It does end up breeding a LOT of resume spamming. Also with all the staff cutting and some people knowing that their company might never return to prior staffing levels, leaves a lot of people scrambling.

      If this were a normal time in people’s lives I’d feel more strongly about “make sure you qualify” but there are really valid reasons right now for people to be doing this.

      1. These Tiny Keyholes*

        Yeah, this. When I was collecting unemployment I had to submit a weekly list of jobs I’d applied for and contacts I’d made, and there just weren’t that many jobs to apply to so I ended up resume-bombing just to have something to list on my unemployment form. I’m sorry to the hiring managers and HR staff who had to weed out my wildly unqualified resume, but I felt forced into it by the system.

        1. Watry*

          Yup. I submitted applications to places I was wildly underqualified for, wildly overqualified for, and jobs I never wanted to do in a million years, because my area is not really great for non-service sector jobs. I even completed the application for the place that asked me–in the application materials!–what color best fit my personality.

          Job hunting when you’ve been laid off or are under-employed is a soul-sucking endeavor.

      2. MusicWithRocksIn*

        When I was looking for a job last year before all of this happened, usually I could find one job posting that was a pretty good fit for me, in a driving distance I was comfortable with that was worth going all out on a cover letter and adjusting my resume to show how I was a good fit for, per week. But I needed two per week for unemployment, so I would usually apply for something that was up my alley but I wasn’t happy with, and wouldn’t bother with a cover letter, or even things I wouldn’t take if it was offered probably. I was trying hard to find a job, but was just not in a place in life where I could take any old job. The system isn’t perfect.

      3. Poot*

        Except with COVID-19, you don’t have to provide a weekly list of jobs you’ve been applying to for unemployment benefits if you were unemployed because of the pandemic (directly or indirectly). I know because I’ve filled out the forms.

    9. NotDumbHR*

      I’m not in recruiting, but I find it much more rude for thousands of people to waste someone’s time because they’re either too lazy to read the job description or so arrogant that they feel the requirements don’t apply to them. To the flipside of your comment, I wouldn’t consider that person again for a different job probably, because they’ve shown that they don’t pay attention – so I wouldn’t really care if my telling them that they obviously weren’t qualified hurt their feelings. I wouldn’t do it because of the reasons mentioned in the letter, but I’m not sure what’s wrong with telling a bunch of adults to read.

      1. Georgina Fredrika*

        recruiters (as a whole) kinda bring it on themselves, though. You get ads that require, essentially, someone who already works for them – using their own company-specific programs, experience with their exact size and type of organization, while still being okay for below-average pay, etc. So everyone is already used to a process where you match 80% and hope the 20% is less important.

        “I wouldn’t consider that person again for a different job probably, because they’ve shown that they don’t pay attention”

        Lol – I guarantee you wouldn’t realize you were getting the same person twice. Once you see 100 names a week you don’t remember them unless they’re strange.

        1. Lynn Whitehat*

          YES. Recruiters: “Ten years’ experience in programming with Swift”. “Well, Swift has only existed for 4 years, so…?” “Oh, silly, don’t take it so literally! ‘10 years’ just means proficient!” Also recruiters: “people keep applying despite only matching 80% of the requirements! How dare!”

          1. Clisby*

            My husband once saw a job posting requiring 10 years’ experience in the C++ programming language. At the time, the only possible candidates to meet that requirement would have been people who worked at Bell Labs with Bjarne Stroustrup while he was developing C++.

          2. Quill*

            Also recruiters: “A BA in science means you’re an electrical engineer, right?”

            Sir I can’t be trusted to put in a battery.

          3. NotAnotherManager!*

            Whereas I, as a hiring manager, would be impressed that someone was so familiar with a tool that they could spot that timeframe error and would be thrilled by a candidate who met 80% of a job description (assuming the handful of required experience/skills was within the 80% and an interest in training on the other 20% – if it doesn’t say “required”, it’s wish-list in my book).

      2. Colette*

        In general, it’s not realistic to expect that applicants will match the entire list of qualifications the employer would like. Sometimes the ideal candidate doesn’t exist (or they do exist but miss other unspoken qualifications like soft skills or have accepted another job or can’t pass a background check). So employers might list everything they’d want, but hire someone with 80% of that (or 60% or 40%, depending on who applies and what is most critical for the role).

        And that assumes the employer properly captured the qualifications they need and didn’t just use an old job post or have it standardized into meaninglessness.

        So people apply for jobs they aren’t qualified for on paper – and some of those people get those jobs and do them well.

        1. Welcome to the Hellmouth*

          Yeah, I agree. One of my professors (who was a lawyer) hired an assistant that had absolutely no skills on paper, but she hired her because she could see how smart she was and how much potential she had. So, she hired her and then taught her everything she needed to know, and it went great. Obviously, not every job or employer is going to be able to do that, but sometimes you miss out on some really great candidates if you get too hung up on what specific skills they do or don’t have and to what degree.

          [Watch the movie Eric Brockovich to see this in action ;)]

        2. A*

          Yup – and I have a hard time judging because honestly my department (right before COVID) was hiring for another position at my level, which requires a minimum of a bachelors degree. But we ended up going with a candidate (who is now doing very well!) who didn’t have one because her work background was the prefect blend of skillsets we needed. Obviously we are now re-evaluating the degree requirement, but we would never have gotten to this point had she not applied for the position despite not meeting one of the largest requirements called out in the job description.

          It definitely changed my view on these kinds of things. Still frustrating, no doubt, but sometimes worth it!

      3. Artemesia*

        If you are jonesing to tell people off and scold people you don’t know then this is just not a great job for you though.

      4. peachie*

        I do feel like there’s some nuance in here. I see a lot of suggestions about applying when you don’t meet all the requirements, and I don’t think that’s a bad idea! I haven’t met all the requirements for most (maybe all?) of my professional jobs, including my current fairly technical position.

        I recall reading that women are less likely than men to apply for a position for which they don’t meet all the qualifications. Anecdotally, I (a woman) had to learn that, Oh, not all the people are playing the game the way I am! I don’t have to take myself out of the running because I don’t have a certification in an a niche software [that you can’t even get certified in without an employer sponsor]! It can be tough to know where the line is, and judging a good-faith but bad-fit applicant so harshly seems unfair.

        1. peachie*

          (I feel the need to include caveats that (a) I don’t think women are irrational for not applying/interviewing/negotiating for jobs the way men more typically do — we know that we’re being judged by different standards and that the consequences of doing so are not all positive; and (b) I imagine that both this and the applying/qualification thing are even more pronounced for POC [and especially WOC] — I can’t speak to that experience personally, but I’ve noticed a lot of these discussions only focus on a binary difference between men/women [the only two options, obviously!] without considering other groups that are affected at least as much by similar power dynamics.)

        2. pope suburban*

          This was my thought too. I’ve gotten a lot of advice about shooting for jobs where you only meet 80% of the requirements, or thinking of the full list as more of a “wishlist” than absolute and complete requirements to even be considered. And I also struggle with doing that, because I feel like I will not have a chance unless I knock 100% of the requirements out of the park, because I live in a society that judges me differently than men. The idea that I need to keep actively holding myself back from applying to better jobs or that next career step, or else I’ll be considered a dishonest lazy pest, is…really disheartening.

      5. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        Hm…@NotDumbHR, have you heard of jumping the inference ladder? You seem to be doing this when you attribute intentions and/or characteristics to these anonymous applicants.

      6. Observer*

        Shrug. When it becomes standard practice for listings to CLEARLY list all requirements and to ONLY list things that are ACTUALLY required as requirements, you’ll be on solid ground. Otherwise? This is what happens when employers routinely create requirements lists that are wish lists and / or not actually clear on the requirements.

      7. Eukomos*

        Only lazy or arrogant could possibly explain it? What about desperation and optimism? Try to put yourself in other people’s shoes when you judge them. Job searching is incredibly hard on people, and also teaches them they might as well apply since there’s so little downside in it and a lot of upside in the occasional success with a stretch application.

      8. stiveee*

        I think you’re being unfair in calling people arrogant or lazy for applying anywhere they can in the middle of a pandemic/worst recession in almost a hundred years. I hope most hiring managers have more compassion and perspective than you’ve demonstrated here.

    10. IRV*

      I don’t view it as rude to point out that the applicant didn’t bother to read or feel they needed to meet the essential job requirements clearly laid out before applying. Why would you find this insulting? The LW didn’t indicate that she’d be snarky in her rejection note. It’s extremely frustrating to have to weed through hundreds of applications when even the basic skills are not met.

      1. Colette*

        But the people who are rejected are not going to reply again, so telling them to read more thoroughly won’t help her out.

        Changing the job ad to more clearly state what qualifications are essential will do more to reduce the workload.

        And ultimately there is nothing you can send to people who have already replied that will stop them from applying in the past.

  2. Happy*

    I’m sure there are part-time internships, but I’ve never heard of one in my industry and someone specifying full-time on their resume would look a bit out of touch (it wouldn’t be disqualifying of course, just seems a bit weird…what really matters is you did in the internship/job).

    1. Persephone Mulberry*

      #5: more than worrying about part time vs full-time on my resume, I’d be asking about a title change for the maternity leave coverage dates.

      1. Liz*

        Seconded. At that point, you are taking on the job of a paid employee. Normally, this would involve being hired on secondment for the maternity period. It would be prudent to ask about a title change or even pay, but I know what it’s like to get trapped in the black hole of non-profit volunteering. Good luck with your search!

      2. Smithy*

        Absolutely – while I get the reality over approving “intern” vs “new hire” – certainly they have to acknowledge that a maternity cover of XYZ job, is it’s own title?

        If this is an organization that happens to have a very rigid HR where it is truly a pain that risks burning bridges with your references, then on my resume I’d take the approach of having the main heading of Meals on Wheels Intern (fall 2019-present), and then subheadings that better describe your work, so COVID-19 Administrative Scale-Up (full time, March 2020-June 2020) and Maternity coverage Client Relations Manager (full time, June 2020-present).

      3. Artemesia*

        This. Alison implied that this was going to be a ‘real’ full time job and so the internship issue was somewhat moot, but I read it that they were just going with the ‘internship’ label for the whole thing because it was too much trouble to create and get a job approved when they had her there already and could just slide the internship to cover the maternity leave. I agree that they need to fix that so the 9 mos maternity leave is a job and not an internship.

      4. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I assumed that would be the case because typically when you’re interim cover for that long, you get the title (often with “interim” attached). If that’s not happening, the OP definitely needs to push for it.

    2. Ana Gram*

      This! My industry has mostly part-time internships but could have full-time internships if a student needed a large number of credits. We also don’t pay interns, so that’s a factor. If full-time is the industry standard, I don’t think the OP needs to note it.

  3. rayray*

    #3 – I write this as a job seeker. I am trying to apply to anything I feel qualified for and not going for anything I am grossly underqualified for. I would bet that any of these applicants genuinely do feel qualified for the positions they are applying for but maybe misunderstand something about the position, or maybe just don’t have as strong of resume to show their qualifications and potential.

    One thing I have seen a couple times is when they add an instruction to the job description, something like “In addition to this application, please email your resume to abc@defg.com and put “fluffybunny” in the subject line in order to be considered.”
    This may help sift out some of the people who are clicking and applying to every single posting and keep those who are genuinely interested. Just a thought.

    1. Cambridge Comma*

      I‘ve also seen applications with specific questions when you upload the CV. So in this case, ‚do you speak French fluently‘ and ‚Do you speak German fluently‘? It’s one thing to resume bomb but probably fewer people would actually lie.

      1. Green great dragon*

        I was wondering if a short application form would help here. It’d be much quicker to reject forms that clearly don’t meet the criteria, but still allow a bit of judgement for someone who’s great at 4 essentials and very nearly meets the 5th.

      2. Western Rover*

        Applications tend to weed out those candidates you want, though, who are 95% there. I might apply to a job that requires Norwegian when I know Swedish, or Estonian when I know Finnish, and still have what’s needed for the job.

    2. Maybe It's This*

      NGL, I would have to apply to any job that asks me to put “fluffybunny” in the subject line, whether I’m qualified or not.

    3. Anonys*

      I’m not sure I agree that those people genuinely believe they are qualified for the position and have just misunderstood. I think they realize it’s a veeeeeery long shot (if they’ve read the description properly) but that OP is using something like linkedin easy apply which just allows people to submit their resume without any effort, so why not?

      But honestly, trying to solve that with something like “fluffybunny” is a terrible idea. I would think twice about applying to a job that required me to do something ridiculous like that (even though it’s quite a small thing) and would assume they have a strange and ineffective hiring process. Yes, people not even reading the job description is legitimately frustrating for those in hiring but the solution isn’t to alienate viable candidates by infantilizing them like this.

      Just insist that people apply through the company website and make it mandatory to submit a cover letter.

      1. Lady Meyneth*

        I’m pretty sure rayray meant “fluffybunny” as a cutesy substitute for a subject line that would work for the LW’s company. So the actual line in the application would read like “… and put Bunny Hair Brusher Appliccant in the subject line…” :)

        Which I think could be a pretty good idea to weed out the most innatentive candidates.

        1. Anonys*

          Oh interesting – I’m assuming they meant choosing a weird, out of context word that wouldn’t normally come up as a way to make sure the job description has been read carefully (as someone could come up with putting the job title in the subject line by just reading the first line of the job posting and skimming over it). It’s something that I’ve actually encountered in other (non-job) applications contexts a few times.

          Rayray – would be great if you could clarify what you meant!

          1. Amy Sly*

            I’ve seen plenty of requirements like that on Craigslist job ads, and they’ve always been “Include [exact job title] in the subject line of your email.” It’s both a way to weed out people who don’t follow directions and to help whoever’s monitoring that mailbox to ensure that the email gets to the correct person.

          2. Iron Chef Boyardee*

            I’m sure “fluffybunny” is just a placeholder for the sake of discussion here, and that in reality something more “serious” like the actual job title, or some kind of internal code, would appear.

          3. Ray ray*

            So it was just a placeholder word, but I believe the idea is so the recruiter can easily sort the emails they receive by putting that word in their inbox search bar. It just weeds out all the people rapid fire applying to everything without reading the full description.

              1. rayray*

                It can be either way. I have seen both. I think it’s partly a tactic to see who is actually reading the job description. I believe most people who see that instruction don’t totally overthink the specific key word they are asked to use, they just go with it.

                It’s really not too common, I have only seen it a couple times.

      2. OP3*

        I am the OP in question. I agree, LinkedIn easy apply definitely makes the issue worse, but direct applications often have a similar problem and people will still send the same generic email/resume to every single recruiter they find. Special shout out to the guy who started his email Dear James and spent a long time telling me why he would be good for a role in healthcare, which as a woman recruiting into the finance industry, I found particularly funny.

        1. Observer*

          I think I would be tempted to reply with something like “I think you mis-sent this application.”

          1. Zillah*

            I know that you’re joking, but I do want to point out that many of us have had those moments where we uploaded the wrong cover letter or didn’t change a name in it, and calling people out on it when they’re already probably not in a great emotional or financial place would be really unkind.

            1. Wheee!*

              I don’t know that I agree with your take. There’s two scenarios where you get a cover letter like that. Either they’re resume bombing and they know that it wasn’t appropriate, or they’re not, and they genuinely made a mistake. In that case, they did mis-send that application and would have the opportunity to reply with appropriate materials and an explanation/apology. Would they be mortified? I know that I would be. But they’d have at least a small chance to fix it.

              This is a small thing, but I was looking back at some old sent emails from when I was applying to my first professional position. I had a series of emails back and forth with the hiring manager as we were negotiating/arranging stuff. I wrote that I would “looove” to work there (or meet him or something like that). He never mentioned it and I didn’t find it for at least a year, but I definitely turned a lovely shade of red when I found it. I did end up working there for about 8 years.

    4. BethDH*

      I have also seen them give an example/detail that communicates the need more specifically. “As the candidate will need to lead weekly meetings in German” is different than “must be able to read an important industry newsletter in German” and I’ve seen both assumed as requiring “fluency” by job posters in my field — especially as the people managing the roles often don’t have such a skill themselves and don’t get the distinction. See also people who think building a database can be done by anyone who has written queries or built reports. If I were trying to find a job right now I wouldn’t take the chance that you meant something I could do with minimal skills in the language.
      The other possibility is that some people do have these skills and don’t have them on their resumes for some reason. Perhaps they write the kind of resumes that just list job titles and a short description, perhaps they couldn’t customize a resume for this position (for resumes coming through job sites?) , or perhaps they assumed that since it was a requirement it went without saying that they had it.

      1. Washi*

        Yes, I strongly agree with giving an example! I worked in a job where “fluent in X language” meant being able to provide services, usually over the phone, to very elderly and often hard of hearing people (so not having a heavy accent was pretty important.) However, the position involved almost zero reading or writing. I actually didn’t apply for a while because I typically consider my poor writing skills in that language to disqualify me from positions listed as bilingual!

        That said, while I think as usual the commenters will have plenty of advice regarding this one specific job requirement, ultimately I think the OP has to accept weeding through a ton of irrelevant resumes and EXPECT to see lots of people ignore the instructions and list of must-haves. The last time I did hiring, it was in a much stronger economy and there were still so many people who ignored the instructions that they must submit a cover letter and wrote in the required field “I don’t have a cover letter” or “I want the job.”

      2. Artemesia*

        But the LW implies that there is no mention of any French or German fluency in the resume not that they are not high level. She has no way of knowing if they are fluent if they have listed it(until they test for it), so I assume she is getting resumes with no mention of skill in either of the languages.

        1. Cj*

          True, but I agree the earlier comment that perhaps people aren’t putting this in their cover letter or resume because it is a requirement of the job, and they assume that the recruiter or interviewer would know that if they are applying, they have this skill . Because it was listed as essential, and if you don’t have this skill, why are you playing in the first place? Obviously, this isn’t the way job candidate should handle this, but I can certainly see it happening. Especially if they don’t read AAM.

          1. Deanna Troi*

            This doesn’t seem logical to me. If I advertise a job and say that you need to have a master’s degree or your Professional Engineer license, and your resume doesn’t mention that you have them, I’m not going to assume “oh well, you must have it since you wouldn’t have applied if you didn’t.” This is no different. All essential elements of the job must be in the resume.

      3. Anonys*

        I think giving some concrete examples of what the job entails is so useful. I often see very vague language in job postings. Obviously, you cannot adequately explain a whole job in an ad, but I am often left reading a job ad having no clue what the day to day work would look like.

  4. Nicole*

    Is there a way to handle the issue of always needing help with technology if the person in question is a manager?

    1. Sir Lena Clare*

      Right. At what point do you have to say – you’ve got all the tools to learn this, what’s stopping you?

    2. MK*

      I don’t think the deciding factor is whether the person is a manager (though of course it makes it much more difficult to set boundaries), but whether it’s part of your job. In my first position, back in 2001, it was made clear to me that it would be my task to assist the rest of the office, who were not computer literate, with any technology stuff. I didn’t think of it as “my boss and coworkers are always needing help with technology” but “if a task requires tech abilities, it’s partly part of my job”.

      1. Scarlet*

        Yes, this! Your manager might very well decide this is now part of your job and require you to keep helping him/her.

    3. Green great dragon*

      If they’re your manager, I think it’s their call how you spend your time, sadly. If it’s another manager, then I’d say you can still push back, especially if you can lean on your own manager/deadlines.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Oh heck yeah! BTDT.

      Give them general rules of thumb for questions that come up routinely. I said I was going to show the boss some rules of thumb so if I wasn’t there or wasn’t available they could begin to troubleshoot their problem.

      For example, if the boss is having trouble with pop up programs asking for updates, I said just x out of the pop-up. If we do need to update the program I can go out online and get the update for us. (Notice the use of “we” and “us” kind of softens the message.) This gave the boss a go-to answer for similar situations. I stopped getting questions about updates.

      Computer has locked up, the page freezes, etc. For these types of questions I showed the boss to do a hard shut down and reboot. I explained that it’s a scattergun solution but it’s a solution that many people use with good results.

      When the situation happened again, I could refer back to the previous conversation, “So this is a good example of when to use the rule of thumb about shutting down and restarting.” OR “Okay, this pop-up is a good example of when to use the rule of thumb about x’ing out of pop-ups.” Key part, I did not take over the use of the machine. I let the boss remain at the computer and said, “You can click on this over here…” while pointing to where to click.

      I am a big fan of letting others put their hands in and actually do things. The sooner I can stop doing it myself the sooner they will catch on.

      Sometimes weird stuff came up and I actually had to take over the computer and fix it myself. However, I would explain to the boss what I did to get back on track. And there were also times, where I had NO idea what went wrong, so I just said that I honestly don’t know what happened or what I did to fix it and that it could possibly happen again.

      But start looking the FAQs and start showing rules of thumb that can be used over and over.
      OP, you are talking to your peer? So you might be able to say, “Okay, what have you tried so far?” Use a way of speaking or the habit of expecting her to try something before she calls you over.

      Back to the boss scenario: I was lucky in that the boss was actually interested in picking up speed. So Boss would try stuff. It was kind of cool to watch the boss get excited over fixing something herself.

    5. NotDumbHR*

      I do have this issue with my manager and it’s exhausting. However, I think the same idea works. Point them to the tools or to a subject matter expert… Just because I know how to do some thing doesn’t necessarily mean I’m qualified to teach someone else how to do it, you know?

    6. Mockingjay*

      If you have an IT team, redirect to them. Point out to hapless manager that these people are better suited to provide good answers and training.

      I just had this conversation last week. I have one manager (he leads an engineering team, which I support) who constantly asks me to help with file uploads and piddly crap, and directs the team to do as well. I politely but firmly directed him to the IT Support team (AGAIN), and told him and the project lead that I could no longer support these kinds of questions and still get my own work done. The team has grown from 5 to 25 and I can’t do this stuff all day long.

      1. Her Blondeness*

        Am I the only one that interpreted letter #2 as “if I ask enough times/play dumb then OP#2 will just do it for me”? I’ve run into that as the mother of teenagers (le sigh) and frustrating co-workers who often think that the technical work is administrative work that is beneath them as professionals.

        Also, I don’t think age is a factor here. I’m late fifties and was in at the dawn of the computer age. In fact, my first “real” job out of college was at a computer retailer who later morphed into Comp USA, one of the largest computer sellers in the 80’s and 90’s. My point is that this is not something un-learnable for someone in the boomer age group if that was the implication. Most of us have been using computers since college.

        1. Scarlet*

          Sadly in many offices the younger generation is insta-tech support for any and all issues. I’ve never treated it like it’s beneath me, but I sure have learned to play dumb otherwise I’d be helping all my tech illiterate (and yes, sorry… older) colleagues with all sorts of computer issues.

          Once for example I got called into an office to show someone how to print a document. I liked this guy, he was really sweet but TERRIBLE with technology.

          I walked in and he had Adobe open and had been staring at the screen for quite a while, clearly angry and with his arms crossed. “Now you tell me, where on this document does it say ‘print’!!”. He was so frustrated he was practically yelling.

          “Um, see the little printer icon up at the top…. click it”

          Imagine having a full plate and trying to get your work done and then constantly being pulled into offices where people can’t figure out that the printer icon prints the document. Definitely not all older folks are like this, but as a young person I can tell you it. gets. so. old.

          But to have a coworker who you have to handhold through the most basic computer tasks on a regular basis? I wouldn’t- honestly I would help a bit and then I would play dumb, it’s the best way I’ve found to get it to stop honestly.

          1. Eva Luna*

            I had a boss like that once upon a time at a gigantic consulting company. He literally had me print out all his emails for him. Until the time HR sent him an estimated retirement benefits statement, with complete details of his (obscene) compensation package. Amazingly, after that he figured out how to use the Print command all by himself.

  5. Heidi*

    For Letter#3, I’m kind of curious as to what the applicant would do if they got an interview for this job. Try to quickly learn German? Or are they hoping the language requirement isn’t as “essential” as the ad makes it seem? I’m also wondering if it would help to write the ad in French or German. It wouldn’t exclude applicants who are unqualified in other ways, but even if you deterred 25% of the applicants, that’s 200 fewer resumes to read.

    1. fhqwhgads*

      This is also why some places use auto-screening to reject. I don’t like it when it’s based just on resume keywording because then everyone thinks they were rejecting for not having exactly the right words (and sometimes they are) but if the application has a form that asks if you’re fluent in German, and then asks if you’re fluent in French and at least one isn’t a yes, it goes in the No pile and #3 wouldn’t have to review it. It doesn’t stop the people who’ll click Yes just try to get past, but it should reduce it a bit at least as reasonable will hopefully answer truthfully so as not to waste everyone’s time.

      1. Katrinka*

        I have seen postings where the company lists specific questions that you must include in your cover letter. They have been things like “do you have x years of experience,” or “are you available for overtime/weekends if needed.” It’s a lot easier to scan a cover letter for the specific answer to the question “Do you speak French or German?”

        1. many bells down*

          I know a company that told applicants to use a specific phrase as their email subject line when they applied, but they buried it in the middle of the job listing. They’d just eliminate anything that didn’t have that subject line.

          This was an online game that got a ridiculous amount of hopelessly unqualified applicants who thought “good at something in the game” was the only qualification they needed.

          1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

            When I hired student office workers I’d get a million applications. HR told me I could include application instructions to include certain wording in the email subject line and anyone who didn’t do so could legitimately be rejected for not following the instructions. But I put the instructions right up top where it should’ve been the first thing they read (if they actually read the ad).

            1. SheLooksFamiliar*

              I did the same thing when I handled accounting intern hiring at Insanely Large Global Company. The instructions to submit their intro letter, resume, and transcripts in a single .pdf file were at the very top of the job posting form for the university, in large and bold font. Also included was the warning that students who did not submit a single document would not be considered for one of our 14 internships. I told the school intern program managers about this requirement, told them why we needed a single document – for ease of thorough, consistent hiring team review – and encouraged them to work with their students to make sure they followed instructions. These interns were going to work with our Audit team, and following directions was a job requirement.

              About 2/3 of the applicants did not follow directions. Some merely sent a resume, others sent multiple attachments – Power Point presentations, writing samples, even a graphic novel a student created for one of his classes. They were all declined and I told the universities why.

        2. Dan*

          If a cover letter is part of the application materials, it’s probably more effective to just ask that the cover letter be written in French or German, and outright state that cover letters written in English will be rejected.

          In tech, it can be hard to screen for proficiency at the application stage, but I have got to think that screening for foreign language skills has to be a cake walk with a little effort.

          1. Quoth the Raven*

            Not necessarily. Reading and writing are only part of the skills needed for fluency, and being able to read an ad and write a cover letter in one language does not mean you’re fluent — it just means someone can read and write in it to some degree (and at the same time, being able to hold a conversation does not mean necessarily mean one can write and read effectively). In my case, I can hold a conversation in Japanese (to some people this would make me fluent), but I can’t read or write it to save my life; I can read and write in French (others would take this as proof of fluency), but I can’t speak it decently

            I mentioned it upthread, but language skills, put like that, are not easy to screen for or self-evaluate objectively, and it would be better to measure it with certain certificates or requirements related to (in)formal education (for example, someone who doesn’t hold official certificates but spent years living in and immersed in a country where the language is spoken) on top of practical evaluations.

            1. I can only speak Japanese*

              This. Especially with Japanese, I see so many people who passed the proficiency test but cannot speak to save their life (I am with you, Quoth, my speaking is far better than my written skills!) – the job needs to account for that.

              And even having them write cover letters in the target language won’t work if they go through a recruiter who doesn’t speak that language.

            2. emmelemm*

              Yeah, I could write a passable cover letter in French but I am no way fluent conversationally. (And I would never represent myself as such.)

            3. Dan*

              OP says she’s sometimes getting 800 resumes for *one job posting*. The goal isn’t to guarantee that OP can make a hire without doing any work, the goal is to cut down the number of resumes that are a complete waste of her time. Other than the fact that OP says elsewhere that she doesn’t speak those languages, odds are a cover letter written wholly in that language are a much more efficient use of her time.

            4. Amy Sly*

              Writing a cover letter in another language certainly doesn’t prove they’re fluent, but anyone who can’t write a cover letter almost certainly won’t be fluent enough for business purposes.

              1. doreen*

                Depends – my husband speaks a few Chinese languages well enough to do his job as a salesman ( with non-English speaking customers) but can’t read or write much more than his name. A lot depends on which language you’re talking about – it might be that someone fluent enough in Italian for business purposes will almost certainly be able to write a cover letter , but that doesn’t mean it’s true for every language.

                1. Amy Sly*

                  Agreed it definitely depends on the language — and Chinese (Mandarin, Cantonese, etc) is definitely one of the best examples of how one can have a massive split between fluency and literacy. On the other hand, when dealing with languages that use Roman characters from cultures that have almost universal literacy rates, reasonable business proficiency requires literacy.

                2. Koala dreams*

                  It depends on how you define fluent, as well. Most people wouldn’t describe someone with only speaking/listening skills as fluent (usually fluent means something like “having mastered a language” in everyday situations, in language teaching the definition is different of course), but maybe the job doesn’t need that level of skill. Maybe some skills are more important than others, such as in your example.

            5. Smithy*

              Different jobs and different parts of the world really do demand very different versions of “professional” language skills.

              Very often one person will only need to write professional documents in one language, but listening comprehension and speaking at a fluent level is essential. Other times, having nimble written translation skills are critical. And then you’ll also see circumstances where there are regional understandings for what is/is not essential.

              Realistically – I think that even if all applicants who responded had a version of French/German, or database management, or other critical/technical skills, you’d need interviews or skills tests to really tease out if those skills actually meet the job demands. Therefore, I think some of the “are you following instructions” or exclusionary questions are helpful in at least trimming down the number of applications an individual needs to review.

            6. Gumby*

              Ayup. I’m sure all of the grad students who taught sections in college passed the TOEFL. Didn’t mean they were understandable as TAs. Or, in one case, as an instructor. (Thankfully that was linear algebra and matrix theory and I could learn it all from the book.)

          2. Jackalope*

            One other issue with certifications is that they only apply to more widely spoken languages. This may not be an issue for the OP since they are looking for French and/or German, but here’s my experience. I have 2 languages I’m fluent in besides English; let’s say they are Spanish and Karen. Spanish has certifications all over the world of all sorts of specificity, whereas because Karen is only spoken by a specific ethnic group coming from Thailand and Burma, it’s entirely possible that outside those countries you might have whole regions with literally NO Karen speakers, and then a pocket of Karen-speaking immigrants where your services are in high demand. In my area my less-spoken language has no certification, and there’s no way to make a full career of it (although I’m EXTREMELY helpful to my employer 1-2x/month when they need my language; the rest of the time I’m doing the same work everyone else is, but super helpful for those specific circumstances). If, say, the OP were opening a new business connection with Thailand and needed someone who could work with Karen-speaking clients, they might not have the option of finding someone who has the “right” certifications.

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

          For my current job I had to send my CV in English… which added an aditional problem because some of my qualifications are not translatable. For example, saying that you “graduated as a Acconting Bachelor” for you means you went to college to learn Accounting, but for me means you went to a secondary/high school with a basic education in Accounting.

    2. AnotherSarah*

      I don’t know about LW#3, but I applied for a position where I needed fluency in French or German (as well as English). I was told that I might be interviewed in any of the three languages. (That one threw me for a loop, as you needed only one or the other–but I never heard of a fluent German speaker who was interviewed in English and French.) I would imagine that the fear around being interviewed in one of the other languages might dissuade candidates?

      1. allathian*

        That sounds odd. If fluency in English and French or German was needed, I assume that they wouldn’t have interviewed someone who listed English and French on their resume in German… But if fluency in a language is a must, then interviewing in that language is a surefire way to know when someone’s not as strong in the language as they claim on the resume.
        As a student I interned in Spain at a Chamber of Commerce. I got the internship without an interview but on my Spanish teacher’s letter of recommendation (CIMO exchange). I was supposed to be doing mainly back-office stuff but my fluency was such that they had me answering phones and informing small business owners why they had to pay a fee to us. Once when I had to deal with a particularly difficult customer, the office where we were working, some 5 or 6 other people, stopped whatever they were doing to listen to my end of the conversation. When I finally convinced the customer that yes, they really had to pay that fee and ended the call, I literally got a standing ovation. That was more than 20 years ago, though, and my Spanish is nowhere near that fluent now.

      2. I can only speak Japanese*

        That seems like a glitch in the system maybe? Like you only need one of the two, but the system can’t accommodate that?

        I once applied for a job in Switzerland (German-speaking part) where the website asked if I spoke Swiss, so nothing shocks me anymore…

        1. Chocolate Teapot*

          As a French and German graduate, I always worked on the principle that if a job description asked for French and German, then part of the interview would be in those languages.

        2. Minnielle*

          To be fair, Swiss German is basically a language of its own. I speak fluent German but when I hear Swiss German, I understand maybe 20% of it. But then again, they should have called it Swiss German and not just Swiss.

          1. I can only speak Japanese*

            Especially since it could be Swiss French as well. Just “Swiss” is not a language.

            1. UKDancer*

              Agreed. Or it could be that they want you to speak Romansh which is lot less common. I think it really depends which canton the job was in. But asking someone whether they speak “Swiss” is a totally unhelpful question.

              By the way I also can’t understand Swiss German. I used to have to take Swiss coach parties around a stately home and I dreaded the questions because I never had a clue what they were saying.

              1. I can only speak Japanese*

                As a German who used to work in Switzerland, I got better after a while, but I also learned that in business, people have no problems speaking “standard” German. (I don’t want to call it German German because we have a lot of varieties as well – I cannot understand my Bavarian grandma for example.) I have a hard time believing that a government agency would filter out someone for an office job because they only spoke German German, especially since even Swiss German has so many varieties that some Swiss people can’t understand each other.

                1. UKDancer*

                  Definitely. My professional contacts in Switzerland are very well capable of speaking Hochdeutsch to me and mostly remember to do so but the tourists on the coach parties just didn’t want to so went on in Schweizerdeutsch regardless.

                  I also struggle with some of the stronger German dialects. My German godparents spoke a Frankisch dialect I think so apparently as I child I learnt some of the words from them, but they’re long dead so I’m no longer able to understand Frankisch and I certainly can’t understand Bayerisch.

              2. No longer fluent*

                There is some snarky phrase in German that means “Schweizerdeutsch (Swiss German) is not a language; it is a throat disease!” (Apologies to any Schweizerdeutsch speakers who may be reading this)

        3. Barbara Eyiuche*

          At my job one of the assistants asked me if I could speak Austrian. I thought she meant ‘Austrian German’ of course, but actually she did not know that people spoke German in Austria. I did not know what to say; fortunately, my German was good enough to deal with the issue.

            1. londonedit*

              I’ve met more than one person who’s asked whether my Finnish relative speaks Flemish.

            2. Welcome to the Hellmouth*

              What did he think they spoke? I’m guessing “American” which is not a language, of course.

              1. I can only speak Japanese*

                Probably. He worked for an American company and thought everyone but the sole British English speaker sounded absolutely awful. Guy was Dutch and his English was… hard to figure out sometimes.

    3. OP3*

      The main reason I don’t put the ads up in those specific languages is because I myself do not speak them, and would not be able to judge the cover letters/CVs very accurately if they came through in that language.

      Im UK based and a lot of the companies I work for are specifically trying to add new language capabilities to their teams to help them expand into those areas. So it’s quite possible the client wouldn’t speak those languages either otherwise they wouldn’t be looking for people who do, if that makes sense?

      However, I agree that finding different ways to tackle the issue which wouldn’t come across as rude or patronising to the candidate would be useful.

      1. Quoth the Raven*

        So if I understand you, you’re looking for someone who can act as an interpreter and/or translator for someone who doesn’t speak French or German either? In that case, it’s not only fluency you’re looking for, you’re asking for very specific skills since fluency does not make a translator or an interpreter (I’m a professional translator myself, so I know this pretty well), and you’re going to get a lot of people who consider themselves at the level but aren’t.

        If this is a hard must, describe that in your ad (either by stating it is a disqualifying requirement or by requesting official certificates, or describing that business will be conducted in these languages) and, if possible, have these and any other communications (written AND spoken) in the languages you don’t speak evaluated by someone who does.

        1. Beth Jacobs*

          No, it wouldn’t necessarily be a translator. Think someone doing customer service for a travel agency. None of the current employees speak French, but they’re looking to hire someone who will handle French-speaking customers.

        2. Dan*

          I work in a highly specialized technical field, and I speak a bit of German. I have no idea how one would begin to learn translating in this field. Heck, I work with a guy who is a native Russian speaker, and I asked him if he can translate the stuff we do at work into Russian. He told me no, he can’t, and it’s somewhat of a problem for him because when he talks to his father-in-law about what he does for work, he just doesn’t know the Russian words for what we do.

          My last company was bought out by a European conglomerate, with the main office in France. When we inquired about communication with the main office, we were told that the official language was English, despite the predominant German/French influence. Ok great! We can swing English. Except that there are a bunch of words that are spelled slightly differently in British English, so we had to go learn all of that.

          1. I can only speak Japanese*

            You basically have to train for it. I was a construction project interpeter for English and Japanese, and everyone, no matter what their native language was, had to learn most of the verbiage from scratch.

          2. Cedrus Libani*

            I’ve seen that too. I work in science, with a lot of people who are not native English speakers. It’s normal for people who share a native language to use that language in one-on-one conversations – but they still use English words for the technical stuff, because they don’t know the equivalents in their language.

        3. Batty Twerp*

          I’m not sure it’s a full translator that’s required. My company expanded (briefly) into Continental Europe – our industry is energy related, and our data management needed to be fluent at French and/or German to be able to process the copy energy bills. They weren’t translating for anyone else’s specific benefit, but to ensure that the bill was being produced and paid correctly. This was for European companies with branches both in Continental Europe and the UK, so one data person would deal with copy bills for an entire company, rather than country.

        4. Forrest*

          Not at all- jobs in, say, sales which require another major European language are perfectly common, and they are sales jobs, not translation or interpreting jobs.

      2. Smithy*

        I do wonder if asking for a CV to be submitted in both English and either German/French would at least help provide that initial screening?

        For the majority of application bombs that are mostly desperate and not intending to be fraudulent, that would rule them out. Certainly some people can pay for translations of their resume, but that’s what later rounds of interviews would be for.

      3. L.H. Puttgrass*

        You might also want to consider highlighting the *really* essential requirements in a different way from other requirements. If fluency in French or German is listed as just one of half a dozen or so other listed requirements, it’s easier for an applicant to decide that they can get hired without it. But if the posting starts out, “Llama Recruiters, Inc., is looking for someone fluent in French or German for position as Llama Whisperer . . .”, then that makes it more obvious (at least to me) that I’m not getting the job if I don’t speak French or German fluently.

      4. logicbutton*

        When my work advertises for positions like that, they put it right there in the title: “Llama Groomer [Spanish/Portuguese fluent]”. Then the posting provides further detail.

    4. andy*

      Many job ads have seriously overblown requirements. So I guess they hoped little German will suffice. That is not entirely unreasonable guess about how companies advertise and have been advertising for years. Reading ads makes me believe they want special genius unicorn good in this and that, having experiences with everything. That I am far from filling requirements.

      Then I meet people and experienced senior position turns out being suitable for person with four months professional experience who read two blogs about technology in question. It is a lot about confidence and charisma.

      Humble people with realistic guess about own skills dont get those jobs, so everyone adjusts and gives it a shot.

      1. rayray*

        I agree. It seems like there are job descriptions written by HR people who don’t have a clue or written by hiring managers who want unicorns. If you’ve been job hunting, you hear all sorts of advice about applying anyway if you meet the more important criteria. You hear that anything requiring 5 or less years of experience means you should apply anyway. Maybe you have experience in x which is very similar to y, so you figure you’ll give it a shot. You’re so desperate for work you just shoot your shot and cross your fingers.

        I have seen many people who sort of just end up somewhere because they had a good resume and interviewed well. They played the game of job seeking right. I see many more intelligent, hard working, great candidates get passed over because they aren’t using buzzwords in their resume or passing all the interview mind games and tricks.

        I get that some people are applying for jobs they are not qualified for, like the person who mentioned people applying for librarian positions because they love to read but haven’t earned the MLIS. I want to believe that most people genuinely believe it’s worth their time to apply for something. Maybe someone does possess certain skills that are slightly different than what they’re applying to but they genuinely believe they have potential and can transfer those skills, but all the recruiter sees is the resume not the person. There are peole out there who are dreaming of a better job or any job at all, and they feel they have value somewhere, but again, recruiters are only taking six seconds to glance at their resume to delete and move on with their day so they can go home at the end of the day.

      2. pancakes*

        No. This depends on the industry, but no, I don’t see a good reason for anyone to guess that being able to speak a little of the specified language will suffice when the job requires fluency, nor to assume that everyone lies about their skills. I’m a lawyer and sometimes take work on document review projects. I know perfectly well that my high school Spanish, though serviceable for giving tourists directions, is nowhere near good enough for me to pass the test administered to candidates for Spanish-language reviews. Charisma has nothing to do with the matter, and unearned confidence wouldn’t help. Humility doesn’t particularly have anything to do with this, either — not wanting to waste time will do.

        1. Observer*

          You don’t have to assume that everyone lies about their skills to not take the requirements lists on job advertisements as an accurate list of what is actually required. This shows up ALL THE TIME. As others have noted, there are a number of reasons for this. Hiring managers who are looking for unicorns but will settle for really good staff, HR folks who don’t actually understand the job requirements, simple sloppiness, and the idea that “if we list every possible thing that could be useful, we’ll get most of what we need” are just the most common.

          1. pancakes*

            Sure, but the commenter I was replying to suggested it’s all a game. Requiring fluency in a particular language or languages isn’t, and dreaming of a better job isn’t a good reason to disregard those requirements.

            1. Observer*

              Well, that’s the problem for a lot of applicants – sometimes it really is a “game”. Or at least it’s not actually a hard requirement. And from the outside, an applicant usually can’t tell which is which.

              It’s annoying for people who actually really DO do their lists right, and put a real and reasonable list of requirements as requirements and everything else as “desired” or whatever.

        2. Eukomos*

          The assumption is not that a year or two of high school German equals fluency, it’s that the employer is putting down “fluent in German” on the ad when they don’t actually need or want that level of skill, just vaguely dream of it in an ideal world. Which happens all the time, so it’s a perfectly reasonable thing to suspect.

    5. EvilQueenRegina*

      There was a post here a few years back about someone who didn’t speak French but was appointed to a job that required it, and after starting it realised that actually she did need it (she had admitted she didn’t speak it but I think the company weren’t clear with her about the requirements and also underestimated the time it would take to learn):


      Can anyone remember if there was ever an update on this one?

  6. Colin*

    OP3 – Is the consequence of using LinkedIn’s Easy Apply option? I often look at postings on LinkedIn and think “did that many people take the time to properly apply”? I wonder if you would get more fine-tuned results if you includes in the post a specific email address to apply to, and disregarded ones that come through LinkedIn’s direct system.

    1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

      I wondered this, too. I once accidentally applied for something because it wasn’t clear that clicking on the link submitted an application rather that opening a page with a more detailed job ad. Fortunately it wasn’t something I was terribly interested in but IMHO making it *too* easy to apply can lead to getting way too many irrelevant applications.

      In the OP’s case I think there is no point responding and asking people not to apply. If they didn’t read the ad well enough to realise that their language skills weren’t adequate then they aren’t going to bother reading a rejection email and absorbing the message either.

    2. Anonys*

      This was my first thought too! With those kind of features it’s all too easy to just submit your resume everywhere, in the “not a lot of effort, might as well give it a shot” way. If you require a cover letter as well as a resume a lot of those people self eliminate because it requires putting in quite a bit more effort and reading the job ad way more carefully (of course there will always be people who also use a very generic cover letter for every job – it’s just part of recruiting/hiring to weed those out).

      I think it’s not that people aren’t aware they don’t meet the requirements and need that pointed out to them, it’s that, as Alison says, they are desperate and are trying to put their resume out there as much as possible, which easy apply makes – well – easy.

    3. Anon nonnie nonnie*

      On certain websites (not sure if LinkedIn is one) you can add questions before the application process starts. Usually if you answer no, it kicks you out of the application process with a message that says “sorry we are looking for XYZ”. I think Indeed does this (but its been a while since I applied for jobs). Maybe this would be an option for you?

      1. Triumphant Fox*

        Yes – you can do this on linked in. I added a few questions with the most essential qualifications before submitting and it really cut down on applicants and improved the pool.

    4. CM*

      I stopped looking at applications that come in through LinkedIn’s Easy Apply option. Our job description specifically says to email a resume and cover letter. At first I considered the LinkedIn people even though they didn’t follow those directions, but soon found the vast majority of people had zero relevant experience and are probably clicking the button for every job they see.

      I also like the suggestion above of including a yes/no question if you have a job application: Do you speak French? Or in addition to “Fluency in French is essential,” you could say, “Do not apply unless you are fluent in French” which may weed out people who think they meet the other job requirements. You could also ask people to say in their cover letter their level of fluency in the languages you need, and weed out those who don’t do that.

      1. James*

        Est-ce qu tu parles francais? Entourez un: Toujour, Un peu, Jamais

        At the very least, it’ll weed out those too lazy to use Google Translate.

        Or require the cover letter be in French. If they’re fluent, this is relatively easy. If they’re not, it’ll show–Google Translate sucks at anything longer than a simple phrase.

  7. MollyG*

    #3 If you are getting hundreds of applications and 80% of them are unqualified, then you are probably not recruiting the right way. You are casting a wide net and not getting what you want. Try a more focused approach, post in places that are specific to the people you are looking for, or even reach out proactively to candidates you find. With that many applicants the good ones are possibly slipping through the cracks sometimes, which is what you really don’t want.

    1. Dan*

      I work in a specialized field, and the last time I was on the hunt (was laid off), I don’t remember why, but I actually found something through Monster. But my field is small, and my layoff was on good terms, so I called my old boss and asked if he new anybody over there. “Yup, I know the VP. I’ll hook you up.” I got an offer which I ended up declining. But at some point in the process, I asked the HR rep if they were having trouble finding applicants. “Hell yes” she said. I had to tell her to knock off that monster crap, because nobody with the sort of skill set they’re looking for is hanging out on monster, so the only thing they’re going to get is people who think that ZZZ is really cool, and what the heck do they have to lose? The reality is, these are STEM jobs that require graduate degrees and data analytic/software development skills and pay pretty well. Monster just isn’t that place.

      1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

        I haven’t looked at Monster in probably 15 years except in a moment or two of idle curiosity. I recall it being an osterizer of weird jobs.

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          I don’t bother looking at the ads on Monster at all (any more) but I do post my resume there, and I do hear from recruiters who have found me there. (But I don’t track that stuff, so I can’t say whether those recruiters have had decent jobs to fill.)

    2. Yellow Rose*

      If you work for an agency that contracts with a state job service, push back against them using keywords. The state job service for the unemployed where I live contributes to sending the unqualified to apply for jobs due to keywords. As long as unemployment recipients are required to apply for at least two jobs a week to keep their benefits, and the system sends job leads based on keywords, I don’t see any resolution to OP3’s dilema. Especially those that receive the extra $600 from the Feds.

      1. Liz*

        This will definitely apply here. LW is in the UK, and the DWP require people to apply for a ridiculous number of jobs or lose their unemployment benefit. Advisors are under pressure to issue as many sanctions as possible and will increase the requirement the longer you are out of work in order to force failure. I’ve seen people having to apply for 30 jobs in a week with no thought or time given to tailoring or even fully reading the application. It creates a huge problem for jobseekers and employers alike as employers are swamped with unqualified candidates and jobseekers have no time to put towards a real job search.

    3. Sir Lena Clare*

      I don’t know about that.
      It’s a requirement of some benefits here in the UK also that you apply for a certain number of jobs per week to be eligible. When I was claiming for a short time 10 years ago, I also found that my benefits advisor (nice though she was) had no clue about the kind of jobs I should be applying for.
      I have a degree in languages, and she was constantly trying to get me to apply for translation jobs.
      Like… no? I need a different qualification, and I’m not interested, and a degree doesn’t necessarily mean interpreter-level fluency. Gah.
      I think welfare advisors may be worse than uni career advisors actually.
      And I once received an application with just a few sentences scribbled on the application form, in handwriting. Some people know they’re not suitable but as Alison said they’re desperate, or resume-bombing to meet other criteria we aren’t aware of.

      1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

        I have yet to file for benefits but this happened to a friend when she applied for job seekers allowance. She has a PhD in archaeology and a background in biochemistry and archives. The advisor had no clue what that qualified her for and kept trying to send her to jobs in things like accounting. To be fair there aren’t a whole lot of jobs that suit her background but it was kind of comical to see the choices she was presented with.

      2. coffee cup*

        Many years ago when I was unemployed for a few months I experienced this too. I imagine it is a lot worse now. I eventually decided to study a master’s, and had to move to the place I would be studying, and when I told the job centre advisor she actually laughed at me. ‘That’s going to get you a job, is it?’ Why, yes, yes it did.

        I’m aware that doesn’t always happen! But the attitude was appalling.

      3. Sled dog mama*

        When I was getting UI (about 10 years ago) my advisor (I’m not sure what her actual title was) kept hounding me about the fact that I wasn’t applying to jobs in my field until I showed her the one job board specific to my field and she finally got it that really were not any jobs I was qualified for that I was not applying to.

    4. (Former) HR Expat*

      I really think this is a consequence of the current economic situation. When unemployment is higher, people are trying to get any job that they can. One of my functions in my current role is recruiting. In my specialized field, I’ve seen a very large uptick in unqualified applicants since the pandemic started. We always had a few unqualified applicants for our roles, but it’s multiplied 100 fold since March. As as example, I have a high level business development/sales role that was opened in January. We were receiving about 10-20 applications per week in January/February, with 1-2 people who were wholly unqualified (no sales or business development experience at all). Since March, applications have skyrocketed to at least 100 applicants per week, with only about 5-10 people who have actual sales/BD experience applying. The types of applicants I’ve been seeing? Baristas, servers, retail workers, administrative professionals. While I have no doubt that many are amazing workers, they don’t meet our qualifications for this role.

    5. hayling*

      Eh, I hire for a really specialized role and we mostly promote on LinkedIn and we still get tons of crap. That’s the other side of online applications: easier on the applicant (no more fancy resume paper) but also makes the barrier to entry really low.

  8. Dan*


    I wouldn’t bother trying to tell the applicants what’s up. Your time getting wasted is realistically neither their problem nor their concern, so telling them about it isn’t going to get you anything besides more wasted time as AAM points out. The other thing is, *your* opinions about who “should” apply for a given job are just that, yours. (I don’t mean that to be snarky.) As an applicant who may be desperate, I’m definitely not going to assume that your definition of “minimal qualified” is the same as everybody else’s. If I feel I’ve got a prayer, I’m giving it a chance. Nothing ventured, nothing gained, you know? Same with “you can’t win if you don’t play.” The reality for me is that I work in tech, and job ads in tech are notorious for being poorly written. So if we have half an interest, off goes the resume.

    Now on to some specifics for your jobs… You don’t say anything about your industry or the broader job description. This is probably going to sound like word smithing (which does matter in job ads) but “German or French is essential” leaves some room for interpretation. How essential is essential? Perhaps a stronger word like “mandatory” could help. Then, I have to admit, as someone who speaks a little German but no French… unless you’ve explained the particulars of the job more clearly elsewhere in the ad, I’m really going to wonder how seriously you mean the language requirement. German is nothing like French (as far as I know) so I might take a chance that you really don’t know what you want and maybe, just maybe you’ll pick me.

    I’m also going to go out on a limb, taking you at your word about the fluency requirement: Have you considered drafting a job ad completely in German and a second completely in French? That way, you can get the people who can read/write German and read/write French.

    All in all, your time getting wasted comes with the territory. It’s no different than the applicant who was to wade through a really long ATS with all kinds of superfluous stuff that the employer “might” want if the applicant is successful, but pointless at the early stages. It’s a waste of my time, but that’s just how it goes.

    1. OP3*

      I completely sympathise with you, and understand where you’re coming from. A lot of recruiters do either write adverts poorly or don’t write what they actually mean. I will take on board what you’ve said about the language, as what I consider ‘essential’ may not be everyone’s interpretation.

      1. Cheese Cheese Cheese CHEESE*

        If you don’t want to run the whole advert in French and German – I see from your other comments that you don’t speak them, so that’s fair enough! – you could put the application instructions in those languages…

      2. misspiggy*

        Hopefully not to nitpick too much, but you’re in the UK and essential is the right word to use. I think the only way to really make it clear would be to say, Applications will only be accepted from fluent French or German speakers.

        1. Anon Anon*

          It might be helpful, if possible to be more specific about the level of fluency that you require in those languages. Or as others have suggested put directions on how to apply in the languages that you require. If nothing else that might help you exclude those people who are too lazy to try and use google translate.

          1. OP3*

            All these are good ideas I’ll brainstorm with my team next time we’re discussing it (as a company we are trying to find ways to be more efficient with job adverts) so thanks for the help!

            1. StripedZebra*

              OP are you using some sort of applicant tracking system for all these applications? I used to do recruiting for a smaller company and we had a tracking system that housed all our job applications. When applicants applied, we could set up screening questions for them to answer. Importantly you could set up questions that would automatically remove a candidate if they answered no to the required qualification. We did this routinely on positions with very specific qualifications that got high numbers of applications who were not qualified. You won’t “lose” that applicant, they stay in your system, they just don’t clog your inbox and it shows they disqualified because they self-selected as not having that criteria. Something to look into.

      3. Kiki*

        Is the language requirement included in the title of the post and in the title of the position? It’s frustrating and people should read the whole advertisement, but if someone is applying to a lot of jobs, it’s easy to inadvertently skip over one requirement or be caught up in wishful thinking and hope essential is not essential. But people are less likely to open or apply to an ad with a title that says “Ski shop clerk (must be fluent in either German or French)” if they do not speak either German or French. Some unqualified people will probably still apply (the job market is so rough right now!), but I’d guess the rate would go way down if this isn’t already being done.

      4. Anon Anon*

        I do think one of the dangers you have is that people who might be serious candidates for other openings that you in the future might be pissed off with receiving a response, and the people who aren’t going to be offended aren’t going to stop applying.

  9. Safetykats*

    OP3 – In the US, this is often a consequence of a system in which people are required to apply for a certain number of jobs per week or month to keep receiving unemployment. People apply whether they are qualified or not, just to get the required number of applications submitted.

    1. guilty conscience*

      ding ding ding!
      And maybe this sounds awful, but especially if you’d become ineligible for unemployment if you turned down a job offer, and if there aren’t a lot of appealing jobs in your field, phoning it in a little bit to put yourself in the reject pile for a kinda sorta relevant job just to remain eligible is unfortunately incentivized.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        If LW was able to use the kind of screening software suggested elsewhere in the comments, an applicant could apply, answer “no” to a language question, be rejected, and still satisfy the (stupid) job hunting requirements. Meanwhile LW would never see their application as it would have been prescreened out.

        Everybody wins?

    2. WS*

      Yes, same in Australia, though the requirements are relaxed at the moment. I live in a small town and get vast numbers of drop-in applications even though we don’t have any jobs available. It’s a stupid, cruel and time-wasting system.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      Going one step more, sometimes they don’t want to be hired for reasons. So they apply in order to meet the requirements. I have seen people do this while they are waiting to start the job they actually want. The potential employer says, “We will decide in 3 weeks.” So great! (not!), they have to do something to cover that 3 week wait.

      Our systems could be better, OP, but until they are we are stuck with what we have. The sad part here is that the person is jumping through all these hoops, lying all over the place and still not getting enough money to cover their basic necessities. In some ways our systems encourage people to lie, “Yeah, I need a job and I am seriously considering your place.” The truth is, “I have a job lined up but in order to get my unemployment for the next three weeks I have to play this game. And I still end up at the food pantry.”

  10. Remote HealthWorker*

    #1 Try wearing a mask for your shift wfh for the next few days and then see if you want to c
    Go I to the office.

    I swear my nose feels broken and it barely heals over the weekend with icing before I have to do it all over again.

    1. Remote HealthWorker*

      Wow butchered that! *Try wearing a mask for your full shift while WFH for a few days before asking. You may find you enjoy the mask free workplace!

      1. A*

        Yup – this is 100% what changed my mind. I’ll keep WFH, k thanks. The skin on my nose and that touched the edges of the mask were rubbed raw by the end of the day (I have really, really sensitive skin – I’ve tried multiple mask types and fabrics but so far no dice).

      1. Rebecca*

        I actually did that for a while :) No masks to be had, and I needed to go out and about, so for a while I looked like I was about to rob the noon stage coach.

      2. Jennifer Thneed*

        Sadly, the effectiveness of filtration goes way down, because the weave is so loose.

        1. Dahlia*

          You can make a folded mask with no sewing and hair elastics, and put a piece of shop towel or coffee filter inside it. It’s better than nothing.

      3. fhqwhgads*

        Probably but from what I’ve read the bandanna method is significantly less helpful at blocking droplets than basically any other cloth mask worn properly.

    2. GammaGirl1908*

      Not only that, but seriously take into account the fact that “office life” is not going to be what it once was for quite some time, months if not years. Not only will you likely have to wear a mask, but much of your team will still be working at home, public transportation will not be running as often, social distancing will be in place, restaurants and such near your office likely won’t all be open, et cetera. I don’t know what all you have or don’t have going on at home** such that you don’t want to be there so much, but going back to the office doesn’t necessarily mean the ~8 hours a day of work life will have gone back to any semblance of normalcy.

      **I assume some people are feeling very isolated at home and want to get back to the office because they feel like there will be more interaction there, and I assume other people have been home with a spouse, a couple of in-laws, and six kids, and want to get back to the office because there *won’t* be interaction there.

      1. Jenny*

        I currently telework while occasionally stopping to hold blocks, sing itsy bitsy spider, or read Brown Bear.

          1. tangerineRose*

            Why are they not effective? Is this more for health workers than for people who are isolating when possible?

            The reason I ask is because I made a mask using cloth (probably mostly cotton) from an old T-shirt (the mask has 2 layers of fabric), and now I’m worried that’s not enough. I don’t go out much, and I usually get curbside pickup, but in the few times when I need to go into a store, etc., I want to take the proper precautions.

            1. WhisperingPines*

              You ask a good question however I would urge you and everyone on this thread to seek answers from the experts, the CDC, the WHO, etc and not internet strangers on a workplace thread.

              1. MCMonkeyBean*

                That seems to be about what it can filters coming in though right? I believe most mask mandates are more about what might come *out* through the mask, which is much bigger droplets.

                This page on the CDC website actually specifies bandanas as something you can use to make a mask:

                They do encourage cloth face coverings for public settings and social distancing, which is what I imagine most offices are looking for. These are about protecting other people from what you might have, rather than protecting yourself from what they might have: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/prevent-getting-sick/about-face-coverings.html

      2. EPLawyer*

        It is definitely going to be different. Will anyone else be in the office if you are going back for the interaction? If they are, do they want to interact or just do their work and get out? How comfortable are YOU going to be about someone hanging around your desk? Touching the copier that everyone else touched, etc?

        Water cooler chats are going for now. No one is going to be hanging around chitchatting that close together. If you can even talk without your mask falling down.

        Things going back to normal is not going to be things going back to what they were in February for a good long time, if ever.

        1. Triumphant Fox*

          For this office, that is probably the case since grandboss is taking this seriously. In my experience, though, people are chatting without masks at work and just think it’s all a liberal conspiracy. Right now it’s just a handful of people at the office, but once we do return (we are home because we are building out a new space, not necessarily because our company wants us home), I imagine we may have an outbreak and then have to correct.

      3. Remote HealthWorker*

        If socialization is a motivator try to get an office virtual water cooler meeting together.

      4. Dave*

        I would also consider where you vs your co-workers fall on how serious this is. My office is filled with people who generally think this is like the flu. I want absolutely nothing to do with them in any kind of face to face capacity for the foreseeable future.
        Also if there is an outbreak in your office how well do you think your company will react? Do you think they will alert you so you can take the necessary safety precautions or bury it under the rug?

      5. Smithy*

        I do think that as offices make a good faith effort with their staff about working in the office – it would likely be helpful to flag work advantages/disadvantages to working in the office. Specifically teasing out things like “a quiet work space without as many distractions from home” as well as “meetings of 6 staff or more will still be required to be conducted over Zoom regardless of physical presence of staff” or “office kitchen equipment/facilities closed with the exception to access to water cooler that provides hot & cold water”.

        I work in NYC, live alone, and prior to COVID was happy to deal with the subway 5 days a week to travel to the office because of my personal preferences. As I consider my own personal feelings about returning to the subway, the more information I have on exactly what my work life will/won’t be like in the office is important. I know my workplace is spending a lot more money on additional staff for frequency of cleaning – and how many people are in the office impact that. However, breaking down what office work life happens to be at all I think is important for those of balancing our pre-COVID work brains with the new reality.

      6. take me back to the office*

        I am dying to go back to the office, but its not for interaction, its for a much much better work life balance and better productivity. I hate working just a few feet from where I relax (it often means I can’t relax or can’t work because the lines are just too blurred). I would be happy to go back and wear a mask and socially distance literally anywhere, just as long as it wasn’t in my home.

        But of course, my desire to go back to the office will always take a backseat/come second to other folks’ safety. I don’t want to go back if its unsafe. But I really identify and empathize with the OP and hope my office reopens safely soon.

        1. Pebbles Bishop*

          I feel exactly the same way. I have a really hard time motivating myself to work from home when the couch is RIGHT THERE.

        2. Alli525*

          Yep, this. I WANT to go back to the office, but concern for the public health vastly outweighs my wish to have my ergonomic chair and two screens back. (I also live in NYC where public transit is the norm, so those wishes also conflict with my fear of taking public transit before we have a vaccine.) At this point I don’t give two sh*ts about what people “want.” We’re in the middle of a pandemic, the virus is still infecting and killing people and overloading ERs – Americans have a reputation for selfishness and we’re proving that point every day.

      7. StressedButOkay*

        This, exactly. My SO works generally works better in the office but he’s one of a few that want to return. So when faced with the prospect of a long commute plus a mostly empty office, he’s mentally preparing himself to be working from home for the majority of the time now. It’s an adjustment for him but it simply doesn’t make sense to pay to commute, lose the time commuting and still have to interact with his coworkers virtually.

    3. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I’m currently unemployed but high risk and wearing a mask every time I step outdoors has given me the worst case of facial zits since I was a teenager. Seriously they’re all over my mouth, chin, nose…I look dreadful.

      I also feel slightly panicked with a mask on for long periods. This might be due to a past mugging I was a victim of but I can’t be sure. I just know I start breathing faster and want to claw the mask off.

      1. Nea*

        I’ve seen the term “maskne” coined for mask-based acne breakouts, which means enough people are suffering from it to be worth creating a term for it.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          I’m trying a few skin cleaning options, even some from when I used to work in a viral research lab! But I think my skin has changed a lot in 20 years so those methods aren’t working anymore.

          Husband unit suggested letting the cat clean my face. I think it was a joke….

        2. Coverage Associate*

          The best over the counter acne treatment I know is colloid bandages – not the tiny ones meant for acne, but the big ones meant for blisters and burns. A good thing about masks is now I can use them during the day and no one knows.

      2. Le Sigh*

        I’m WFH right now, but I’ve been wearing masks whenever I go running, and it wasn’t until a few days ago that it occurred to me the masks might be causing these recent chin/cheek breakouts.

        Going to have to google whatever online remedy people have come up with for this one.

    4. T2*

      Sorry LW#1. If the boss says WFH, then you WFH. This is not going to be over anytime soon, no matter what phase you are in.

      A lot of companies have suddenly discovered that they are just as effective or close too it as they were without having to pay $10-30 a square foot for office space. I have at lease 3 clients, that are going to downsize their office space to just a few desks and have everyone working from home.

      Reopening phases do not mean this is over. All it means is that there is now room for you at the hospital. So be safe and stay away from everyone else.

      1. Malarkey01*

        Besides the rental of space (and $10-$30/sqft is crazy low- most metros are $40-$120 all in) the cost of extra cleaning costs have skyrocketed. If heaven forbid we get a positive in an office space the cleaning goes into the tens of thousands.

      2. tangerineRose*

        “Reopening phases do not mean this is over. All it means is that there is now room for you at the hospital.” This! So much this! I don’t get why so many people seem to think that it’s over.

      3. Gaia*

        Florida is discovering it doesn’t even necessarily mean they have room for you at the hospital :(

      4. WhisperingPines*

        In AZ, there isn’t room for you at the hospital in Phx or Tucson. When they post the 80% capacity numbers, they are averaging the entire state, but the major metropolises are at capacity in their ICUs. To support your point that this is most definitely NOT over.

    5. Aiani*

      Seriously this! One of my friends who has been working from home commented that she wouldn’t mind continued mask wearing indefinitely but if you only have to wear one when you go to the grocery store it just isn’t the same. Wearing one for work makes my face so hot, rubs my nose raw, and I have so many pimples around my chin, nose and mouth. It’s not a fun time!

    6. Nea*

      Oh, me too! I feel like someone has punched me repeatedly in the face in just a few hours.

      A couple of things have helped me with that, FWIW? The curve-shaped masks are “gentler” on the nose than surgical-style ones, and semi-fitted masks – the ones with a chin dart as well as a nose curve – are gentlest yet. Also elastic helps – a looser elastic all around the head doesn’t pull as hard against your nose as strong elastic around the ears (button band or not). This is not to say that I’m not developing both a groove and callus on my nose.

      I tried using a wire to save my nose and only hurt ten times worse ten times faster.

  11. pcake*

    LW2, You made a point of mentioning your co-worker being over 60, and I’m wondering if that was because you think that’s part of the problem.

    I’m turning 63 tomorrow, and all my work is via computer with no help needed or wanted. I’ve been working exclusively via computer since 1996, and I currently work with a wide variety of programs with no issues at all. In fact, I often have to help co-workers or explain things to them (a few many times), some of whom are half my age.

    1. duckduckrabbit*

      Of course there are older workers who are good with technology.

      It is also a common problem for over 60’s workers to be behind with tech. An exception to that doesn’t mean it’s not a common problem or relevant to the letter to point out the coworkers age as possibly behind the issue.

      1. allathian*

        Oh, I don’t know. Some folks are great with tech and some are not so great no matter what their age is. People who are 60 today were 20 in 1980, when the computer revolution in the workplace was either underway or just around the corner. However, if someone’s unwilling to learn new tech, it’s easier for them to get away with it if they’re 60 than if they’re 30. It’s not exceptional for 60-year-olds to be tech savvy. Claiming that it is is ageist.

        1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

          And people that age have a track record of navigating years or decades of hardware and software updates. This lady sounds as if maybe she just plain doesn’t want to do it or learn it. Do you know whether her previous job didn’t require much computer skill, or is she at a level where she might think computer work is for admins? We once had a director who got out of doing major reports by saying they didn’t know Excel (their predecessor did the reports for years).

          1. MK*

            Some people that age have been navigating decades of hardware and software updates. Many others have worked in fields were computers haven’t been used or required till very recently, and the OP says this is a childcare facility. My oldest friend has been a kindergarden teacher in public schools till 2002; she has only been required to use a computer for the past few years, and I am sure there are regional schools that still don’t use them.

            1. Myrin*

              Yeah, I’m always very surprised by assertions like this (which reliably come up every time a letter mentions age and technology) and can only surmise there must be a big geography-based difference which I just don’t fully know about.

              There definitely are people that age and older who “have a track record of navigating years or decades of hardware and software updates” (my grandpa’s late neighbour would be 93 now and he was an absolute computer whizz) but the vast, vast majority of those I know really don’t. And those who do very often only know a narrow amount of programmes they need for their specific jobs but don’t really have a a lot of knowledge around computers as a whole (or not even just their jobs, really, but just that one thing they use a computer for. My mum is an absolute Google master, she has found obscure information which I’ve been searching for for literal hours in a matter of 15 minutes, but she couldn’t tell you how to create a new folder to save her life). Like, I don’t disbelieve commenters when they state things like that but at least in my (geographical, social, and workplace) area, it’s completely untrue.

              (I do see a lot of computer illiteracy in people younger than, IDK, 20 or 18 or so, too. As near as I can tell, they’ve been more exposed to smartphones and thelike than to actual computers and as such have a harder time finding their way around them than someone who’s older. Again, #notallpeoplethatage, but it’s definitely noticeable.)

              1. Amy Sly*

                Heck, I ran into this myself when I was younger. I was “good with computers” — this is, I could play video games, surf the internet, even build web pages with basic html coding. I knew exactly nothing about Excel, Powerpoint, Access, and had only the most rudimentary understanding of Word. Luckily, I took a class in Microsoft Office later, but if I hadn’t had that? I wouldn’t be much better off than my far older coworkers in terms of making MS Office do what I wanted.

              2. Age Is Indeed a Number*

                “And those who do very often only know a narrow amount of programmes they need for their specific jobs but don’t really have a a lot of knowledge around computers as a whole (or not even just their jobs, really, but just that one thing they use a computer for. ”

                This describes most people I have worked with of any age. It was completely unnecessary for OP to mention the coworker’s age. The problem and the answer are the same whether the coworker is 20 or 80. I really think the mention of age is just ageism, which is rampant in our society, especially concerning women.

                1. Adultiest Adult*

                  I would argue that the age in this letter is relevant as a metric for just how out of touch with current computing co-worker is. Helping someone trouble-shoot a spreadsheet when they already have a grasp of menus, basic functions, how to save, etc is fundamentally different from starting with “Click on the Windows icon. It’s the one that looks like a colorful flag. Yes, on the bottom left…” (Lest you think I am being facetious, this is an actual conversation I have had with a co-worker who is similar as described.) One is a much more draining use of time than another, and will burn out a co-worker faster if their job does not specifically include IT support. We can certainly make the “not all 60 year olds” argument, but the context is helpful in this case.

              3. Who Plays Backgammon?*

                Yep. Computers and programs do so many things, but I’ve told newbies not to let that buffalo them because nobody ever uses ALL the features. For their job or home use there’ll usually be the basic set you use all the time, and you can grow your skills and branch out from there as your needs evolve or your curiosity takes you further.

            2. sssssssssssssssssssssssss*

              My friend has been an elementary teacher for years. I’m sure she can use a computer. But not like what’s required now. The very sudden move to online/remote teaching in Ontario only left her feeling behind, dated and so not up on technology. She would ask her teenage daughters for support on tech issues. And this is not right.

              The school boards should have provided tech support and information leads to teachers who up until that point didn’t need to have that level of technical proficiency. Trust me, teachers are not secretaries and they shouldn’t be expected to be and to move everything to Zoom, emails, Google Docs and online books was sudden, chaotic and difficult, not to mention possible new expectations on availability (if a student emails a teacher at 8 p.m. when should the teacher reply?)

              Now, this is a daycare. I’m curious to know what the tech needs are: weekly reports? Newsletters? Emails? Time sheets? Colouring sheets?

              I understand this person’s frustration with her less-tech savvy coworker, because I’ve been there (What do you mean you earn $15K+ more than me and don’t know how to do things and I’m just googling for you, why can’t you just Google it too? That poor admin assistant didn’t last because that office had no time for that much hand holding).

              And I understand this poor coworker’s frustration with the technology. This boils down to a management issue: if you are rolling out new tech or expect staff to move forward with new tech (even if it’s just Word which is not new but might new to her), then it’s up to management to ensure that it’s taught, training provided or extra time given to learn.

              And then there’s people who are just “afraid” of the tech. What if I screw it up? Lose the data? Lose the file? Or they need a good and solid “Why” they’re moving to the new tech and without that, they’re not on board for learning. Or there’s a latent sense of “I don’wanna…” or “Do I really have to?” which can lead to enabling behaviours of her constantly asking for help and the OP constantly providing it. Troubleshooting is a skill that some never learn…

      2. Pennyworth*

        I think older people who work in low-paid jobs are quite likely not to have much experience with IT and computers and might only use them in a work setting. It’s more a case of opportunity rather than age – I have friends in the plus 80s who have international Zoom get-togethers with their friends and are very comfortable with all sorts technology, but they have always been able to access the latest technology as it rolls out. I wonder if this low-paid 60 year old is given paid time to do the training or is expected to do it in her own time and on her own dime.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          A store around here changed over the cash registers that are actually computers. You can go online, google and so on with this “cash register”.
          As of a couple years ago, this store was having a hard time getting employees because people were intimidated by the computer-cash register. Basically, a person needed some computer skills just to ring up snacks and sodas.
          It also did not help that cohorts were impatient. I worked at this store PT when I was 46 and I was labeled as “OLD”. When I took a few seconds to read the screen I was instantly told I was too slow. I explained that if people have never seen the screen before they need to stop and read it. Cohorts were shocked to learn this and totally impatient with the process. I wish I was joking.

          Any training I have ever done starts with “Read your screen. Start at the top of the screen, read across, go to the next level or line and read across.” It takes a minute to do this, but after the first time people do it they very seldom need to read the page that intensely again.

          One thing I think helps any person of any age, is what people around them are doing. If a person is surrounded by people using technology they might be more inclined to adopt it. I have an older friend who watches her adult children use their phones in different ways. She picks from what she sees them doing and says, “I want to learn to do that particular thing!” She has picked up so many uses for her phone, because she just keeps choosing new things to learn.

    2. Double A*

      I teach teenagers at an online school and it is sometimes shocking to me how bad they are with computers. I suspect it’s because they primarily grew up with phones and iPads and aren’t very used to computers and desktop software.

      1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

        My nephews are like this. They know how to play all the touch screen games but they aren’t so great with using a regular computer. And I’ve had plenty of my younger colleagues (in their 20s and 30s) who are not really very comfortable on the computer and don’t have a clue about any kind of troubleshooting.

      2. allathian*

        My son’s 11 and he’s pretty computer literate now, at least with Google software from Classroom to Hangouts and Docs, etc. after 2 months of remote school this year. They learn fast when they have to.

      3. Works in IT*

        And as an IT professional who isn’t a kid anymore, I am the opposite. Give me a computer and I am fine, but mobile devices… not so much. It feels like every time I’m close to learning the operating system, either there’s an update that changes some functionality, or I get a new phone and suddenly everything I learned previously is not good anymore.

        1. Jennifer Thneed*

          Yeah, I’ve been using computers since before Macs even existed, but I was a really late adopter of smart phones. (Heck, I didn’t even get a dumb phone until a job required one and paid for it.) It took one particular friend who insisted on texting with me, for me to get sick of texting on a flip phone and I got my first-ever touch-screen phone.

      4. Who Plays Backgammon?*

        A millennial I used to work with came from banking, and he said he didn’t need to know Excel at that job because all the Excel and Word stuff was jobbed out to India and done overnight and that a lot of millennials didn’t learn “that stuff.”

    3. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I think the field is relevant. They work in childcare. Using tablets and apps to monitor children’s progress (in the UK this is ridiculously detailed) is a fairly new development, so someone could have done the same job for forty years but only needed the tech for a couple of those.

      It’s not like an office where a certain amount of technological ability has always been a central part of the job – the skill sets of “engaging children’s learning” and “navigating apps” don’t always coincide.

      1. Liz*

        Yes, I am seeing this in my industry, too. I work in mental health day services and for decades this kind of service was all about understanding the needs and behaviours of our clients, using soft skills, and keeping people safe. Now there’s a database to navigate, records to keep, progress reports to log, plus all the standard info that used to just go out on a staff notice board being sent via Outlook. We have veteran employees who have been with us 30+ years suddenly feeling incompetent at their jobs because they have barely used a computer – not because they were unwilling, but because until 2 years ago, they didn’t have to.

        This strikes me as having some overlap with the trend for cleaning duties trickling down into the job descriptions of other employees. Certain administrative tasks that would once have been the responsibility of designated administrative staff have now been dispersed into the duties of other front line employees. Everybody is expected to have some kind of computer skills, even though they did the job perfectly well without them for 20 years previously. I can understand the need for change in some regards, but it’s a tough one to adapt to, and leads to situations such as this.

        1. Harper the Other One*

          Plus, I will say that my experience retraining at 40 is showing me that my learning is VERY different than it was when I was younger. I don’t know if it’s because I have so many more responsibilities (personal and professional) to hold in my head or if it’s innate to being older, but it is much harder for me to retain new information.

          That’s not excusing the coworker, or course – I’ve adapted to that change by taking more thorough notes, reviewing more frequently, etc. Coworker should be taking advantage of the trainings. But there’s some truth to the idea that, on average, as you get older, it gets harder to learn and retain.

        2. Not So NewReader*

          Oddly, any job requires all of us to grow and change with the times. But computers seem to be a huge stumbling block for people.

          In the case of some NPOs, like the one I worked for, they stayed in the dinosaur era forever. Probably because of costs. By the time they decided to take in some technology so much was going on and it was taken for granted you already knew. But we did not know because we did not have any real technology to work with. People got really upset about being “forced” to use a computer.

          1. Kiki*

            I think computers can be a stumbling block for two reasons:
            1) It can take longer than a lot of companies allot for people to get good enough at using a computer for it to actually save time. My dad was an accountant without a computer for 25 years. He was very fast at doing things by hand. He did not have a computer or even much typing experience, so just handing him a computer and saying, “use this, it will make you go faster,” was not true for 6 months to a year. He became really good with his computer, but it took a lot of work and time to make it truly effective. Most companies are not giving people the training or time to use these programs (it sounds like LW’s company is an exception since they do offer trainings).

            2) A lot of programs rely on “intuitive UI” that isn’t really intuitive if you have little-to-no computer experience, or even different computer experience. This is doubly true for iPads because there are different sorts of touches that correlate with different behaviors. Once you get the hang of it, it can be really nice and easy, but things aren’t as obvious as they may seem.

            1. Persephone Underground*

              Omg don’t even get me started on “intuitive”. If your app/program doesn’t have a written help section or labels in text on the page explaining what each button does and what each symbol means, it’s not complete. Anything relying on gestures similarly needs to be able to switch to a different mode with labeled buttons instead (Android updated my phone to gestures and I immediately looked up the setting to switch it back to my three basic nav buttons thank yew). Apparently Google Maps doesn’t even have a map key! (Look it up, it’s true, and mouseover text doesn’t work on touch screens for obvious reasons.) Wonder what that green up arrow next to your travel time means? Me too, and I can’t look it up! It could be “travel time is improving/decreasing” or “travel time is increasing”.
              /end rant

              1. Persephone Underground*

                Agh, left out my main point- people’s actual brains and minds work differently, so what’s intuitive is not the same from one person to another! So always have a fallback built in for when different users think differently. You know, using words, maybe even sentences!

            2. Who Plays Backgammon?*

              AND back in the olden days computers and programs came with an actual BOOK with instructions. Don’t know how to do something? Look it up and go through it a few times. Now if you want a book, where you can maybe add your own notes, you have to buy it yourself. I’m not too thrilled with online documentation. Sometimes it’s skimpy; sometimes the sites are larded with “articles” by every Tom, Dick, and Mary who maybe know something and maybe don’t. I’ve done online searches for tutorial sites but you have to check which ones are actually informative and clear.

          2. Liz*

            I think in many cases it’s a stumbling block because sometimes people have barely used a computer at all. Several of my colleagues do not own a computer, never have done, and do not use them outside of work tasks. We have more than one member of staff struggling to navigate the desktop, let alone anything else. I was recently in the position of being the designated member of staff to assist those who couldn’t use the computer, and even things like “double click on the icon for X – the red one” could take multiple attempts because the fine motor skills associated with using a mouse have to be learned over time. It took some considerable time to talk one colleague through tasks like opening his email, booking leave, filling out timesheets etc, so we focused on those and never really made any attempt to do any of the job specific stuff. Others are more comfortable with specific tasks they have to do frequently, but lack the confidence to just click around and explore. Sometimes, unfortunately, it’s just simpler and less time consuming to say to people “just write it down on a piece of paper and I’ll do the computer part”.

        3. sssssssssssssssssssssssss*

          We realized that updating the MSDS binders requires going on a computer to find updated MSDS. The ppl who need the MSDS the most are the cleaners. Being cleaners, they do no have assigned desks or computers.

          But the JHSC flagged the binders needed updating. Heck, even the supervisor is not well set up and ultimately it would be up to him to update the binders.

          I pointed out there was no dedicated administrative support for the cleaning crew. I proposed a plan that would allow the binders to be updated regularly and give the receptionist something to do (ours has a low administrative load).

      2. HannahS*

        Yeah. The other thing is, a person could have perfectly good proficiency at, like, Microsoft Word and sending emails, and then absolutely break down when faced with the incredibly poorly-designed institutional programs. I’m under 30, and my old hospital used a record system that was half paper and half on a program running on MS-DOS. The billing program was written with COBOL. I have the basic computer skills you’d expect of someone my age and I was often baffled at how these programs worked. I’ve seen doctors in their 60s reduced to TEARS over these kinds of programs! The coworker needs to take a course.

        1. Who Plays Backgammon?*

          Tee hee. I once worked at a communications technology co. that used a 20-year-old program for core tasks because on of the partners wrote the outdated thing.

    4. Quickbeam*

      Came here to say the same thing. I am the go to person for “how do I….” questions at work and I am 64. Please do not bundle age with inability to learn.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        An 80 something y/o man used to come to my house and fix my computer. He had forgotten more than I will ever learn about computers.

        Going the other way, I worked with an 80 something person who asked me every morning how to turn the computer on. What got me on this one, was that she had said on her interview that she knew how to use a computer. She had some computerized device at her old job and she apparently did well with it. But it had limited purposes and use. She asked how to turn on her desktop. She could not figure out how to start a word doc. She could not figure out how to type a word doc. The list goes on. She lied on her job app and no one checked her claim. It could be that she actually believed she knew how to use a computer but still no one checked to see if she could actually use a computer. This could have been checked by asking her to email a document such as her resume. Because, yeah, she couldn’t use email either……

        The setting was annoying at the time. However, under the heading of “the rest of the story”, the last time I saw her she was not doing well… at all. So this story is just a sad one in the end.

      2. juliebulie*

        Agreed… OP’s letter would have been just as clear without the detail of the coworker’s age, plus it wouldn’t have made me wince.

        1. tangerineRose*

          Yeah, I winced, too. My mom’s older than 60, and she can do more with her smartphone than I can with mine. (She’s retired so has more time to work with it.)

      3. Who Plays Backgammon?*

        You have the perfect out. “What’s that, young’un? You’ll have to speak up for someone my age. You need help with what? Microsoft Bird? A formula in Duracell?”

    5. Koala dreams*

      Yes, that’s a good point. Computer experience often have more to do with social class, financial situation, work experience and interests, rather than the age of a person.

    6. Anon nonnie nonnie*

      It certainly varies from person to person. I am in my 30s, and even though I’ve used it most of my life I am not great at using Word. I was trying to create a specialized document the other day. I spent hours looking up how to do it online, watching Youtube tutorials etc. An older colleague was able to send it back to me in 5 min with what I wanted. There are certain programs I excel with. So it certainly isn’t cut and dry.

    7. LGC*

      Like, for real. My mom is turning 65 next week. This lady straight up showed me how to use DOS when I was 5, got us on CompuServe when I was in grade school, and still uses more tech than I do.

      (If she was social on the internet, she would be an Eternal September curmudgeon. But that’s another story.)

      Being a boomer doesn’t mean that you’re inherently allergic to Technology.

    8. Triumphant Fox*

      I actually don’t see any implication here that older people are generally bad with technology – that’s a couple leaps from mentioning that the person is older. Maybe that mention of someone being older is because the OP assumes that’s the cause of the technology gap, but that context does impact the dynamic between these two. The OP may not feel they have as much authority to push back with someone older than them. I always worry about being seen as difficult and that may be a concern for the OP. I would have a hard time tactfully explaining to someone so much older than me “You need to take the training” when I don’t manage them. In my job, I have to be very careful about what I ask certain coworkers to change, because it really affects my working relationship with them if they get offended. I get more anxious about that when someone is significantly older because I am young and female and the perception that I cause problems or am entitled is always there.
      This technologically-challenged person also seems to more seniority in the job, not just life, based on the previous assistant comment. Even if this person isn’t a manager, the OP may have fallen into that dynamic by being younger and/or newer to the role. It can be hard to push back against this.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        Age does factor into consideration in talking with people. I remember 20 y/0 me having such a hard time thinking that I might be on equal footing with my 40 plus y/o peer.

        A while ago I was training a 20 y/o person. I said, “You will have to tell Sue what needs to be done with X.” The 20 y/o’s eyes got very big. “I can’t tell Sue what to do, she 35 and has two kids! I can’t tell her what to do!”
        Yeah, we chatted.

        I think I was into my 40’s when I started to be less hyper-aware that someone was my elder. I can remember that being drilled into my brain so deep as a kid, “respect your elders”. Well, we can still explain things to people in a respectful tone. And that works for any age- older or younger.
        But we don’t have to do people’s work FOR them. Ever.

    9. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      I don’t think I will ever be bad with computers, but I am a CS major who has been working in IT since 1989. We are outliers tbh. Compared to my children’s generation, who grew up with at least one computer in their home growing up, or generation Z, who apparently started using their first tablet in their crib (or something like that), I would imagine the percentage of computer-illiterate people in their 50s and 60s would be much higher. My mom has worked as an engineer her whole life and she just does not get the computer. She can use the programs she knows if she follows the steps exactly. My dad (also an engineer) figured out how to forward emails and such, but when he got a call from “Windows support” telling him there was a bug in his system that they needed to log into his computer remotely to fix, he took it seriously and tried to schedule a time for them to log in! (Thankfully he called me first.) Both of them hadn’t seen a computer until their early 60s. It’s really hard playing catch-up when you had a really late start on using tech.

    10. AngelicGamer, the Visually Impared Peep*

      Or it could be “hey, this person is older than me and I need to know some social ways to be nice while teaching her”. But, yes, let’s go to the jump that the OP is going to be ageist instead of just giving background information as that’s how I read it in the letter.

  12. ThePear8*

    #5, there’s plenty of full-time internships. In fact I assumed the majority were full-time rather than part-time, so I don’t think you need to worry about anyone assuming anything. I’ve never heard of anyone specifying hours on a resume, and from what I can tell I don’t think it’s something that is a huge concern to employers or that people generally ask about – I think when looking at a resume, they generally care more about what you did and accomplished rather than how many hours you did it.

    1. Beth Jacobs*

      I do think part-time hours should generally be noted. Yes, it’s about achievements, but we also use dates to show how long we worked at a specific employer. And I don’t think it’s fair to pass off part-time work as three years experience, when you did work there for three years but only one day a week. The depth of what you learned there will inevitably be less.
      Full time generally isn’t denoted because it’s the default.

    2. Wednesday*

      I’m surprised that multiple commenters have said that they assume the majority of internships are full-time. I would have assumed that the majority of internships are part-time because that’s all I’ve ever seen in my industry. I guess the answer for OP is that it depends on which one is standard in their industry.

      1. fhqwhgads*

        Besides industry it probably makes a difference time of year and/or paid vs for-credit internships. Where I work we generally only have summer interns, thus they’re not also in class, thus it’s full time – but the position only exists for a couple months. If we were to have one during the school year – or for a whole year, it would likely be part time because it’s for credit and thus theoretically taking up the space of a “class”.

    3. juliebulie*

      We’ve had part-time interns and full-time interns, so I wouldn’t assume anything.

      On the other hand, when you’re college age, having a full-time gig for the first time is a big adjustment. You don’t necessarily have the same class schedule five days a week, but all of a sudden you’re getting up early every day and being gone all day long. I’m not sure whether or not having full-time experience (either in an internship or a regular job) would make a difference to prospective employers, but I do remember what a shock it was to my system when I got my first full-time summer job in college. I’m glad I worked that out before I graduated.

    4. Kiki*

      I think there are some internships that are more on the scale of 1x or 2x per week or internships geared to truly entry-level, basic responsibilities, so I understand the LW’s inclination to differentiate their internship from that, but I think the better way to convey the nature of the internship is with the description of accomplishments and responsibilities. It should be pretty clear from what LW describes that they, though an intern, were one with a full slate of responsibilities and likely weren’t just popping in one day a week or something.

  13. learnedthehardway*

    OP#3 – completely unqualified applicants are the bane of a recruiter’s existence, but they’re also job security. If recruiting were easy, hiring managers wouldn’t need you to do the heavy lifting. The more people say that technology is going to end the recruiting function, the more technology increases the work recruiters need to do to deal with the volumes of data and applicants that come through.

    Accept that yes, you’re going to get a low rate of qualified applicants on job ads, and focus on crafting your ads and selection questions to attract the right people / weed out the wrong ones. Also, don’t “post and pray” – start searching out the people who would be right for your roles, and do proactive contacting. If you specialize in a particular function or industry, build contacts and networks, and start keeping track of great people whose skills are consistently in demand.

    I would definitely not tell rejected candidates to read more closely – there’s no point in offending people. Plus, they’re not likely to read past the “you didn’t get this job” notice, anyway. And, from a fairness / equity perspective, it’s best to have a single rejection letter for all candidates whose resumes didn’t make it past the initial screen, anyway – that avoids anyone coming back and saying they were treated differently than other candidates. Feel free to put something like “we went with a candidate whose qualifications more closely matched our needs” on your standard letter, though, if that would make you feel better about the situation.

  14. Uldi*

    States that have started going into their phase three reopenings have experienced MASSIVE spikes in new cases; for example, Texas’ own governor has stated that the virus is “spreading at an unacceptable rate”. California and Florida have also experienced this. This pandemic is far from over. Please do not contribute to the spread. Your employer wants you to continue to world from home, so do so.

    To be blunt, this is not a matter of your comfort, but public safety.

    1. Gaia*

      I was coming here to share this. Every state I’ve seen that is going into or already in phase 3 is an absolute petri dish of COVID. Even if the specific area where OP1 lives/works isn’t as bad, the stats aren’t in her favor.

      For all of our sakes, please stay home if you can!

      1. Jenny*

        there are no physical barriers between states, either, so the spike in cases won’t stay in thise cases. My guess is we’re going to end up totally locked down again soon.

        1. Jim Bob*

          There’s also a chance they’ll try to lock everything down again, and people will say “forget that.” Enforcement measures were sorely lacking last time, and people noticed. I think with the undercurrent of civil disobedience already high, and revenues already on a shoestring, any further lockdowns are going to be met with resistance from both individuals and businesses.

          1. pancakes*

            Eh? In many cities in the US, including the largest cities, policing accounts for enormous chunks of the city budget, up to 60%. It isn’t necessary to speculate about reasons why people aren’t being forced to wear masks to answer the letter.

            1. Jim Bob*

              I was just replying to the comment about possible future lockdowns. Whether you agree with another lockdown or not, even 60% of a municipal budget isn’t enough for crowd control if the crowd is big enough, as we’ve seen recently. I think the stark reality is that enforcing a second lockdown is out of reach for municipal authorities at this point, no matter what happens with the virus.

              1. pancakes*

                You seem to have very idiosyncratic views on crowd control, and they don’t really have anything to do with the letter, nor anyone else’s support for lockdowns.

              2. fhqwhgads*

                Are you referring to recent protests? Because “opening up” to me does not imply an overall need for significantly increased crowd control (other than, for example, at a protest).
                Around here during lockdown parking restrictions have not been enforced. So you could leave your car in a 2 hour spot for days. “Reopening” means they’re going to resume ticketing those cards. Other enforcement would be if you’re spotted outside maskless when masks are mandatory, you’re also ticketed. Theoretically that’s supposed to have been done locally since March. There are supposed to be fines for this. But virtually no one has been ticketed because police don’t want to get within six feet of the maskless people to ticket them. This doesn’t necessarily require more staffing to be out and about enforcing, but if there were even some inkling of “yes if they happen upon you breaking this ordinance you will get a ticket” that should have at least somewhat of a deterrent effect. Right now everyone knows there are no consequences besides potentially getting sick themselves or making someone else sick, and those two have clearly not been enough to stop some. But a $1000 fine might.

                1. Jim Bob*

                  I was referring to the commenter’s concern that everything will lock back down. Given the near-desperation that everyone’s already at, there will need to be significantly more stringent enforcement requirements if lockdowns go back into effect; realistically, short of major National Guard mobilizations, I don’t see it being possible to enforce again.

    2. Taniwha Girl*

      I agree completely.

      OP, “essential workers only” means workers who absolutely NEED to be at their physical workstation to work. Not people who work better outside of the home, not people who are uncomfortable working from home, not people who want to work at the office. People who NEED to be at the office.

      Truth be told, very very few people want to be at home all the time. We are all uncomfortable. But we have to bear with it for a little longer, so that we can save lives. Every day you spend working from home, you are saving lives.

      Instead, think of this as a marathon and look at what else you can do to make yourself more comfortable. Can you go outside for more walks? Can you eat safely at restaurants? Can you get more exercise, or have a socially distanced picnic with friends/family? Can you connect with coworkers and friends more often? Can you get dressed like you’re going to the office, walk for as long as your commute is, then work from home and go for another commute-walk and change your clothes when you “get home”? What can you change about the rest of your lifestyle to make work from home more bearable?

      I’m right there with you, I’ve been working from home for 3+ months with my partner in a 50 sqm apartment. I haven’t seen a friend in person for months and I can’t see my family until COVID travel bans lift. This SUCKS. I am super depressed. But if watching Netflix can save lives, then I will be a gddamn superhero.

      1. CTT*

        Not the OP, but in a similar boat. Taking more walks, facetiming more with friends, etc., isn’t really going to solve the main issue for me, which is that I fundamentally do not have a good work from home set up. I’m in a small one bedroom with no devoted office space, I don’t have a scanner or printer or my double monitors, and I live across from an auto repair shop whose business is booming, which means a lot of loud noises during work hours that can break my concentration. I think there are a good number of people like me who never worked well from home to begin with and aren’t productive doing it in the long run and are looking for something to improve the situation.

        1. Taniwha Girl*

          I am in your same boat. It sucks to work from home. But we are working while we shelter in place during a pandemic. Let’s try to improve things, sure, but increasing our and others’ risk is not an option.

    3. Fellow Human*

      I wonder if OP#1’s circumstances are like mine: living alone by chance, very small “extended” family, friends who care but have partners/children/families for which they need to care.

      The thought of working from home for (more) months on end makes me nauseous and panicked. I follow all covid-19 prevention recommendations, but I need interaction with other humans (yes I see a counselor and a psychiatrist regularly, and both agree- prolonged isolation causing substantial harm to me. Please do not suggest I should “join X online group” because I‘ve already done that to the extent possible). For me, knowing other people were physically nearby in the same office area (even if I must work in an individual office) and seeing familiar faces (behind masks/face shields) regularly would help greatly.

      Please consider that OP#1 may want to return to the workplace for reasons more serious than only ‘comfort.’ Nobody got to choose the level of isolation to which they were subjected by the pandemic.

      1. Anonymous at a University*

        I mean, the other co-workers also have to be taken into consideration, though. One person’s mental health, or need for interaction, does not trump several other people’s need for less interaction, or need to work from home, or need to complete essential tasks in an office without coming into contact with people who could WFH but just don’t want to. Even if OP goes back, given that her company sounds like it’s going to be WFH majority-wise, it doesn’t mean she’s going to get the level of “physical nearness” or seeing faces, either. And if what she needs to be mentally healthy is water-cooler-style conversations, she can’t have that just because she needs it.

        I think this has to be about balancing needs, not either “You have to suffer in isolation that’s bad for your mental health” or “Other people have to take all kinds of risks to accommodate your mental health.” You can’t ask for mental health accommodations that are dangerous for other people.

        1. Sylvan*

          Fellow Human isn’t asking for accommodations that put other people’s health at risk, though.

          I’m in the same boat as them and the OP. We’re all following safety regulations, etc., while having a very hard time working from home. I was actually placed on a PIP a while ago. Quarantine being necessary doesn’t make it an easier situation to work/live in. Going back to an office with very few people in the safest way possible is, when it’s safer to do so, is a much better option than working from home indefinitely for some of us.

          1. Fellow Human*

            Thank you. Of course I am not suggesting putting co-workers’ health at risk. OP#1 mentioned “working from home 1 or 2 days per week”; rotating schedules of in-office/WFH (possibly allowing employees who want all-WFH to remain all-WFH) would be a solution.

            1. Anonymous at a University*

              Fair enough. But it does sound like OP’s company is still-majority WFH, so the best thing for OP to do, if they’re going to push this, is to find a small group of like-minded co-workers who could go to the office and maintain social distancing. If the OP is alone in wanting to go back to the office, it’s not going to work to say to other people, “Hey, come to the office, too, so I can have the socialization I need!”

              1. pancakes*

                Or find a small group of like-minded friends, family, or acquaintances who want to meet up now and then. If seeing other people is the primary concern, they needn’t specifically be coworkers.

      2. Nessun*

        Very valid point. My firm is asking everyone about when they want to go back to the office, and trying to figure out who’s back and who’s not based on role requirements, so they can plan for later this year. One of the things that came up in the survey was a discussion of who needs to go back to work in the office for mental health reasons and who wants to go back to work in the office because they feel somewhat alone. They’re two very distinct categories. The second group, which I fall into, can and should stay away if we have the option – especially so that those who need to be in the office, can be in the office. I wish people who fall into the first group all the best in finding appropriate support with their employers.

      3. Raea*

        Just popping in to suggest seeing if you can join one of your friends social ‘pods’, if you will? I’m also single/childless/living alone and was challenged when first sheltering in place because I relocated ~1 year ago, and the only social base I have in the area aside from co-workers is my best friend and her family. She is a hospice nurse and fairly high risk. I sheltered in place for ~3 months, but a few weeks ago decided to join her ‘pod’ as I knew I could contain the risk-by-proxy on my end since I’m not socializing or interacting with anyone else.

        It was a little frightening at first going from almost complete control / low risk to high risk by proxy, but it was worth it. My mental health has improved, and it’s mutually beneficial because I can once again help them out with child care.

        This might not work for you, just a suggestion because I was in the same boat and had to find a solution that, of course, would not increase risk for others.

      4. Pommette!*


        Let’s not pretend that things are the same for everyone. I know plenty of people who love their new work-from-home arrangements and would continue working this way forever (perhaps with one-two days/week in the office for a change of scenery, once that becomes possible again). Then there are the ones who find it uncomfortable and inconvenient, but are and will be fundamentally OK, because the relationships that make up their lives are unchanged. But there also (lots of!) people for whom this is genuinely horrible, and whose mental health and basic well-being are profoundly affected.

        I was already really isolated before the pandemic. I was working from home, and looking for work outside the house (which, it seems, may no longer be a thing in my field after this pandemic is done – a prospect that makes it hard to remain hopeful for the future). I am incredibly lucky to live with my spouse. Asides from him, my human contacts came from interactions in public and commercial spaces (gone), volunteering (gone), and phone conversations with a couple of friends and family members (who have young kids and are now too overwhelmed to speak much at all). I struggle with mental illness at the bet of times, and things are not going well now, at all. I’m not getting any of my work done – not because I’m too busy, but because all of the tricks I would normally use to stay productive while depressed have been made impossible by the pandemic.

        Fellow Human: I have no advice to you, but a lot of sympathy. Your needs are real. I hope that things improve for you soon, and that you can find a safe way to get the human contact that you need.

    4. riskadjustment*

      To be fair, we should consider the degrees of risk. Offices have and continue to be much lower risk places than bars or restaurants, especially with mask wearing. Risk tolerance will also vary among people.

      1. Sarah*

        Offices really aren’t low risk. You spend a long time there, which means you have time to build up enough virus exposure to get sick. You are usually inside. Most offices aren’t designed to let you stay away from other people. They may be better than bars or inside restaurants, but you also spend more time there. They are definitely worse than things like beaches or probably even grocery stores. Risk tolerance may vary but there are a lot of people who don’t have a choice of staying home and the more people are out, the higher risk those people are at.

        Mental health absolutely matters. But so does physical health. And having to worry about getting a virus is terrible for mental health. So you have to find a way to get your needs met in the safest way feasible. I seriously think people who live alone who are having mental health issues from not being around other people should consider moving in together for a while. Even going back and forth to each other’s houses is probably better than going to the office if you can drive there and not interact with anyone else. In my state, there was a single conference that basically caused half the cases. So I think this is where you have to find a compromise. Like a neighbor you can visit. But offices are really not particularly safe right now!

    5. Persephone Underground*

      I feel for the OP though- I’m in the same boat and I miss my office. My mental health (diagnosed in my case) will certainly be much better when I can go back. I know staying home is the right thing and ultimately feel safer doing that, but I completely understand the OP dying to go back if there’s any way they can do it safely. They’re not being entitled, just desperate and I totally get the impulse to try to figure out some exception. No need for the harsh tone here.

      (And some offices do have one or two people still going in since no one else is, e.g. the IT support guy goes in to handle the servers and network stuff in my otherwise all remote through December office. So it’s not unheard of to do what they’re suggesting, but still better to stay home.)

  15. duckduckrabbit*

    LW3 you need to use stronger language. ‘French/German essential’ is too soft. I see job ads that say things like ‘strictly do not apply if you do not have fluent French/German.’

    Be more explicit and it might deter some people.

  16. LDN Layabout*

    I really sympathise with OP1, because even with saving a ton of money, being able to be healthier making my own food, having more time to do things at home, not having to commute, I MISS THE OFFICE.

    And realistically even if the other offices around the country re-open, I doubt the London office will before 2021.

    But the right thing to do, if possible, is wfh. You can be as careful as you want but the way C19 spreads…

    1. Alex*

      Many people also really do not understand what “being back in the office” means today.

      Wearing masks, keeping distance, no watercooler talk, no communal smokebreaks, not having lunch together, and best to see as little amount of colleagues a day as possible. Still meeting via zoom even if all people are in the same building…

      If you phrase it like that, many people notice that going back to the office would not have the result they seek (to socialize again)

      1. Not Australian*

        To be strictly fair, the OP here didn’t say anything about wanting to socialize again; they just said that they were having a tough time working from home – which could mean that they were struggling to work in sub-optimal conditions. IMHO it would be worth having a conversation with their manager and asking to be in the first wave of returned employees – even if only for one day a week at first – but even so they would absolutely have to abide by whatever regulations might be imposed for social-distancing. There are no short cuts with this thing; home is still the safest place.

        1. Taniwha Girl*

          Sure but I think it’s helpful to point out that even being physically in the office is suboptimal. You still have to have virtual meetings because half your team is at home, you can’t have meetings in conference rooms because too many people, you can’t see or talk to anyone… the safer it is, the less fun and helpful it is to be at the office. As you say, home is still the safest place.

          1. TechWorker*

            Yep. People at my company we’re excited to return to the office…until the company sent out a survey asking people if they’d still want to go back with new restrictions in place: requirement to wear a mask all day, not being allowed to use the conference rooms, leaving every other desk empty, no free food at the office (which was previously our best perk), no commuter subsidy…people quickly decided that they, in fact, did not want to return under these conditions.

          2. Not Australian*

            “even being physically in the office is suboptimal”

            Agreed, but it may be – if you’ll forgive the expression – less sub-optimal than having to deal with, say, an aggressive or un-co-operative partner or any one of a hundred other things that may make the office a more desirable space.

            I think we should maybe assume that the OP has weighed up the situation and has serious reasons for wanting to return to work but is unsure how to raise the matter with management, rather than that they’re just bored and want a change of scene.

          3. Kyrielle*

            Yup. My coworkers who just wanted to get back to normal now are happy to stay home for the most part in the first wave, now that we have a clearer picture of what it may be like.

            My coworker who was trying to work across a kitchen table from the kids doing their schoolwork (at least now school is out for the summer), with a spouse in another part of the room, because they have a small apartment that cannot be configured better, however? Would really like to go back to the office. (Their kids are old enough to be home alone, or I’d wonder how the spouse felt about that.)

      2. Koala dreams*

        Oh, I wouldn’t assume people want to go to the office to socialize. On the contrary, the draw of the office is a quiet space without pets, roommates, dishes that calls you to be washed and with reliable internet access and a dedicated desk space.

        1. Mockingjay*

          Yep. I want my dual monitors back. Everything else, I’ve got the equivalent equipment at home. But I need big screens!

          1. Sabrina Spellman*

            Would your workplace allow you to bring those items home to enhance your WFH capabilities?

            1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              Second this. Ours allowed us to come in multiple times (on a schedule, so there aren’t several people in the office all at once) to get their equipment. A lot of people brought their monitors home. I took my ergonomic office chair home. We were advised to bring anything we wanted home with us.

          2. Nessun*

            So much!! I used to have 2 monitors at the office plus my laptop screen…now it’s the laptop only. And the screens were bolted to the desk on swivels, and I had everything all set up at the right height, and now…yeah, it’s not wonderful. But that’s the only thing I’d change. I don’t want a workspace where the entire kitchen area is off-limits (no fridge for storing food, no coffee/tea stuff, no microwaves), and I don’t want a workspace where everyone is using those things willy-nilly during a pandemic – so wfh with my laptop it is.

        2. tangerineRose*

          For me, having pets around while I work is usually a good thing (except when they decide they need attention NOW and walk on the keyboard or otherwise make it hard for me to work).

      3. Minnielle*

        I don’t know what OP’s reasons are but I would personally love to go back to the office to finally have some peace and quiet. I have been working 3 months with a toddler at home. My husband is furloughed so he can take care of the child but still, we don’t have a huge apartment and I don’t want to lock my son in his room as this is already boring enough for him as it is. And even if we did that, he would know that I’m home so he would be banging on the door and crying for me. So I work while my son is making all kinds of noises, throwing tantrums, listening to kids music etc. The only time I can actually concentrate on my work is while he is taking a nap. Going to the office used to be my quiet time but now I can’t even hear my own thoughts anymore. I would much rather be bored and miss socializing. Now it’s more the opposite – I haven’t really been alone for 3 months and it’s really driving me crazy.

        1. Always Mute The Zoom Meeting*

          Except that all of those perks of being in the office come at a cost. Your office’s team of essential workers have been showing up throughout this entire thing and the last thing they need or want is more people wandering around because they are bored at home. It is not fair and is downright dangerous for them.

          1. Jackalope*

            That’s not a fair read of this statement, though. The writer specifically said she wants to have quiet to work because she has a toddler. Having tried to Get Things Done With Toddler, I can assure you that it is extremely difficult. If she’s only getting work accomplished during nap time then that’s a HUGE loss of productivity. It’s not just boredom.

      4. Kyrielle*

        The interest in going into our office among my coworkers dropped sharply when the tentative plans for initial reopening* came out. They are subject to change if the rules do, but I can’t imagine they’ll get more relaxed if that happens.

        We already knew that only a fraction of workers would be approved back, starting with those who have non-essential job duties that require the office and adding in others who request it, say because their WFH setup is really, really not ideal for getting work done.

        Break rooms, refrigerators, microwaves, coffee machines, the cafeteria, the on-site gym? All will be completely unavailable. They are asking that as much as possible only one person per elevator. Masks must be worn at all times. They must do a personal health checklist every morning before coming into the office, and if they don’t pass it then they need to stay home and contact the company.

        I didn’t want to be among the early returners anyway, and the health checklist means I couldn’t be without talking with HR and I suspect getting some info from my doctor, but a lot of people who had been talking about going back in are now talking about, well, they also said people could schedule one-off visits to retrieve more equipment, maybe I’ll do that….

        * No timeline yet, however. Our office is in a location that is not yet approved for in-person office work except where essential. This is just planning ahead.

  17. Barbara Eyiuche*

    #3 It is hard to evaluate your own second language skills, plus the applicant also has to figure out just how good ‘fluent’ is. For example, I am fluent in French, but I am not a native speaker. Is my French good enough for a particular job? I would probably take the chance and apply, and let the interviewer decide whether I was good enough.

    1. OP3*

      I will look at my language in the ads to see if this helps, so thanks for your feedback.

      I do understand what you mean about people not being able to judge their own language capabilities and I could totally see someone in your situation being in that position. However most of these candidates did not speak the language at all where I feel there is less room for interpretation.

    2. Beth Jacobs*

      Eh, that’s why we have the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR) of A1 – C2. And even if OP isn’t posting the required level (which they should be), you can often infer from job tasks. I’m in Europe where two to four languages are the baseline for professional jobs and it’s really not that hard to navigate.

      1. UKDancer*

        Definitely. I think the best thing to do is to use the CEFR levels and pick the appropriate levels you need. That’s not exact but it’s preferable to just expecting people to self assess.

        1. Harper the Other One*

          I’d still be cautious about that because it depends how recently they tested at that level. I could have tested at the highest levels on both written and verbal French right after I finished high school but I’ve now spent years operating solely in English. The skills would likely come back fast but I am definitely not fluent now.

          1. pancakes*

            I don’t see why this requires any special caution. A job listing for fluent speakers is not calling for candidates who are “definitely not fluent.” It’s not calling specifically for native speakers, either.

        2. Kotow*

          I’d also add that for several languages, people who pass a certain level are probably at least *reaching* into the next one occasionally, even if they aren’t always able to maintain it. You see this a lot with the B-levels. For Polish, it seems a lot of people who take and pass the B1 exam are really closer to the B2 range. They have a much easier time with the language than someone who *just* sits at the B1 level.

          By the way, that’s not to judge B1 at all! That’s a huge amount of work particularly if you learn the language outside of the country where it’s spoken and in Slavic languages which are all about grammar, you know a TON of language and that level gets you pretty far. But it’s also not “mastery.”

        3. Koala dreams*

          The CEFR levels can be used for self assessment too, so it doesn’t solve anything. The advantage is that it makes you spell out what kinds of skills you are talking about. There is nuance and not just know/don’t know. There’s the problem that these kinds of assessments (whether self assessment or a certificate) are most popular among students, and the least popular among native speakers, so you might discourage the very people you would like to apply.

  18. Maggie*

    Allison and the commentariat… does your answer to OP1 change if s/he has a mental health disorder that is exacerbated by isolation? I know this is not exactly what OP1 asked. But to me, as a 36 year old with no preexisting conditions, covid is maybe a threat to me (I think I already had it in March but my state had no testing available), but my worsening depression and anxiety are definitely impacting my health noticeably NOW. I know I can’t do this until January 2021, or even beyond. So that means I start job searching now? Tell my boss this explicitly? Both?

    1. Gaia*

      For me, no.

      I have fairly bad anxiety and one of my (many) triggers is social isolation. This has been really, really hard for me. Since I live alone and already worked from home, my main sources of social time were my boot camps and time with friends. I’ve had to forego both for the last three months. It’s very difficult and sometimes it literally leaves me in tears. But, I’m alive. And I’m not the cause of someone else ending up in a ventilator in the ICU.

      I’ve already lost two people to COVID. I’m begging everyone: stay home unless you absolutely have to go out. When you do go out wear a mask (correctly) AND social distance. Please.

        1. Gaia*

          Thank you. This is a very hard time for many people. We all just have to do what we can to care for ourselves and for others.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Gaia, you put it beautifully.

        I’ve lost two people to Covid too. Two otherwise healthy people in their 40s who I’ll never see again.

        I’ve also been hospitalised for a psychiatric breakdown during the lockdown. I assumed that doctors et al were too busy with Covid to bother with my ever increasing depression and anxiety. I am high risk, was locked in the house essentially, unemployed with the economy crashing down and my friends were dying. My brain one day just had enough. With a lot of help I’m getting better.

        Now I’m a massive advocate of getting help ASAP if you feel your mental state is getting worse. That, to me, takes priority over everything because you need a relatively stable mind to do things like work, cope with stress, live in the world as it is now. I say this as someone with long term mental illness who relies on a daily dose of medicine to be able to work in the best of times!

        Keep yourself safe in body AND mind, and seek medical help if either is at risk.

        1. tangerineRose*

          For people on the edge, remember that therapists can do remote sessions. Please get help when you need it.

        2. Gaia*

          Thank you for sharing. I’m sorry for what you’ve gone through and I’m so very glad you got help.

          I’m thankful that I have my therapist and a doctor actively discussing my anxiety treatment. It is still so, so hard but I am making it through.

          To anyone reading this that is struggling: I know it’s hard. I know it might feel impossible. But please ask for help. You’re worth it.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            Internet hugs for you. Losing people in this is bloody painful and I wish neither of us had had to deal with it.

    2. Natalie*

      I think the follow on effects of social isolation are real, and something we need to begin taking more seriously – long term isolation was never going to be a solution to this – but my question would be whether or not going into the office is the best way to address that. I think for most people, it creates a fair amount of risk based on the sheer number of people you may be encountering, while providing less social contact than you might be imagining given the restrictions many businesses are putting in place. Whereas having a regular walk with a friend, masked and physically distanced, is very low risk and probably provides more of what you need.

      1. LDN Layabout*


        I have an acquaintance who’s not been social distancing by the rules because she’s been moving between her flat and her parents house. But it’s probably kept her alive and these are households following all the rest of the rules.

        Bringing together numbers of people from different households, all with different ideas of how to follow the rules? Is going to introduce much more risk and that’s what an office /is/.

      2. Kiki*

        Yeah, I agree that going into the office doesn’t seem like the best solution for this. Especially if the situation is like that described in the letter, where it doesn’t sound like many people will even be there. Even if others were there, social distancing would still likely mean you’re not actually interacting with them– you’d be in the same place but maintaining distance and probably not interacting too terribly much.

      3. Not So NewReader*

        That regular human contact with others is so important. The tricky part is that the contact does not have to be much. “Good morning! How are you?”. Those simple interactions do so much and we don’t even realize.

        A friend was visiting an elderly friend regularly. Once Covid hit the visiting stopped because no in person contact. They chatted by phone. Not surprisingly the elderly friend suddenly started not feeling well. This progressed to the stage of needing a doc. It was decided that my friend should go back to visiting the elderly friend. The shift happened when isolation became more of a threat to the older person’s health than Covid was.

        My friend and her older friend take precautions and they are in an area with a very low number of cases and currently no rise in cases at all. I firmly believe that there is a point where isolation can cause more health issues and cause them quicker than we realize. There has to be some balancing point and hopefully we (collectively) will begin to figure out where that balancing point is.

        1. Kiki*

          I do completely agree that there needs to be more emphasis on low-risk ways to maintain human contact because just telling people to stay at 100% isolation, and shaming them for not, is damaging, especially since covid-19 isn’t showing signs of abating anytime soon. I 100% feel for the LW and Maggie; most humans are not really designed to be isolated for this long. I do think, though, that going back to the office just for the human interaction is not the way to help with isolation. It’s higher risk than other things and probably not terribly interpersonally fulfilling if most coworkers are still working from home and if distancing protocols are in place and being abided. I think doing outdoor, masked, distanced activities with a couple people has been shown to be a lot safer than doing anything indoors.

          1. serenity*

            I think this is true but I’m starting to see more and more people using the term “human contact” to exclusively mean in-person activity.

            In my case, it’s been older relatives or coworkers or less tech-friendly people who are unwilling or unable to learn how to use Zoom or Skype. For them, it’s a binary – it’s either “I see people in person and that is the only legitimate form of human contact” or “I can pick up a phone and that is the only way to interface with another human being in the year 2020”. In-person contact is definitely its own thing but it’s not a black/white binary – I’m encouraging the folks who I know crave seeing someone’s face when talking to them to start adopting some of this easy-to-use tech.

            1. serenity*

              ps This has worked well with some people, and not so much for others. But I think it’s helpful to at least try to introduce folks to ways they can interact with friends or loved ones beyond only in-person physical contact. It’s been interesting to see some folks very resistant at first (it’s outside their comfort zone) become enthusiastic converts. An elderly aunt of mine is now doing a weekly virtual Zoom bridge game and she loves it (she lives alone).

    3. Coffee*

      My mental health also gets worse with isolation, but going back into the office is both adding to everyone’s risk level, and probably not going to be that helpful (since you’re still supposed to be distancing from everyone). My answer would not be different to Alison’s anwer.

      From my experience, I suggest a three-pronged approach:
      1) Increase the amount of self-care you are doing. Get enough sleep, eat regular meals, exercise regularly, keep on top of your life-admin stuff like housework and paying bills so you’re not worried about them.

      2) Increase your connections outside of work. Organise phone catch ups with friends and family. Take up a new online class. This is hard work but I remind myself that it’s also hard feeling miserable. Also remember that your goal is not to have a social life like you’re a sitcom character (really high bar) but to socialise enough that you don’t feel super miserable (much more achievable).

      3) If you can, talk to your doctor/therapist. They will have strategies, meds, and also you are by definition interacting with them which reduces isolation.

      What does this mean in terms of work?
      1) Make sure you’re not working such long hours that you can’t do your self care.
      2) See if there are any ways you can add a little interaction with your colleagues into your work day. e.g. my team has regular meetings, and if you dial in a little early we have a little chat with each other while waiting for the meeting to start.
      3) Depending on your workplace, you may be able to ask for time off to go see your doctor.

      Hope that helps.

      1. Maggie*

        Thank you to everyone who has posted a response to my question! For what it’s worth…

        –I wear a mask when I go out and understand the risks even to healthy people.
        –I already did have a mental health therapist before the pandemic and I have continued to see him regularly via telemedicine visits.
        –I do have a social network. I’m not opposed to virtual alternatives. I participate in my church’s weekly online meetings, I talk to my parents, siblings, and friends on the phone as possible.
        –I am working hard to stay on top of my nutrition, sleep, and self-care. But I also recognize when I’m slipping on those things, and know from experience there’s a point where I know I’m ‘going under’ but can still ask for help and later there’s a second point where I have ‘gone under’ and can no longer advocate for myself and ask for help because I’m too depressed. I know I’m ‘going under’, so I’m trying to be as proactive as possible NOW.

        I think there are regular people who don’t do any of these things, and during a pandemic, should start and will find relief. But as a person who regularly does all of these things already, I can’t really ‘add’ them in now.

        Lack of childcare (my daughter’s preschool has been closed since March 16 and will remain so until at least September 1) is my most significant barrier. My employer expects I can work at home “just fine,” when in reality I can get NOTHING done with a 4 year old at home until she goes to bed and have been doing all of my work in the late hours of the night. Having done 18 hour days for the last 13 weeks, I know I cannot continue them for another 6+ months.

        Since the overall consensus is Allison’s advice still stands, I need to stop exploring a.) what my alternatives are for health insurance for my family if I have to quit this job and b.) what part time work I might be able to find and how I could live on a dramatically reduced salary.

        1. Wendy*

          Is there no one else in the house who can help with your daughter at least for part of the day? And if not, how is going into the office an option if you don’t have anyone to watch her while you are in there?

          1. Maggie*

            Wendy, my husband works in construction as has been working this whole time. He absolutely takes over when he gets home from work, which is how we have managed to stay afloat and employed thus far. But because of that, we essentially never see each other. It’s not really sustainable. Also, in my area, *emergency* childcare is available if BOTH parents work outside of the home. If I were able to go back to work, even for a few hours each day, my daughter would qualify for a slot, which currently she does not. Hopefully more childcare options will open up soon. Just hearing others’ opinions has given me a lot to think about and consider. But I currently feel like I would rather sacrifice my current job (if AAM has taught me anything it’s that it’s just a job!) than push myself to a point that I ended up in a psychiatric hospital.

            1. Adultiest Adult*

              I haven’t seen anyone comment yet on the fact that your answer may differ depending on the physical setup of the office. Do you have private offices or is it a cube farm? How many people can safely be in the building at once? How close do people need to get to do their jobs? It is not in fact necessary to completely ban using the microwave, or conference rooms, if distancing can be maintained. Or talking with colleagues, either. There are ways to do that safely, especially with masking and distance.

              My answer to this is also heavily influenced by my profession: mental health. I’ve been working in person with clients again as soon as it was reasonably safe to do so. Not all of them, but the ones for whom it was clinically important. The consequences of isolation on mental health are not to be trifled with, either.

              Maggie, push back if you need to, and ask to be an early-adopter. In an ideal world, people like Maggie would be first to be allowed to return to the office, while others who have reasons they need to WFH would be allowed to do so: both sides without judgement.

    4. Taniwha Girl*

      I think every human’s mental health is exacerbated by isolation. I don’t know anyone whose health has not been noticeably impacted in the last few months, myself included (already cried today).

      These are the questions I’m thinking about:
      Would working in the office even help, if precautions mean you can’t be near or talk to anyone?
      What job would you change to, in a world where working outside the home means putting your own life and others’ lives at risk? Is the choice that binary? How do you separate the risk to your life from the risk to others’?
      What can you do in your personal life to help your mental health, as some places start to open up?

    5. MK*

      Covid may not be a threat to you, but your going to the office will increase the risk for many vulnerable people. And accommodations are supposed to address a person’s difficulties in doing their job, not function as part of the treatment for whatever you need the disability for. Also, are you sure going back to an office where everyone is wearing masks and keeping their distance from eachother will help with your condition? The early parts of reopening in my country were in many ways more anxiety-inducing than the lockdown; one felt they were starring in a disaster film. If isolation creates a mental health issue, I don’t think it’s appropriate or even particularly helpful to try to address it by insisting to go back to work. Wouldn’t it be more useful to try to limit the isolation during non-work hours?

      1. Jenny*

        Don’t assume COVID isn’t a threat to you based on age. A friend of mine is a 33 year old marathon runner with no high risk factors. He had to be in the ICU and had a rough recovery. Some people haven’t been that lucky.

        1. Gaia*

          I’m sorry for your friend. I hope they are doing better now and the long term effects aren’t too bad

      2. AcademiaNut*

        I think the key is that going back to the office increases the risk of those people who do have to be there. And those essential people will then have to choose between increased risk or quitting and being ineligible for rehire.

        So for the OP, I think it’s more useful to accept indefinite work from home and concentrate on how to make it more bearable. Or, apply for jobs that do require in person work. If only you could swap with one of the people who is being forced back needlessly and is terrified.

      3. Doug Judy*

        The few times I do go out, I have way more anxiety than when I am home. At home, I can pretend for the most part everything is fine. When I go out, I’m very aware everything is not fine. People not wearing a mask being near me stresses me out. Getting take out and seeing the restaurant packed made me super anxious. It wasn’t fun.

        Don’t look for work to be your social outlet. It’s ok to meet up with a friend or two, being careful of course, go for a walk, do something in nature, or just chat in someone’s home.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          +100 I’d have a panic attack if I had to come into the office now, and then a social coworker came into my workspace wanting to chat.

          I used to live with both my adult sons and spend my summer traveling to large events with the social org I’m in (where I have many friends) and going to festivals, music shows, meetup events, and plain old nights out with friends. Both of my sons have moved out and everything else has been canceled. Not going to lie, even for someone like me who loves being alone, it gets pretty lonely. But going outside and being in crowded places really is stressful. Especially half the people living when in my area see not wearing a mask as a badge of courage. My mom lives nearby and is high-risk, I still see her on occasion (outside, in masks) and don’t want to take any chances of getting the virus and giving it to her. Not to mention, I don’t want to get it myself either.

    6. WS*

      No, it means you look for mental health treatment now. Going back to work and still being isolated there (and potentially being an infection vector for others – we don’t know if immunity is a thing or how long it lasts) is unlikely to be great for your mental health either. Talk to your mental health provider about how best to manage things – this is not your boss’s job.

      (That said, I am very sympathetic – I’m a frontline healthcare worker who also has depression and anxiety and an autoimmune condition for which I take a medication that suppresses my immune system. As you can imagine, the situation is not great for my mental health!)

    7. Koala dreams*

      I think that’s a question for your doctor, therapist or other health care provider. Maybe you can find another work (delivery drivers are still in demand, I think, if that’s an option), or you can find a treatment or an activity that improves your health. Depression is rough, take care of yourself. And don’t listen to the people who say “Everybody has bad days, just deal”. Mental health is important and deserve treatment. You deserve care too.

    8. Koala dreams*

      I just want to add, if you can’t work from home for health reasons, try to get an accomodation. It might not be possible for you to work in the office, but maybe the the employer and you can agree on something else, while you job search.

    9. TPS reporter*

      In my office it does matter. The vast majority must work from home but a very slim few have received an exception to be in the office. management has made a judgement call as to where some accommodating can be made and others must remain home.

      My best advice is talk to your manager and try to work something out. Also explore if you have an employee assistance program or talk to HR. The options could be special equipment, mental health resources and perhaps a few days in the office.

      1. Doug Judy*

        This is kind of how my work is approaching this. People who really want to come back to the office need to talk to HR. They need to agree to certain things, like no travel outside of work, refrain from large indoor gatherings, etc. They said if people want to do those things, that’s their choice but they are asking then you continue to work from home. There is a few people who’s jobs cannot be done remote and two of those people are probably the highest risk. Only having 10 people in the office is doable. You start adding more, the risk goes up.

        1. Doug Judy*

          Sorry that should mean no travel outside of the state. No one is traveling for work.

    10. Temperance*

      No. I have GAD, and am a hardcore germaphobe. This is my literal worst nightmare scenario, come to life.

      I don’t think mental health is unimportant, but so many people are using “mental health” as an excuse to behave recklessly and that’s why this is still a thing.

      1. J*

        I keep thinking about all those Londoners who slept in subway tunnels during the Blitz. Was it fun? Was it easy? Was it good on their mental health? Of course not. It was awful and some days probably felt unbearable. But there was no alternative. They had to, so they did. Similarly, we also have to. There aren’t bombs we can see falling from the sky, which makes it easier to think we don’t “have to” take drastic measures. But we do. It sucks, but there is literally no other (responsible) choice.

        1. Sarah*

          I also think a lot about Anne Frank. I think a lot of people miss the fact that no one is doing this to people but the virus. You can stick in your head in the sand, but you could literally kill people. I have a disability. No one knows what this virus would do! But if I could have prevented my health condition by staying inside for a few years when everyone else was doing it and thus there was support to make it feasible? I wish I had that chance! I thnk a lot of people will end up with permanent health problems from covid. If you look at how other countries handled things, it is clear that all that happens from not taking this seriously is that we increase how long we have to live like this. I am in physical pain constantly. I am not going to physical therapy because I don’t want to die and I don’t want anyone else to die. Surely people can find a way to manage not going to a particular location.

      2. Koala dreams*

        Wow. It’s not the fault of ill people that bigots like to tar everyone with mental illness with the same brush. Put the blame where it belongs.

      3. NoQuarantineBlues*


        I do believe to many people it DOES feel uncomfortable enough to call declining mental health.

        However, when I got therapy for a OCD behavior, the therapist absolutely didn’t tell me to indulge in the behavior more! She told me to sit with the discomfort.

        I actually feel BETTER in isolation that I have at any point in recent history, but I don’t know how to give advice to others other than “be an only child and learn to be comfortable with your own company for decades.” Not freaking out at the prospect of boredom is a learned skill IMO.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          Only child here. Yes, not freaking out at boredom is a Thing. I can chuckle now. But there have been times in the past where curling up in a ball and crying was the go-to solution. But perhaps there is some merit to the idea of a good cry. We can cry and we can still remain quarantined. I do get concerned because so many people are afraid of tears. But we are supposed to have tears and we are supposed to use the tears to process what bothers us. I think both of my parents would have lived longer if they did not insist on that stiff up lip regarding everything.
          And probably turning off the news, especially the articles that say “we will do this for the rest of this century”, is also a good idea. Yeah, the news does not say the rest of the century, but it can feel like they are saying that. This is what the word “overwhelmed” is for, feeling like this will go for the rest of the century means a person can be feeling overwhelmed. We’ll get through it. And hopefully we will be wiser in many ways.

      4. Jackalope*

        This response is so not cool. People are not using mental health as an excuse. People are having mental health issues and are doing their best to cope with the limited tools that are available right now, some of which aren’t good, but they aren’t just making it up. Isolation is known as a cause of serious health issues; here’s what I found from some research posted online (will include the link in a separate comment): social isolation is linked “with adverse health consequences including depression, poor sleep quality, impaired executive function, accelerated cognitive decline, poor cardiovascular function and impaired immunity at every stage of life. In addition, a 2019 study led by Kassandra Alcaraz, PhD, MPH, a public health researcher with the American Cancer Society, analyzed data from more than 580,000 adults and found that social isolation increases the risk of premature death from every cause for every race (American Journal of Epidemiology, Vol. 188, No. 1, 2019). According to Alcaraz, among black participants, social isolation doubled the risk of early death, while it increased the risk among white participants by 60 to 84 percent.”

        These are NOT minor issues. The isolation people are going through right now (especially given that at least in the US 1/4 of all adults live alone and so may have no other human contact at all) is a serious health risk. It’s a risk to our mental well-being, our physical well-being, our long-term life expectancy, and many other things. Dismissing it as “suck it up and deal”, or “people during the Blitz made it, so can we”, or “freaking out at the prospect of boredom” (to include some responses below) is inappropriate and out of line with the serious problems this can cause. I’m not saying ignore the COVID risks, I’m not saying break quarantine, I’m not saying don’t wear masks or have big parties or pretend all is well and good. I am a huge fan of the cautious approach to COVID, since it is a real and significant threat. But we also need to consider our mental health and not fall into the common trap of forgetting that mental health is real health.

        1. Not So NewReader*

          I agree as I am not seeing many people who are using mental health as a reason to go out wildly partying.
          What I do see is people who have been staying home developing some deep concerns. I think it’s super important to take expressions of concern seriously, until proven beyond a doubt that the concern is fake.
          The people I see with concerns are saying things like, “I’d like to get my own groceries again” or “I miss my grandchild”. These are not wild activities. This is pretty normal stuff and they have lost this stuff.

      5. pancakes*

        I don’t think that’s fair. Many of the commenters here who’ve spoken up about the stress the pandemic has put on their mental health are trying to be conscientious about the risk returning to work would put them and others in, and people who are behaving recklessly—like the guy in a video going around yesterday, who pushed his way into a store while refusing to wear a mask—aren’t talking about mental health at all, let alone using it as an excuse for their recklessness.

    11. Detective Amy Santiago*

      Sorry, but no.

      If you can do your job from home, it is your responsibility to do so as long as necessary to protect the physical health of those who cannot. My mom has been in the office the entire time. People have started returning and she is complaining that they are not following safety procedures. That puts her at risk. That makes me angry.

      Figure out other ways to manage your mental health. Figure out ways to socialize with friends/family. Start teletherapy.

    12. EventPlannerGal*

      No. I feel for you, I really do – isolation is difficult enough without adding other conditions into the mix. But your coworkers are not there to act as your mental health treatment. Please look into any other options – are there any friends you could see from a social distance if that’s permitted where you are?

      Maybe think about it from your colleagues perspective. I have to go into my office once a week for some essential tasks that can’t be done off-site. I don’t like it, I try to get in and out as quickly as possible and if any of my colleagues are there for essential tasks if their own I keep my distance. If one of them told me that they actually didn’t need to be there but were coming in anyway in order to be around me, and that it was okay because they maybe-or-maybe-not had Covid but never got tested so they didn’t know, I would be really, really unhappy about that regardless of the reasoning.

    13. Anonymous at a University*

      I know a staff worker at our university who did ask to go back to the office because she was feeling isolated at home and it was taking a toll on her mental health, but being there didn’t help her. Our campus has all-online summer classes right now and is small anyway, so there are no students there, no faculty other than someone sometimes dropping in to retrieve office equipment or use a copier, and the only other staff people being one maintenance worker, one security person, one IT person, and one librarian, all of whom work in different buildings. She said it was deeply depressing to see the parking lot so empty and to sit alone in her office, the only lighted room in a dark building, all day. She also had to wear a mask, which irritated her since she had allergies. She ended up returning to WFH.

      If it’s a change of venue because of a work setup that you need, or you need to get out of the house because you’re sharing it with people whom you’ve been sharing tight quarters with for so long, then I think that would be a more successful transition than if you’re doing it to feel less isolated. You’re not going to get the full social interaction you want, and you’re going to have some people who won’t be comfortable interacting with you for long periods of time even if you’re both there.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I’m essential. And there are days where I am alone in the entire building. The only thing I get out of it is that I move around more because of going to and from work. On days I am there, I do feel like I need to go back to my area and not have longer conversations with people. I get the idea that they feel the same way.
        Initially it took a bit to get used to seeing less people around on my rides to and from work, that was also disconcerting and maybe a little upsetting.
        I live alone so there is no one else in my household that I have to consider. That can be in my favor regarding going to work, but it might not be in my favor for other reasons.

    14. Lioness*

      Agree with the others. I also have anxiety and depression. I am also 24 with no preexisting conditions and so in likelihood CoVid wouldn’t affect me much, but at the same time I can’t be certain it wouldn’t affect me, I can’t be certain I wouldn’t pass it on while being asymptomatic. You don’t know how it would affect you and you don’t know how it’ll affect others around you.

      What I have been able to do is do phone calls with my psychiatrist. It isn’t the same but at least there are options, as others have said there might be other options for social contact that are lower risks. As others have said, would returning to office be the best solution for isolation?

    15. Sylvan*

      For me, yes, but of course it’s not a free pass to be reckless. It’s a reason to prioritize getting outside safely, when you can, and going back to work in your building when it’s safe to do so.

      I have panic disorder and generalized anxiety disorder. There’s only so much that therapy and medication can do to make you okay with being alone all the time. I’ve been having more panic attacks, dissociating more, and sleeping less. Just going back to work in person for a day or two a week would be wonderful.

    16. Raea*

      I hope this doesn’t sound cold-hearted, but to me – the mental health of one does not trump the physical health of many. The crux of the issue in a situation like this is that you aren’t just making a decision for yourself – if it was I’d say have at it – you’re also taking a risk with the lives of every other person you interact with or come across.

    17. Coverage Associate*

      I think the office isn’t the solution to mental health problems, for 2 reasons. First, the office probably won’t provide much social interaction. The first people in are likely to be alone all day.

      Second, work in general isn’t a reliable fix to mental illness. I know there’s a lot of correspondence between employment and reduced depression, for example, but we can’t rely on employment for treatment, same as a friendly coworker isn’t a substitute for a therapist.

      I know everyone in my life was better at keeping in touch in March and April than now, but I would encourage you to look for interactions that aren’t work. My church has very safely reopened. I went to a socially distanced protest. I met family for a socially distanced hike. I am fair skinned and don’t really like the outdoors, but I am accepting it because it’s better than nothing.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I agree that work is not a fix for mental health. But I also see that the need to contribute, the need to do something is a very human need. It’s on a par with food and water. If people aren’t making a contribution and aren’t doing something positive, we can start seeing some strange stuff. Our jobs, our contribution to this world can be an anchor for us in life. But so can other things, and if people lose those other things that is also a big deal.

    18. xtine*

      My depression is exacerbated by isolation but I don’t think it’s on my employer to provide me with the socialization I need to stay well. In fact, I’ve learned over the years that it’s really important for me not to rely on my job for that.

  19. Calanthea*

    Thanks for the thoughtful answer to LW1, Alison. I hadn’t really considered the “every extra person increases the risk” angle for myself! I shall definitely bear this in mind as we discuss returning to the office.
    I guess the counterpoint would be that I’m definitely less effective at home, and also that work is way more stressful/I find it harder to switch off. So I’d hope that the organisation would recognise that and adjust expectations accordingly, which I don’t think has happened.
    I might suggest that we all move to a 4 day working week….

    1. JustKnope*

      “Being less productive” isn’t really a counterpoint to increasing the risk of others getting the virus and being very ill or potentially dying, though. Those two problems are just nowhere near equivalent. Offices are taking productivity into account when deciding when to reopen, but ethically it just has to be a way lower priority than people’s health and safety.

      1. MayLou*

        I don’t think the suggestion was that lower productivity should be weighed against safety, just that expectations of productivity should be correspondingly lower.

        1. Littorally*

          Right. Companies that don’t change productivity requirements make it very hard on their employees, as the choice becomes not just mental health but also the heightened possibility of losing your job for failing to perform to expectations, versus the possibility of getting sick and getting others sick.

    2. Koala dreams*

      I hope you find a solution! Take care! If you feel the stress is getting too much, please seek help.

    3. TPS reporter*

      I would say it’s worth thinking outside the box and bringing ideas to management for how to make people feel more comfortable at home. 4 days is one, there must be others. We’re changing our lives drastically in many ways and through that discovering things we never thought of or thought were too radical. Being in the office as a non essential worker is just something most of us will have to forgo for awhile despite the discomfort. But let’s think of other ways to live and work!

      1. tangerineRose*

        Some people might be happier with noise-cancelling headphones and maybe some kind of partitions to have a designated work space, even if it’s small.

  20. Koala dreams*

    #3 I think this problem is very common. Employers write more and more nonsensical job ads, where they either are looking for happy people with the right attitude (no job description) or are looking for the qualified candidate with all the skills (long, long list), and as a result job searchers take all ads with a grain of salt. Then the employers with the long lists write even longer lists and so on. You can try spelling out the language skills more (it’s a big difference between the language needed for doing accounting or serving coffee), or have a few questions in the target language in the application, or do more phone screens (especially if you can find someone to do a short conversation in the target language).

    1. I can only speak Japanese*

      This. Imagine not applying for a job that has a long wish list of skills because you don’t fulfill them all, and later learning they hired someone who fulfills even fewer than you do. I’d be really annoyed with both myself and the employer, so I err on the side of applying anyway if I really want a job and hover around 70%+, but then some recruiters get pissy if you are not a 110% (extra 10% for the secret requirement they forgot about) match.

      1. irene adler*

        Yes, this!

        Or, imagine interviewing for the job requiring that long wish list of skills (on the order of 25-35 or more skills) and finding that the one who got the job has fewer skills than you do.

        One time I met all but one of the job requirements. I pointed this out at the phone screen. Was told that was not a deal breaker. Four on-site interviews later, I was rejected -because I lacked that one job skill.

    2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      This. *So much* this.

      When jobs labeled entry level have more requirements* than the job description for a UN Ambassador or the Pope, recruiters have de facto told us job seekers that the requirements don’t really matter. Someone will be hired for the role eventually, and there simply aren’t enough left-handed purple squirrels to go around. So someone with only some of the skills will be hired; why not me?

      It’s not so much that applicants want to ignore job requirements as much as it is that recruiters, as a whole, have created a system where ignoring job requirements is the only way to get hired or move up. The state of the economy may be driving the volume, but it’s not the root of the behavior–and I’m not asserting the behavior is right, just that it’s the behavior that’s being encouraged/required.

      That said, if you want more Francophones and Germanophones, I have two suggestions. First, emphasize those traits in the job description more than the job requirements (e.g. Coordinate with teams in France and Germany), and second, post your ads in (only) those two languages. Sure, you’ll get a few who will dump the listing into Google Translate, but you’ll at least filter out the ones who won’t put in even that effort.

      But the real answer is that it sucks for everyone else as much as it does for you.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        *Here’s an example from my industry: https://www.linkedin.com/jobs/view/1917915685/?eBP=NotAvailableFromVoyagerAPI&recommendedFlavor=JOB_SEEKER_QUALIFIED&refId=964b4c0e-2df3-4a70-b69c-d72d0dfdb860&trk=flagship3_search_srp_jobs

        “Minimum 3 years of Application Development work experience in a client-server environment utilizing exceptional design, coding, testing and debugging skills 3+ years experience with Quadient Inspire designer and Automation including solid design, coding, testing and debugging skills 3+ years … experience with Object-oriented programming languages Experience with Java, Groovy, Open txt HP Dialogue, SmartComm, SQL, and Mainframe TSO environment Desired Skills Mainframe TSO environment using JCL a plus If interested, please apply now!”

        For those scoring at home:
        3 years Quadient Inspire Designer (product)
        3 years Quadient Inspire Automation (product)
        3 years Object Oriented Programming (technique)
        3 years Java (language)
        3 years Groovy (language)
        3 years OpenText (née HP née Exstream) Dialogue (product)
        3 years SmartComm (product^)
        3 years SQL (language)
        3 years Mainframe TSO with JCL (z/OS platform^)

        That’s 3 x 9 = 27 years of experience. Dialogue and Inspire Designer are competitors/alternative products, so concurrency is implausible (having experience with both, anyone who can learn both at the same time belongs in Mensa). Groovy is the scripting language in Inspire Automation, so those should be concurrent. Java can be programmed with Object Oriented techniques, so those are concurrent. This position is still looking for 21 years of experience minimum.

        I’ve been working with Inspire Designer for over a decade. I understand the basics of SQL and Inspire Automation. If I were unemployed and needed a paycheque to feed my family desperately, could you really fault me for rolling the die that Inspire Designer is the skill that’s really needed and applying?

        ^I’m not completely sure; Google isn’t completely sure what those are.

        1. sane*

          I was going to say – tech companies seem to be the worst for this. It takes some industry knowledge to know for sure which of those requirements are really required. Sometimes, for examples, it’ll say you need Postgres experience when really anyone with SQL experience would be fine.

    3. virago*

      I agree in general, though in this specific case, OP3 is in the UK, and other commenters have noted that UK job seekers have to demonstrate an inordinately high number of employer contacts in order to continue receiving unemployment benefits.

      So as long as this requirement is in place, OP3 is probably going to keep receiving a lot of tangentially related applications.

      1. only acting normal*

        Yes. Our UK system is punitive by design. And if I were in that boat, I also might consider one-click-spam-applying for jobs where I didn’t meet the criteria, just to keep up my application numbers, and freeing me to focus *actual effort* on the relatively few specialist jobs I actually qualify for and want.

      2. Koala dreams*

        Oh, we have that system in my country too. I still think employers feed the vicious cycle by posting nonsensical ads.

  21. EvilQueenRegina*

    I can definitely relate to #2 – I had this coworker when I first started my last job and I could very easily have written this letter. We were using a system that was new to me but had been in use in her previous role (I later found out she used to get her coworker to do as much as possible of the work – her coworker appears to have gone along with it to keep her quiet) – at the end of my first week she was panicking when she couldn’t find someone’s record on the system and I ended up being the one showing her how to find it.

    Our manager was aware of the situation but didn’t really act on it so it just went on until she was let go in a round off layoffs – when you say she claims the boss won’t answer her, is that because the boss has also had to field lots of these queries and is just choosing that way of handling it?

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      Your manager was the issue in your situation, and it sounds like OP’s manager is also the issue. You don’t deal with someone like this by ignoring them. You talk to them and fix the problem.

  22. Jenny*

    #1: my husband had to go into work a couple weeks ago to work on equipment that can’t be used remotely. Apparently a few days later one of the IT staff tested positive. Work not only had to track down and test everyone the IT person interacted with (thank goodness for masks, everyone has been negative so far) but also everyone they interacted with as well. Work arranged for and paid for the tests.

    There are very good reasons to keep as many people as possible home.

    1. Jenny*

      But yeah if you do go in, wear a mask! My husband spent 30 minutes working in a small office with someone who tested positive days later. But he’s okay because they both wore masks. To be clear I don’t think that means it’s okay to put yourself in high risk situations while wearing a mask. There was still likely some luck there.

    2. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

      To LW #3: This is one of those situations that calls for an actual application to be filled out in order to automatically drop applicants that don’t meet the requirements. This saved me so much time; I had hundreds of people applying for every position for the sake of maintaining their unemployment status but once they answered the drop-down with “No” to the essential questions (“Are you a licensed plumber in the state of Xx”) I could move on.
      Alison is right about the economy: I’ve had NASA engineers applying for brick laying positions. They could calculate reentry patterns but didn’t know what a trowel was.

    3. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

      That is awful. Not only did it cause great concern for the employees, but it cost the company money they would not have otherwise had to spend.

  23. Mannheim Steamroller*

    [Generally speaking, when people are off, they are truly off. No Slack, email, phone calls, or meetings are expected. It’s lovely!
    The only person who tries to work through their vacation is my manager.]

    Your manager is leading by example with a very clear message that the rest of you are expected to spend your entire “vacation” working. Do you really want to stay there?

      1. Mannheim Steamroller*

        When the boss says and does two different things, what she does indicates her actual intent.

        1. tangerineRose*

          Not always. In this case, maybe she feels more comfortable when she’s always in touch or things that managers should do this but her reports don’t need to.

          1. A*

            Exactly. My boss is incapable of truly unplugging, but it’s just her preference. It doesn’t extend to her direct reports. It’s never been explicitly discussed, but it hasn’t needed to be. At least for me, once I picked up on the pattern I figure that if she DID have issues with me not checking in or working during PTO, then we have bigger issues on our hands anyways since it would be an obvious mismatch and time to job hunt. She’s never pushed back (on me or others), so it’s a non-issue.

    1. Jen*

      I don’t see any indication of that…

      I, as a manager, sometimes decide to read my email after work hours or during my holidays, but it’s just because I am bored/keeping my eye on something important/happened to leave the tab open on my personal computer. I 100% do not expect anyone on my team to do the same – I’ve explicitly told them not to install the work email app on their phones and to not touch their laptops during holidays (and they don’t).

      1. What's in a name?*

        If I have 10 minutes of down time, I might go through my emails to sort out all the junk so that my inbox is not so daunting when I get back, but I don’t usually interact with big items.

    2. What's in a name?*

      I wonder if saying something like “Is there something that you are worried about happening or not happening while you are disconnected?” could help the LW get some clarity.

      1. Important Moi*

        My experience is those types of questions are not appreciated because the person knows they are pushing a boundary with the hope (expectation?) no one pushes back.

    3. sfdgf tr*

      Nah. It sounds like it’s only the manager that does this and no one else, including those above her, or her peers, etc. I believe the LW when they say the manager is their only one.

  24. straws*

    For #1, the is also a lot to be done to make and keep the offices safe. Disinfecting, increased cleaning, sanitizing stations, closing off or monitoring shared areas, possibly rearranging shared offices, a plan to enforce mask sharing, monitoring employees’ health status, and more. Going back to a closed office during a pandemic is a pretty big project, with a number of ongoing pieces. For my company, it’s not a project anyone would have time to take on unless absolutely necessary. And we’re just 20 people. I completely empathize, but there’s definitely more to it than just going back in to consider, and hopefully those are all things your company is considering so they can keep everyone safe when you do go back.

    1. xtine*

      I was just coming to say this. The building may be on reduced – everything – right now. They may have halted their cleaning and maintenance services, they may have the AC/Heat and lighting on an “away” or “weekend” mode that wouldn’t be comfortable to work in, there may be no one to make sure supplies are restocked – both office tools and basic needs like toilet paper and soap in the bathrooms, etc. It takes a lot to make a building habitable and they might not be in a position to do that for one or two employees.

  25. Kate H*

    OP1: I understand that you want to return to the office because it’s a better work environment for you, but the pandemic is not over because you want it to be. Speaking as someone who was forced back to the office despite having a high-risk family and a job that’s 100% capable of being done from home, I’d give just about anything right now to have an understanding workplace that was suggesting extending WFH to 2021. Florida is experiencing a massive spike with thousands of new cases a day and my coworker just spent a week there. Even if you’re comfortable with the risk, this isn’t just about you.

    Keep in mind that office work now is a very different experience, if your workplace is sensible (and it sounds like they are). Masks are required. Desks have been moved for social distancing. In-person meetings are prohibited. The break room and rec room are closed. I burned half a tank of gas last week running my AC so I could eat in my car.

    1. Rebecca*

      I came here to say just this. The very minute my county went “green” our micromanager started the “back to work” push. She couldn’t wait to get back. Telework is still strongly encouraged, but that didn’t matter. Butts in seats, so as of yesterday, that’s where I am, after 3 months of successfully working from home with no issues. I was the only person with a mask, and when asked why I was wearing it, I said that I have been isolated for 3 months and now I’m around 15 other people and I have no idea where you have been or who you’ve been exposed to. We’re not supposed to visit other offices, be within 6 feet of each other without a mask, but those rules aren’t being followed. I’m really angry about this. My employer is supposed to be following our state’s dept of health guidelines as well as CDC guidelines for the workplace, so I’m going to be looking this up. This may be my literal hill to die on.

      1. allathian*

        Oh my goodness! I hope none of you get sick. In your situation, I’d start polishing my resume.

        1. Rebecca*

          I am very lucky to have a large office by myself, but I still need to use the restroom, pull doors open, etc. so I keep a small bottle of hand sanitizer in my pocket at all times, and wear a mask when I go to the restroom, copier, fridge, etc. I heard someone across the hall laugh and say “oh, look, I’m breaking the rules!”. Then I heard 3 people chatting and laughing. I’ve seen my unmasked coworkers nearly head to head laughing over videos on someone’s phone. When I pointed out that I had been around a total of 4 other humans on an ongoing basis since March, a coworker who kept coming into my office laughed it off, said not me. Honestly I’m horrified.

          1. Detective Amy Santiago*

            I am angry on your behalf. It’s yet another example of people not caring about anyone except themselves and it’s outrageous.

      2. Mina, the Company Prom Queen*

        Your coworkers asked you why you were wearing a mask???? And shame on your manager. I’m so sorry you have to deal with this situation.

    2. Mina, The Company Prom Queen*

      I agree. To LW #1, I say please don’t do this to your coworkers. For one thing, another person in the office increases risk. And you never know who has family members who are high-risk living with them. Also, sometimes all it takes is one or two individuals to push to get back into the office, and then everyone else feels pressured to return to the office before it is actually safe. Don’t be ‘that’ coworker.

    3. Scarlet2*

      Yeah, I understand where LW is coming from. As a person who’s been happily 100% working from home for the past 7 years and who’s also an introvert, our 3 months lockdown was a lot harder than I expected. The isolation definitely took a toll on my mental health. But I’m also thinking about the “essential” workers mentioned in the letter who have no other choice but being in the office. Depending on the office’s layout, having an extra person there could increase their personal risk and that needs to be taken into consideration.

  26. Bookworm*

    OP1: I think it really depends on your local situation, how good your office set up is (good air ventilation, enough room for people to space out, ability to rotate shifts, the need for certain work to be done in the office vs. what can be done in a remote setting, etc.).

    I know there are some people who really aren’t handling WFH very well for various reasons while others would give ANYTHING to be able to WFH, again, for many reasons. In my old office location the office was poorly ventilated and it would have been mostly unfeasible (especially by the end of our time there) to be able to safely distance. Our new location would make it easier but our bosses are giving it another couple of months.

    Good luck.

  27. Cassie Nova*

    Another reason why people apply for jobs they’re seemingly not qualified for is because companies sometimes bloat their ads with all kinds of “nice to haves” that aren’t essential. Candidates realize that some ads have more leeway than others, but they often can’t discern which ones they are (even if they contain words like “essential”) so they resumé-bomb. It’s not great but if companies held tight to listing only what they actually need from candidates, the situation would be better.

  28. Nicola*

    I don’t know if this applies elsewhere but in the UK if you are unemployed then one of the conditions of getting your unemployment benefit is that you have to apply for a certain number of jobs a week. This can lead to this sort of thing. The people who are checking that you are complying with your conditions only have a few minutes every fortnight with each person so it is often simply a numbers game.

    1. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

      That is normally the case for unemployment, but the US waived that requirement due to the high number of people out of work and the limited number of jobs available.

    2. Marlene*

      Yep, in the US we don’t have to apply for work until several months after the end of the state of emergency (so that will probably be a while.)

  29. NotJennifer*

    My employer has literally rearranged things physically on-site to make it as safe as possible for essential workers who need to be there to be on-site. When they realized this wasn’t just going to be for a few weeks, they put a lot of thought into how to create a new normal that would be both safe and comfortable for on-site employees. That means that they arranged things with a certain number of on-site staff in mind. It would be incredibly disruptive for people who don’t need to go in to be there. I suspect my employer isn’t the only one that has done rearranging like this, so it’s easier and safer to weather out the next few months. Please don’t insist you need to go in when you don’t. At best it’s going to be inconvenient for others. But there’s a chance you will be impacting the safety of others (and yourself) because they were not accounting for additional people in a carefully planned space.

    1. NotJennifer*

      By the way, this is something I need to remind myself to help assuage guilt I feel about working from home instead of going in. They don’t want me there. They want me here. I’m sure I’m not the only person feeling this weird version of… it’s not survivor’s guilt, but feels like a cousin of it.

      1. tangerineRose*

        I know what you mean, but you know you’re keeping people safer by staying home.

  30. mreasy*

    Please don’t go back to work if you don’t have to. Are there ways you can think through to make your wfh experience more “like the office”? I know that I initially didn’t give too much thought to my setup because I assumed it would be very short term. As time has gone on, my husband and I have had to make things a lot more work-friendly. Can you get a second monitor, find a designated work space that’s more beneficial than your current space (I live in an apartment so I know this option can be limited), set timers for scheduled breaks so you are less distracted by home concerns, knowing you can take care of the dishes/making the bed/wiping the tabletop during the next 5-minute “brain break”? I understand it can be tough to wfh but our cases are rising nationwide, and it’s directly related to states reopening. Please keep yourself, your community, and your colleagues safe.

  31. PharmaCat*

    LW2 – In addition to the good suggestions above- When training new employees in technology, I have had success by stating emphatically that they should be taking detailed notes. When a question is repeated, I will ask them to show me their notes, and we can update any missing points. Some people just don’t connect that learning a new skill you use the same learning techniques from school.

      1. Lynn Whitehat*

        Or they’re hoping this yucky computer fad will die out if they refuse to cooperate with it.

  32. TheBurg*

    I’m going to add some thoughts on LW2 based on the fact that this is a childcare position. I’m guessing that just because the program has trainings (sounds like tutorials as part of whatever app is being used?) does not mean that your coworker (I want to say lead teacher, but that’s just my guess based on context clues) has the time or inclination to actually go through the trainings, especially if they don’t have time in their work day (VERY likely in childcare) or won’t be paid for it (also likely).

    When my previous school switched to an iPad system for attendance, tracking, parent communication, etc, there were a couple of teachers who were very uncomfortable with it in a “that’s not my job” sort of way. Sometimes this worked out and the assistant was able to handle the bulk of this part of the job, but (a) some assistants hated that and (b) either way, ALL employees need to know how to use these programs. Unfortunately, pushing back in your individual classroom doesn’t always do much and sometimes just creates friction.

    LW, I would definitely go to your director and let her know that your coworker needs more help/training and that you don’t have time in the classroom to be the one who is teaching her. There’s definitely the chance you’ll be told (especially if you’re an assistant and she’s a lead teacher) that handling this techy part of the jobs is on you, but I’d still bring it up because it is DEFINITELY not your job to teach her and your admin should likely know who needs more help with this program anyway.

  33. EventPlannerGal*

    OP1 – I imagine that you feel relatively safe returning to the office because you believe that you will be the only or one of very few people there. However, many offices that are closed to office workers still have people on-site, like security guards, cleaners and maintenance workers. Also, office workers returning to work may create more demand for support staff to return to work – I know that once my office starts reopening our receptionist will be one of the first people who has to go back, to track how many people are in the building. Basically, you may not be exposing many of your direct colleagues, but you quite possibly will be exposing a number of low-paid maintenance/support staff who don’t have much of a choice about being there (and you will in turn be exposed to them). Obviously this may not apply if you are returning to an office that has been totally mothballed for the last few months and you will be opening and locking up yourself every day, but if that’s not the case please do think about how your presence would affect essential workers.

    1. Bertha*

      Along these lines – some of those people don’t need to be onsite UNTIL or unless someone else wants to physically come in to the office. My husband had to go in today to set up locally required signage, set up cleaning staff, etc. that are mainly for a couple of people that have to come in to the office. It’s a little bit more complicated than that of course but he wouldn’t have to come in at all if these other staff members didn’t need to come in. Unless you work for a very small company, chances are that there are staff there that would need to come in if ANYONE else came into the office.

      1. EventPlannerGal*

        Yes, exactly – that’s what is happening with our receptionist. As soon as even one or two people start “officially” working from the office again rather than popping in occasionally for essential tasks, she will have to come back to work.

        I understand that there are good reasons for some people to return to the office, but for people who are considering it because they miss their double monitors or whatever, please think about who will also have to be there to support you, whether they have any choice in the matter, and what you will need to be doing to keep them safe.

  34. Roscoe*

    #1. I’m in the same boat. I was laid off back in December. I got a new job in early March, with an early April start date. I also live alone. So at this point, I’ve been going on 6 months of being in the house alone the vast majority of the time. I’d be happy to just have some reason to not be in my house all day long. Problem is, I’m so new that I don’t want to be the one to bring this up. My company hasn’t even mentioned a return to office plan, so I’m sure its a ways out. But I would definitely volunteer to go in a couple of days a week. You aren’t selfish. As long as you are taking precautions, you are trying to figure out what works best for you. I don’t think companies should force people to go back, but if there are a few people who would safely want to do that, I see no problem there

    1. Always Mute The Zoom Meeting*

      You seem to forget that there are people there and they are often the people that never had the option to work from home. The least you can do is not force your presence on them seeing as they have been forced to show up no matter the health risk. Let’s not pretend that everyone has had the luxury of being safe at home. They haven’t.

      1. Roscoe*

        Where are you getting forcing my presence on someone? IF my office were to open and they asked who felt comfortable going in a couple of days a week, I said I would. Hell, that would possibly allow others to not have to go in. But nowhere am I demanding to go into a closed office.

      2. Pommette!*

        I think that your point about doing what we can to avoid putting others in danger is an important one, and ultimately should be the first consideration when making such decisions.

        But talk of “the luxury of being safe at home” feels unduly harsh… the reality is that for many people, home is not particularly safe right now. Being forced to stay home does endanger their mental and physical health, and/or their ability to continue making a living.

        Yes, being able to work from home is in many ways a mark of genuine good fortune. The jobs that can be done from home tend to be in higher-paying, more secure fields. It’s better to be employed than laid off. For people with access to employment insurance or other temporary benefits, it may be better to be furloughed/laid-off than to be forced back to a dangerous job (as is happening to many service workers). But for some people, being stuck at home is also genuinely harmful, and hard.

  35. MissDisplaced*

    Returning to the office is very fraught with drama right now. But if you don’t work well at home, you can ask if there is any availability for you to go in 1-2 days.
    This will really depend on the situation though!
    Your company may not want to heat/cool or provide security for a small number of in-office employees right now. Or, the office may only be open to those who have absolute necessity to be there for their jobs or occasional meetings. If this is the case, respect it. But I don’t think it hurts to ask when/if people who want to can start going in.

  36. LGC*

    LW2: I’ve been thinking, but…if she’s calling you claiming your boss won’t answer her, it sounds like either your boss 1) has (rightly) decided to not give in to her or 2) has (wrongly) decided to give up on her learning essential job skills.

    I’m just curious if your boss knows that she’s contacting you a lot! If she doesn’t, this might be something to loop her in on. (And yes, I know, talk it over with your coworkers should usually be the first step, but I get the sense that the coworker is making an end run around your boss to you, and given the kinds of people who often write in here, I can imagine a situation where you’re young enough to be this woman’s child – and she’s treating you as such. (If this is the case, do not give in! She is your peer, not your mom or your aunt!)

  37. TotesMaGoats*

    I would disagree with #5. If the hours you worked were substantial, it could be worth your while to list them. My undergraduate senior internship was 5oo hours. It was a full time job for a semester and gave me experience in my field that would have excluded me from most jobs. This may be more applicable to education, mental health and healthcare than other fields though.

  38. CatPerson*

    I do wish that Alison called OP2 out for mentioning the computer illiterate co-worker’s age. As a 60+ excel and powerpoint expert, I resent the ageism that seemingly innocuous comments like that imply. Ageism is about the last socially acceptable for of discrimination, which is pretty ironic considering that every single person ages exactly one day at a time, and if you’re lucky enough to get old, that’s a good thing.

    There may be many reasons why she’s computer illiterate. Past work experience, for example. That doesn’t mean that she gets a pass on taking the training, but let’s leave her age out of it, shall we?

    1. MayLou*

      I wondered whether that detail was included not because the LW believed age causes people to be bad at computers but to indicate an awareness that someone whose career could span five decades is likely to have spent a much smaller proportion of their working life using computers and tablets than someone who is in their 20s. Age IS relevant, especially if the LW is in the UK as our laws about age discrimination are different from the ones in the USA.

      1. A*

        Yes, especially given that OP is working in a child care center which – as far as I know – is not a field that often utilizes computers, or at least not the latest/greatest in technology. I think it’s fair to assume there is some correlation between someone being less knowledgeable with modern tech, and the fact that they have worked for several decades in a field where it was previously never used.

        I started my career out in a comparable industry in terms of not utilizing a lot of technology, and the majority of my older co-workers struggled greatly when we started requiring computer use (we had no choice, their beloved preferred method of faxing had fallen so far out of favor in the industry that most our clients didn’t own one – not to mention none of our junior staff knowing how to operate one).

        The struggle wasn’t because of their age, it’s because they had been working for 30+ years in a industry and literally never used computers previously – whereas I had only been in the field for ~6 months.

      2. JSPA*

        It’s relevant in three ways I can think of.

        1. vision issues. Trust me, even those of us who are highly computer literate can have more problems with screens (or need bifocals, or have astigmatism, or have bad multifocals that leave us feeling like we’re falling down a well, if we look up and down a screen the wrong way) as we hit various age marks.

        2. it’s less unusual that someone older might have not encountered computers in their outside-of-work life. For someone in their 20’s, it would be inconceivable, in many countries, that they could have reached employment age without have used computers at school and in their private lives. It’s unusual at 60, but not wildly so.

        3. Absent an accommodation for a medical issue, someone in their 20’s could not possibly hope to coast by until retirement without using computers in practically any field. If you’ve dodged successfully until age 60, and perhaps plan to retire early, 3 more years of coasting is potentially achievable.

        Those are all legitimate stage of life, cohort and/or physical correlate of aging issues.

        My only suggestion, though, is that if anything on the computer is daunting, that OP not only offer to help the coworker sign up, but say, “I’ll sign you up for class X. Which works better for you, date-and-time A, or date-and-time B?” Picking the right class and physically going through the process may be daunting already.

        I’d also be aware of any “how do you even see those little boxes” comments. Offering to show someone the zoom function on their screen can make a lot of questions go away.

  39. Amethystmoon*

    #2 I would be careful with this one, depending on where you work. It could be seen as ageism. I have a technological luddite coworker myself, and I do know it’s got nothing to do with how old one is. I’ve met retirees in Toastmasters who can use Zoom and PowerPoint and have no problems. But I know that because I’m the nerdy one, I’m going to have to be the defacto person to help my coworker. She knows how to do exactly her job, but cannot think out of the box or do anything different. Problem is though our jobs are changing and we are taking on new stuff. I have told my boss — he also was her manager previously. For example, there’s a macro at work that requires selecting things in two different tabs in Excel and pasting them onto another tab. She couldn’t figure out for the life of her how to do that. I tried step by step, click here, press this key, press the left mouse button, etc., talking her through it. She still couldn’t get it. So I wound up recording a macro myself to do it because the stuff is always in the same place to select, copy, and paste. There are always going to be people like this. But most workplaces are going to pull the “team player” card if a direct employee pushes back on helping them, at least in my experience personally.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      Yes, but there is kind of a difference between implementing a macro in Excel and basic device use (I even have to look those up oftentimes!). It sounds like OP’s coworker is having difficulty with basic things like tablet use, email, calls, etc.

      1. Amethystmoon*

        It was copying and pasting which my coworker had issues with. We also sometimes have to coach her on writing emails and putting on out of office messages. She also cannot save and rename files, so an entire new division’s work went to me because they require putting files in their group drive. I’d say those were basic skills also.

  40. Coder von Frankenstein*

    OP4, the fact that you need a “break” from your boss at work – and your comment about micromanaging – suggests that maybe vacation isn’t the biggest issue here.

    My experience has been that I like having good bosses around, so I can check in with them and get answers to “big picture” questions. Any boss I wanted a break from, looking back on it, wasn’t a very good boss.

  41. S-Mart*

    LW4: Your assertion that “Her vacation should be a break for us, too.” gave me pause. I’m not sure what kind of a break you mean, but as a manager if I felt that my reports took my vacations as break I’d be more inclined to be checking in during my vacations. I’d hate it, because I generally do completely disconnect on my vacations, but the workload doesn’t dip just because I’m not there and I have to be confident that the team is going to stay on top of it.

    1. Jennifer*

      If an entire team looked forward to my taking a vacation because they’d finally get a break from me, I’d wonder what I’d done that was annoying them so much and what I could do differently in the future. The boss seems to be more of the problem here. I definitely don’t think checking in more is the answer. They seem to be on top of it and the constant check-ins are more of a hindrance.

      1. Coder von Frankenstein*

        Agreed. From the letter, it sounds as if the boss wants to have a hand in everything and the team wants her to butt out and let them do their jobs.

        1. tangerineRose*

          Yeah, that’s what I was thinking. Maybe they can get more done without the manager there.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Agree – I don’t think LW meant that the whole team should stop doing anything at work when the manager is out. Pretty sure she’s not the only manager in the office, and whoever takes over being in charge while she’s gone, would have caught on pretty quickly if the whole team slacked off anytime their manager was out. To me it read that the manager might even get in the way of them doing their jobs (with interruptions, unnecessary meetings, what have you) when she’s in.

    2. WellRed*

      As a manager, if your team looks forward to your vacation, you are the problem. They want to do their jobs and possibly even have a chance to sign.

    3. Lizzy May*

      I’m someone who gets happy when I find out my manager is taking a vacation and it’s not for the sake of slacking. I have found that their vacation time tends to be a bit quieter for me and allows me an opportunity to catch up on places where I am behind, or do a non-urgent project or even just catch up on my filing. It’s not that I’m not doing my work but when my manager is away, I often have less new work over that week and can use my time in a different way.

      1. sofar*


        My manager is taking off two weeks this summer, and I’m already a bit excited about how I’m going to have lots of quiet, heads-down planning time. I work just as hard when she’s gone. I just have fewer interruptions. My manager is amazing. She’s also a creative ideas person who loves to brainstorm — and it’s her job to be the conduit between the higher ups and production staff (me). So, when she’s out, she’s also not passing down constant requests and questions from her bosses. I therefore look forward to those weeks where nothing “new” is coming in and I can get ahead a bit.

        … and yes, sometimes I do end my day 30 minutes early sometimes, too, because I’ve been more efficient.

    4. Isn't that special*

      It is often — and rightly — said here that it is none of a manager’s business what employees do on vacation.

      Conversely, it is also none of the employees’ business what the manager does on vacation. If she wants to bring work with her, that is her right.

      LW4 seems to think that “if the cat is away, the mice can play.” Just because the boss is out of the office does not mean it’s a vacation for LW4, too.

      1. Jennifer*

        She’s making it their business by annoying them while she’s on vacation. If she wants to bring her laptop and work through some of the backlog that doesn’t really affect them, fine, though that’s not my idea of a good time. But if she’s involving them and making their lives harder, it’s their business.

        1. Isn't that special*

          But she’s not making their lives harder. Their lives are exactly the same as they are on every other day when she’s in the office. The only way she’s “making their lives harder” is if they intend to slack off while she’s on vacation.

      2. Cheerfully Polite Grey Rock*

        I get the impression that it’s not so much “When the cat’s away, the mice can play”, but more that they get a bit more autonomy and less interruption while she’s gone. There is no suggestion that they’re slacking off in any way, and several examples of where the manager sporadically involving herself in the work is actively detrimental.
        There are very likely alternate reporting lines in place while the manager is ‘away’, so by randomly chiming in with new instructions (particularly as she may not have the full context at the time) could really be a problem – a bit like other letters we’ve had here where someone reports to two bosses and they’re trying to deal with conflicting instructions.

    5. QEire*

      As someone who worked for several years with a horrific micromanager, I saw this as a problem with the manager, not the employees. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the manager in question was actually my old manager. She introduced herself to us by stating that she couldn’t do work life balance. She told us that she understood not everyone was like that, but we all know how that works.

      Almost everyone had access to her calendar, and were very aware of when she wouldn’t be in the office. It meant time for us to actually get work done without a million questions. That didn’t stop her from sending emails to us at 11pm on a Saturday asking for something. Or she would have stopped in the office that day, and saw something on someone’s desk that she didn’t understand, so then she’d immediately send us a panicked email asking us why we were doing something this way or that.

      She once was out for a pretty major operation (which required anesthesia, a multi-day hospital stay, and lots of painkillers), and was emailing us from the hospital a couple of hours after the surgery. She of course, didn’t understand anything we were saying, because pain meds, but kept sending rapid fire emails demanding we explain ourselves.

      Eventually, our HR department had to intervene, and she was actually told not to send emails when she was out of the office, because she was making things so stressful for everyone else. And you know it was bad, because our HR office sucked.

      TL;DR, I completely understand wanting a work vacation from your boss. It’s not about working less, but being free to work better.

  42. Anon Today*

    #4 – Because this is getting very little love, I’m going to chime in. I worked for a manager like this. It. Was. Awful. It created this expectation that everyone, while on vacation, would have to work the whole time and work remotely. Manager’s attitude was because everyone had smart phones they could generally keep up with office emails from wherever they were. Manager’s vacation behavior led to confusion about what people were supposed to do. Here were some delightful highlights:

    – Manager generally screened all new incoming business calls and would assign them to teams. Manager went to a tropical island. I offered to screen the calls while he was gone so he could enjoy the vacation and because service would be spotty. Manager yelled at me, told me he would do it because it was his business and needed to ensure it was done properly. Manager did not screen any incoming business calls while away and company lost several new clients because of no response.

    – Manager went away to visit family for a week. While there, pulled all-nighters every night responding to emails, often not reading full email threads and giving contradictory advice or unnecessarily undoing things that were completed.

    – Manager attempted to call a vacationing employee about a file but had to be stopped when someone pointed out the exact time Manager was trying to call was in the middle of that employee’s *wedding ceremony.* (mid-week afternoon wedding in the park that employee had been talking about for *months.*)

    – Manager telling clients to talk to other employees in his stead while away but not telling the employees. (different problem but I just remembered)

    – Manager worked several days while on vacation the abruptly stopped. Freaked out clients calling office saying they can’t reach him. Manager lost phone (which happened on at least 4 different vacations) but didn’t think to email anyone or call the office from a different phone to explain what happened. Office scrambling to figure out if Manager is dead or what’s going on.

    All this to say that Allison’s scripts are fine, but there are people who just refuse to not work on vacation. It will cause confusion. It will make more work for everyone. The only way for it to stop is to stop working for that person.

    1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

      Oh for the love of dog. I hate it when people make themselves “indispensable” like that, because no one ever is. The only way to make oneself *seem* indispensable is to hog access to information or processes, and then we end up with “Office scrambling to figure out if Manager is dead or what’s going on.”

      We had a group lead at OldJob who tried to pull that “everyone, while on vacation, would have to work the whole time and work remotely” thing. But due to lack of planning on her end, the first person she called with the request to “log in and fix an urgent issue urgently” on their vacation was an hourly contractor. Contractor called her boss to ask how she was supposed to bill the company for working while on vacation. Boss called group lead’s boss and gave them a piece of his mind. Group lead never tried this again.

  43. Jennifer*

    #4 I know this isn’t how it’s supposed to work, but I totally feel you on the “her vacation is supposed to be a break for us too.” We rejoiced years ago when we learned one of our bosses was pregnant so that meant in the near future we’d have three blissful months without her.

    I hope Alison’s script works for you. Best wishes!

  44. Georgina Fredrika*

    Ugh I once got a reply-back from a recruiter that had some note about sorry, not moving forward, and “I say this to all applicants, PLEASE make sure you have the required skills before applying!!”

    I’m not sure whether they genuinely send it to everyone or just put that there to soften the blow but it really annoyed me because there was nothing similar to “speak fluent German” on their list that didn’t match my skills. It was just soft skill stuff.

    Sorry if it “wastes your time” but that is how recruiting works – you try to match for 80% and hope for the best – and I was laid off at the time so I’m really more concerned about taking every chance possible, not about making sure I’m a 110% match just so this one recruiter won’t get upset!

  45. Wow.*

    I just applied to an internal job posting and was rejected because I don’t have experience in one particular thing. I went back and read the posting, and this one thing is mentioned one time, on the list of duties. And not under minimum or desired qualifications. I checked off literally every other thing on the list. If their posting had said this one thing was “essential” (or at least a MINIMUM qualification) I would not have applied. People on both sides are ridiculous.

    1. irene adler*

      Exactly. They are changing the “goal posts” at every turn.

      I had a recruiter insist that I was a perfect candidate for a position he needed to fill as I met all of the elements of their client’s job description. So I agreed to interview. Not 5 minutes into the interview, the client brought up skills not even listed in the job description. He declared these skills to be mandatory to the job. Huh?

  46. MCMonkeyBean*

    For the intern on the resume, I don’t know if it read differently now in the Covid context, but in the past I’ve been told that including in the job description that you went from part time to full time shows that they liked you enough to make that change. So like in the title I would just put intern, then I’d note underneath in one of my bullets that I was hired on to help two-days a week then hired full time after 3 weeks. If there is anything particularly notable about what you did to make them choose you for their full time help over hiring someone else.

    I’m not sure if how I wrote that out makes sense. But for an example, I did canvassing as my summer job for two summers in college (where you basically walk around neighborhoods door-to-door asking for donations). That’s a job where there is high turnover so they’re always sort of desperate and will hire basically anyone, but both summers they hired me on as a regular canvasser then promoted me to a “field manager” role after a few weeks because my performance was consistent and strong. So on my resume I list my title as “Field Manager” and then note in the first bullet that I was hired as a canvasser and promoted after X weeks due to consistently raising more than Y% higher than the team average.

    Similarly I had an internship in high school and I was part-time, unpaid one summer (basically they brought me on as a favor to me so I could put that I had a part-time internship on my college application) but then they liked me and asked me to come back as a full-time, paid intern the following summer. So I have that noted in the description, that I was hired as a part-time unpaid intern and asked to return full time for the second summer.

    1. Fabulous*

      Agree with this 100%! It’s sort of the same as if you were brought on as a temp then hired permanently due to stellar performance – it’s an accomplishment so it makes sense to list it as such.

      Another way to list it would be to separate out the jobs under the same company heading to denote the change in status, same as you would with a promotion:

      Llama Inc. January 2020-present
      Intern (full-time) March-present
      Intern (part-time) January-March

  47. Nott the Brave*

    #1 I feel exactly the same way. I’m a rampant extrovert who loves my office environment and gets a lot more done with I’m surrounded by people. I’m really struggling to adjust to being in my home environment. With that said, my office doesn’t plan to reopen until 2021 at least, and our office will remain completely empty until then (everyone can do their jobs remotely).

    So, in the meantime, we’re stuck. Hang in there. I’m just glad I have my spouse – some of my coworkers live in a studio or have moved back in with their parents just to have some company.

    1. J*

      Unfortunately, an office environment surrounded by people is not what any of us is going to be returning to, if we’re lucky enough to return to an office that is taking the virus seriously, now or next winter.

      1. Nott the Brave*

        Yep! I’m honestly grateful my office is taking this as seriously as they are. If they were trying to return us to the office I’d push back on it because it would be unsafe. I’m just lonely.

    2. anon attorney*

      Fellow sad extrovert here. I really miss my office environment. I actually have a good WFH setup and I can be productive but I just plain miss people. Not even my immediate coworkers, lovely as they are, but being in a room, a building, full of interesting and lively people.

      I don’t live in the USA and my country is still at a point where only essential workers are supposed to go to work. I am by no stretch of the imagination essential and my office is open but only minimally (people making sure the server is still running, etc.). So it is just me and my pet fern for the foreseeable future. But as others have said, it’s not like I would be going back to the office as it was before. In a way I’d rather stay home than participate in the sadly* reduced social environment that the office will now be. Like meeting an ex who has gone to seed and is a shadow of himself, y’know?

      * but necessarily, I do realise, I would never want to put anyone at risk just so I could be social – especially not a low paid facilities worker.


    OP 3 – I don’t usually hire people, so this might not be helpful, but I have been seeing job ads lately that include two bulleted sections about Qualifications – (1) Must Have and (2) Nice to Have/What will Put You ahead. I like that format. If people are skimming, the bullets will stand out. There will still be applicants who say, “I won’t get the job if I don’t apply”, but it might be worth a try.

  49. MCMonkeyBean*

    For LW 4, it doesn’t sound like the vacation behavior is the real problem. Of all the things you listed, I think the only one really related to contacting you guys on vacation is the concern that it can set a bad example for her team–but it sounds like that’s not really happening if she’s the only person who does it. It doesn’t seem like anyone is feeling pressured into not disconnecting themselves.

    I’m not really clear about your claim on it causing confusion over who is in charge. Isn’t your boss still in charge even if she’s on vacation? But the biggest thing seemed to be the part about her additional ideas when you are already swamped. And that’s a problem whether she is on vacation or not! Though I suppose it’s harder to talk to her about priorities if she’s out and contacting you sporadically.

    But poor boundaries and adding on too many ideas to an already swamped team seem like just general problems outside of any vacation context. I guess this wasn’t enormously helpful as I don’t have any advice on how to address that, but I think identifying what the actual problem is at least would give you a better place to start a discussion from if it’s something you want to talk to her about.

  50. Go Vote*

    #1 Depending on your office (location, amenities) sending a few people into the office is just not a feasible option when most companies are trying to avoid layoffs due to the COVID crisis. My company had been on a deal with places we lease our offices from that no one would be in the office and they didn’t need actual security to check and could turn the electricity and plumbing off to our offices (like most floors in the building) and we received a decent discount on our monthly lease. We also had the office professionally steam cleaned so when everyone returned it would be safe. We had a lady that couldn’t take it anymore in one of our smaller southern offices and tried to go into work and work last week because her city was reopening. Our rogue employee broke a door trying to get in, set off the buildings electronic security and now we are covering a new door, costs for the police to come, and our lease is not being discounted this month for the inconvenience of their staff having to come out.

  51. Iron Chef Boyardee*

    I’m sure “fluffybunny” is just a placeholder for the sake of discussion here, and that in reality something more “serious” like the actual job title, or some kind of internal code, would appear.

    1. J*

      I saw a job ad literally today that instructed applicants to work the word “Cruella” into their cover letter. The whole point of it being a nonsense term is that the applicant would only know to include it if they read the ad carefully. (Whether I think this is a good idea or not, I’m unsure of.) But just expecting the job title to be the subject line is a much less robust way to determine right off the bat if an applicant was thorough.

  52. Jostling*

    LW1, we have been allowed back into the office if we schedule our days (we have a personnel cap), and we have to submit to a temp checks and wear a mask. We are fortunate to work in a large office building, mostly occupied by another business that is still enforcing WFH, that has its own security to handle the logistics of head counts, temp checks, and mask enforcement. Most people at my company have opted to continue to WFH, but I am in the same boat as you – WFH is impacting my mental health and my productivity, and my concerns over my productivity were worsening my mental health because I was concerned about losing my job. My partner and I have some loose guidelines for our household that we’re weighing our activities against (outdoor gatherings of <10 people, everyone wears masks most of the time when less than 6ft away, we limit "new" exposure opportunities for ourselves and others, etc), and we made the call that me going into work was both important for my mental health AND fit those guidelines.

    All that to say, I think that the cautions of other commenters here are valid, but you have to make the decision for yourself. I didn't make the decision lightly, and I am fortunate that my office situation is taking a pretty conservative/safe approach to reopening. I think if you do proceed with requesting going into the office, you should be prepared with your suggestions both of measures and how to implement them (who is responsible for temp checks? what happens if someone comes in without a mask? how will you cap and enforce the number of people in the office?).

    1. Anonymous at a University*

      These are good suggestions, but I think the LW has to be prepared for them to be rejected anyway based on things like cost. If they have to bring in and pay a security person just to let LW into the building, check their temperature, lock up after her, enforce a mask rule, etc., I doubt her company is going to be enthusiastic about “But I really want to go into the office.”

  53. Rose Tyler*

    For letter #4, I feel like Allison’s script is a little bold. If you have the kind of relationship with your boss where you can share feedback that it’s disruptive when she dips in and out (with examples) that’s great, but explicitly asking her to change by saying “are you open to doing X” feels too authoritative when you’re the one reporting to her. If one of my employees handled it that way it would turn me off and make me less open to the discussion. Just my opinion/2 cents.

    1. caterpillar blue*

      Agreed. Or employees might risk hearing that their manager would love to check out on vacation but the team just isn’t ready to handle the work completely unsupervised yet. As someone who has inherited a team where a few members are simply not able to go days at a time without supervision (and where one of them does get confused about whether he is in charge) I admit to occasionally responding to emails while on vacation. Just too nervous to leave things unaddressed. I certainly don’t have the same expectation of my staff and thus far they don’t seem to think I do. (Does this indicate some deeper issues? Absolutely but those will time to resolve and vacations will happen in the interim.)

  54. Meredith*

    In most states, phase 3 doesn’t mean “open with no restrictions.” In my state it (“green” phase) still encourages work from home whenever possible and there are limits on things like inside dining.

    Another reason to limit how many people are in the office could have to do with work emergencies. A few weeks ago, after a bad thunderstorm, my internet went out for 24 hours. Well, when I woke up on Thursday morning, I knew better than to trust their estimate that it would be restored by 8:00 AM. I had no choice but to go into my office. Thankfully, the only others there were one of the owners (who has a private office) and our bookkeeper/admin, who sits at the front desk. I had the big open area to myself. We were easily able to socially distance in that case – that wouldn’t have been possible if half my coworkers just decided they liked the office better.

    1. Anon Anon*

      In my state, phase 3 means gatherings of fewer than 40 people, and still encouraging WFH. In fact, our governor just indicated that we will be staying in phase 3 rather than moving to phase 4 this week, specifically because our number of cases is on the rise (nothing like Arizona or Florida’s numbers, but enough that there is concern about a new spike).

    2. EvilQueenRegina*

      Thanks for that bit of clarification – since I’m not from the US Phase 3 meant nothing to me.

  55. ThisColumnMakesMeGratefulForMyBoss*

    #2 – I disagree with Alison a bit. I would start with “Have you taken any of the training?” If she says no, tell her she needs to take it. By answering her every time, you’re enabling her to come to you with questions instead of making her figure it out on her own. And your manager ignoring her is an issue too. I am more than willing to help people out with stuff, but if the information is there for you to use, I’m not going to spoon feed it to you more than a few times. I’ve had to deal with this many times working in IT, and the only way to break anyone of this habit is to force them to help themselves.
    #4 – as long as your manager isn’t bugging you on your vacation, let it go. Your manager’s vacation is not for YOU to get a break, it’s for HER to get a break, and if she chooses to work during that time, it’s her prerogative.

    1. Lynn Whitehat*

      #2, same. I’m willing to help people with “technology” up to a point, but not forever. The same as if I had a co-worker who had somehow reached adulthood without knowing how to stamp and address an envelope, or operate Venetian blinds, or something. The third time the same person came to me like, “LOL, I need to mark that Jimmy wasn’t here today, you’re good with ~technology~, you show me again? (Actually do it for me mwah hah hah)”, I would not do it. Same as I wouldn’t show someone again and again where the stamp on an envelope goes.

      Once, OK, everyone has “I was today years old” moments occasionally. Twice, OK, a quick reminder. Three times? NOPE. Either you’re dumber than a sack of hair, or you’ve just decided you’re too special to do part of your job. Take notes or Google it or think up a mnemonic or something.

  56. Anon Anon*

    LW #1…I would ask you, as others have noted, do you want to go back into the office because of the social aspects of your job? Because of the equipment you have available? Or because you need or want the peace and quiet? I am lucky that my employer has mandated WFH until 2021. The measures they felt like they needed to put in place would make anyone who worked in the office less productive. These measures included wearing a mask at all times, maintaining social distance from all colleagues, disinfecting door knobs if you’ve touched them and communal office equipment (like the photocopier), only allowing on person into the restroom at a time so that social distancing could be maintained, banning the use of all other communal spaces (including the kitchen), requiring temperate checks every time you entered the building. And in large part these rules were in part because while many people in our building are wearing masks and social distancing in our person lives, just as many have gone back to life as normal.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      Good points.
      Our office is slowly opening just for limited use and by reservation. I am planning to go into our office next month for a meeting but I haven’t yet seen or read of those types of changes. But I’m sure there ARE, because we did have a very limited staff in (4-5 people) that can’t WFH due to equipment and managing the facility. It would not be fun to deal with that every day if you can stay home. But I understand some people don’t have optimum WFH space.

  57. Ali*

    With the LinkedIn one, I wonder if some applicants think that those requirements aren’t actual requirememnts. I have been actively job searching and there are plenty of jobs that put impossible requiremements. You will see an entry level position that requires 3 years of experience and the skill set of a person with 10 years of experience. The job in the post doesn’t have to be one of those but I think people are getting used to applying to jobs with crazy requirements and they just for all of them.

  58. The Man, Becky Lynch*

    #3 I’m not familiar with LinkedIn specifically but I recently found that Indeed spams you resumes of people not even searching. Their algorithm spews up archived resumes of those who never took their accounts off line from previous job searches.

    Also I’ll always caution against harshly worded job ads that are aimed at these folks. If they’re resume bombing they’re NOT going to stop or even read disclaimers of “don’t waste our time if you don’t fit requirements!”. However those who are diligent and doing it right who often are a skilled fit will not like that flavor of wording. I’ve often skipped applying when it’s an aggressive “we’re tired of having our time wasted, if you don’t hit all the requirements don’t bother!”. It’s more damage than good.

    I hate reading resumes. I totally understand but such is life of hiring during high unemployment.

    It’s the same with low unemployment. Only its all junk resumes instead of a decent 20 out of 100 applications.

  59. Rebecca*

    #2 – regardless of age, being computer illiterate and relying on others to continually answer questions at the workplace is a bad position to take. I worked with a person like this. I gave her notes, screen shots, step by steps – to no avail, and she would always say “I don’t have to remember how to do this, I can just ask you”. Our company was sold to another company, and when the new managers assessed skills, she was one of the first employees shown the door. OP, encourage your coworker to take advantage of the training modules, and when she asks again, follow Alison’s excellent advice.

    1. MissDisplaced*

      Yes… it sort of reminds me of my mum, who is 80. I can tell and show her over and over how to use her tablet, but honestly, she doesn’t WANT to learn. It’s different though because she’s not at work and so doesn’t really have to learn it. Working with someone who takes this stance is time consuming and frustrating because they don’t even want to make an effort.

      I am not a spring chicken in the workforce, and I never ever want to be seen as this person! I am constantly keeping up to date with my computer skills and beyond, and usually on my own time.

    2. Cheesehead*

      I am in nearly the same situation. I have shown my coworker multiple times how to update our website, it is very straightforward and easy to do, but she refuses to do it and pretends like she doesn’t know how. I recently talked to my boss about it and his mindset is that she is just hopeless when it comes to computers so I shouldn’t even bother trying to teach her and should do it all myself.

  60. Nope Nope Nope*

    LW #1, I jumped at the chance to go back into the office for several reasons –

    – Our company is small (5 people) and we have individual offices and can either use the intercom to communicate or talk between offices, depending on if you’re talking to someone in an adjacent office
    – Only 3 of us are in the office now, 2 people are still working from home since they have younger children
    – We were able to secure cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer, the works (yay!)
    – On a personal level, I didn’t mind working from home, but my home situation became less comfortable. It was a relief to be able to leave every day for 8 hours a day

    My roommate and I usually have opposite schedules. She works from home all the time, and I go into the office. She has family in the city where we live and would often go to dinner at their houses, so when I came home in the evening I would practically have the house to myself the whole time. It worked for us that we didn’t really run into each other that much. Then the pandemic…and we were both stuck at home…and she hasn’t handled it well.

    I’m not going to speak to her personal situation, mental health, stress level, or any of the above. All I know is how she’s made me feel during all of this, and honestly I didn’t feel welcome in my own home anymore. I think she resented losing her quiet time during the day, even though I was trying to be as considerate as possible as I worked from the living room. I had to bring my desktop computer home and I had nowhere to set it up in my bedroom, so I used a folding table in the living room, but tried to be quiet and respectful.

    There’s only about one hour a day I had to be on Zoom calls, but I was the one leading the meetings and had to speak loudly and clearly. I would warn my roommate each time that I had a meeting at X time and I would be on for maybe 30 mins to an hour and needed quiet in the house. I swear…it’s like she was trying to make noise. She would passive-aggressively start slamming doors, banging cabinet doors, playing her music out loud with her door open, etc. It’s not like she did these things all day, but she would do them starting around the time of my meeting. I was at a loss for words! On the third day it happened I asked her if doing something wrong and asked if she could try, just for that hour, to be more mindful of noise. That made things worse, because not only was she still making noise, she stopped speaking to me for 2 days. It was very awkward. I just…I didn’t know what to do. She wasn’t herself.

    Going back into the office obviously doesn’t get to the root of what’s going on with her, or fix the situation completely, but it does remove me enough that I can do my job with less stress. I’ve been more at ease, sleeping better, and way more productive since being back. Plus, I can close my office door and have as many Zoom meetings with clients as my heart desires. Going back to the office has been a godsend. So I can see why someone would be chomping at the bit to get out of their house and back to a routine, even if things at the office still aren’t “normal.” I’ve been very fortunate that our company has been able to do so in a safe manner.

  61. boop the first*

    3. If a skill is required, then say it’s required. To me, “essential” kind of downplays it into something that has a flexible range of importance. Like how some listings use the word “asset” instead of “preferred”. It feels more like something that would be very beneficial to the applicant’s experience of the job, which the applicant can decide to veto, rather than a basic functional need of the company. Say what you mean.

  62. Dagny*

    LinkedIn allows you to add additional questions to the application that the applicant must answer before it is processed. Add in, for example, asking them to rate their proficiency in French or German. This feature exists for the reason you are describing.

    You cannot prevent everything, but it helps to have a “Requirements” section and a “Preferences” section.

  63. sofar*

    OP4, no advice, just sympathy. I used to have a boss like this, who just couldn’t unplug and kept parachuting in randomly during her vacations. We’d be trucking along, managing our workloads, plus the extra stuff we’d taken on in her absence, only to have a random Slack message or e-mail dropped in on us at a weird hour with a half-baked idea — with various people copied or @-ed. And then, a day later, she’d pop back in, asking for status updates.

  64. Vanny Hall*

    Re: #2, the computer-illiterate co-worker: Some years ago, I mentioned to my boss how helpful a much-younger co-worker had been (I’m in my late 50s) when I couldn’t figure out how to import some data. She gently reminded me that it’s important not to make younger people responsible for tasks just because they already know how to do them. It was eye-opening. Now I always try to educate myself before I lean on someone else. Google and YouTube are my friends!

    Maybe your co-worker genuinely doesn’t know how much hand-holding is available online. (It IS pretty amazing that people have taken the time to put up tutorials for doing practically anything you can think of.) Next time she can’t do something, maybe you could suggest she google it, and give her the actual phrase to google. If you’re lucky, she’ll learn to learn.

  65. WantonSeedStitch*

    For OP#3, does the job ad give examples of WHY German and French are necessary (e.g., “this position will liaise frequently with their counterparts in our Frankfurt and Paris offices”)? I feel like if someone told me I needed to be multilingual for a position but none of the actual work as described in the ad made it clear why it was needed, I might be more likely to consider applying even if I didn’t speak one of the required languages, or if I only had some minor proficiency instead of fluency–especially if other ads for similar positions at other companies didn’t have that requirement.

    1. OP3*

      To answer your question, the job description does not, but within the industry it is very well known that extra languages are desired and the reasons why, so whilst it’s not explicit applicants would definitely be aware of why (it’s not an entry level position, so all are experienced to some extent).

      However, it definitely won’t do any harm to add that explanation in, and could potentially be a benefit so I see no problem in adding that to the ideas I’m getting from people in this thread.

  66. Maggie*

    Thank you to everyone who has posted a response to my question! For what it’s worth…

    –I wear a mask when I go out and understand the risks even to healthy people.
    –I already did have a mental health therapist before the pandemic and I have continued to see him regularly via telemedicine visits.
    –I do have a social network. I’m not opposed to virtual alternatives. I participate in my church’s weekly online meetings, I talk to my parents, siblings, and friends on the phone as possible.
    –I am working hard to stay on top of my nutrition, sleep, and self-care. But I also recognize when I’m slipping on those things, and know from experience there’s a point where I know I’m ‘going under’ but can still ask for help and later there’s a second point where I have ‘gone under’ and can no longer advocate for myself and ask for help because I’m too depressed. I know I’m ‘going under’, so I’m trying to be as proactive as possible NOW.

    I think there are regular people who don’t do any of these things, and during a pandemic, should start and will find relief. But as a person who regularly does all of these things already, I can’t really ‘add’ them in now.

    Lack of childcare (my daughter’s preschool has been closed since March 16 and will remain so until at least September 1) is my most significant barrier. My employer expects I can work at home “just fine,” when in reality I can get NOTHING done with a 4 year old at home until she goes to bed and have been doing all of my work in the late hours of the night. Having done 18 hour days for the last 13 weeks, I know I cannot continue them for another 6+ months.

    Since the overall consensus is Allison’s advice still stands, I need to stop exploring a.) what my alternatives are for health insurance for my family if I have to quit this job and b.) what part time work I might be able to find and how I could live on a dramatically reduced salary.

    1. Colette*

      Can you make other childcare arrangements? (Is there another adult in your household who could shoulder part of the burden? Is there another adult who you trust to take appropriate precautions against the virus who could take your daughter some of the time?) (If you went in to work, where would your daughter be? Can you do that while you’re at home?)

      Many 4 year olds can entertain themselves for periods of time. (Not all day, of course.) I assume your daughter cannot watch a movie/colour/take part in an online craft session etc. while you get some work done?

      This sounds like a really hard place to be, I hope you can find some workable solutions.

      1. EvilQueenRegina*

        Yeah, that’s what’s standing out to me right now…if childcare is a problem currently, what would the situation be if you were back in the office, would there still not be a problem?

  67. Database Developer Dude*

    Regarding LW#3, boohoo, cry me a river.

    I regularly get calls from recruiters for help desk, and network jobs, when I’m primarly a DBA and database developer, and my resume is clear about that, but because I also worked for an organization with the word ‘Financial’ in its name I get calls and emails about financial analyst jobs, which I’m not even remotely qualified for. Recruiters don’t really read the resumes either, so coming in here to complain about job seekers is the height of arrogance. Bye Felicia!

    1. The Man, Becky Lynch*

      I’m laughing because I feel this so much on that side of the fence.

      I’ve cackled at recruiters who want to talk to me about an “AP Specialist!” or whatever role. When I’m like “Yeah…I do AP but it’s a very small chunk of my duties. I grew out of AP Specialist roles 15 years ago, that’s literally where I started out.”

      1. Database Developer Dude*

        I”m a database engineer. I get calls on the REGULAR who want me to be a financial analyst…and I get calls for stuff that’s not even on my resume!!!

  68. Sabrina Spellman*

    LW #1, I think where I’m completely thrown by this letter is that you only state that you don’t want to work from home into the Fall.

    1. Delphine*

      LW also says until 2021. If the point is that they’re underestimating how long this will be the norm, I don’t think that’s accurate…

  69. Workfromhome*

    #2 I can so relate to this. I think I’ve deal with this my entire career in one way or another. While age does seem to be factor it can be anyone who just prefers the ease of having someone solve their issues rather than making any effort on their own. It is especially troubling for someone at the end of a career who has been coddled a long time. they really have no real incentive to learn something new when there is no incentive to do so (you are not going to get promoted etc).

    The advice is good but I’d highly recommend running this through your boss or the lady’s boss first. I have been through this many times and there have been more than a few times that people will try to throw you under the bus when they are forced to do things for themselves. Its easy to get blamed if they decide to say “I cant get my work done cause X wont help me. ” If you put it to your boss like this “Hi I wanted let you know that Nancy has been coming to me a lot for help with X,Y and Z systems. I am making a very strong effort to direct her to the training, the operating manuals and the help desk. These are systems that we all need to use and have had to complete the training on. While I am happy to be a good teammate having to constantly answer system questions covered in the training and manuals is preventing me from doing X,Y and Z. I plan to direct Nancy to the training or contact help desk unless you want me to do something different”.

    Do this before you stop helping her to avoid her complaining. You can then say “That is covered in the training that I provided you the link to or you can contact the help desk>” If she tries the old “It will only take you a second or I cant do it and boss wont answer” You can say “I’ve discussed this with Boss and she was firm that you should refer to the training or the help desk and that I am to focus on my X,Y and Z duties. I’m not bale to help you but I can send you the links again if you like”. Then cut it off. Make sure you send the links and copy BOSs “Hi Karen here are the links to the training and helpdesk that Boss wants you to refer to”.

    Then you are done. Saying no is not easy but if you don’t stand firm they assume that since you did it once you’ll help again. People who wont do those things will either quit out of frustration, get fired because they cant do the job or learn to do it on their own.

  70. Scarlet*

    OP #2 – I sympathize, I really do. I’ve had coworkers like this in the past and it’s beyond infuriating. I concur with what Alison said, but I would also recommend looping in your boss. The last thing you want is this coworker to complain to your manager about you not being a team player (this is of course assuming your boss does not already know how much you help her!).

    But yes, you are fully within your right to scale wayyyy back on the help you provide. Unfortunately some people would rather ask others over and over and over again how to do things rather than take it upon themselves to learn.

  71. Delphine*

    LW1, I don’t think you’re being selfish. I want to return to the office too. I lost a sibling to suicide just after the lockdown in my state began (for people who pretend that mental health risks are somehow less concerning than COVID risk…they’re not). My entire family lives with me. This has been a nightmare. I miss the routine, I miss the normalcy of the office. Trouble is, what I want is for things to go back to the way they were, and that doesn’t seem likely any time soon.

  72. soon to be former fed really*

    Re #2: The age of the coworker (60+) is irrelevant. I’m 64 and very tech savvy, not all older people are tech dinosaurs. It smacks of ageism.

    1. Workfromhome*

      Not really. It definitely brings some context. This appears to be a person who’s been at the job a long time. Who’s been playing this game with the previous staff also. The OP never said she “can’t learn it because of her age” . This person chooses not to do it and par of the context is that they have been around a log time and have had ample opportunity to figure this out bust hasn’t as opposed to “Our staff member who is a fresh graduate who’s only been in the organization for 6 months doesn’t know how to use the system keeps asking for help” In which case not being given the opportunity for training, not knowing where to go, being afraid of a mistake are likely causes. The conversation with them would look different to. “If you want to succeed in the jib and advance you need to take the training”. 64 is very close to retirement age in many places (65) so the idea that they may be less inclined to change because they will retire is relevant and not “ageist”

  73. Coffee*

    I think we’re starting to veer into “not everyone can have sandwiches” territory and really think this question is one you should ask your therapist, who is familiar with your circumstances and trained in providing support and advice. You could send them this thread to start the conversation maybe.

  74. Dragon Toad*

    Number 3 made me crack up a little – I have JUST been browsing the jobs page of the IUCN, and I can say I now have the PERFECT solution for the author.

    Post your ads in whatever other language is required.

    If you need English and French? Half the ad in English, half in French. That sort of thing. Would weed out the applicants very quickly!

    1. Mockingjay*

      Alison, would you be open to having this as a separate discussion post one day? Maybe an Ask the Reader? I would love to know more about library careers and what an MLIS offers. As a bibliophile and information manager it’s fascinating to me, especially as libraries seem to have evolved from basic book repositories, to community and social services centers (it has in my community).

      1. OrigCassandra*

        So I suppose this is where I finally mention that the graduate/professional program I teach in is an information school. If this suggestion is accepted, I’ll be happy to hang out and talk about what the graduate degree is like.

        (With absolutely zero advertising for my own program, in case that needs saying.)

      2. Box of Kittens*

        Seconding this request! I’m one of those plain ole “really loves books” types so I would find this fascinating.

      3. Greener Pastures*

        As a librarian who absolutely LOVES my job and what I do, I honestly don’t know if I would recommend it to others.

        It’s an incredibly competitive field, even more so in some parts of it (ahem, academia). I’ve worked some non-traditional MLS jobs (I did contract work {although not in the archives} for a Mr. Mouse for a couple of years a while back and it was awesome). One of the applicants I screened yesterday had a PhD, MLS, and a 2nd masters in a 3rd (related) field. And that’s fairly normal in academia. One of the librarians at my grad school had 2 PhDs in addition to her MLIS (and no, she wasn’t the university librarian). I’ve actually been lucky, I’ve been able to find jobs (including during this pandemic) but some times, it took a while (a long while) and I finally decided to leave academia.

        The pay is poor compared to other fields with similar educational requirements (my first job paid so poorly I had to take on a second job, there were times during the busy season I was working 75+ hours a week for 6+ weeks). A close friend of mine quit the profession because she couldn’t find work (and I know of several who have done the same).

        Again, I love my job, I don’t think I would really be happy doing anything else. But I have 6 figures of student loans and I will die before I ever come close to paying off ($$$$ every month and the balance keeps rising, and yes that is on the IBR). I am unlikely to ever retire.

        Would I do it all over again? Probably, but I’m a single, child-free person with no family. So if I need to move 4500 miles away (I was a finalist for a position in Alaska a few years back) I can do it without a second thought. That math might not work for everyone.

        1. V8 Fiend*

          +1,000! Find a job was incredibly difficult – I graduated in 2011 with my MLS and it took me until 2014 to find a full time librarian position. And the pay is terrible, considering the job requires a Master’s degree for an entry level position, and in academic libraries, sometimes additional degrees.

          Don’t get me wrong, I love my job, and I’m finally making money…but I pretty frequently tell people not to go into the field, or to make sure they’re okay having to cobble part-time/para jobs together.

      4. Rachel Morgan*

        I’m a public library director (complete with MLIS), and my email is always open to those who want to know more about the professional & education.

      5. voluptuousfire*

        I’d like to see that too. I considered going for my MLIS but didn’t pursue it due to reasons but I’d love to learn more.

    2. Greener Pastures*

      As a librarian currently trying to hire a librarian….. Yeah, pretty much. Out of 60+ applications, 3 had the required masters, 3 more were MLS students (which is acceptable for this position although not preferred) and the rest…… Well, I got a corrections officer who only had an AA, a guy who dropped out of high school, someone still in college who obviously wanted a job in government (and considering the places they interned I doubt they would do well with our patron demographics), someone trying to hide that they were going to the University of Phoenix for a HR degree, and a personal trainer, among other equally un-qualified applicants.

      And not one of them even tried to convince me they liked to read, lol.

      Also, so many objectives/personal summaries…. I’m actually starting to question if my resume is actually terrible and what I think is a terrible resume is actually good…. It’s like, you see so many truly terrible resumes and so rarely a good one that you start to wonder….. Do I have it all wrong?

      1. Alice*

        Honestly, I’m amazed that only 3 people with an MLS applied. Is something else going on? I wonder if you are in a remote location or offering a really low salary or a part time schedule. There are so many people with MLS degrees and so few traditional librarian jobs that this really surprises me.

        1. Greener Pastures*

          Nope, major metropolitan area, full time, 21 days PTO plus 10 paid holidays, M-F schedule (unusual in this field), and our health insurance is 100% employer paid (for the lowest plan at least). Libraries and academia pay poorly in general, especially at the entry level (but as a librarian you know to expect that). And while the pay is low for a job that requires a masters it is livable for the area.

          My boss and our head librarian have told me they always have a lot of trouble filling librarian positions here.

          1. PlainJane*

            I had to leave a major metro area because the librarian pay, while it sounded good, wasn’t enough to pay the rent on my own–it seems like it’s meant to be a job held be someone who has a second wage earner in the household to split the insane housing costs in a metro area (and my city required people to live in city limits if they worked for the city, so that limited the choices a little). I moved to a smaller city and did better in terms of quality of life even though I took an eight thousand dollar a year pay cut. (That said, I couldn’t afford to take the 35k/yr salary in my little hometown–real estate may be lower, but I still have student loans and other debt and people expect me to be able to pay that. It’s too bad. I kind of want to go home. Actually, I *really* want to go home.)

            1. Quill*

              All sorts of jobs seem to be set with the idea that you can do them if you’re part of a dual income couple… and they tend to be those in fields that are heavily associated with, or recently heavily staffed with, women.

              1. PlainJane*

                I wish they’d remember that *other* stereotype, made famous by Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed… you know, the one wherein being a librarian is for people who don’t have such a set-up. Not that I like that one either, but they’d at least maybe remember that any job has to cover all of my expenses (including the student loans on the Masters).

            2. Greener Pastures*

              I’m taking an nearly $10K pay cut for my new job but will actually end up significantly better off.

              The cost of living is 40% lower and there is no state income tax. My student loan payments will be lower because of the lower salary and I’ll be able to qualify for the public service forgiveness in a few more years. Plus I’ll actually be able to pay off all my debt (other than student loans of course) in 6 months because I have family who close just barely close enough that I can commute and save rent completely. If I can stand the commute for a full year I will be debt free (again, other than student loans) and should be able to put nearly $10K in savings.

              This new job is not only going to do fabulous things for me professionally, but it’s going to allow me to change my life for the better and set me for a bright future.

    3. Paris Geller*

      I do think there’s an important discussion to have about how requiring a Masters degree can be a barrier for many people, but for a lot of us in libraries, those requirements are out of our hands. Those requirements may often be set by the city or county, and even a library director has only so much leeway for pushback.

      1. PlainJane*

        I’d love to see a national qualifying exam in lieu of the Masters, or as an alternative to it.

  75. Margaret*

    To OP1 – I work in operations at a company with less than 100 employees. We moved to all work remotely in early March and even though our state is in phase 2, we aren’t planning on reopening until the fall at the earliest. We provided our employees with all the equipment they’d need to work from home effectively though I know not everyone has an ideal home to work from.

    Setting up an office to follow all of the CDC and state recommended guidance is a lot of work, and it adds a significant cost. To install plastic shields, stock up on PPE for employees, tape out the floor for social distancing, implement daily wellness checks, clean bathrooms after each use, etc all take a lot of time and money. On top of that, employees wouldn’t have access to our conference rooms/phone booths, coffee maker, buffet lunch, water, or cutlery and would need to wear a face mask all day. We also would not allow outside food or drink. Additionally, our workers comp insurance is not covering us for COVID-19 (this is still up in the air, I believe) so if you were to get sick in the office, your employer would not be protected.

    If you aren’t in operations, there is probably a lot happening behind the scenes at your company that you do not see. The benefit of reopening for a few people is vastly outweighed by all of the cons.

    Since it seems childcare related, have you talked to your employer about FFCRA leave? You get 80 hours to use for child care (partially or fully paid, depending on what your employer covers).

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