employers are sick of the pandemic, and employees are paying the price

Four months into the pandemic in the U.S., employers increasingly are bringing employees back to the office, whether they want to return or not. And they aren’t making those decisions based on any public health milestones; rather, it appears to stem from plain old pandemic fatigue.

Employers seem to be embracing the same magical thinking as so many individuals are — we’re ready for it to be over, so we’ll just act as if it is — often at great expense to their workers.

At Slate today, I wrote about what employers are doing and how it’s harming workers. You can read it here.

{ 457 comments… read them below }

  1. working parent*

    I and some others I know are facing a similar challenge. My employer doesn’t mind if we work from home still, but they’re tired of lower productivity tied to having no childcare available. It certainly wasn’t my intention not to have daycare or school available while also working full-time, and I’ve made every reasonable effort, but unless my employer wants to pay for a full-time nanny to move in with us (and a house large enough to accommodate one) we’re really out of options and I’m strongly concerned working parents who can’t keep up with young kids underfoot will be the next “cost savings.”

    1. SusanB*

      Yep. Especially since in my area the backlash to schools opening has been severe. So if the schools are remote, I’ll have to work from home a few days a week (I have split custody) and I worry that would put me on the chopping block when we inevitably have to make cuts.

      1. OhBehave*

        Some districts here are implementing an odd schedule of 2 days in person instruction and 3 of at home learning. My kids are grown but I have no idea how parents are going to do this and maintain jobs.

        1. Alligator*

          I also jsut have to raise this from the teacher perspective. My husband is a teacher and I feel like he is being sacrificed. I understand how difficult and frustrating having schools closed is for the parents, but there are SO MANY unanswered questions about how they can keep students and teachers safe even on a modified schedule.

          1. Filosofickle*

            It’s more than a feeling. I’ll say it, straight out: Teachers (and all school staff) ARE being sacrificed here. I’m not a teacher and don’t even have kids, but it’s plain as day to me.

            I could maybe see opening schools if there was a plan. A REAL plan. One with well-considered policies, contingencies, and lots of “here’s how we’ll do x safely” and “here’s funding for it”. But of course we have nothing but denial and wishful thinking.

            My undergraduate alma mater is opening in the fall and they do have a solid plan. While I am skeptical about how it’s going to go, at least they are truly trying to make it work safely.

            1. So long and thanks for all the fish*

              Agreed. Many of my friends are teachers, and it’s absolutely terrifying how little thought is being given to their lives. A lot of the rhetoric involves the lower risk to children, and the little evidence of children passing it to parents. Of course much of that data came from other countries with lower risk period, and certainly before the outbreak at the summer camp in Missouri. Ignoring the more recent data, sure, but is the same true for the near-adults that attend high schools? The known unknowns alone are astounding, and even if we accept that children are at a much lower risk, are we going to give teachers and school staff hazard pay? Of course not, budgets have been slashed. The Richmond educators’ association had a powerful letter about how we’ve used schools as a band-aid for so many societal problems that it’s scary to think about them not being there, but that’s really not the responsibility of schools. Teachers should not be required to risk their lives for their profession.

              1. bleh*

                They have been forcing us to get active shooter training and teaching us to get in between students and gunmen for a while, and we didn’t get hazard pay for that either. We are expendable *and* invisible, while others at least get “thank you for your service” at sporting events – back when we had them.

                1. So long and thanks for all the fish*

                  I saw somewhere on social media “My teacher friend mused, ‘how are we supposed to maintain social distancing during active shooter drills?’ Everything about that sentence is wrong.”

              2. nunyabeeswax*

                But your grocery cashier, they totally should be on the hook.

                If schools remained closed, then you’ve chosen to sacrifice a generation of children. Seriously, a year and a half of educational delay is a terrible handicap to inflict on all children . Distance education is a joke. Especially for poor kids, kids from disadvantaged backgrounds, from broken homes, impoverished kids, or those with special needs. It doesn’t work.

                We need to get schools supplied with the best quality masks, enhanced cleaning, minimize all non-essential functions (no-extracurricular, no sports, no clubs, no field trips) find creative ways to space out classroom settings, better air flow, air filters, whataver–but we must re-open schools.

                1. HoHumDrum*

                  The issue is those kids are going to get sacrificed either way- either from getting sick (potentially resulting in lifelong debilitating issues or death), from having subpar education due to a revolving door of teachers/staff (as the adults get sick and even die), or from having subpar education from being home and getting remote “instruction”.

                  The issue is schools have no funds, they’ve been broke and running on fumes for years and now they’re getting budgets cut even more as local governments desperately try to shift money into public health. To reopen safely, to do the things you suggest, costs money that schools simply do not have. We need a societal shift to decide that its ok to tax the wealthy and to spend that money on schools if we want them to be able to actually reopen in the fall.

                  Honestly? My prediction? A generation of women are going to be sacrificed, as people in partnerships are forced to decide that one person needs to quit their job and become a full time stay-at-home parent to homeschool the kids. The parent who makes the most money is going to keep working, and in most heterosexual relationships that’s the man. Single parents are going to be completely screwed, but conservatives don’t care because they think people who have children out of wedlock are morally inferior (divorce! premarital sex!) and thus deserve hardship. The poor will get poorer, and the gulf between people of color and whites; women and men; disabled folks and abled people; minority groups and privileged elite will continue to grow wider. This is the America we’ve built, and that’s how it’s going to run unless something big happens.

                2. serenity*

                  There is no practical way to expect children – you say “kids” – to execute good social distancing on a regular basis. And making judgmental claims about online learning doesn’t help your case.
                  Neither does the fact that you don’t seem to realize that US public schools are chronically underfunded and have been for years. There is no earthly way “better air flow” and universal supplies of masks are materializing anytime soon. This is pure fantasy.

            2. HiringMgr2*

              I’m on my school district’s committee to plan for these specific scenarios. And we are planning for every possible scenario – it’s exhausting but it needs to be done. I wouldn’t say that “all we have is denial and wishful thinking” – that’s a pretty broad statement. School districts all over the world are working really hard on this. A few many not be, but I’m guessing most are.

              Also, I do agree that we have pandemic fatigue. Heck I’m over hearing about it, talking about it, etc. I’m so exhausted of the phrase COVID that I physically shudder when I hear it.

              However, the initial intent with all these stay at home orders, was to flatten the curve, remember? So, we did that – and now what? We cannot remain in this shutdown status for the foreseeable future. We need to build herd immunity – and to do that we need to get back to our lives. Yes, there are risks! People who at-risk should continue to stay home and take extra precautions, and they should not be penalized for doing so. But the apparently healthy community at-large needs to get back to normal. So I agree, but I also don’t think that everyone is just throwing up their hands saying, “oh screw it let’s pretend it’s over.”

              1. AK Climpson*

                This is just wrong, and honestly makes me worried about your school district.

                Locking down was to flatten the curve so that we could set up a robust test-and-trace program and clear reopening guidelines. 1) We didn’t flatten the curve — it’s going way back up around the country! 2) Reopening has gone leaps and bounds faster here than other countries (and the initial lockdown was shorter and less strict), and we are seeing the expected exponential growth, beyond the situation in March. 3) We barely set up extra testing infrastructure, and no national contact tracing sufficient to meet the current need. 4) We did not invest in expediting PPE or expanding hospital infrastructure.

                Study after study has been showing that herd immunity is a pipe-dream right now. Antibody rates are 5% in Spain, despite the high prevalence, and Sweden is worse off than its neighbors after pursuing herd immunity. Herd immunity as a strategy will kill hundreds of thousands more people.

                1. HiringMgr2*

                  You need to think logically and not just read news articles intended to terrify you. Herd immunity is a FACT – it’s not a strategy; it’s nature. That’s how this works. The virus needs to run out of people to infect. If we all keep staying home and hiding in fear of a virus is not likely to do more than make you mildly sick for a week (80% of symptomatic cases are very mild) we’ll never see the other side of this pandemic. We’ll be hiding in our homes years from now, still waiting for the solution. Meanwhile, we will have lost much of our immunity to normal germs and will get sicker, as a population, from germs we come in contact with constantly today but have immunity to.

                  COVID-19 affects certain populations disproportionately compared to others. For example, as of May 18 in Minnesota, 608 of the 748 COVID-19 deaths in the state (or 81%) were people in long-term care facilities.19 In New York, 74% of deaths are over aged 65, and 96% are over age 45.20 This is evidence of how imbalanced the disease’s effects are on older and sicker populations. 35% of cases being asymptomatic, and of those with symptoms, 80% of them have mild symptoms. Hospitalization risk increases with age—1.7% of those under age 50 are hospitalized, and the rate for over age 65 is 7.4%.7 Chronic conditions also increase risk of hospitalization, especially obesity, diabetes, and inflammatory conditions (e.g., COPD). The estimated symptomatic fatality rate (percentage of infected people with symptoms who die) is 0.4%.

                  We know who is at-risk, so why are you scared for my school district?

                2. MagicUnicorn*

                  HiringMgr2 – have you seen the recent reports that immunity seems to be short-lived and more and more patients are coming down with COVID-19 a second time, after several months of no symptoms and multiple negative test results?

                  Herd immunity is, in fact, not a fact.

                3. AK Climpson*

                  HiringMgr2, even taking your numbers at face value .4% of the 75-80% of people we would need for herd immunity, you are talking about almost a million deaths in the US alone. And not everyone seems to get antibodies, and they seems to be declining in those who do. For deadly diseases, no we don’t usually let nature run its course, we use tracing methods and isolation until we get vaccines.

                  The people who will die aren’t necessarily your students (though some very well could be), they will be the relatives of your students, and your teachers and their relatives, and your staff and their relatives. That’s why I’m worried for them, even if you aren’t. People with chronic conditions are not expendable. Old people are not expendable. And if you seriously don’t care about the lives of people with diabetes or COPD, I really don’t know what to tell you, but people without those conditions die of COVID, too.

                  As I mentioned below, my roommate works at a school in NYC — the death rate so far among all faculty and staff is just under .4%. And the antibody rate in the city last I looked was around 25%. How many teachers and staff is your school district assuming will die?

                4. Vina*

                  Hiring Manager

                  For someone claiming logic and facts and right thinking, you are dead wrong.

                  No, herd immunity is not the same for all viruses.

                  Quite frankly, I wonder if you know the difference between an RNA and a DNA virus. I wonder if you know that some viruses mutate, making herd immunity impossible. I wonder if you know that the facts you trot out are meaningless. You certainly didn’t get them from an epidemiologist.

                  I know that because I dont’ read the news, or any websites touting opening up and justifying it with whatever stats. I listen to the epidemiologist and scientist friends of my husband who are all Nobel-level smart. They are all terrified of people like you who thinks hey know, but really have no clue.

                  You are fitting the facts to your narrative.

                  You don’t seem to know nature as well as you think you do if you think virus + exposure = herd immunity. Sometimes, yes. Often, yes. But it is no guarantee.

                5. Vina*

                  For the record, I’ve watched several webinars by epidemiologists and virologists connected with MIT, CalTech, and the Harvard Center, including one of the men who helped develop the current best treatment for HIV.

                  He said:

                  (1) He’s not sure if herd immunity is possible. The jury is still out. Not sufficient data.
                  (2) Vaccine may or may not be possible. Ditto.
                  (3) Best hope is flattening the curve by remaining at home then wearing masks/social distancing+ development of testing + Development of a viral blocker (like what they do with HIV

                  I don’t know who you are listening to, but I doubt it is from anyone as smart and neutral as this man.

                  Those who study viruses say we need to stay at home, then observe protocols. They say herd immunity isn’t certain.

                6. Vina*

                  PS I know people at 3 of the 4 major health insurance companies. None of them are planning about having people int eh office before 2021 at the earliest.

                  If they are doing so, that should tell you are you need to know about safety.

                7. pancakes*

                  HiringMgr2, if you’re going to cut and paste chunks of text, you should 1) remove the footnote numbers, as they’re confusing without links, and 2) cite the source you’re copying and pasting from. The fact that you didn’t bother to do either of things doesn’t speak well of your standards.

                8. pamela voorhees*

                  I’d just like to second MagicalUnicorn that not only have we started to see preliminary studies that people can be re-infected with COVID-19, but there are also case reports of each subsequent infection increasing the severity of the disease, much like dengue fever. And if your student’s teachers are elderly or do have those chronic conditions, they can’t just be fired and replaced — even if you don’t think that’s immoral, it’s against the ADEA and ADA, respectively. So … what then? Taking your your “80% of symptomatic cases are mild” statistic at face value leaves 1 in 5 people who will likely suffer moderate to severe cases that will require hospitalization.

              2. Ali Aussie*

                When was the curve flattened? America has more cases and deaths than any country in the world? And the long term effects of Covid are could be crippling. Not to mention there is no guarantee of herd immunity

                1. Beehoppy*

                  JoJo. If you look at the numbers as a percentage of the population, we are still up at the top. And looking at it by size comparison, Florida alone has more cases than the entire European Union.

              3. mf*

                Herd immunity is a TERRIBLE solution to this problem. Here’s the cold hard math:

                To build herd immunity, 70-90% of our population must be infected. 70% of our population in the U.S. is equal to about 230 million people.

                Death rates for COVID are highly variable depending on patient age and health as well as the bandwidth of our healthcare system. However, most of the current estimates I’ve read have put it around 0.5-1.0%. (This percentage is expected spike in the coming weeks due to the recent spike in cases and hospitalizations.)

                Let’s say that we see a death rate of 0.5%. If 230 million were infected, that’s a rough estimate of 1.15 million people dead.

                I’m *NOT* ok with sacrificing 1.15 million just because you–or anyone else–has a case of pandemic fatigue. And it’s pretty callous to expect parents, teachers, and school staff to shoulder this risk just because employers want to get back to “business as usual.”

                1. Keymaster of Gozer*

                  I find it hard to even read anything like ‘let everyone catch it and the strong will survive’ as anything other than eugenics.

                  (Especially when you consider the disproportionate number of people of colour affected compared to the white population)

                2. Gazebo Slayer*

                  @Keymaster of Gozer – yes, a lot of the “just reopen everything and pretend the pandemic doesn’t exist” people would really prefer to kill off the “expendable” people. They are turning a pandemic into a genocide.

                3. Third or Nothing!*

                  I feel you so hard @Keymaster of Gozer. My entire family, including parents and in-laws, is high risk due to various factors. That’s 8 people sacrificed on the altar of “business as usual.” Well, 9 if the toddler survives.

                4. Mongrel*

                  “Herd immunity is a TERRIBLE solution to this problem”

                  To add to this, I’m hard pressed to think of any time that we ever had ‘natural’ herd immunity to a contagious disease. I don’t think we saw community immunity before we had mass vaccinations.

                5. Coldbrewinacup*

                  Thank you, mf.

                  The idea that anyone should be sacrificed just so some people can get back to normal is despicable.

                6. Quill*

                  Herd immunity is also a thing that is most effective for VACCINATION, not exposure to the virus itself. 70 to 90% of people in a community have to be vaccinated to say… the measles for us to be reasonably sure that, say, newborn Anne and immunocompromised Joe aren’t going to get it. Not because other people have “already had” the measles, but because the form that these people had was not contagious, so there was no danger of them spreading it to Anne and Joe while they had an immune reaction to the attenuated virus.

                  A virus with presymptomatic aerial spread, an incubation time of two weeks, and long term bodily damage that can leave you more susceptible to other diseases is a terrible candidate for herd immunity without vaccination. And even after a vaccine, there will have to be record numbers of people vaccinated, because this thing is damn good at spreading.

              4. Keymaster of Gozer*

                You are aware that perfectly healthy low-risk people can die of Covid, yes?

                1. Quinalla*

                  That and even people that don’t die are showing effects months and months after “recovering” and not mild effects. Do some people have truly mild cases? Yes, but when anyone can face death or short to long term (we have no idea of the long term effects yet), yeah this is terrifying.

                  Schools are going to reopen here, though at least they have a pretty good plan and depending on what level the pandemic is in the State, the school will be 100% remote learning for the worst times, so that is good. I assume the State will also be back to stay-at-home orders then, but I’m not sure.

                  And seriously poster above, don’t spread misinformation about masks not being important. Even if people aren’t wearing them perfectly or changing them as often as they should, they have been shown to severely lower risk of infection if everyone wears them because they catch a lot of the droplets. Not all, they aren’t perfect, but they lower risk significantly, just like staying 6′ apart also lowers risk significantly. Put the two together and maybe with other things that can help (adjust building HVAC, cleaning procedures, etc.) and you can lower risk a lot.

              5. Never Sleeping Beauty*

                Herd immunity is likely not possible. Studies are showing that the antibodies do not last long enough. People can be re-infected quite easily, and get way worse cases the second time.

                1. Vina*

                  Yeah, people who think “it’s a virus, so we will get to herd immunity” understand zero about viruses.

                  Not all viruses carry herd immunity.

                  I just can’t believe so many people trot that out and don’t understand this.

                  If herd immunity were possible to viruses, all viruses, we’d not have issues with the common cold.

                  Also, we don’t have herd immunity to, oh, herpes. Some people get it and are ok. Some people have horrible reactions.

                  The amount of people who trot that out as science and logic just floors me.

              6. Kares*

                Let me get jumped on and agree with you. The goal posts have shifted multiple times. We were to stay home so we didn’t overwhelm the health care system. Then nurses and other staff were laid off because there was no “business” at the hospital. People think of elective surgery as optional or cosmetic. Elective surgery is planned surgery.

                When I talk science with people such as bio-chemists, ICU staff, emergency room doc, etc., they repeat the same thing. What most people hear on the news or read on social media is not based on science. Masks? Are you changing it every two hours and washing it regularly? If not, don’t bother. The first question they always ask when they hear of a death is, “What’s the co-morbidity?” There’s also a monetary incentive for hospitals to list people as having COVID-19. The ER doc is getting an immense amount of pressure from his hospital to include COVID-19 even if it’s not tested.

                1. Archaeopteryx*

                  The masks are not to protect you, they’re to lower your transmission to other people. I’m frankly skeptical anyone doesn’t know that at this point.

                2. Lady Heather*

                  As someone whose only fully-functioning organ is their uterus (and the jury is still out on that one as I’ve never been pregnant) let me assure you that those of us with comorbidities also don’t want to die.

                3. somanyquestions*

                  I truly doubt medical professionals are the people who gave you those talking points.

                4. De*

                  I’m married to an epidemiologist working on this. This is bullshit. “don’t bother”? Nope.

                  Also, you really think it’s impossible to change masks every few hours? Do you think all people are toddlers? Yes, people can actually manage to do that.

                5. Quill*

                  Hey, the reason that hospitals list people as having COVID without waiting for a test is that they can’t start the insurance billing until they’ve declared if it’s COVID or not, and insurance is not going to reimburse for Covid levels of care right now without “it was covid.”

                  It’s an insurance and ‘most likely cause of illness’ scenario, not a conspiracy, and to be perfectly honest testing is still not always reliable or available.

                  As far as masks go: it’s better than nothing, much like brushing your teeth around your braces is better than nothing. You should still wash reuseable masks after every use and still LIMIT the amount of time that you have to be out in public using them, which is why workplaces that can avoid it should not be re-opening. It’s about layers of risk management. It’s why you both wear a mask and stay six feet apart. It’s why processed food is inspected at more than one stage of it’s development and you STILL have pop-up seals that say “if this button has popped up do not eat.”

                  If someone threw you in a sewer, would you say “no point taking a shower, I won’t get completely clean?”

                  Your friends in the medical field are likely taking the stance that masks and social distancing are not a SOLUTION to exposure – we can’t all just mask up and go back to business. They’re meant to be temporary safeguards, like pot holders, for the risky things we can’t avoid doing.

                6. yala*

                  “There’s also a monetary incentive for hospitals to list people as having COVID-19”

                  That is VERY not true.

                  A hospital gets paid by insurance for what actions it took on behalf of the patient. It has to be able to prove that those actions/treatments were relevant to what the patient presented with. There MUST be a paper trail for them to get their “pay-off” and regardless of alleged hospital pressure, no doctor in their right minds is going to risk their license on medical fraud.

                  Come on. Do you think insurance companies pay a single red cent more than they absolutely have to?

              7. Vina*

                But we really didn’t stay home a sufficient length of time. When we returned, a lot of people wouldn’t wear masks.

                If we want to beat this, everyone has to be willing to take a time out. We can’t have some states and some people say “nah.” When we return, people have to be diligent about masks, hand washing, and social distancing.

                The US did not take this seriously and didn’t do it the right way. The nations that did are much, much better off.

                I think where the pretending is going on is that we really did the proper sacrifice, it didn’t work, so why bother? We didn’t. We didn’t by a long shore.

                1. Jojo*

                  I know my 19 year oldand his buddies are ignoring all protocols. That majic invulnerability mind set of kids and teens is full on until around the age of 25. I carry extra cloth masks every where and have loaned them to him and his friends several times because they donot carry them.

                2. Caroline Bowman*

                  I don’t know why the state borders to every state weren’t closed (obviously excepting very specific, extreme circumstances), then a blanket stay-at-home imposed literally everywhere, even just for 4 weeks. I am in a country where the government is hideous and despotic and incompetent and criminal (yes, worse than yours, yes really. I could write an essay), BUT I digress. The one thing (precious few!) they did get correct was to impose a very, very strict stay-at-home order lasting just over a month. It crashed our poor, tragic and already-stumbling economy and OF COURSE they provided very little support for the millions who immediately were without any income, but from the point of view of flattening the curve, it definitely did work and was not for a crazy length of time. But stay at home included no exercise except to get to and from (narrow) essential services, curfews, almost no e-commerce. Literally, a lock-down. It was hideous. It did flatten the curve. But remember, the curve comes eventually. It just does.

              8. Curmudgeon in California*

                We need to build herd immunity – and to do that we need to get back to our lives.

                Bzzzzt!!! Wrong: There is no “herd immunity” with COVID-19. People are getting re-infected months after testing negative, and the second time is usually *worse*.

                But even if there was “herd immunity”, how many people are you willing to sacrifice to attain it, and did they consent to being the sacrificial lambs for your goal? I know damn well I sure didn’t, and won’t, consent to that, and neither will my at-risk roommates. We’re not willing to die for Wall Street or butts-in-seats managers.

                You don’t have the right to bargain with other people’s lives.

              9. Herd Immunity Is A Pipe Dream*

                Herd immunity has NEVER (ever ever ever) been achieved without a vaccine.

                Until we have one (assuming it is even possible), herd immunity is not a viable strategy.

                The idea that we just need to expose our entire population to this novel disease in a completely misguided and uninformed attempt to achieve something that isn’t feasible is unethical (at best) and would do significant damage to our economy long term.

                Please, please, stop.spreading this deadly misinformation

                1. Quill*

                  Only reason it’s worked for Smallpox eradication was years of work hunting smallpox down and vaccinating around it to starve the virus out – in a time when people were less mobile, on a disease that was less easily spread.

                  Polio eradication hasn’t worked entirely due to the fact that it can linger in the environment. Measles has only been eradicated in some countries because not enough people have been vaccinated. The flu can’t be eradicated because it’s too dang mutation happy and is also an easy spreader.

                  Smallpox came in multiple waves across medieval and pre-industrial europe because there is always a reservoir of potential infectees, without vaccines in the mix.

              10. De*

                Can you name one single viral disease for which we have achieved herd immunity without a vaccine?

                My husband is an epidemiologist working on this. Going for herd immunity is probably impossible and in any case, it will overwhelm the health systems. As soon as even 0.5 to 1percent of a population is infected at once, hospitals are full. And you’d need to keep that level up for years to have 70 percent infected and recovered.

                1. Keymaster of Gozer*

                  Searched back through my old virology textbooks (used to be a virologist, now work in IT, long story) and as far as I can gather the only times that humanity has become overall majorly immune to a disease pertains to bacteria, not viruses.

                  Additionally, spreading the virus around now to get immunity (leaving aside all the facts it won’t work and is basically eugenics) has no future plan either. New generations will come into a world with this virus present all the time and will need to be protected.

                  I dunno about your husband De, but this thread made me want to find the biggest epidemiology or virology textbook I have and start hurling it. Full respect for him for doing a damn hard job.

                2. Quill*

                  Props to your husband, I was in microbiology and I resist the urge to brain people with my old textbook on a daily basis.

              11. J.B.*

                So how do you feel about herd immunity to smallpox? That was one of the Roman plagues (likely killed Marcus Aurelius) because the Romans brought their roads into places with unfamiliar diseases. Or cholera, same for the British empire. Even though not everyone died would you be comfortable with that “herd immunity”? Particular with periodic explosions of extra virulent strains?

              12. Quill*

                Unfortunately the scientific fact is that in america, the curve did not flatten enough. Stay at home orders were not consistent enough, states opened too early, appropriate governmental measures to reduce the economic impact or provide disaster relief to hospitals in the form of more PPE, more ventilators, and a cohesive national plan did not happen.

                The other scientific fact is that we just can’t count on the existence of herd immunity, since not all viruses convey long term immunity and we don’t have any studies on covid19. We can only guess, and some of it’s closest relatives appear to cause permanent immunity, while others don’t.

                There are also far more people in the “apparently healthy” community who are at higher risk, and quite frankly, simply getting this disease even if you’re one of the actual minority who has absolutely no ongoing health problems, no matter how small, may only be deadly to about 1% but it causes long term organ damage to at least 20% based on the last study I saw published. Whether it’s your lungs, your liver, or your kidneys, it’s a risk that our government should not be asking that we make and even though the way we’ve been dealing with the pandemic is unsustainable, “getting back to our lives” is not going to fix that.

              13. Pescadero*

                Here is a list of the diseases humans have developed herd immunity to without a vaccine:

                The end.

              14. pancakes*

                Of all the things to guess about, why this? Why not take a long, careful look at how schools elsewhere are handling this rather than guess, considering it’s a matter of life and death? Look at the way schools in places with far fewer deaths than the US—Vietnam and Taiwan, for example—are handling the virus, and compare them to the way your own district is handling it. There are no points to be won by guessing, since it’s not a game of any sort. Then go look at what well-respected people with expertise in public health have to say about covid-19, herd immunity, and what we know about antibodies. You don’t appear to have done that yet.

              15. yala*

                “However, the initial intent with all these stay at home orders, was to flatten the curve, remember? So, we did that – and now what?”

                We actually didn’t. I mean, unless you count a plateau as flat. Which…I guess it is.

                We didn’t manage to really mitigate the issue of this disease. There are hospitals that are getting to capacity now. We didn’t take decisive action soon enough (and in some places, we never even really took decisive action, and the result is that we’re in no place to actually reopen. We can’t “get back to normal” yet, even folks who are “apparently healthy.”

                “Herd immunity” isn’t even a known thing–it may be that immunity to the virus after having it only lasts for a few months–just long enough to recover and get it again.

          2. une autre Cassandra*

            I think it’s because there are no answers. At least, no good answers. I just can’t see how schools can safely reopen. They may reopen anyway but it’s very frightening.

          3. AK Climpson*

            Teachers are being sacrificed. As are staff.

            All the language around risk to students completely ignores risks to everyone who works in schools and everyone around them. I’m in NYC and my roommate works at a college where multiple faculty and staff members have died. She had COVID early, as did I, five days after her — there wasn’t real testing or contact tracing in March, but we’re guessing it came through the school. Reopening schools is horrifying and I’m so upset that this is where the conversation is.

            1. bleh*

              It’s because there is no funding for schools because the anti govt types have steadily chipped away at the idea that education should be prioritized. Schools have no $$ to implement smaller class sizes to social distance, sanitizing, masks, extra teachers or at least teacher’s aides, or anything else. They have been told to do more with less for decades and now there is a pandemic that you cannot just throw hard work at and make it work… but they will anyway. They have been given no alternative. At higher ed levels, schools NEED the income from residence halls and fees for activities, so they have to sacrifice safety for viability. Education and educators especially don’t matter to legislators and that’s how we got here.

              1. AK Climpson*

                Right. COVID is a new problem, but it’s finding all the old problems and exacerbating them a thousandfold. I grew up with a public school and live with teachers, so I have plenty of rage about the way state and federal governments have treated public education for a very very long time (under multiple administrations, though the negative effects have obviously been stronger under the more anti-gov’t party).

                Right now, it’s absolutely complicated and horrific in all directions. The fact that NY is cutting CUNY funding in the middle of the pandemic is unforgivable. Loads of schools are doing their best to create systems despite the lack of guidance, and others are being forced to reopen by states and localities even when it’s absolutely unsupported by any public health data. Some school administrators are trying to create systems that are as safe as possible, though others are making decisions that seem to ignore teachers and staff. Political leaders are absolutely ignoring teachers and staff.

                Teachers and staff were already dying here in March/April and the decision to sacrifice more so parents can work is so appalling on so many levels.

                1. AK Climpson*

                  *Grew up with a public school teacher dad. (I didn’t have a whole school building in my home)

                2. pancakes*

                  +1 to all this. I have a friend who teaches at CUNY and have written to the city council about this.

              2. Kyrielle*

                And at least here, the budgets are going *down* due to the economic impacts of COVID. Oh, and our district is banning volunteers because of adding to potential spread. So they have to do it all with existing (or fewer than existing) staff, despite needing to keep the same number of kids and spread them out more. This is a mess, and a bad idea. And still, if the schools open, many will need to send their kids.

                SOME of the social goods schools supply could be done other ways, if we were willing to give up on the academics (or at least largely give up on them). Or if we give up on the social goods, academics for most could maybe happen (younger kids and some special needs don’t do well with online learning, tho).

          4. SusanB*

            Yeah, I don’t want them to be sacrificed. I just wish employers were being understanding. They’re not. They really haven’t been through any of this. Because of how they’re acting, people have put their kids in daycare when they don’t feel safe or going back to the office whe they don’t feel safe. It’s a huge mess. And the domino effect of everything makes me wearvy. Because employers are being assholes, parents are put in a bad situation and using unsafe care/schooling, workers without kids are being piled on with extra work, etc. etc. etc. It’s a huge mess and if just a few people in this shitty rube goldberg machine were slightly more empathetic and understanding, things would start to feel better on down the line.

            1. Lemon Ginger Tea*

              +100 times this.

              I hate how the national conversation around this pits working families against school staff and teachers.

              I don’t want schools to open physically before it’s safe, period. AND I need some damn childcare if my boss expects me to work a full schedule. These are both true statements.

              What really needs to happen is monthly federally paid stipends so that we can stay home without risking our livelihoods, and finally get this beast under control. Until that happens, we’re going to be on an infinity loop track of closing schools and then pushing to open beaches and bars “because of the economy”.

              1. Luke*

                I agree with your conclusion.

                However, I wager the political leaders disagree. At higher levels of organizations individuals become numbers on a spreadsheet. It takes a certain manager to realize behind every digit is a person , and not all of them rise to positions of authority.

                I’ve seen the attitude before- if an optional layoff saves Y amount on the profit margin ,do it. Livelihoods? Family impact? They don’t fit on the spreadsheet , so the concerns are ignored.

                I expect someone in DC’s done the math, and determined reopening and accepting virus casualties is “cheaper” at scale than quarantines and the consequential economic hit.

                Cost is an important business driver, but it should never override the humans behind the spreadsheet number.

                1. pancakes*

                  How does someone sit down with that sort of spreadsheet and not think about what sort of world they want to live in, though? Just as a personal matter. Even people who live in a gated communities have to leave once in a while. The people who prepare their food, treat their illnesses, tutor their kids, clean their pools, mow their lawns, pack and deliver their groceries, etc., cannot be made truly disposable simply by pretending they’re disposable.

              2. working parent*

                “I hate how the national conversation around this pits working families against school staff and teachers. ”

                This is absolutely the case. We are all of us being split up and pitted against each other, measuring bad decisions against worse and all of us fighting to make anything work, because of a failure of leadership and management at the national level and in many states and localities as well.

                1. Jojo*

                  National level? It begins at the state level. National level is something the states request when they cannot handle things. Like during a hurricane. The state handles it. And the state must request what national level assistance they need.

                2. Gazebo Slayer*

                  Much of the deliberate disinformation comes from the highest level of the federal government, namely You Know Who and his inner circle. They’re also demanding federal agencies ignore science in favor of the nonsense they believe in and demanding whistleblowers be fired.

                3. Quill*

                  It’s 100% a tactic that has always been used to weaken workers’ rights and human rights action, as well as maintain wealth inequality.

                  “If emancipation occurs you’ll have to fight freed people from the south for your jobs” becomes “immigrants will steal your jobs” if you let it sit long enough.

                4. pancakes*

                  Jojo, that’s not how the state and federal division of power works. There are numerous basic guides to federalism; please read one.

              3. Avasarala*

                Totally agree. If I was in charge, I would mobilize the military and use that massive budget to bring food and essential items to citizens across the country so everyone could stay home.

              4. Jojo*

                The economy cannot get back to strength until schools and daycares are back fully open. Bars and beaches will not do it.

            2. Quill*

              It is a rube goldberg machine of shit that is pointing out all the unsustainabilities of the previous system.

          5. Sunset Maple*

            Teachers are always the lambs. My spouse quit teaching with my enthusiastic blessing last year because we were so sick of dealing with his violent school district. I was waking up multiple times per week with nightmares of him being gunned down at work, and he was so stressed that he was on heart medication. Covid is just a new face on the same issue–put yet another unsolved societal problem on the teacher’s shoulders.

            1. yala*

              Being a teacher for just a few years (and at least one of those as a sub) gave my friend PTSD so bad that for a while just seeing a schoolbus passing could trigger an anxiety attack. And she’s usually one of the most steady people I know.

              What we ask people to put up with as teachers is frankly horrifying.

          6. Sal*

            Also curious how teacher-parents are supposed to be working 5 days a week onsite while also having their kids home some of those days on rotation. …On teacher salaries.

          7. Sacrificial Pharmacy Tech*

            Thanks for your perspective. I’ve been forced to work throughout and I feel incredibly sacrificial most days.

            Honestly, all people have proven to me throughout the pandemic is that schools are daycares for parents’ convenience, not actual places of learning. And with the protests and subsequent information, they’ve also proven to me that schools are doing an incredibly shitty job of teaching history and civics since neither children nor adults know a damn thing.

            1. working parent*

              I have to say, opening in a pandemic aside, I’ve been EXTREMELY frustrated by the “parents just treat schools as child care” framing. Of course I expected my children, when they were old enough to learn but too young to be left alone, would attend school. Why wouldn’t I? School has been mandated for kids more-or-less ages 5-18 in many parts of this country, including the town where I live, for centuries. So yes, I did assume that my childrens’ education and daytime supervision would be handled by someone else, and I built my family and my career around that principle. I don’t think it was wrong to do so.

              As for places of learning, I have always respected my childrens’ teachers and know I am completely unqualified to be one, nor do I desire to do so. I fully expect them to be taught by a qualified, competent educator when they are out of the house for the day and I am at work and I don’t think I was wrong to expect that, either. But yes, of course schools are child care, and it shouldn’t be a crime to think so.

            2. J.B.*

              Actually I thin that specific phrase “schools are daycares” is the core of the disinformation going around. Parents were not actually morons for expecting that the world as we knew it would continue, as in children in school during the day. And I know any number of things, among them being that school employees shouldn’t be forced to go back but that NEITHER SHOULD ANYONE ELSE. Teachers are professionals deserving of respect. Grocery store workers are not professionals but are people deserving of respect and safety for what has been pretty cruddy.

          8. Quill*

            My mom retired from public school teaching last year and from a pure pandemic perspective: children and school staff and family members of those children WILL die as a direct consequence of schools being opened. Children under a certain age are impossible to mask en-masse, and are already vectors of many other diseases. Even if only 75% of kids return, classrooms are too crowded and underfunded to follow CDC guidelines, and a 6 foot distance with masks is not supposed to be a long term (seven and a half hours per day, every day) solution.

            People who rightly keep their children out of school due to pre-existing health concerns or the fact that there’s a plague around are going to pay for it dearly at work.

        2. NotJennifer*

          I feel so lucky that my employer has been really flexible and understanding. I have taken on all of it, because my spouse has a job that is not flexible, and honestly his job is more important. (To our family income and objectively, on a societal level.)

          However, I worry that I am basically using up all my political capital at work on this. And I that is something I don’t really see mentioned, but I think is probably an unspoken truth for a lot of us with flexible employers. There is no way I’d feel okay asking for something or pushing on something that would require political capital for at least the next couple of years because of this. Also, many of us are using up our FMLA for this flexibility, and LOL if I actually need it for illness/injury in the next year. Like, I *think* my employer would hold my position out of some sense of loyalty and because it would be a PITA to replace me if I needed a couple of extra weeks or even months because of illness after I used up all my FMLA on lack of childcare/school related leave. But it doesn’t feel good to know that that protection wouldn’t automatically be there, for me to count on. The more I think about it, the more f-ed up it is that the way for parents (who qualify) to be protected while staying home with kids is to use up a benefit we might need for something else. What a shitshow.

        3. Not This One*

          Trust me, the teachers also have no idea how we’re going to do this – from both a logistics perspective and a safety perspective. Good thing we’re not being consulted on the reopening plans in most districts, heaven forbid we mess up their ideas with our actual lived experience and our constant contact with students and families! (Insert eye rolling emoji here.)

    2. JSPA*

      I’m thinking that parents who can’t hack the risk of daycare (or don’t have access to daycare) at some point are going to have to form slightly larger clusters (for example, of people who all have been WFH and otherwise “distancing”) and trade off on child-minding duties.

      It’s possibly not strictly legal, but in most states, so long as there’s no money changing hands, including there not being a paid nanny who’s doing the actual childcare!, you’re on the right side of the line.

      If a couple of people’s employers can give them a flexible “long 4 day” schedule, three families can divvy up the week so that each family does childcare two of the days between Monday and Saturday and has 4 of those days child-free. Or if Saturday is the day you need both off and “en famille,” make it Sunday through Friday. If one family has more kids, they take a slightly longer day; if one has fewer kids, they take a slightly shorter day.

      1. working parent*

        There are pods forming for fall in my town already. It is a massive amount of cognitive load and decision fatigue to try to work it out, especially as in our area we don’t use neighborhood school districts but instead have school choice with busing, so being able to pod with any actual classmates who would have the same teacher and the same (remote) assignments is difficult. It also means a great deal of exposure, because every family in the pod is only as safe as the worst workplace any of the parents has to go to, and at that point it feels like you may as well have… schools.

        But yes, the workarounds are many, and none of them are great.

      2. Lemon Ginger Tea*

        When I was briefly a SAHM, I did a “childcare co-op” with 5 other families once a week for a couple hours (half the parents would get a few hours of free childcare and we’d trade off each week). The amount of planning that went into that once weekly 3 hour time period was immense.

        I’m not being dramatic when I say that to plan and coordinate that sort of thing for a full time schedule with a bunch of working families would be nearly impossible.

          1. Rainy*

            Since it was 30 years ago and not 102, no.

            I also wasn’t saying anything about whether it would work now, merely that babysitting coops exist and have worked. If you don’t want to form a babysitting coop, don’t.

    3. Case of the Mondays*

      I saw on another blog, if we can make and staff field hospitals overnight, we should be able to make and staff schools where kids can have small enough numbers and properly socially distance. It is all about our financial priorities as a society. We view kids as a parents’ problem instead of a society issue. Heck, this is an emergency and the national guard could be called in as extra teachers for a year if we really cared.

      1. Zombeyonce*

        You lost me at “kids can have small enough numbers and properly socially distance”. I wouldn’t expect any kid under 14 to be able to maintain social distancing for more than 15 minutes. Under 16, maybe 30 minutes max before they slip up. Expecting kids to maintain social distancing in schools is unrealistic if you want to teach more than a single child at a time. Even if you can make it happen in a classroom, you can’t keep it up as they go in and out of the school unless you want to spend 4 hours at dismissal keeping them separated properly.

        1. Case of the Mondays*

          Very true. What I meant by that comment was keep desks more than 6 feet apart.

  2. ThatGirl*

    I’m grateful that my employer so far seems to be making wise choices and while our office is technically open, only people who absolutely need to be there are going in, and most of them only 1-2 days a week, with lots of procedures in place to keep distance and sanitation going.

    My husband works for a university – as a mental health counselor – and he’s a bit stressed about how the fall semester will go. So far he’s still only seeing clients online, but he is going back in to his office 2 days a week. Personally I think the privacy might be nice (we’ve had to make some workarounds when he’s home) and he doesn’t have to really interact with anyone else in his building (1-2 other people max). But the administration seems to want to press ahead with as much in-person everything as possible in the fall. And it seems both unnecessary and potentially dangerous. (We’re in Illinois, so cases are not *terrible* here, but we’ve seen a slight uptick in the past week so there’s plenty of reason for caution.)

    1. MarsJenkar*

      Similar situation here (also Illinois). Office is technically open, but there are few people actually there–basically, if people don’t need to be there, they aren’t. Seating is being rearranged to be acceptable for social distancing, and the next phase of our office’s plan to reopen–currently slated for early August, but subject to delay–will be a gradual one, and will be proceeding carefully. Those in high-risk situations will likely be working from home for the foreseeable future, and the reduced office capacity likely means that a lot of people, period, will be staying home as well. And of course if things take a turn for the worse, they’re fully prepared to put off the next phase, or even re-close the office if necessary.

      I have visited the office once (for one day) since March, for a project where my physical presence was essential. The rest of the time, I’ve worked from home.

    2. yala*

      I’m at a university and so far I’ve still been allowed to do WFH, and going in is something we only do if necessary, only for a few hours at a time, and preferably no more than 2 days a week.

      I’ll WFH as long as I possibly can (I mean, it’s also just…so much better. So. So much better), and I hope our uni decides to keep on-site staff as minimal as possible.

      (…while I’m dreaming, I’d also like a partial refund on our parking passes…)

  3. t*

    I am so thankful to work for an employer that is using science to decide when to open offices, not wishful thinking. We’re not opening until at least September, and it may be even longer given the trend in this country.

    1. Professional yeller about civil rights*

      My employer is being very careful too, but we do a lot of community-based work and being instructed to avoid in-person meetings is already shutting me out of some things I should be involved in. It’s really difficult :/

    2. NotAnotherManager!*

      My employer is also being incredibly cautious about reopening (have not been in the office since March, no signs of returning), but I know they’re also very frustrated about the lack of science-based direction from public officials and having to make these decisions based on their own assessment of science/public health data (we are about as liberal arts-y as one gets and not particularly the people you want making health-based policy decisions).

      We have three essential employees onsite daily (for an office of 500 people; obviously, they’re getting hazard pay), and you can request to go in on an as-needed basis once you review and agree to safety procedures (which include mask-wearing and social distancing) and submit to a daily health screening. If you go in without authorization, you’re going to get a call from higher-up management, who are reviewing the daily building access logs, and it’s not going to be a pleasant one.

      1. Kyrielle*

        Our employer literally badge-locked most of us out of the office back in March. If you need access routinely, they didn’t lock you out (security, maintenance, etc.). If you need access for a single time for some reason, they can authorize you in for a short period while you go do whatever-it-is (mostly people retrieving left-behind work materials). They plan to have a graduated return once local officials say it’s okay (we’re still in stay-home for office workers here). Anyone not doing that will remain locked out.

        (And anyone doing it has to meet certain health criteria every day, or call in and stay home.)

        That’s the current plan, at least. Actual implementation may be stricter, depending on what local authorities require if they do open it back up, but this is based off current rules for nearby counties that have opened offices.

    3. old curmudgeon*

      Same. The last communication we got from leadership was “expect to work from home for the foreseeable future.” Given that the same leadership also approved my entire bureau getting new laptops to facilitate WFH despite the fact that our desktop computers are only a year old, I’m not expecting to be back to working in the office until sometime in 2021 at the earliest.

      I’m good with that, I should emphasize. I am in the high-risk age demographic, as is my spouse (who works for the same state agency that I do), and honestly, if they started pushing us to return to in-person work, we are both at a point where we could – and would – just retire.

    4. Mazzy*

      I wouldn’t trust an employer to analyze science, so be careful what you wish for, but mine is following the general recommendations. Their MO came down to, if we’d need to be wearing masks all day in the office according to the guidelines, then it’s too early to go back. I was so relieved to hear that. As someone who works over 40 hours/week and would need to wear one during most of my commute, I was freaking out that I’d have to go 12 hours a day in a mask if we got called back, and I was worrying about basic things like when to sip water or eat or get coffee, since I sip on coffee for a good hour in the morning.

    5. MI Dawn*

      I work for an essential healthcare employer. We have been out of the office since March, and while the management has started slowly letting employees back into the office (essential never left, now adding a few areas), they have not given us a return to work date as of yet, only saying it depends on levels of illness within the state.

      Seeing so many people be careless with their lives – no masks, no social distancing in public, parties…makes me and my bubble feel very afraid.

    6. Nicki Name*

      Same here. Mine has gone from “you don’t have to come back to the office until Labor Day” in June to “don’t count on coming back to the office right after Labor Day” now. I’m in tech, where more and more companies are announcing all-remote work through the end of the year at minimum, so I’m expecting to hear that soon.

      1. Ali G*

        If we hadn’t signed a new 10 year lease last April, we’d be permanent WFH by now. We already had a pretty strong WFH culture, but had 50% of staff in the office at any time. Our CEO is already talking about tearing out the conference rooms and kitchen area to space out the work stations more, but we’ll see.

  4. Mediamaven*

    I’m continuing to keep employees at home but candidly, there’s been a pretty obvious drop off in productivity with some of my team. The popular thought process is that everyone is perfectly capable of working from home but that is simply not true. It’s important to wait until it’s safe to open things up but eventually we’re all going to have to make some challenging decisions.

    1. j.*

      I don’t think it’s fair to say that a drop in productivity now means people can’t ever work from home effectively. Now they are having to work from home, do they all have dedicated home offices? Do all of them have spouses/roommates/partners who work out of the house? Do none of your employees have children?

      In normal times when people work from home they aren’t keeping kids focused on school 40 hours a week, or entertained during all waking hours. They almost always, if not always, have a dedicated space to work from home, because they haven’t been thrown into working from home with no notice. They’ve been able to plan and figure out a desk/room/bookshelf/whatever it is they need to work well.

      And finally, in normal times, the majority of people aren’t worried about getting very sick or dying all the time. That in and of itself can do a number on one’s productivity.

      1. Mediamaven*

        None of my employees have children.

        While the pandemic is certainly a factor there are other things at play and it’s not fair to dismiss those. You can certainly recognize less than ideal situations will have an impact, but you also got to recognize that some people will simply not be disciplined enough to get the work done.

        1. That Girl from Quinn's House*

          I worked with a guy who, in our job that required physical presence at work because it involved interacting with customers, maybe in a good week did 20% of his work and just left 80% of his work undone because he was goofing around. It was like working with a kid who didn’t want to go to bed and kept needing a story, potty breaks, a drink of water, someone to inspect the closet for monsters, another drink of water, I’m hungry, etc.

          If you work in the sort of workplace that attracts that kind of person, going remote must be a disaster.

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            In theory, that should make handling such an employee easier. Without the non sequitur butt-in-seat criterion, all there is to fall back on is output/productivity, and if that employee is just brain-rotting instead of doing their work, there are scores of people out there who would love a paying remote job…

            In theory.

            1. yala*

              I mean, imma be honest, I’ve always had trouble focusing for long stretches of time (previously untreated ADHD, and the meds I have still aren’t really sufficient, but I wanted to avoid going on stimulants), and it gets me in trouble at work a *lot*

              Since being at home, I’m still putting in my 8 hours, just taking more frequent short breaks, and I feel…good? about my productivity? Certainly for my most recent project, I’ve been producing more daily than is expected of me.

          2. ThankGodI'mNotAlone*

            Years ago I worked with a tenured professor (in a non-academic role; he was a writer at a grant-funded group at my university) who was the laziest person I ever knew. He would saunter in at 10, then take a lunch break between 12-1, and then at 1 when he came back from lunch, would go out to run errands. He would leave at 4. A workbook he was writing was more than a year late. He FINALLY got the boot, but it took almost an act of God.

            Oh, this was in the mid-90’s, before working from home was a thing (I think there was dial-up, but it was totally ineffective).

        2. Carbondale*

          If some people on your team are not disciplined enough to get their work done, they need to be managed more closely (more frequent checkins, small tasks with shorter deadlines, etc.) Don’t hold it against the whole team just because some of them are slacking off.

          1. pleaset AKA cheap rolls*

            But the manager is facing more stress too – probably similar stresses to employees.

            If someone is not so effective at home due to kids, lack of space, poor internet – I feel for them. But if not, and they’re beyond perhaps entry level, they’ve got to try harder. Really – it’s not rocket science. In the first month or two, OK. But it’s been a long time. People have to get their act together. Maybe not 100% productivity, but 80%. Assuming there are not kids at home or other specific obstacles that cannot be overcome.

            “Don’t hold it against the whole team just because some of them are slacking off.” For sure.

            1. Mediamaven*

              Yes, exactly. If this is the new normal for the foreseeable future it’s time to acclimate. If you do, then your boss won’t be as eager to bring you back.

            2. Carbondale*

              I agree that some employees should be trying harder to maintain productivity. But if they are not doing that, it’s the manager’s job to address it instead of just giving up and saying that WFH doesn’t work.

          2. Mediamaven*

            And we’re doing that. I’m not holding it against the team. I’m pointing out why it’s becoming exhausting for managers to keep the train running.

            1. WellRed*

              I get what you are saying, Mediamaven. I’m definitely experiencing periods myself where I am just struggling, even though overall I’ve done OK with productivity. Some if it is just the mental fatigue and isolation, then I rebound. I also think the stakes are going to get higher. The first couple of months we were all crazy, but that can’t continue for the next however long.

        3. Avasarala*

          I would encourage you to reframe it as not a question of lacking discipline, but of dealing with several major stressors as we acclimate to working while sheltering in place from a deadly global pandemic.

          Our daily routines and priorities have all upended. We can’t relieve stress like we used to by visiting loved ones, traveling, going to the gym, going to concerts and the movies, going out to eat at restaurants. We have to wrap our mind around a new concept of time as our homes become islands we can no longer leave. And we have to deal with high levels of stress from being afraid of catching and spreading the virus, keeping up with all the changes in guidance, policing our neighbors and loved ones to keep ourselves safe, trying to find information about whether this is getting worse or better. The despair of seeing governments and companies and police and organizations decide whose lives are expendable.

          It’s not just a question of “why aren’t you, individually, working hard enough?” This is a global trauma that we are working through, and everyone is doing the best they can.

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            TBF, given the irresponsible behaviour of many (attending corona parties etc), they are not afraid. Some are convinced it’s all a hoax. I kind of suspect it’s the same irresponsible people who are goofing off at home instead of working, because they don’t take anything seriously. Maybe, on some unconscious level, they want to be brought back to the office so they can goof off with their colleagues.

    2. merp*

      I don’t know your employees but I’d encourage giving the benefit of the doubt a bit more, especially if they were solidly reliable before all this. Life is hard right now. I am doing the best that I can and I know it’s not the same as what I used to do in the office, but so much as changed in the world that we just don’t get to use the same old yardsticks anymore.

      1. Mediamaven*

        I’ve done nothing but given the benefit of the doubt but at fine months you have to have figured out a system. Seventy five percent productivity works. Twenty percent doesn’t. Unfortunately it’s also resulted in infighting among the team which really never happened before. Like I said, I’m prioritizing health over bringing people back but this is not an ideal situation.

        1. hbc*

          Oh my, the infighting. My team had a bad history of assuming the worst from benign miscommunications, and not being able to just walk the two head-butters into an in-person conversation has created so much extra work.

          1. Mediamaven*

            Yes, exactly. And one employee feeling like someone else isn’t pulling their weight and all that. It’s tough when there’s no in person connection.

            1. Remote HealthWorker*

              Sounds like you need to facilitate better communication on your team vs just handwaving it as “remote doesn’t work”.

              Are you using team meetings with audio visual?
              Have you tried to schedule office downtime/water cooler meetings and let staff know they can and should spend some work time chatting?

              Have you reached out to the worst offenders and named the problem?

              Jane. I’ve noticed your producing only a quarter of what you were previously turning in? What’s happening?

              And if the reason is – I struggle to focus at home then manage that. Work with your team member to improve, or put it on them with a PIP and send them on their way.

              Basically I’ve found a lot of managers just stop managing once we go remote. My own manager has gone from at least 2-3 chats a week to nearly 0 contact. The only time we talk is when I call her to confirm nothing is on fire. If I were to find out later she was complaining about my productivity without talking to me I’d be pissed.

              1. Mediamaven*

                We’ve done a lot of those things. I also don’t disagree with you that managers stop managing as well once everyone is remote. That’s a case for not wanting to have remote work as well – lower productivity!

                1. Remote HealthWorker*

                  All studies of wfh have shown similar or higher productivity, not lower. I’m not sure where you are getting from my post that I believe wfh causes lower productivity.

                  I think wfh, like Covid in general, just brings into sharper relief the problems that are already there.

                  If management counts productivity using butts in seats and doesn’t resolve interpersonal conflicts, well then that will be magnified in wfh.

                  In general any “new” problems you see in wfh are likely problems that were there before but you just weren’t seeing them.

                2. patricia*

                  If your managers are managing more poorly during remote work, you should hire different managers! The skill sets are the same for managing people face to face! You seem to want to infer all your problems are because of people working from home. Given the state of the pandemic, wouldn’t it be better to acculturate your employees to working from home- from a productivity and management standpoint- than ask them to risk their lives because you don’t think they’re productive enough?

              2. NotAnotherManager!*

                I would be pretty ticked off if my supervisors stopped managing at a time that their proactivity is needed the most. I did an expectation-setting meeting when it became clear that we were moving to a remote-work status for the forseeable future. Everyone talks to their direct reports individually at least once every two weeks (or as needed) with a team meeting scheduled the other week (or as needed). I have a standing meeting with ever manager at least every other week, but, in reality, we talk nearly every day. My boss has done the same with me. The reality is that it’s tough to go even two business days without talking to your direct reports, even if it’s just a question about a project or to provide info they requested.

                We know who’s mad at whom, who feels like they’re doing more than everyone else, who needs some leeway, and who needs a real conversation about what’s going on. It just takes a little more effort nowadays.

        2. AVP*

          I’ve been full-time remote since mid-2019, so before the pandemic made it a necessity, and I do agree with you that it’s not for everybody. It can be really hard, and not everyone is suited to it tempermentally even if they can technically do their job remotely. That said….if peoples’ jobs are causing infighting on the team, it does sound like something needs to be escalated and worked through.

    3. Jenn*

      I would be hesitant to evaluate whether people can work from home and be productive when we are in the middle of a pandemic.

      1. MissDisplaced*

        Well, yes and no. At first, in March and April, I would’ve said people need a lot of slack to adjust to WFH and a scary pandemic. But now we are going on month five. Yes, we’re all still scared and are still in the pandemic, but at some point we have to adjust and start to get used to it—because it isn’t going away anytime soon! Aside from valid school/childcare issues or being sick, if people are being noticeably unproductive, it is now questionable why. Just saying.

        1. Mediamaven*

          This. The situation isn’t getting better in a couple of weeks. We could be looking at a year of this. There is no way to give leeway for that long. It’s time to adjust and adapt, especially if you want your employer to continue to keep you at home.

              1. Autumnheart*

                Well, I mean the employees could die instead. What do you think that’ll do for productivity?

                If your employees aren’t producing, then fire them and hire different people. No matter how you slice it, you’re going to take a hit. There’s no answer that says “We can pretend there isn’t a pandemic and be just as productive as last year” because that isn’t happening. Adjust your expectations.

                1. Rainy*

                  We’re going to need a new term for churn-and-burn employers. What rhymes with “plague”?

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

                  “Adjust your expectations” can’t make a business profitable. If the numbers don’t work at 20% productivity, they don’t work. Something will have to give. Maybe people will get laid off, or the business will close, or pay will get cut, or all of the above.

                3. Mediamaven*

                  I have given my staff that exact speech. I have reset my expectations tremendously. This thread was about the challenges with working from home, not all of which pertain to the virus. There are many comments on here that support that WFH isn’t always ideal, despite how much the commenter doesn’t want it to.

        2. So long and thanks for all the fish*

          No, I’m sorry, but this is ridiculous. (Assuming a job where WFH is possible) During the lockdown stage of the pandemic, everyone was frightened, but generally agreed we needed to work together the best we could to pull through this. We knew it would be bad, but we thought it would be temporary. Now? We did that, and people were impatient, so all that effort was squandered. It’s extremely demoralizing, and now things are getting worse while our elected officials pretend that they aren’t with no plan for how to get things back on the right track. It’s more stressful than ever and you’re doing a disservice to employees’ humanity by pretending otherwise.

          1. Rainy*

            Cheers for laying it out so well. This strain of complaint by employers and managers is pretty obnoxious. Even at the best of times, adjustment to a new normal takes longer than two months, and this is not the best of times.

      2. nona*

        But, the uncertainty hasn’t gone away. The constant strum of stress that saps brain energy hasn’t gone away. We can’t just adjust to the new normal b/c it isn’t consistent (in part because we don’t have real leadership on the issue and we’re constantly getting mixed messages). It should be the new normal, but we’re constantly having to assess, reassess, defend, justify decisions made in relationship to this whole situation.

        Stress makes productivity hard.

        1. Mediamaven*

          But here’s the deal. You can’t say to many businesses forever I’m don’t feel safe to come back, and I also won’t be able to produce results because of stress. You will get very little from me indefinitely. I mean you can say that but eventually you’ll likely lose you job.

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            But here’s the deal. You can’t say to many businesses forever … [y]ou will get very little from me indefinitely. I mean you can say that but eventually you’ll likely lose you job.

            I think it reads cleaner without the superfluous details.

          2. Archaeopteryx*

            But whether people feel safe or not isn’t really the issue – they aren’t safe to come back. And if there is under performing as you say they are, you need to really spell it out for them make clear to them the difference, and work with them to find a solution to increase that productivity, or hire people who will. There are more people out of work now than ever. But to take any of this as evidence that people saying remote work is more efficient or wrong is really just comparing apples and oranges.

        2. merp*

          Yes! Things aren’t the same as March and April — they are much, much worse (where I am in Texas, at least). And instead of having time to adjust, it seems like while things are getting worse, I also might be told at any time that we have to fully open and I am due back at work full time or I could lose my job, which is extra cool. If that happens, I guarantee you won’t be getting the same productivity from me even back in the office, because I will have to be washing my hands and cleaning surfaces for half the day.

          Mediamaven, you kind of went from saying people were less productive to “if people aren’t producing results, we’ll go under.” If people aren’t doing anything, that’s one thing, and I agree you should talk to them about that. But if people are still doing work, just more slowly, and they were good employees before this, I really don’t think you’re being entirely fair to imply they might lose their jobs now. I’m glad you’re still prioritizing health, though.

          1. Mediamaven*

            That’s most of my team and that’s not my issue. I’m performing less as well. I’m ok with that. It’s the doing nothing that’s can’t happen long term.

        3. Keymaster of Gozer*

          The stress of having loved ones at high risk and not being able to see them, or the even worse stress of losing people you care about to this isn’t a factor that is going to go away either.

          If I was still at work a few months ago…well, I’d have been worse than useless, and I don’t know many firms who’ll give more than a day off for a friend dying.

        4. RozGrunwald*

          This sounds like an excuse for slacking, frankly. To my surprise and amazement (just kidding) the employees and coworkers who were most productive before the pandemic have figured out a way to pull themselves together and continue producing. Our “problem performers” have continued to be problems and are using the pandemic and pandemic-related stress as an excuse. If the need arises for us to do layoffs (hasn’t happened yet but who knows what the future holds), guess who will be on the chopping block first? I would strongly caution anyone who needs their job against telling their management they can’t produce because they are stressed out by the pandemic. Those names are going on lists, whether or not your company is being transparent about it.

    4. Jaybeetee*

      I will say I had WFH jobs in the past where I have been far more prodigious than I have been lately. There are a few reasons for that, but try not to be too quick to judge.

    5. Anononon*

      To offer counter anecdata, my company switched from about 5-10% remote to 100% remote, and for the vast majority of employees, productivity has not been effective. My company had also spent most of 2019 into 2020 creating a number of metrics for showing productivity, so the hard data is actually there to measure.

      1. fposte*

        I’m guessing you mean “affected” in the second sentence? Understandable glitch if so but I keep reading your statement as meaning productivity is too low otherwise.

        1. Anononon*

          Ugh, lol, yes, “affected”. That otherwise massively changes the meaning of that sentence…

    6. Spock*

      “The popular thought process is that everyone is perfectly capable of working from home” – I don’t think that’s the popular thought process at all, certainly not on this website. The popular thought seems to be that some people are perfectly capable of it and that regardless, anyone who can wfh should be doing so during a pandemic that has killed over half a million people, a quarter of them in the US, and we will live with reduced productivity.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        “The popular thought process is that everyone is perfectly capable of working from home”

        If anything, I’d say the popular thought process is that “work from home” is a wordy way of saying “vacation.”

        1. Mediamaven*

          I’ve seen a ton of stories that essentially say office work is dead. But literally I saw someone on my social media post a photo of a resort pool and say my WFH office for the week! That’s very, precisely, what ruins it for everyone. Because that is not working from home.

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            Why should I care if you’re in a swimming pool if you work is getting done? (Assuming that wasn’t a joke on social media…)

            I personally refer to it either as Live at Work or Work from Anywhere, because those are how I approach it.

            1. Mediamaven*

              Because if you are sitting in a pool you aren’t working. That’s why it’s called a vacation.

              1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                I agree with you that not working is a vacation and should be treated as such. I’ve had many coworkers over the years who should have been charged vacation days for time spent in the office.

                1. Mediamaven*

                  Your last comment about your coworkers sitting by a pool is exactly why you have the perspective you do – you don’t pay people to work for you. You are an employee.

                2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                  Now I’m curious. How does the location of where the work is performed change its quality?

                  You’ve opined that the office is work and the pool is vacation; are there any other locations that have fixed designations?

                  What should the business and employee do if the employee happens to be in a vacation locale on a given day? Are there stakes high enough for exceptions to be made?

                  Please educate me.

                3. Mediamaven*

                  I’m actually not going to do that. Working from home is exactly that, working from home with a dedicated workspace. Many companies would be fine with your set up but most would not. That’s why companies who have work from home policies have very specific guidelines. I’m not going to walk you through anything additional.

              2. JS*

                Just pushing back on this a little – why does it matter if I’m sitting at a pool if I’m getting my work done? Obviously, if I’m not getting my work done, that’s a problem, but it would be a problem no matter where I’m sitting.

                1. Mediamaven*

                  Come on now. If you are on a vacation at a resort you aren’t working from home. And your work is likely not getting done. I’m not arguing over semantics. Most businesses would no go for that.

                2. fposte*

                  Yeah, I’ve worked poolside pretty effectively, and of course some people have actual pools at their houses.

                  I think it stings if it’s coming from an employee who’s already dropped way below acceptable productivity, but in that case I also think it’s reasonable to say that time spent at a resort will count as vacation time, not work time.

                3. yup yup*

                  Maybe I’m just watching my kids swim while I’m working on my laptop. Who cares, as long as I get my work done?

                4. That Girl from Quinn's House*

                  “Maybe I’m just watching my kids swim while I’m working on my laptop.”

                  As a former lifeguard…this is a terrible idea. You should be giving 100% attention to the swimmers in the water. A kid can drown in 10 seconds.

                5. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                  Chromium ate my better reply. Suffice to say, all I care about is whether my coworkers are getting their work done–the portions that directly impact me–and if that’s poolside, all the more power to them. I bet it helps morale!

                  +1 to That Girl from Quinn’s House; thou shalt not multitask as a lifeguard.

                6. Vina*

                  I’ve written 50 page trusts and appellate briefs by the pool.

                  I’ve done so with the dogs on my lap on my couch.

                  I’ve done so in my office.

                  It’s a matter of discipline, not locale.

              3. Nanani*

                You can be sitting at a pool and working on a laptop, taking calls, etc.
                It may even be safer to be outdoors and not sharing air with, say, a spouse/roommate who has to interact with the public.

              4. Archaeopteryx*

                They probably weren’t literally inside the pool though, they were probably sitting poolside, looking at their laptop, and doing their exact same job. A dreary indoor desk isn’t somehow essential to work being work. You might as well say that if they went out into the backyard and the breeze was nice and their grass was lovely that that doesn’t count as work either

                1. Mediamaven*

                  Big difference between going into your backyard to work and flying to a resort in Hawaii and “working” by the pool.

              5. Seeking Second Childhood*

                It is however possible to telecommute from a hotel while your family is in that pool. That allows office spouse/parent to join in after hours, with someone else dooing the cooking and cleaning. I wouldn’t recommend phrasing it the way you saw though!

                1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

                  I’ve had vacations canceled at the last minute for business demands–I’ve had a vacation canceled while I’m en route to our destination for business demands–and we’ve done this as a fallback. As long as the resort WiFi or 4G signal is stable, it works well enough that we’ve never failed a project for me being too close to a swimming pool.

                2. JS*

                  Mediamaven — why? Assume I’m getting all my work done, on time. Why does it matter that I’m doing so poolside?

                  I agree with you that, if the work isn’t getting done, it’s a vacation. But I’ve personally been able to be fully productive working poolside at a resort. Why does it matter that I’m someplace pleasant, as long as I’m doing my job?

              6. pancakes*

                Having you considered unfollowing people on social media if you don’t like what they post? And have you considered that your social media feeds may not be an accurate cross-section of the working world?

          2. Kares*

            I recently did this. Stayed at a friend’s house with a pool. One day I attended three different meetings, did reports, and had dips in the pool. I didn’t walk to the staff kitchen or wander to a friend’s cubicle. It’s possible to sit by a pool and work. I don’t generally sit on my couch and work, but at my dining room table. I need the separation from my “regular” life. More so I’m not tempted to work all the time.

          3. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            I’ve seen a ton of stories that essentially say office work is dead.

            I see those stories, too. If it’s any consolation, a more reliable indicator suggests the office is only suppressed, not retreating, and will return; look at job listings. The grand majority in my discipline will only commit to remote “for the balance of the crisis,” after which butts will be required to reunite with their seats.

    7. Notapirate*

      My partner’s company has metrics and tracked them as they switched in March to WFH. They’ve seen a 25% increase in productivity across all the departments. They’re working to try and figure out why and how to keep that up as people return. Some theories getting kicked around: lack of commute/office making people in a better mood (happier workers are more productive), comforts of home (bathroom, drinks, food, comfy chair), less water cooler time away from desk, less pointless meetings (emails now), letting people set their own hours more (some people work better later in the day, others early).

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        For me it’s less random noise from other departments in our cubicle warren. I can ask my family to pipe down. I can’t do that to the manager with an office who chooses not to use his office!

      2. Batgirl*

        As teachers our paperwork productivity has gone through the roof. Partly this is because teachers are used to marking a stack of books at the dinner table (and one colleague marks exams every summer on her pool lounger) but mostly it’s because there’s less socialising. We went into school one day last week and the whole day was eaten up in social conversations.

    8. Anon Anon*

      What were those employee’s productivity like when working in the office? I’ve got a couple of people who’s productivity has gone down, but in the end it doesn’t surprise me that much, as while they were productive enough they were always on the lower end of the productivity spectrum (not so much so I’d put them on a PIP, but definitely not part of my solid to great performers group). So for those few people I do think that the WFH environment is a major issue for them. And in my case neither employee has childcare issues and they both have dedicated home offices, so their physical environment is conducive to work. I think they need the external motivation and people being right there to help them stay on track.

      1. Mediamaven*

        I mean that’s the core of it. These people were very productive in the office and very much less so now. I happen to be a person who does not work well from home so I know it’s an issue for some people. It is what it is right now but I can commiserate with bosses who want to start getting people back in.

        1. nona*

          But you don’t know that productivity will actual be better in-office vs at-home b/c you only have non-pandemic in-office information about productivity. A lot of the same pandemic related stress still applies to in-office workers (as at home workers), and then adds the extra layer of having to come into an environment with other people and deal with not be contagious.

          tl;dr – you don’t actually know that anyone is going to be more productive in the office right now.

          1. Mediamaven*

            It’s not all stress related though. Trust me on this. I know my employees better that you do.

            1. Nanani*

              “Trust me, I’ve already made up my mind that it’s because they’re all lazy and can’t be trusted to work when I’m not watching their desks”
              You keep replying to everyone with rewordings of this.
              The commenters are telling you that you can’t possibly know that. Pandemic WfH is not the same as pre-pandemic work in the office.

              1. Batgirl*

                I know people who struggle to work from home and it has nothing to do with laziness. If they don’t work well in the environment it takes more effort and energy. They are willing to do it but the results aren’t as good.

              2. Mediamaven*

                That isn’t what I said. But to insinuate that no one on the planet has every abused work for home is really silly.

                1. JS*

                  I agree, that is silly. But it’s also silly to say that no one on the planet can work remotely if they’re doing so at a location outside their home — say, at a pool.

    9. NotAnotherManager!*

      I don’t think everyone is capable of working from home, and I know some people who absolutely hate it. A drop to 20% productivity and sudden in-fighting would also not work for me, and those need to be addressed as issues separate from the working-from-home aspect.

      It’s impossible to know exactly what people have going on in the background – health issues of their own, elder care responsibilities (I live 100+ miles from my elderly mom and spent hours on the phone with her last week sorting out a web of issues she was having and it’d be more if she didn’t have neighbors and friends helping her out locally), or other things. I think having grace, particularly for employees who are typically high performers, is important, but having no expectations is too far in the other direction. I would caution against punishing people who are working effectively from home, though, based on less successful peers.

      1. JaneB*

        If I wasn’t work from home now I’d be on sick leave for anxiety/stress issues. I am less productive compared to normal metrics, but COVID responses issues have doubled my workload (I’m in academia) and I’ve prioritised student support and responding to emergency demands, planning for next year etc over meeting my normal metrics. My boss has become almost invisible because of his own workload. It’s NOT NORMAL.

        1. NotAnotherManager!*

          It doesn’t sound, though, like you’re less productive but rather that your priorities have changed under the circumstances and you’re focusing efforts on what have become the highest priorities in such an absolutely not normal time. But that sounds different than what Mediamaven is describing, which is a total drop in productivity and teamwork, not having to refocus team efforts on an entirely new set of issues due to the current circumstances and being unhappy they can’t do both.

      2. Hillary*

        I hate working from home. I’m keeping my productivity up, but I’m grumpy about it. I miss being around people and having physical separation is much better for my personal mental health.

        It’s so much more difficult to keep relationships strong. I’m used to running into people that want to know about my projects and vice versa, and getting my informal updates that way. Plus I can’t travel to push projects along by standing over the people who are supposed to be helping but have conflicting priorities.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          Plus I can’t travel to push projects along by standing over the people who are supposed to be helping but have conflicting priorities.

          Shouldn’t you address that with their supervisors?

          I have coworkers who have to be harangued into doing their jobs, too, but I don’t wish I could be in the office to do the haranguing. That sounds like having fallen in love with a bad solution to a worse problem.

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            Yep. Their supervisor should be the one setting their priorities and resolving priority conflicts. If you have to stand over them override their supervisor, there’s something wrong with the system. (I have a friend who is a project manager that used to employ this tactic, and I can tell you no one went the extra mile for him because he routinely put them in conflict with their manager’s directions and then stood over their desks until they did what he wanted, basically only doing the work so he’d go away. Great guy, terrible tactics for a PM.)

            But I love working from home, not having a two-hour commute, getting to eat dinner with my kids, and not having eleventy billion people drop by my office and interrupt what I’m doing. I get a lot more done here, and IM has made it pretty easy to catch up with the people I need less formal info from.

          2. Kelly*

            Like most people here, I’ve been working from home for 4 months now. It took some adjustment, but have found it to be tolerable. I ran out of actual productive things to do from home end of June, so now I’m doing busywork and my productivity has slacked off. It’s much harder to stay focused when you it’s just busywork and you know you have a lot of catch up work to do once I can get in my office more than a couple hours a week.

            My workplace is planning for a soft reopening end of the month to allow for access for researchers. The service as rolled out in other locations has not been busy, so I should be able to get caught up on my work a couple days a week. People working on site are not getting paid extra for coming in, especially irritating considering we are now in a hotspot for the pandemic. I figure if I can get caught up and be the only staff in my office, it makes up for not getting any hazard pay. I also won’t have to wear a face mask if I’m the only one around.

            I took on extra duties, including coming on site once a week, in early April because I was bored working at home and someone competent should step up. The person whose duties the tasks normally fall under was treating the shutdown as an extended vacation, and he was not known for being very productive in the office. One specific recent example of him making an art form of not completing projects on schedule is his project to repackage one collection for off site storage that was supposed to be done last November. When we shut down in March, that project was still at least 2 to 3 months out from being done. He had to start coming back in end of June a couple of days a week, and after his first shift back in 3 and a half months, he sends out this long, whiny email about how he failed to plan ahead. I had been doing the same tasks for nearly 3 months and offered him some suggestions about how to make it easier. He sends similar emails out weekly about how hard it is for him.

            We had our first meeting about the soft reopen today and it didn’t go well. One colleague should have put herself on mute because she won’t be in unless she gets shamed into coming in, but per her normal had suggestions for those of us who will be in. We already know that we won’t have enough cleaning supplies, so we all have to try to find some in the next two weeks. I pushed back on the suggested cleaning routine because I knew with the frequency suggested we won’t have enough. I figured given how not very busy we likely will be that cleaning common spaces and high touch items with disinfectants and paper towels, as well as wipes twice a day should be enough. That was not seen as enough by my colleague that can’t finish projects, thinking we need to do it every hour. I also pushed back against wearing gloves because I think wearing them is wasteful. It’s easier to wash your hands with soap and use hand sanitizer on a frequent basis. My boss had my perspective that we need to do what we can do with the supplies we have on hand and to make them last as long as possible.

      3. Luke*

        One of the practical issues with measuring WFH productivity is the economy itself is different.

        Is Employee X making more numbers in person because last year same time we had a normal economy? If your usual customers are affected by massive job losses, it won’t matter where your people work- numbers will be lower. It works the other way too- record business also isn’t reflective of employee location.

        At my org, we’ve had to step back to 2019 in doing some prior year comparisons after March from all the economic changes. That makes it hard to put a clean number to remote work productivity.

    10. Nanani*

      Productivity dropped because there’s a global pandemic, schools are closed, and people don’t have access to a lot of things that helped their productivity before – like sports and classes and recreation for their time off.

      Pointing the finger at working from home is very convenient for those who hate WfH in the first place, but it’s mis-placed.

    11. Tau*

      For the record, I agree with you – I’m not as productive WFH. It feels like whenever I mention this, people will insist I just have to try differently, structure things differently, rearrange my workspace… but I have tried this and failed. I know myself, I know my brain, and I know that WFH is a bad setup for me. I hope I’m chugging along at 75% productivity (and I got stellar reviews before this, so I also hope the drop-off isn’t too critical) but my focus has absolutely been affected.

      Honestly? I’ve started coming into the office on occasion again (which they’ve made possible on a strictly voluntary basis). I’m in Germany, I note, our infection numbers look really different from most of the US. I still feel guilty, and obviously I’m taking all due precautions, but just… there is no end in sight here and I’m really concerned about what will happen in fall when the days get darker. I have to figure out some way to get my energy back up if I don’t want both my productivity and my mental health to freefall. There’s no good options.

      1. Mediamaven*

        I saw one of my employees today and she asked if she could come in once a week or so just because it’s helps her focus and feel better mentally, like she’s getting a change of scenery and separating work from home. I told her if she wants to do that I’ll stay home on that day.

    12. Metadata minion*

      I realize everyone’s budget is tight, but is there any wiggle room in yours to help your employees build more comfortable home offices? Working at the kitchen table in a hard wooden chair is likely to get *more* unmanageable over time, not less, and plenty of people don’t have the budget to buy a decent desk and office chair on short notice.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        We issued home office stipends to some of our more junior folks for this purpose, and, honestly, it’s been one of the things we’ve received most positive feedback on. I had to purchase a home office chair after about the first month, and my kitchen chairs are well-padded. (Not going to lie, my office office chair is much better, and I thought about going in to pick it up.)

        My spouse kept trying to kick me out of the kitchen because I am sort of in the way, but my kitchen table is almost better than my desk at work, and this room has the most natural light in the house, which I need not to go insane. I think they’ve given up now — you know, four months in.

        1. Curmudgeon in California*

          I wish my employer would do this. My home office chair is fine for two days a week, but not five. But getting a new chair isn’t in my budget. This means my back bears the brunt of this.

          1. NotAnotherManager!*

            I have a bad back, and I ended up making a lumbar bolster for myself out of a tightly-rolled, oversized beach towel, which helps a lot. My spouse got a gel-filled seat cushion that I make fun of them for (a lot), but it’s their tailbone saver and wasn’t terribly expensive.

            I also get up and walk around often or do a short set of my physical therapy stretching exercises (and there are a lot of good, easy-to-do sets available online that you can download as a one-page sheet with directions). My fitness tracker beeps at me once an hour, so I ended up training myself out of ignoring it after about a month at home.

          2. Eva Luna*

            Can you at least swing a nice comfy chair cushion and/or lumber support? I ordered one from Costco for my hubby, and I think the whole shebang was $30. He likes it, anyway – it’s a big improvement over the unpadded spare IKEA kitchen chair.

    13. Coco*

      Sorry if you’ve addressed it but do you have status meetings? We have a 25 min daily team meeting where everyone says what they did the previous day, what they’re going to work on the current day, and any issues, announcements, questions, etc. kinda like a scrum standup but since it is longer and addresses other things than a real standup, not really called that. If people aren’t able to say what they produced the previous day, it would be an indicator they aren’t getting things done?

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        Daily team meetings seem a bit much. Why not just “everyone email your supervisor at the end of the day with a brief (like 1 paragraph) summary of the work you accomplished”? My department does that, plus having a Slack channel and Zoom meetings at the beginning of some new projects.

        1. old curmudgeon*

          My work unit is currently doing that. The biggest problem I have with it is that while I email my supervisor a daily list of what I did, there is absolutely no response to any of it. It’s like shouting into a void, only I don’t even get an echo.

          I am introverted, independent, and I don’t rely on validation from others to feel good about myself, but geez-Louise, the total radio silence starts to make me wonder after a few months. Especially since the every-three-weeks status meetings keep getting cancelled as well.

      2. Batgirl*

        I would find that a bit of a drag, but what I do like is the running message channel between folks in the department. I’m a deep, deep introvert who can ignore the household noise and tune into the muse…but even I need to bounce an idea off a human being occasionally.

      3. Mediamaven*

        We do. They aren’t daily but we do have them frequently. It’s not lack of communication although its’ much more challenging working away from each other.

    14. Lora*

      I would like to suggest: Are they really less productive, or were they always not very productive and working from home is just highlighting that?

      Reason being, an AWFUL lot of my colleagues like to cram their days with meetings that could have been emails, socializing, discussing, debating, brainstorming sessions with pizza delivery, etc. with minimal deliverables – but it sure looked to other people like they worked loooong hours and worked sooooo hard.

      They were never actually productive. They were careful not to tire any one person out too much with their socializing. They made a big honking deal about Team Building and Coordination and Breaking Down Silos and making 4-Up slide decks and creating dashboards for ready communication and red/yellow/green status boards.

      Working from home highlights who is and isn’t delivering in a big way. You can’t hide a lack of deliverables with professionally-acceptable socializing. And if you are, for example, a financial analyst taking a long hard look at a company with Covid worries in mind, you aren’t looking at Team Building Exercises or Broken Silos – you’re looking at revenue, physical assets, cash flows and intellectual property and thinking hard about how a Power BI dashboard-maker contributes to those things or fails to contribute. Maybe those people are very important! Social butterflies and gear-lubricators can be critical to maintaining a company as an organization of people as opposed to a bunch of Human Resources with a common parking problem! But…if everyone is working from home, and the money starts getting tight, then these questions are highlighted in a most uncomfortable way.

    15. ArtsNerd*

      Yeah, I have a lot of executive dysfunction and I do best when I work from home 1 or 2 days a week, not 100% in the office or 100% at home.

      My productivity is in the toilet. Being away from the office is only 15% of that productivity drop, if I had to guess.

      5% is not being able to go to a cafe, etc. and switch up my environment (novelty = motivation). 15% is the two-steps-forward, one-step-back progress I’m making on healthy habits and routines with everything different. All of my built up coping mechanisms and strategies are just… *poof* not available to me right now. Mix in 20% for exacerbating my existing psychiatric challenges, another 20% for my sheer rage that “the economy” is pitting peoples’ lives against their livelihoods, and 20% anger and existential despair seeing how horrible and selfish people can be…

      It adds up to 100% “what is the point of any of this?” I have pandemic fatigue too, but this idea that “well we have to go to work Because of Capitalism” just has me wanting to scream “well maybe then Capitalism isn’t the way to go here.”

    16. pancakes*

      I haven’t seen that thought process being popular, and I’m wondering where you are seeing it. Alison has covered the pandemic quite extensively on this blog, which you seem to be a regular reader of, and has highlighted the importance of employers being flexible with productivity standards on numerous occasions, as well as incorporating the simple fact that many jobs can’t be done from home in all of her guidance. I’m curious what specific management techniques you feel able to implement to keep productivity up while people are working in the office that you haven’t been able to implement while they’re working from home. That seems like an important question to think about.

  5. Linda Evangelista*

    My parents are fed, and I just heard about this phased approach to going back in. They don’t need to, they just are. Which is terrifying.

    I’m very thankful to working for a public health nonprofit that hasn’t even set a target date and has literally said “we’re working great from home, we’ll just keep doing it”.

  6. Time_TravelR*

    My boss has said, not for the foreseeable future. Fortunately, we are all able to work from home and are doing a good job of it, by all reports.

    1. UKDancer*

      My company has said the same. We’re almost all working from home for a while possibly until the end of the year.
      They’re reconfiguring the office because we’re arranged for hot desking so it will take a while before they’re ready.

      There are a few desks in the office for people who need to be there but that’s a very small percentage of the workforce.

      Personally I prefer being in the office as I work better that way but I am glad they are putting safety first and ensuring we can continue to work from home. They’ve made sure we have good IT and any adjustments we need to work from home.

  7. Ali G*

    It’s astounding to me how awful employers can be. My husband’s company was notoriously butts-in-seats (seriously the one neg he got on last year’s performance review was he worked from home too much – we had renovations going on and he liked to keep an eye on things. It was like 1-2 times a week for 2 months!), before all this and even they are basically like just do what you need to do and be safe.

    1. MCL*

      My husband’s company is also very butts-in-seats, though they’re mostly all WFH right now. Their “back-to-work” date keeps getting moved back, but apparently mid-September is go-time, with heavy implications that people with kids get their childcare sorted by then. Which… I am side-eying really hard. We don’t have kids, but it’s a huge company with thousands of employees. Many of them have kids. Public schools and daycares are not for certain going to be open. It’s a mess.

      1. 2 Cents*

        It’s like employers just expect parents to magically come up with childcare solutions when all the usual ones aren’t available. Sure, I’ll just conjure a nanny out of thin air!

  8. Blaise*

    I’m a teacher, and believe me we’re all pretty much collectively freaking out right about now. Allison hit the nail on the head- everyone seems to be thinking if we just ignore the pandemic, it’ll just go away. It makes me want to scream.

    1. merp*

      I’m so worried for my teacher friends, and fellow librarians too :( My library is partially open but at least we don’t seem to be rushing to change anything yet. But I know schools and a lot of libraries are. It makes no sense. I know this makes no difference but I’m wishing you all the best and hoping decision-makers come to their senses.

    2. LDN Layabout*

      My friend’s mother is a teacher and a parent who tested positive still sent her child to school. I…cannot understand the sheer level of stupidity and cruelty in that decision.

      1. The Original K.*

        I can think of several scenarios in which a parent might do this if she’s in the US. She could be a single parent forced back to work herself, without child care outside of school. This becomes especially important if she’s hourly and/or has no sick leave, so missed work = missed pay, which could mess up her whole budget. She rationalizes that the kid isn’t symptomatic so he might not affect others, and she has to go to work so she rolls the dice. I’m not saying I agree with it, but I get it. People are commenting in this thread about how they simply do not know what to do about work and their kids if their kids’ schools aren’t open. I know a number of parents myself who don’t really WANT to send their kids back to day care/school but feel like they must do so in order to keep working, because they can’t lose their income.

        The pandemic has really laid bare just how fragile all of America’s systems are, and in my opinion one of the most fragile is the relationship between parenting and work (and I say this as someone without children). America is still very much set up for one parent to be at home with children, whether or not that is financially feasible.

        1. Ali G*

          Yes. One of my friend’s has decided it’s more important to get her kids back in daycare so she and her husband can at least be productive 3 days a week than it is to be able to spend a lot of time with her family/parents. When everyone was at home all the time, she could rationalize taking the kids to her parents for some outside quality time while she caught up on work. Now she has to keep the kids home because they are going to daycare and she doesn’t want to risk her parents or other family members’ health. It’s a ridiculous choice to make, but probably going to become more common.

        2. LDN Layabout*

          If you’ve tested positive you won’t be going into work. And if you are, that’s a whole other kettle of fish.

        3. TiffIf*

          The pandemic has really laid bare just how fragile all of America’s systems are
          This a thousand times!

        4. Grapey*

          Sounds like the country should be striking. Isn’t that what laborers did when basic safe working conditions weren’t met? And pretty sure they gave up pay to do so.

          Not going into work would wake a lot of employers up and have them punch up for change, not down.

          1. Altair*

            The current response in the US to demonstrations, including strikes, is for the police to show up with riot gear and tear gas, and then arrest people and take away their wallets and cellphones while holding them in crowded conditions for 24 or 48 or 72 hours. That reality, plus the individualistic ethos in American culture, is a deterrent to pan-society strikes.

      2. I'm A Little Teapot*

        There are people who genuinely think that children can’t catch covid. Saw one of them on social media this morning. They are very, very wrong, and they think they’re very, very right.

    3. Johanna Cabal*

      My aunt and uncle’s school district is planning a staggered reopening with students attending only a few days a week but anticipates some students being brought to school every day regardless.

      (Before anyone asks, CPS won’t do anything; the county has been hit badly by the opiate crisis and with COVID even fewer foster homes are available).

      1. fposte*

        Unless I’m missing something, I don’t see CPS as being a useful organization here anyway. The problem is that people don’t have childcare, not that people are being neglectful parents. I would imagine most schools have factored in to their spacing plans that a certain percentage of their families have an intractable childcare need and the kids will be turning up every day.

        1. Jayn*

          I imagine this is a large reason why my district has decided to go back full time next month, they’ve been open in the past about having a lot of low-income families and factoring that into school closing decisions. (My state hasn’t been hard hit, and distance learning is also an option). Though if the risk level gets too high they will close again.

        2. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

          Agree. I can’t imagine sending a kid into the foster care system because the parents need to send them to school every day, even if they are not authorized for daily school. That’s the children’s equivalent of calling the police on Black neighbors going about their normal lives.

          1. Gazebo Slayer*

            Yes. And sadly from what I have seen CPS is far too willing to take away kids because of parental poverty or logistical problems, and far too reluctant to take away kids from active abusers.

  9. Yep*

    My boss let us work remotely for about a month back in March/April, got tired of it despite no one having productivity issues, and brought us all back in full-time after that. No sanitation, no social distancing, no masks. One person tested positive for COVID and no one cared. He’s in the hospital and my boss is complaining that he won’t answer his cell.

    I’ve just accepted that this is how I’ll die. Nothing I can do about it.

      1. Batty Twerp*

        There it is. Ahead of any of the direct letters to AAM, *this* is the worst boss of the year 2020.
        He is complaining that a person sick in hospital won’t answer his cell phone?! Does he think the ward is just another WFH location, like a cafe or a park bench?
        There are words for bosses like this. Unfortunately, using them will get me kicked off the site.

        1. Gazebo Slayer*

          Sadly, we’ve seen other bosses just like him before. There have been bosses who actually barged into the hospital, including one who’d lie his way into his employee’s chemo sessions to yell at her.

          And people wonder why young people aren’t too pleased with capitalism.

    1. What's with Today, Today?*

      I think a lot of us have accepted that. It’s incredibly disheartening. We’ve had 31 deaths in our small town. Most of the time I feel like I’m just waiting to hear who else is dead. We have a nursing home with 100 cases, so the deaths will likey increase a lot this week and next. I hate it.

    2. jivasaktipearl*

      This is exactly where my company is right now too. Ever since they brought us back to work, they have just acted like the virus doesn’t exist and anyone who says otherwise is basically accused of being a fearmonger. And on top enforcing ZERO safety precautions in place, they also chose to move our office during the time we were WFH into another building that is a 1/3 of the space that we were in before. I actually sit closer to my desk mates than I did before.

      I’d leave (and am actively looking), but I don’t have any real hope that I will find anything during all of this. There are just simply too many people who are in the exact same situation.

    3. Curmudgeon in California*

      WTF? Your boss is a glass bowl.

      Denial is more than a river in Egypt.

      Your will should mention that he gets a contaminated kerchief if you die of the coronavirus. Yes, I’m that vicious.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        If you are hospitalized, he should have to pay for all of your medical care.

        If you die of the virus, your family should be able to sue him and take away both his business and every penny he owns. (And none of that homestead exemption bullshit. He should end up living in a cardboard box.)

    4. Ursula*

      There is always one thing you can do about it, at least if your coworkers care – Unionize!

    5. Eva Luna*

      Are there any local shutdown orders/guidance for workplaces where you are? My husband’s management was trying to make everyone come in half-time, even if they can work fine remotely. A carefully crafted email citing the CDC and state guidance that anyone who can work from home should continue to do so put the kibosh on that, thankfully.

  10. X*

    I work in an essential office/cubicle farm setting. Early on, they were great about offering the equivalent of EFMLA and other kinds of leave for those who had underlying conditions or no childcare when the schools and day cares closed. But that all started in early March. Those 10 weeks were up awhile ago, and those people have had no choice other than to quit or return. They did open a significant amount of positions that would never have been allowed before (think security issues, HIPAA, etc.) to WFH, but those people had to sign the same agreement as people who wanted to WFH did before the pandemic that states that they have a secure location in their home to work from (office or room with a door that locks where they can be alone) and they cannot be the sole provider of care for a child under the age of 18 or an otherwise disabled person who cannot care for themselves. So, it’s nice for the people with an unemployed spouse or grandparent who can take the kids, but it was never flexible enough for everyone.

    They have now rolled back the EFMLA to only be available to people with no childcare or who are actually sick. Underlying conditions are no longer qualifying for it. If they find out you exposed yourself, your time off (went out sans mask, attended a social gathering, church, etc.) is no longer paid. They removed the 10 people in a room limit for meetings/classes and made it just “6 foot social distancing”. It’s been a mishmash of good and bad responses, but it seems to be trending towards they’re sick of spending the extra money keeping people safe. We’re even hiring people who are required to do weeks of in person training and then work from the office for at least 30 days before being able to maybe be offered WAH. It’s getting ridiculous.

    1. Bear Shark*

      Once schools reopen, I’m assuming EFMLA and equivalents will be gutted when it comes to childcare for anyone with a school-age child. The districts around me are all leaving it up to the parents to choose to send kids to school or choose virtual learning – so if you choose virtual learning employers are going to say that it’s all on the employee for choosing not to take advantage of available childcare. (not that teachers are the equivalent of babysitters, just that is how employers are going to treat it)

  11. Ellie May*

    I work for a VERY large technology company. Being in hard-hit Massachusetts, there is currently ZERO plan for a return to the physical office. Before that timeline is even considered, the office will be deep-cleaned and then gutted and re-configured to ensure adequate spacing. We’re told it will be re-designed for fewer seats and that people can decide if they’d prefer to continue working from home. Thank you for keeping us safe!!

    1. Mazzy*

      I’m also anxious about the deep cleanings. Have you ever been in an office that smells line chemicals and bleach and soap? There have been a couple of times where we start the days by opening the windows to clean it out, I mean before this when we had different cleaners come in. I think they overused products to show they cleaned.

      Then I had a coworker who started overusing products when this started. He’d be sitting at his desk and just pull out hand sanitizer and put on a huge glob, even if he didn’t get up and touch anything. And then a while later pull out a alcohol wipe and wipe something. The place smelled like a nursing home but I felt I can’t call someone out for overusing cleaning products.

      Is whatever chemical those are healthy to breath in?

      1. Metadata minion*

        It really depends on what cleaning product it is. Alcohol is pretty harmless as far as I know, so long as you aren’t literally standing over a vat of it and huffing. They can absolutely be a big problem for people with asthma or other types of chemical sensitivities, but so long as you aren’t getting migraines or having trouble breathing, I’d much rather people over-clean than under-clean.

        1. Metadata minion*

          (And there’s a whole other debate about over-cleaning potentially making our immune systems oversensitive because they don’t get enough “data” to work with and then freak out over everything, but that’s a very long-term sort of thing that’s much more relevant to children. In the face of a global pandemic, I fall pretty hard on the side of “sanitize now; rebuild personal microbiomes later”.)

        2. Curmudgeon in California*

          Alcohol and bleach aren’t usually a problem, but cleaning products with added “fragrance”, “perfume” or “masking scent” are stuff I’m very allergic too – as in coughing so bad I can’t breath with some of them.

    2. Gumby*

      The office should be cleaned because it has been sitting empty for half a year. But someone please correct me if I am wrong in my belief that COVID doesn’t survive on surfaces for nearly that long is wrong.

      1. Drago Cucina*

        You’re not wrong. The American Library Association has some good info on how long COVID lasts on various surfaces. This is one article: How to Sanitize Collections in a Pandemic. Basically time is the best disinfectant. For example the standard is to quarantine books for three days before circulating.

  12. What's Wrong with Today, today?*

    Yeah, I’m in Texas. I asked my boss during our all office staff meeting (small media office) if we could go back to only one or two people in the station at a time, like we were during lock down. That was a quick no. Meanwhile, one of our co-workers is currently quarantined as his son-in-law tested positive.

  13. DW*

    My company wanted to bring people back in mid-May and suggested that groups rotate their people so 1 or 2 are in office at once…which doesn’t make sense when the whole point of having people in the office is group collaboration. (What it actually is is management wanting to see they’re getting their money’s worth after a bad financial year.) On top of no mandatory mask policy, our workstations require a lot of hardware (screen, cables, docking stations, etc) so rotating people between home and office will waste hours each week. They tried and so many people pushed back that at this point they’re leaving it be. No doubt they’ll try again but until they budge on the masks, a good chunk of us aren’t going anywhere.

    1. DW*

      Should add some context: my employer has ~500 people total across a ton of states, half in my office, and half of the employees travel to do site work while the other half can do 95% of their work at home. At this point ~30% of my office is filled and there’s enough space for distancing but the AC is running full tilt and we’re in a state with runaway case rates. I’m sure if management wasn’t tolerating resistance things would be different, however given that 70% of people can’t/won’t go back in, there’s not much they can do to discipline us. This is a relatively niche industry and most new hires come from our competitors, who likewise would love to hire us away. So I’m very lucky.

  14. Rebecca*

    I’m one of those forced back to work. People are not wearing masks in common areas, are going to crowded beach areas for vacation, and there are 4 of us who wear masks on a regular basis. Social distancing isn’t happening, people are sitting together, chatting, I’ve seen nearly head to head contact with no masks, all to look at a photo on a phone. I’m holed up in my office, not allowing anyone in, and having to come into the office even though all of my work can be done remotely, and was done remotely and well for months. Several of us have pushed back, to no avail, as our manager wants butts in seats. I was told, but don’t have firsthand knowledge, that if we get a case in the office, we can revisit work from home.

    Really, what choice do we have? Walk away from a job in the middle of a pandemic with double digit unemployment? I’m in the US, so you know the current political climate and all the conspiracy theories that run rampant here. I feel like all I can do is mask up, not touch anything, stay away from people as much as I can, and hope for the best. I’ve made up my mind if I do contract this from coming to work, if I’m able, I will get that fact to the media, my elected representatives, anyone who will listen. This is ridiculous. But by all means, let’s get that stock market back up and get people back to work as cogs in the capitalist system, because in the end, money and profits are all that matter. People can be replaced. End of rant.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      I was told, but don’t have firsthand knowledge, that if we get a case in the office, we can revisit work from home.

      WT literal F? Until your employer risks your life, there’s no interest in protecting your life?

      I sympathise so hard on Really, what choice do we have? It feels like the magical thinking is ready for this to be over, so it’s just being declared over, irrespective of reality…

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        Seriously. Given the biggest problem with this virus is the asymptomatic carrier phase, by the time someone’s had enough symptoms to get testing, they’ve been sharing it with y’all for at least a week.

        I work at a very politically diverse organization, and the rate of complaining about having been working remotely for months has been practical zero (and the one or two complainers are known to be difficult and were quickly shut down by upper management). If anyone thinks this is a conspiracy, they’re at least smart enough to keep it to themselves.

    2. Gazebo Slayer*

      The US political climate is *so* much of why the pandemic has been worse here than anywhere else.

      This did not have to happen. It is the fault of certain politicians who peddled baseless fringe theories to their despicable followers in order to get themselves re-elected, stroke their own egos, and make sure lifesaving measures to slow the spread of infection didn’t get in the way of the all-important stock market.

      I dream of the day we put them on trial for crimes against humanity, Nuremburg-style

      (I’m not letting those followers off the hook, either. They voted the monsters in. We need something akin to denazification.)

  15. Heather*

    NYS is requiring anyone in a courthouse to wear a mask. The courtroom I have to go to in one hour will have at least three people – the judge, the court reporter, and the clerk – without masks on. My anxiety spikes every time I have to go there as I know the statistics regarding infection when one, both, or no one is wearing a mask. I get very little support for my discomfort with the situation.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      And good luck pushing back from within his or her courtroom on a judge who doesn’t want to wear a mask.

      1. Crimlaw*

        We are doing all court from home. 7:00 am every morning. No in person hearings for us until at least October. We had over 40 people on Zoom this morning.

    2. DLW*

      I’m surprised they’re not making everyone wear a mask and are doing in person hearing. I’m a law clerk for a judge in state court in Chicago. I’ve been working from home since the middle of March even though there was zero work from home for anyone previously. For most of that time, the judges were handling emergency matters by phone or by Zoom and we were reaching out to lawyers to send us briefs electronically so we could issue written rulings on their pending motions.

      The chief judge has now obtained individual Zoom licenses for each judge, so last week the judges started doing their normal court calls again by Zoom. While some matters (especially criminal) still have to be handled in person, everything that can be handled remotely is. And for those people who need to go in physically, there are strict rules regarding masks (everyone including judges), number of people and distancing (plus plexiglass has gone up in all the courtrooms), plus temperature taking and passing a symptom checklist. I’m glad they’re taking everyone’s safety seriously because otherwise they would just be inviting a huge outbreak given the hundreds of people visiting the courthouses and the fact that almost everyone needs to take public transportation to get there.

      1. NotAnotherManager!*

        That’s really the way to do it. We have a local state court that has no electronic filing option and requires ink signatures on documents, which is ludicrous in 2020, even more so in pandemic. The hoops we have to jump through (and the lead time) to get anything filed there are something out of a Joseph Heller novel.

      2. Chinook*

        I was wondering if Heather’s courtroom had plexiglass around the essential spots to eablel faces to be unmasked. It would make sense from a communication standpoint while keeping everyone safe. They could easily be cleaned between uses. I know layers here are pushing for witnesses to be unmasked so they can read facial expressions during questioning. Plexiglass and face visors seem the onvious choise.

        1. Heather*

          Nope! They’re supposed to give witnesses face shields, but my understanding is they’ve used them all up.

          I actually did a two day hearing via zoom in May before the courthouse reopened and it worked just fine, for the most part. Which is why this is even more frustrating. I am following the CA recommendations to wear only machine washable clothing, so I haven’t been wearing suits, but I have not gotten pushback yet as my outfits are still appropriate for work, just not exceedingly formal.

  16. MsMaryMary*

    I work for a large company and they have basically said we’re working from home for the foreseeable future. We have a lot of little branch offices that are relatively autonomous. One in Texas tried to reopen and shut down within a week due to COVID. Between the risk and the $40k fee to clean the office, I think corporate is going to be very conservative about reopening.

    Alison, if this is too political and inappropriate, please delete (and I’m sorry). But I feel that quarantines, masks, and if COVID is even a real threat has become so partisan some employers are definitely reopening as a statement. My former employer, a company of about 100 people, reopened as soon as offices were permitted to by our governor. They’ve never been big on working from home, but they’re also very politically conservative. I can’t see how politics plus a dose of toxic masculinity (“I never get sick”) weren’t a factor.

    My job usually involves a lot of meetings and travel in fourth quarter, and that’s what I’m worried about. I could see clients insisting we do a weeklong multi-state roadshow like we’ve done in the past. Even if my employer wants to be safe, they also are going to have to decide if they feel strongly enough about it to lose clients.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      DING DING DING DING to your second paragraph. Most of this is being driven by political conservatism (which consists mostly of racism, sexism, anti-science/anti-intellectualism, conspiracy theories, money worship, and a “screw everyone else, what about my FREEDOM” attitude at all costs) and toxic masculinity.

    2. J*

      That’s sure as hell why the federal government is dragging people back from telework. It’s 100% politics.

  17. Cheesecake2.0*

    I work at a university and have been told we’ll be remote through the end of the 20-21 school year. My husband’s employer make him go back into the office last Thursday, even though there’s a big surge of cases in our area. They are taking some precautions but he’s had far less work to do in the office than he did at home so far so it’s sort of annoying that he has to sit there and do nothing and be less safe. (He had somewhat different duties while at home that kept him busier).

    1. Pippa K*

      I also work for a university, but unfortunately one that is bringing the whole student population back to campus for the fall semester, with most classes to be held in person. I’m aghast and frightened and disgusted and wondering how many lives this is going to cost.

      1. Cheesecake2.0*

        Oh my goodness, that’s stressful. I hope they change their minds before the fall semester starts. My campus is estimating 7% of students will need in person classes (nursing, labs, etc) but everyone else will be remote.

  18. Miki*

    IL person here : we went back to work I believe June 8 (but onsite is only part time, the other half from home). To be honest, I am ready for full time work onsite (working from home with inadequate desk/computer/furniture brought me lovely work related injury: tennis elbow that required 6 weeks of PT to be somewhat under control). On site we are spread out and we all wear masks no matter where we are (cubicle farm).

  19. calonkat*

    I work for state government, and yes, we were told we had to be back in the office unless we met very stringent requirements. I didn’t, but got an exemption due to my family meeting those requirements that has to be reapproved every 30 days (If they don’t reapprove, I won’t be able to see my family members again unless things change before they die.) In the meantime they forced everyone else to go back to the office. Most of us have work that is either 100% on the computer/phone, or computer/phone/in person (which clearly isn’t happening now), so there is NO reason for the change. There’s no child care available for those with children, they just aren’t being allowed to work from home anymore, even though we all successfully worked from home since March. It’s just aggravating, and has really soured many people on our department, which used to be viewed very positively as an employer. There are a few jobs that benefit by being in the office, but those employees would also be safer if the rest of us stayed home!

  20. Magenta Sky*

    I think you are overestimating the effects of fatigue and underestimating the effects of desperation. There are a lot of businesses that are not facing a choice between “reopen now or reopen later” so much as “reopen now or reopen never, and lose everything you’ve work for all your life.” So employees get the unenviable choice of “come back to work now or look for a new job because this one won’t be here next month whether you’re ready or not.”

    (My employer is a retail business that’s been open continuously. That we’re doing twice as much business as usual for this time of year means that we really are an essential service. Out of 500 employees in multiple states, we’ve had exactly one diagnosed so far, with most of our stores in a hot spot state right now. We’re very strict on masks for employees and customers, and cleaning protocols, and have adjusted both – to be stricter – more than once. It’s entirely possible to run a business with a fair degree of safety right now. But you have to take it seriously.)

    1. Blue S*

      This. The amount of “employers who are forcing people back are KILLING EVERYONE AND DON’T CARE” is attempting to frame the dichotomy as open now, or open later. For many, many businesses, this simply isn’t true.

      1. pancakes*

        It simply is true that opening businesses during an ongoing pandemic, before it’s safe to do so, exposes the employees and everyone who comes into contact with them to increased risk of premature death. Whether you think those risks are worthwhile or not for economic reasons is a separate question.

        1. Mediamaven*

          Labeling it simply economic issues really dehumanizes it. If low income people lose their jobs they can be in dire, even deadly, situations for a long time. Small business owners will lose their livelihoods and businesses shutter. Mental illness will take hold. It’s a lot more than just an question of economy for many Americans. It’s life or death. I find people that simplify it as just a money grab have a lot of resources to get them through this. Not everyone has that.

          1. pancakes*

            I didn’t say or suggest that it’s a money grab. I think it’s very silly that you’re chastising me for saying “economic reasons” while your own reply is a list of economic reasons to send people back to work. “People will lose their livelihoods and businesses will shutter,” for example. There are numerous potential solutions to people losing their livelihoods and being plunged into mental health crises — funding social safety nets like welfare programs and mental health care, for example. Giving people what they don’t have. You may not like these ideas, but they are viable alternatives to sending people back to work during a pandemic.

            1. Mediamaven*

              I actually said I was not sending my employees back to work because of Covid and I didn’t list a single economic reason short of not wanting to go out of business that I would bring them back. I did not speak of the ideas you mention so don’t take it there – my thread was about the challenges of having a staff at home. I’m paying quite a few people to keep them employed right now without enough work so they A. still get a paycheck, and B. don’t have to put themselves at risk. What you are doing?

    2. SusanB*

      Thank you! This well said.

      I work for a private university and we’re opening up in a staggered approach now and then classes will be in session in the fall. It is going to be a nightmare. I have no doubt about that. But I also think that if we do not open up, we’ll be shutting down sooner rather than later. I hear this from a lot of other private high schools/colleges/elementary schools.

      1. Magenta Sky*

        Public schools are in no better shape, at least in California. They’ve had to pass budgets for the coming year based on promises of funding from the state (that, I’m told, are illegal under current state laws) that are based on a vague wish that the feds would give them a big pile of money – with no indication that this will happen.

      2. pancakes*

        Why only those two options? Why not a third option, for example, increased government funding that pays people to stay home, and increased funding for PPE and other safety measures for workers who are essential and cannot work from home? Why is the idea of people working themselves literally to death more appealing than a school shutting down for good? I have lots of warm feelings for the private high school I attended but it would not occur to me to think people presently working there should be prepared to die in an effort to keep it going. It’s a school, not a cult.

    3. Bagpuss*

      Yes. Employers are people too, and in many cases are trying to reach a balance between keeping their employees as safe as possible and their businesses, and therefore their own and their employees livelihoods, going. I think the ‘all employers are evil and/or heartless’ is unhelpful and inaccurate.

      And of course there is also the issue not only of how effectively someone can work from home but how practical it is given things outside the employers control.
      I do think that since this thing is not going away, we need to be focusing on making workplaces and public spaces safer, not demonising employers or seeing WFH as the One True Way.

      1. Magenta Sky*

        Balance in all things. You can never be *perfectly* safe, no matter what you do. All you can do is realistically assess the risks, and decide where to put the line you won’t cross.

        And accept the consequences of that decision.

        This applies to employers and employees both.

      2. tangerineRose*

        I think if a person can work from home, they should. Of course some businesses need workers at the business. I mean grocery workers usually have to be in the store to do the job.

    4. Sacrificial Pharmacy Tech*

      This. I know several business owners who are never going to be able to open their doors again because they were forced to shut down and had no way of staying afloat. I think I’ve said it on this forum before, but I had to talk one off a literal ledge because he watched everything he had put literal blood, sweat, and tears into disappear before his eyes. It wasn’t enough, and he killed himself last week.

      People were so focused on “save the hospitals!” that they were fine dooming the rest of the economy. And now we’re seeing the mental health and financial ramifications of it.

      1. Mediamaven*

        I had a business owner friend who did the same thing. I’m a total liberal but you know what? The media doesn’t tell that story and I think that’s really bad.

        1. pancakes*

          I’m not following as to what you think is political about suicides of this nature or media coverage of them. It seems abundantly clear that people who identify themselves with their career success to that degree are 1) unlikely to be doing so for partisan reasons, and 2) in urgent need of mental health care. It also seems abundantly clear that abusive people often threaten their targets with suicide in an effort to manipulate and control them, and that expanding media coverage of people who threaten suicide for economic or political reasons may be unwise for several reasons. Why not expand healthcare and make counseling and medication more widely available rather than sensationalize the deaths of people who are deeply unwell?

      2. Altair*

        I am sorry that this person you know killed himself in despair. But I wonder if we can, or should, measure the people who have killed themselves over the people who would have died if we just decided to entirely flout any measures whatsoever to flatten the curve and slow the pandemic in the name of saving the economy, and the people who are dying now that so many parts of the US have decided we’re done with those measures. And does the federal government have no role in this whatsoever? I really think it would have been possible for the government to do better at many stages of this pandemic, rather than pitting health against the economy in an unnecessary dichotomy.

  21. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

    My boss is one of those people who thinks ignoring it will make it go away.

    One of my co-workers went into the hospital last week with an “infection.” He told us that they were testing him for the ‘rona. I started crying. If I catch it, I *will* die (asthma, extreme case of COPD, extreme case of emphysema, bronchiectasis, cardiomyopathy and an undiagnosed intestinal issue). It’s that simple. On Thursday, we were told he has an infection but were never provided the results of his ‘rona test. When I started asking about it, my boss told me to stop making such a big deal out of it and to get my ass back to work. I calmly told him that, with my massive health problems, I didn’t feel I was making a big *enough* deal about it.

    I live in Floriduh where we have seen a 1000%+ increase in cases.

    We were never offered the option to WFH. My boss bought all the men masks and gloves (and got his son N-95 masks to boot) but never asked me and the AP gal (also high risk with asthma) if we wanted masks or gloves. We basically had to fend for ourselves. He is not enforcing the county ordinances and when I report him to the authorities, they walk in, say “Is everyone wearing a mask?” and walk right out. He goes out front and holds court like he’s the mayor of Clearwater. Then he comes back in here and hovers 1 foot away from us and just stands there and watches us work. Just watches us. And breathes all over us. We call him TC as in the helicopter pilot from the original Magnum PI. He has zero s*its to give about us.

    We are so screwed.

    1. Indy Dem*

      Wait, he bought the men masks, but not the women? How is that not gender discrimination?

    2. Chinook*

      Wow – that seems like a clef case of sexual discrimination if he only bought PPE for the men. Have you checked with OSHA or skmwthing similar about this?

      1. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

        I checked with my attorney (who is handling my Federal whistleblower case). He took notes and told me what I have to do. I’m doing it. ;)

    3. Batty Twerp*

      OK, I got my earlier comment up-thread seriously wrong.
      This is a sexist worst boss of the year.

      I may have to stop reading now before one of those bad words for nasty people slips out.

      1. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

        Oh it gets even worse. Company policy is that you get your vacation time at your one year anniversary. He has consistently allowed the men to use their vacay time PRIOR to their one year anniversary, but when I asked if I could (because I had been in the hospital) I was told no. I’m also the ONLY employee who is NOT allowed to use either one of the two microwaves or the toaster oven. According to him, the guys noticed me using it and it bothered them. I asked the guys and they all denied it and I believe them before I believe the boss. It bothered HIM so instead of saying that he laid it off on the guys. I’m also not allowed to take my breaks where everyone else does. He specifically told me he wants me to stand in front of our building, right by the front right tire of his truck. So I pretend that I am walking over to the 7-11 every single break.

        Yes, he’s a sexist pig and once this ‘rona stuff is over I’m so out of there.

        In the meantime, I document and send it all to my attorney.

        1. ThatGirl*

          why on god’s green earth would it bother anyone that you used a common appliance?? unless you were microwaving cauliflower and fish, maybe…

          1. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

            I have no idea why it bothered him. I wasn’t microwaving ANY smelly meals, just bean and cheese burritos. For whatever reason, it just bothered him. I have no idea why.

            1. The Original K.*

              I’m in very good shape but have never been in a fist fight in my life. However, my rage might be enough to carry me through. This is BONKERS, the way he treats you. Disgusting.

              1. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

                It’s bananacrackers. And I’m the only one he treats this way. If he has some problem with me, I wish he would just address it instead of doing this passive-aggressive crap. But he doesn’t have the balls to do that. He’s a coward.

        2. mf*

          I hope you sue him for every dime he’s worth! Because you deserve the $$ and, to be frank, I want him to suffer for his sexism and ableism.

          1. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

            My attorney is working on it. We’re in the middle of settlement discussions for my Federal whistleblower case (prolly won’t settle so we’re also scheduling depositions) and he was stoked to get another one for me to track.

            1. Aphrodite*

              This is fantastic news! I see your name around and wonder how it all came out. I am happy it will probably turn out in your favor–it sounds like your attorney is a real go-getter–but distressed by what you went through and are still having to go through. Best wishes …

              1. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

                I have discovered, living in Floriduh, that there are very few awesome employer unless you get into the massive industries around here. The small companies are fiefdoms where we are treated as if we should just be thankful to be working there. I’ll give y’all an update on my case in the Friday Open Thread. Things are starting to move!

            2. ValaMalDoran*

              I really hope to someday see an update about your case(s) in the Friday Good News.

              1. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

                I’ll give an update in this Friday’s Open Thread. My case(s) have only been referenced in the open threads, never as a letter to Allison so I’ll do an OT post. We’re starting to get some traction. Got my medical records (from the stress-related cardiomyopathy [Takotsubo]) to my attorney and he feels this will greatly increase any award so I’m pretty stoked about that.

    4. Gazebo Slayer*

      Your boss is slime. I am so sorry, and I am really, really hoping you will be OK and safe.

      “One of those people who thinks ignoring it will go away” – sadly, there are a lot of those. So much of our country is so proudly stupid and selfish.

      1. Destroyer of Worlds, Empress of Awesome*

        Yes he is. He’s a complete jerk. I was applying to get another job and then the ‘rona hit so I’m stuck here for awhile. Everything is all about him and he shares the same viewpoint(s) as the person he voted for.

  22. Watry*

    My office has been great about accommodations–but our office is not physically large enough for social distancing, and I am literally listening as I type to a coworker saying the virus isn’t a big deal.

    1. Watry*

      I just found out three of my coworkers are out with respiratory symptoms and fever. A fourth is purely work from home. I’m partially WFH. Our team is only seven people. I heard GrandBoss telling Boss he’s recommending to the higher-ups that we close to the public again and I really hope the county lets us.

  23. Ponyboy*

    I don’t know. I’m sure there are employers who fit this description but I think it’s easy to dismiss employers’ reopenings as magical thinking and not take into account our broken system that leads to these decisions. This commentariat is largely white collar workers, but there are lots of workplaces where people cannot telecommute and where no work=no money for anyone. My neighbor who runs a nail salon ran through their savings and it came down to reopen or close down. I know someone else who is desperate for K-12 schools not to go online because a number of family members are bus drivers, custodians, and lunch ladies- and at least in that district, they don’t get paid when things go online.

    Be mad at idiot bosses, but save some outrage for our government (at all levels) that has left us without any security nets. Humans are seen as worthless unless we’re out there earning money- and it’s devastating our society.

    1. Magenta Sky*

      Just wait until the extra unemployment money runs out, and the moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures expire. One recent study concluded that 20 million people are facing eviction. If 1/1oth of them have no family or friends who can take them in, we’re going to see an order of magnitude increase in homelessness.

      We haven’t even begun to see the economic damage yet.

      1. The Original K.*

        Yes. I think fall and winter are going to be very bleak. In addition to eviction & foreclosure moratoriums and extra unemployment benefits (including an expansion for who can apply – part-time workers and gig workers can apply under the CARES Act, but won’t be able to once those provisions expire) expiring, federal student loan payments were suspended and resume in August, so that’s another bill coming due. On top of that, as the weather gets colder, “just do it outside” stops being feasible, which affects businesses that have moved activities outside, AND it’s cold and flu season, so people’s health is precarious.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          On top of all of The Original K’s points, how many seasonal jobs won’t happen this year because they don’t generate enough value to pay the worker *and* the protective processes? And since those seasonal jobs are labor-intensive (even if they’re not intensive labor) and can’t be done remotely, how many of the ones that do happen are going to create/provide increased loci of transmission of the virus?

          We’re on terra nova incognita and there’s no playbook to follow. Even the Spanish Flu epidemic is of finite value given the technological and societal changes of the past century.

        2. Gatomon*

          I literally just got an email a few hours ago about the student loan provisions expiring soon, but nothing on the actual date of expiry (the most critical piece of info!)

          August will be a cliff financially for so many, and I think we will only see things get worse as the weather turns colder after Labor Day. Every day there’s an article that such-and-such restaurant or gas station or store had a positive covid case with an employee and has to close for cleaning here, and I’m not even in a Florida or Arizona. Willing a reopening into existence just doesn’t work.

    2. fposte*

      I was thinking along those lines myself. Expecting employers to require more care than the government does is overoptimistic. It’s heartbreaking that our government has failed us, but employers aren’t going to be able pick up that slack on their own. Expecting they do is, to some extent, falling into that same idea of individual power and agency that leads people to say they don’t have to wear masks. Culturally we’re now in a “choice” pandemic rather than a group epidemiological experience; unfortunately, the virus itself doesn’t care about choice.

    3. TiffIf*

      You absolutely have good points and as someone else said above “The pandemic has really laid bare just how fragile all of America’s systems are”. BUT there are businesses out there that ARE pretending nothing is wrong. that ARE NOT taking proper precautions (requiring masks, allowing WFH for those who can, even part time, enforcing social distancing by moving desks etc).

      There are businesses that need to be open or that cannot allow people to work from home, but some of them don’t seem to be doing ANY risk mitigation.

      1. Ponyboy*

        Sure. But AMA’s article has just a few sentences saying:
        “To be fair, there can be legitimate reasons to want people back in the office. Some things are harder to do from home, or had to be put on hold entirely when teams went remote. And not every person or every job is well-suited for remote work, and that can show up in work quality and productivity.“

        Her thesis is:
        “In many cases, the answer seems to be little more than that the company’s management is sick of having to make so many accommodations and is ready for the crisis to be over.”

        We have lots of anecdotes, but does that really mean MANY are being cavalier? Employers are scared too. AMA usually takes a more nuanced approach in her articles and I think an opportunity was missed here.

        1. Altair*

          I’m not certain being dismissive of the numerous reports of employers who don’t care, especially for partisan reasons, is quite the route to balance.

      2. Magenta Sky*

        Pretending there’s only one reason for employers reopening when their employees don’t want to is ridiculous, regardless of which one reason one chooses.

        1. Altair*

          So you’ll admit there are actually employers not taking this pandemic seriously if we concede that their desire to make money does supercede people’s health? I mean, that’s quite the compromise to settle on.

    4. une autre Cassandra*

      Most definitely. I have plenty of rage and despair to go around, which includes individuals making bad choices (party-hosting neighbors, I’m looking at you) but fundamentally the fault lies with the system. It’s deeply wrong that anyone has to choose between “make a living” and “not die of Coronavirus.” It doesn’t have to be this way.

      1. Mediamaven*

        But what is your solution? Everyone stops working until we have a vaccine? That’s entirely unreasonable to keep the country functioning. So I ask you again, what is your solution?

        1. une autre Cassandra*

          …the government should pay nonessential businesses that can’t operate remotely to stay closed. People should be paid to stay home. Possibly until there is a vaccine, yes. I don’t know.
          But the Federal government absolutely could make this happen.

        2. Altair*

          I like Cassandra’s solution, that the government actually step in and take care of its citizens and their businesses, better than the “economy over all” one, which seems to be that people just have to work and if they get sick and die there are more workers where they came from.

          And in a country where we have a truly massive military budget, please don’t begin with the “but there’s no money to help people with” argument.

          1. Gazebo Slayer*

            There’s a massive military budget. Also a massive budget for ICE (which is “keeping us safe” from Central American farmworkers by putting them in hellish detention camps) and for bailing out cruise ship companies and airlines.

    5. Nanani*

      You are right, but it’s not an either or situation.
      Employers making their white collar employees come back without enforcing masks, cleaning, distancing and so on are putting the people that can’t telecommute at higher risk too, by spreading it via their workers who could have stayed home.

      It’s terrible that so many people don’t have the option to work from home. That doesn’t make it ok for jobs that could be done remotely to just decide they won’t. If anything, your points ADD to the horror.

    6. mf*

      If all the employers who have white collar employees let their people WFH, the world would be a lot safer for the people who can’t telecommute. It would also help buy us more time to get this pandemic under control so that we have some hope of reopening schools in 2020. That’s why it’s so frustrating to read about these terrible employers and bosses who are unnecessarily pushing their employees to go back to work. It makes the world less safe for ALL of us.

      1. J*

        Yes. My workplace is a mixture of about 1/2 people who must be onsite, 1/4 who can be at home virtually fulltime, and 1/4 who can make due going in once or twice a week. If we had that schedule, we’d all be able to do essentially all of our work. Is that’s what’s happening? Haha, nope. I’m in the last 1/4– I’d like to be doing four days at home and one in the office. Is this selfish? Well, sure! I don’t want to be exposed in the office. But it’s also the best thing I can do to keep my coworkers who have to be onsite safe. Someone else can use my private office instead of their shared one, improving social distancing. And I’m a disease vector for them the same way they are for me– every day I don’t set foot in that building is another day they don’t have to risk exposure to whatever crap I’ve picked up. Every day I don’t commute on the subway is a day I’m not picking up crap to spread in my workplace, and spreading crap for other people to take to their’s. WFH keeps me safer, but it also is the best tool I as an individual have to keep my community safer too.

        Every single employee who can be working from home needs to be working from home right now. For the foreseeable future. With no target end date. For their sakes and for the sakes of people who need to be at the worksite.

    7. nerfherder*

      You’re right about blame overall, but this is explicitly the site where we talk about idiot bosses. So of course comments are going to be skewed in that direction here.

      The nail salon that wants to open because their business doesn’t exist otherwise is obviously dealing with a very different set of concerns than a white collar manager who merely likes the butt-in-seats metric. I’ve got a lot of sympathy for the nail salon. But if anything, considering them makes me even more prone to rant at the white collar manager. Because the more people are out and about who don’t HAVE to be, the more we’re putting people who have no choice at risk for no good reason.

      But yes – if anger about this breakdown is limited to one target and needs to be the same across all potential websites where we might comment on it, the large-scale governmental failure to pay people to stay at home gets first dibs.

  24. Mannheim Steamroller*

    My employer has already started reopening its offices. Roughly 30% of employees returned last week, with another 30% in August, 30% in September, and the last 10% later. (The head of my department is lobbying to have us included in the third or fourth groups so that others can be the “guinea pigs.”). All returning employees have already been assigned to alternating office days and home days. Shifts will be staggered, with start times between 7:00 and 9:30 to further minimize the number of people in the office at any given time.

  25. SDSmith82*

    My Company has been one of those that’s been watching this unfold since the fall when it started, and while slow to respond in the US, has been really great about the working from home thing once everything shut down. They are being almost overly cautious- BUT- they are being hesitant to let those of us who want to stay remote forever do so. I’m a good performer, require minimal supervision, and my boss agrees that I’m doing better than average working from home. My husbands’ school killed his program and we have to relocate out of California for him to finish. We’ve told them that January 2021 I need to be able to move, but really would like to keep my job and work remote. Because of the constant unknowns, I can’t get any definitive answer. I know I’m not alone, but if they won’t allow it, companies like mine (which can be done virtually) will end up losing 10-25% of their employees. I think my issue with these large companies is that they need to see that working from home full time is beneficial to everyone in the long run.

  26. I Love Llamas*

    I never worked remotely throughout this until I was exposed last week. My employer is an essential business although I could do 75% of my job remotely, I reported to the office. We do a lot of extra cleaning, temp checks, masks, social distancing, PPE supplies, — you name it. I was exposed because I let my guard down with a trusted colleague during a car ride after work. My colleague appears to be OK, but we both are awaiting our test results. I am finally WFH like I wanted to be at the onset and guess what? I don’t like being home much to my surprise. When I return to the office, I will be mask on at all times. I bring my lunch and eat outside. I stay in my work area and take all the precautions I can. These are incredibly difficult times and yes, I am scared at times. What I see (and I get to see a lot in my role), is that there are 1) some folks who are not “believers” and think this is overblown 2) some folks paralyzed with fear and unable to think about coming up with a plan to return to the office 3) some (very few) who are slackers and taking advantage of WFH 4) some folks come back but refuse to take any responsibility for simple things like wiping down their personal work space and5) the rest of us who just want to do our job and stay safe. Like I said, these are trying times. Stay safe my friends and go wash your hands…

  27. Chinook*

    This attitude just floors me but does explain the numbers coming from the south while justifying keeping Canada’s border closed. It was knce said that living next door to the US was like living next to an elephant – no matter how friendly the creature, you are going to be affected by every movement.

    I don’t know what I would do if I had a job with an employer who insisted everything is normal, so get back to work. At the very least, I would limit my interactions with others outside of wok for fear of becoming Typhoid Mary but then I would way the need of a pay cheque with not going to mass (3 months of no Eucharist is hard for a Catholic but allowed to save lives). I wouldn’t be able tk see my parents until it is over. Is it worth it?

    Luckily, our provincial OSHA’s are allowed to investigate unsafe workplaces due to lack of COVID measures and shut them down or ensure policies are being followed. And, due to health costs being covered by everyone’s taxes, it is often cheaper to put 20 peolle on CERB/EI than 20 people in hospital. But, even without that, I would seriously have to contemplate working for a business with a lack of concern for employee and community safety.

    If I did stay, though, I would be decorating my office with copies of photos from the Spanish flu while wearing fun masks.

  28. NerdyLibraryClerk*

    I work at a public library, and, while we’re doing a fairly good job of balancing serving the public and staying safe (we’re open to a limited number of people for specific things, like using a computer in our now-socially-distanced lab), we keep running into problems that leave me baffled as to how large businesses can bring their employees back and how in heck we’re going to reopen schools.

    One example: handling lunches. We have new extra break rooms to help provide socially distanced eating, and we have a few exterior places staff can go. But I think about large corporations I’ve worked at, where people headed to an internal cafeteria for lunch – how could you possibly cope with the number of people who need to eat *and* keep them safe. Same with school cafeterias.

    I think it’s wildly irresponsible for any employer to bring people back into the office if they can work from home.

  29. Lost in Nonprofit Land*

    We have the opposite problem at our nonprofit/small art gallery. We’re a rural area that hasn’t been too hard-hit by COVID (yet), so our two-month shutdown was seen by some employees, patrons, and some of the board as overkill–not to mention every single employee claimed that work from home was too hard due to lack of computer skills, and they refused to learn any new skills to keep any aspect of our nonprofit running.

    We reopened partially because the cafe attached to our nonprofit needed to reopen, badly (it’s a family-run business), and partially because we were unable to lay off anyone due to the board deciding that it would be “cruel” to lay off anyone, so there was great pressure to bring everyone back to justfy paying them–since it was mostly a two-month paid vacation for all but two of us. But we reintrodued employees back slowly, and all were so happy to come back, and needed to be coached, heavily, on how to properly clean and disinfect our public spaces. The last employee came back nearly one month after the first employee came back, kicking and screaming–but totally unwilling to do any tasks from home except some social media posts–and even then he was being coached on EXACTLY what to post.

    Now I’m doing most of the tasks of that last employee because he refuses to do anything he used to do unless it can be guaranteed to be in a 100% disinfected area with perfect social distancing measures. I sympathize with his plight, but I am so burned out from doing his job, and from him fighting us about his inability to do any computer work. I really wish we had just laid everyone off. I’m heavily job searching because I can’t handle the responsibility or the stress anymore. I honestly would take a major pay cut at this point than deal with managing employees who refuse to learn new technology to adapt to the changing situation and just want a handout.

    1. Curmudgeon in California*

      That one employee who refuses to learn how to do major portions of his assigned job needs to be put on a PIP. If I did that at my job I’d be fired.

  30. KaciHall*

    I’ve been back to work for a month. No one is wearing masks, we are supposed to disinfect our areas twice a day but there aren’t any cleaning supplies provided, and no one I work with cares. 95% of my work could be done from home (really, ALL of it if they would let me take my VOIP phone home, but they think it doesn’t work like that.) My immediate supervisor was complaining that church services were cancelled because someone tested positive for Covid. Her take was apparently that since that person obviously won’t be there, what’s the harm in everyone else going to church?

    The owner said she’s so sick of the word pandemic, because it’s obviously not a big deal. I didn’t have an answer for that one.

    I’m going to get it, it’s just a question of when, not if. But since my husband and I just closed on a house, we can’t afford for me to stop working. Doubly so since our health insurance is through my job.

    1. Chinook*

      “My immediate supervisor was complaining that church services were cancelled because someone tested positive for Covid. Her take was apparently that since that person obviously won’t be there, what’s the harm in everyone else going to church?”

      Wow! In order for our church to reopen, we were given a list of rules to follow and do them because the alternative is to be closed again. It sucks but we joke that. If we are required to stand on one leg while reviting the alphabet in order to get back in (but not sing it – no singing allowed until after the pandemic), we would do it. If we had an outbreak, we are ready to send a list of everyone at that particular mass for testing and shut down until given the all clear. It is what you do to keep the community safe while still worshipping. It is called being responsible.

  31. Butters*

    Thank you for writing this. My giant employer is the only one in the area requiring us to return despite rising cases and receiving praise for our accomplishments while working from home. They are also encouraging taking vacation time and many people will be visiting South Carolina or Florida and then returning to the office. Going back to the office means that my husband and I can no longer visit our parents who all have health conditions.

  32. grace*

    I work for the state of MA and our governor has been encouraging people to WFH and the agency head said we shouldn’t feel forced to go in. However, my dept head made a schedule for us to go in. I emailed my direct manager and asked if I could just continue WFH and he has ignored my email (this was sent last Monday). So, tomorrow I will be going in for a half day while using public transit. If I get sick I know exactly why, and I will be so pissed off!

    1. blackcat*

      Yikes! I’d try writing your state reps. You may be able to get a WFH command from on high…

    2. Indy Dem*

      Baker just announced an online portal to report businesses that aren’t following COVID regulations. Not sure it would apply to you, but I’d suggest looking at it to see if you can report.

  33. Jaid*

    I got called back to work at my three letter federal agency. They give lip service to disinfecting and “deep cleaning”, but the temporary cubicle I’m at was filthy and needed a wipe down. I also had to put in a ticket for a mouse sighting. If I didn’t know that there had been employees here all this time, I’d wonder what it had been eating.
    BTW, I drove in, but I’m told that the buses had only around what, four people on them? I’m not thrilled at driving at 5 am, so I’ll see how it turns out.
    I’m glad to be around my co-workers again, but if I could be WFH, I would…

  34. Mmmmm*

    *laughs in essential worker* Welcome to my world. I work at a medical laboratory. There’s no social distancing, coworkers got lax about hand washing and masks about two months ago. There’s probably 50+ people who work on my shift all crammed elbow to elbow in a large open laboratory. Multiple COVID cases but we haven’t closed for even a single day. We asked to move some routine testing to the less populated morning shift and were told meeting our 8 am turn around was more important. Staff are getting laid off despite our workload being higher than ever because the company is publicly traded and can’t go a single quarter without growth. I pray I get laid off too. It’s hell.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      Oh God, that’s horrible. “Meeting your 8 am turnaround” is more important than safety.

      The constant growth/profit mandate for publicly traded companies is unsustainable. The Milton Friedman doctrine – “the business of business is business,” meaning companies are obligated to do everything they possibly legally can to maximize profits regardless of morality and regardless of human or environmental cost – is utterly poisonous.

  35. Atlantis*

    I work for/am a student of a public university which is planning to open for in-person classes in the fall. There are a lot of changes being made in an attempt to protect students and faculty/staff, like mandated testing and masks while on school property. To be fair to the university, I think they are really trying to do everything in their power to protect everyone, as much as I wish we could just be fully online. I know that several universities who were originally supposed to just be fully online are now having to rethink some plans due to ICE’s intention of removing international students who would only have online courses. I know students struggle with online classes and with access to the materials and technology they need. I’m in a program which has many lab-based courses for which teaching strictly online is exceptionally difficult and much information and experience is lost. I understand all of that contributes. But my goodness do I wish that that wasn’t the case.

    However, I know that with all the precautions that we are just going to have so many problems and so many people getting sick. Not just because of people refusing to follow guidelines, but also because how are you going to enforce social distancing and strict cleaning in a resident hall? On public transport? In dining halls? You can try, but things are going to fall through the cracks. I am scheduled to help teach several sections of a class for freshman that have ~50-60 per section. In person. I know I will get sick at some point this semester, and I’m afraid.

    1. fposte*

      And all the restrictions on university property won’t stop people from hanging out in bars and other non-campus spaces.

      1. Atlantis*

        And that’s honestly the worst part. Can I hope my students will not go out to bars and will limit their potential for exposure? Sure, but it’s not going to happen. We’ve already seen cases spike here, and that’s before the 30,000 students return in a month. The governor just closed bars in our county for 10 days after a string of them reported staff with positive COVID. Unless the governor locks down our bars again in a month I can’t imagine how we’re not going to see an astronomical number of cases.

        1. JaneB*

          We are anyway, if they can’t go to bars it’ll be house & dorm parties – that’s a chunk of why they go to college at all. College with no socialising sounds really tough…

    2. KaciHall*

      My sister goes to my alma mater and the president recently had an article posted saying how everyone is so excited to go back to school, COCO’S doesn’t affect the main population age groups too baby, and they’re going to be socially distancing all over campus – some how including residence halls. They’ve NEVER had enough housing for freshman, and people end up crammed a dozen to a common room with bunks set up instead of the sofas. I am interested/horrified to see how it actually works. (My sister will be attending online, despite still living at home within commutable distance. Though she’s supposed to do student teaching this semester… And still hasn’t heard if that is affected.)

    3. OrigCassandra*

      Right there with you. I was originally scheduled for two online courses, but then I learned that my department was going to hire an adjunct for a face-to-face section of one of the courses I was scheduled to teach online.

      I couldn’t live with myself… so I volunteered to take the face-to-face section.

      I’m hunting a lawyer to make myself a new will. Chances are decidedly nonzero I don’t live through this.

  36. Astrid*

    Because I’m high-risk, I’m told they can accommodate by keeping me in separate rooms and having me call in to meetings. But if I keep working from home I’ll miss out on all the benefits of getting everyone back in the office to socialize and collaborate. *facepalm*

      1. Astrid*

        No don’t worry, I can call into meetings from my own isolated room…in the office building… so I can benefit from being there… instead of calling into meetings from my house …
        But hey at least I’ll get to share a bathroom with 100 other people, something I’m missing out on at home!

    1. Curmudgeon in California*

      Oh, yeah, you too can “benefit” from increased exposure.

      In person offices, especially open plan, held little “benefit” in my opinion before the pandemic. I got pneumonia in 2015 from an open plan office where we were crammed in cheek to jowl. Now I consider them to be even more petri dishes for viruses.

      Butts in seats managers need to have their heads examined.

  37. Lucy P*

    We’ve been back for 8 weeks. Distancing, due to the way our group works, is an impossibility. (It’s not a physical impossibility, people are just steeped in older workplace methods. Most prefer in person communication to using any type of electronic communications.) Everyone wears masks in common areas or when they go to someone else’s office.

    We’re in the deep south where the heat indexes have been 110+. Wearing a mask is getting incredibly hard for some people in the extreme heat. Plus, the individual anxieties that were quelled by 8 weeks of furlough are starting to rise again along with the temperatures.

  38. Teddyduchampssleepingbag*

    I’m an essential restaurant worker. IMO the United States will never recover from this. It’s only going to get worse, and nothing will change until it is too late.

    1. Mediamaven*

      You are right- it is going to get worse. But then it will get better. Please don’t lose hope.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        Things get better because people make them better. Part of that will be finding a vaccine, of course, but part of that will be radically changing our economy and government and dealing with the vicious, irrational segment of the population that set the stage for this disaster.

  39. apres quoi, le deluge*

    I’m definitely wayyyyyyy less productive now than I was before the pandemic. I’m very aware of this (and deeply anxious about it) but most of the reasons why aren’t changing anytime soon.

    I strongly prefer working in an office to working from home for a variety of reasons, one of which is one of the primary ways I learn about what’s going on or get to know my coworkers is overhearing other people talking about something, and then asking questions about it. I don’t overhear people anymore. Almost all interactions are prescheduled on f’ing Zoom.

    It’s also just harder to focus when you’re working from your living room. I am now the snack procurer, caterer, and janitor for my office of one, whereas before that was all outsourced to others. Unlike the office my apartment does not have air conditioning, and now it’s summer and around 3pm or so it gets too hot to think. The electrical in this apartment is super dodgy, so it’s not up to running both an internal AC unit and, like, my computers. I do have a swamp cooler/fan but it only really takes the edge off. My lease won’t be up until April and I can’t afford a larger place with an office anywhere near here anyway.

    Worse, this is a new job. I got laid off from my dream job at the beginning of the COVID crisis. So I’ve not only had to deal with the stress around the layoff (and now working somewhere that frankly is a much worse fit for me), I’ve been getting onboarded remotely. I’ve never met my team in person. Some of them I still haven’t met over Zoom one-on-one (though I’m trying to fix that this week). I got reorged twice in my first month at this job and two-thirds of the team was reassigned or left. So this project is now in maintenance mode (not my forte) and all the other team members with my specialty are gone so I can’t learn anything from them. This was not what I signed up for!

    I have a three year old. As of last week I have childcare again (definitely no anxiety about that!) but the hours are limited so on the days I have custody I have to leave work at *2:30pm* to pick him up. I’m trying to wake up much earlier and get my work done in the morning, but I’m not a morning person at all so this is an ongoing challenge.

    Also I recently separated from my spouse and am going through a divorce while sheltering-in-place during a freaking public health calamity, ongoing protests for racial justice, and economic collapse. I have no idea when I’ll next get to touch any other human being other than my kid; I had a quarantine pod with my boyfriend and one other mutual friend but that ended when the kid went back to daycare. That’s not work’s fault, but. Like. No one’s going to be 100% right now, least of all me. :/

    My employer has been saying all the right things. They gave us a stipend to buy more WFH stuff…which covered 2/3s of the cost of my desk, lol. They’re not pushing us to go back into the office till next year–and it’s not legal to do so yet where we are anyway. I don’t really expect more from them. I could really use subsidized food delivery, housecleaning, and supplemental childcare though, to replicate the office experience.

  40. Ms Frizzle*

    We’re just ignoring the recommendations for physical distancing because if we try to follow those we can’t bring all of our students back full-time. But I’m sure our elementary students will be great at wearing masks!

    I know there’s no good solutions when it comes to schools but this is really scary. It may end up being the best course of action, but I’m so worried about our students and staff. Just thinking about spending 7 hours a day in a small room with 30 children makes me feel panicky. I’m desperate to see our kids and actually provide good instruction, but . . .

  41. Rez123*

    It has been interesting reading the questions regarding CV19 in the past weeks.
    I would be interested to read a study (if they make one) about how peoples attitudes towards CV restrictions are shaped by the guidelines set by their government and how the trust towards the government affects it. I’m not in the USA and we don’t wear masks, places are opening, schools and daycares are open, social distancing is becoming less etc. I noticed that I didn’t share the outrage that the commenters had to the questions, and that must be it. Similarly when the CV was at it’s height and we were presented with the restrictions, I was very much side-eyeing those who didn’t follow the rules. Who knew that I was the type of person to follow whatever our legislators say (yes, I also used critical thinking skills) :D

    1. fposte*

      Oh, I absolutely think this is true. The more successful a country is at feeling like they’re in this together the better they’re going to be at dealing with restrictions. The US does not feel like we’re all in this together.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        The US does not feel like we’re all in this together.

        So, so, so, *so* much this.

        1. blackcat*


          One out of ever 850 residents of MA who were alive in March have died of COVID. I lost two older neighbors. My toddler still asks where they are when we go for walks.

          People here are really cautious, in general, and it’s so, so disheartening to watch the rest of the US go down paths that we know will result in death.

      2. The Original K.*

        Someone who IS following the rules tweeted that this is like being on a group project in school and being the only one who does the work. And really, we AREN’T all in this together. There’s a swath of people who are intentionally undermining these efforts. I’ve seen so many videos of people – adults – throwing temper tantrums in public when being asked to wear a mask. I just saw a social media post about politician on a flight who did not wear a mask the entire flight. I keep thinking about how during WWII, the US made sacrifices in the name of the “war effort” and some people just … aren’t willing to do that now. It’s heartbreaking.

        1. fposte*

          And the reason people made sacrifices in the name of the war effort was that it was top-down messaging to do so.

        2. Archaeopteryx*

          Really our culture as a whole deserves a lot of blame for making it acceptable for a grown adult to pitch a fit because they don’t like being told what to do, full stop. There’s a huge percentage of our population that lives their lives almost by that principle alone, when really that’s some thing that should be held as deeply embarrassing for anyone over four years old to say.

          1. Gazebo Slayer*

            AMEN. We’re a nation of tantrum-throwing spoiled brats with guns and “Don’t Tread On Me” flags.

      3. Third or Nothing!*

        ‘The US does not feel like we’re all in this together.” – It’s so true. I *just* had an infuriating argument with someone up in arms about the Texas governor’s new mask mandate and they had the audacity to tell me I need to take personal responsibility for my actions and stop blaming everyone else for my problems. That they were taking care of their family and I had better focus on taking care of mine. This is why I haven’t left my house for 4 months.

      4. EvilQueenRegina*

        Apologies if this is a dumb question from a non-US resident: Has the fact that the beginnings and easings of lockdowns having been done at different dates by different states contributed to the feeling that the US are not all in it together? When you get a state like New York who seem to have done well at getting down their numbers versus the likes of Arizona opening up before their numbers had got down any? I know I’ve wondered how easy it is to talk about figures for the US as a whole when you have that situation.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          I don’t find your question dumb at all. I live in and was raised in a midwest state. Both coasts may as well be different continents–but that was true even before Covid-19. Even the ends of the Great Lakes Metropolis, Minneapolis & Pittsburgh, both may as well be different nations, and even my state’s numbers as a whole are largely meaningless in my day-to-day life.

          Each locality has its own parameters, which are overlaid by each of the 50 state parameters, which are overlaid by the Federal ones. The result is that the numbers, rules and progress are all bound by a range that you could walk in day at a sustainable pace. My county’s numbers and rules have a direct, tangible impact, and our numbers are trending in the wrong direction.

          That’s even before you address the rose and blueberry-shaded lenses we see the world through. US politics are like wearing half of a set of 3D glasses. The only time there’s really a United States is when we’ve been at war (historically, at least). The rest of the time, it’s a committee of 50+ inmates trying to run their own asylum.

        2. Kiwichick*

          I’m in NZ where the pandemic response was very different. Life here now is back to normal except that our borders care closed. Our PM was very careful with her language and messaging, and the term “team of 5 million” was often used and really hammered home that we were doing this for each other; we are all in this together.

        3. blackcat*

          I do think the outbreaks happening at different times in different parts of the US has contributed, but it’s not the entire story.
          There’s a strong anti-intellectualism that is very strong in parts of the US. I’m in greater Boston where, in general, we love science. We listen to experts and trust them. Things were BAD here, but we (and our leaders, generally) have followed the science.
          In other parts of the US, that is very much NOT the case.
          The US is roughly the same size as the EU, and it’s really culturally diverse in all sorts of ways.

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            I see it more as a la carte intellectualism than blanket pro or anti-intellectualism. With every advance, breakthrough, discovery, etc, you can almost bank on seeing either “Well, of course Texan scientists will come to *that* conclusion” or “How else would you expect a Massachusettsian scientist to conclude?”

            America’s problems are largely not of right and wrong; they’re of competing cocktails of stupid.

        4. Gazebo Slayer*

          I definitely think that has contributed. It also doesn’t help that different states and localities have wildly different political climates.

    2. Gazebo Slayer*

      I trust the WHO. I do NOT trust any segment of the US federal government under this current administration. Even the CDC is compromised and pressured into pleasing Dear Leader.

  42. Sunset Maple*

    My company made us come back, also for no good reason. They demanded we all swallow newfangled project management software that tracks every breath we take, then ignored it when the metrics told them that remote productivity was high.

    The part that makes me see red is that the company does R&D, so they make money off of selling themselves as innovative and forward-thinking, all while running the place like we’re in the 1950s.

    1. introverted af*

      Ugh, this is ridiculous. My husband had a similar situation though – his work has been booming, the department has been nailing deadlines, and apparently so has the entire company. The CEO sent out an email saying that everything had been going so well and they’ve gotten so much additional business, and everybody was getting a bonus (which was not small) on top of previous merit-based bonuses that had been given out. And the regular pay raises that came at year end.

      But everybody has to be in the office full time, there’s just no replacement for in person productivity. And of course we’re such a faaaaaaaaamily, we can’t be apart. It’s just nonsensical. The cherry on top is that the CEO works in an entirely different location, an office that’s 4-ish hours away with maybe 10 other people, but he is absolutely insistent on butts in seats.

  43. Kara S*

    I started a new job (split WFH/in office) mid-pandemic and was so anxious about working in the office that I had a panic attack and nearly quit on my first day. Thankfully I managed to calm down but being so physically close to people (10+ people in a meeting room, no one wearing masks) after spending two months almost entirely in my house was way too much too fast.

    I live outside the USA so cases are not as bad here but it definitely feels like my company (and where I live in general) is trying to push “going back to normal” too quickly.

  44. it_guy*

    It’s going to be September before my company even begins the discussion of returning to the office.

  45. Staff*

    My employer issued a “reopening policy” to open up starting June 1 (though they never actually closed, they just allowed people to WFH if they squawked about it). It seemed reasonable at the time… lots of sanitizing, everyone needs to wear masks when they’re meeting with others or in common spaces, etc.

    A month and change since “reopening”, we’re almost out of clorox wipes and no one knows where they can buy more, I’ve seen coworkers speaking to each other without masks and then when caught they say “I tested negative!”, we’ve got people traveling by air to hot spots like Texas and then coming back to work in the office the next day. I’ve told my boss I feel uncomfortable with this (especially the travel), but it’s pretty clear they won’t be backpedaling anything.

  46. Duck Duck Goose*

    I live in Florida and got laid off from a job where I was a top-performer and loved by my manager in late May because I asked to keep working from home (my wife is immunocompromised) after they announced out of nowhere that they were going to bring everyone in with no actual safety precautions (masks and social distancing not required and the way our office is laid out and where my desk was, there was literally no option to choose to isolate). The president of the branch believes that COVID is a conspiracy theory, but I still thought that my good standing would allow me to push back on it.

    I got another job a week later luckily where I’m remote, but I now have a verbally abusive boss that’s sending me into panic attacks every day and I literally cannot afford to quit my job. I’m so worried that I’m going to be stuck in this for so much longer than necessary because I *have* to work from home due to my wife’s health issues. It’s so frustrating knowing that all of this could be solved by better government and corporate handling of the situation, but here we are.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      I’m so sorry. No one who thinks COVID is a conspiracy theory is qualified to be president of anything. Or to have any responsibility whatsoever, really.

  47. But There is a Me in Team*

    Alison, if you see this, how does one go about unionizing? You mention that pretty often as a possible remedy to shenanigans like this, but I’m so curious about the brass tacks, esp for white collar workers. Can non-profit employees unionize? What if your company is really small? Can you go in with workers at similar companies? How long does it take? I’ve never known anyone who was part of a union (except teachers and in my areas they don’t seem to feel they are getting their money’s worth.) I’m in a good position at work now and I’m so appreciative, but maybe that’s a post a lot of people would benefit from.

  48. Sled dog mama*

    I work in PA. My job is done 100% on a computer or after hours. WFH was not an option due to a malware attack and then a run on things legally requiring my presence. I asked today about about shifting my hours to WFH or outside clinic hours to decrease the chances of me getting anything or giving anyone anything (we have a staff member currently on quarantine because her husband is exhibiting symptoms and his test is pending). I was told that shifting my hours is “really not in line with the county being ‘green’ right now” yet the rate of virus is still rising.
    I’m so tired of taking this seriously and being looked at strangely.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      I’d explain that COVID is at least ten times as deadly as any seasonal flu in recent decades AND more contagious, but I doubt you’re smart enough to understand either.

    2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      But it’s also true that the dead are notoriously unproductive and miserable skinflints.

  49. Curmudgeon in California*

    We have a director in the IT group at the university where I work who is an *extremely* “butts in seats” manager. He’s my great-gand-boss, and I can’t stand him. He has been making people come in to the office for no good reason, other than he distrusts employees who work from home. The people he has done this to are extremely upset and angry. But, it’s an employer’s market, and the university is planning layoffs. Of course, it will only be ICs that get the sack – all the upper level management folks will be safe. I just wish, for once, that the layoff hammer will come down on that one 19th century throwback butts in seats manager, but I doubt my wish will be granted.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      The true irony would be for that great-grand-boss to contract Covid via an office air. I just can’t bring myself to wish that on anyone, no matter how deserved.

      1. Gazebo Slayer*

        The one and only reason I’m not wishing it on people like that is that they might spread it to other people who (unlike them) don’t deserve it.

        1. Arabella Flynn*

          You could compromise and wish him multiple potential exposures, all of which require him to go through a terribly uncomfortable test to get his negative results. Which ultimately end in him being “regretfully let go” for all those days he had to spend at home waiting for tests to come back, even though none of them ever justified the “vacation” with an actual illness.

  50. Keymaster of Gozer*

    The amount of ‘it’s not that dangerous’, ‘people are overreacting’ and ‘just let everyone catch it’ comments here are depressing beyond measure.

    (I know there are far more reasoned responses and for that I thank people. I just really didn’t need to read the kind of crud I mentioned above.)

    1. Altair*

      I so totally hear you. I grew up in the US so one would think I would be used to how US culture values money above humans (I mean, the country was built on genocide and slavery) and how many people think themselves to be temporarily embarrassed millionaires, but it never fails to shock me. I hope the attitudes at least are better in your immediate vicinity (since I remember you’re not in the US, right?)

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        The UK doesn’t have it as bad, but sadly those attitudes exist here too. :(

  51. bananab*

    When all this started, I hoped it would normalize WFH so much that it would be a lot more widespread. Now I worry a little that it’ll be propped up by many as proof it can’t work because productivity dipped too much. All I can say about it is: I’ve been working from home for many years, very practiced at it, proper office, etc., but the pandemic dipped my productivity for an incredibly long time. I only now feel like I’m getting somewhat back to normal. There’s certainly a nonzero portion of these productivity dips that are less about WFH and more about current events.

    1. J*

      Seriously. I know my productivity hasn’t been what it should be. But it has precious little to do with the logistics of WFH. It’s the global pandemic, the economic crisis, the existential fear, the overwhelming resurgence of my depression, the complete lack of control, the fact that I’ve been in my apartment for seventeen weeks and we’re worse off than when I started and our trajectory is rocketing along down. Oh, and the couple of dead relatives I’ve recently acquired from this NBD hoax virus. (Sorry; rage is my primary emotional response these days.) The only impact returning to the office is going to have on me is it’s going to make everything worse. Because this isn’t f*cking about WFH. This is about watching Rome burn and Nero fiddle.

      1. bananab*

        So sorry about your relatives. We’re caring for our parents and their anxiety about the virus and our anxiety about getting them sick somehow is what totally tanked our productivity. Not even getting into the “oh shit I have to drop everything and go buy some spam” moments.

  52. Third or Nothing!*

    So here’s some good news for anyone feeling like there aren’t any companies out there that care: I’ve been WFH while caring for my toddler since March. My office invited people to come back in person on June 1, but said if anyone feels uncomfortable going back just let them know and they could continue WFH. I’m one of those people, since we are all high risk in my family, so here I am on July 13 still working from my kitchen table and trying to wrangle a toddler. About half the staff of 15 at my location is still at home, although several go in one day a week. It’s just me and my teammate as the last 100% remote holdouts. And my company is just fine with that.

    1. Altair*

      Thank you a LOT for this good news. I’m really glad your company is treating you humanely and I hope other companies see how yours benefits from doing so.

  53. I hate this timeline*

    My workplace is doing this and it is so stressful. I work at a college, and even though students are not going to be taking in person classes in Fall, they want the staff there so students can get in person services. We’ve been encouraged to think about what we’ve lost by being at home, and focusing on the positive things for our (mostly impoverished) students that going back gives them. I don’t think it helps to possibly spread Covid to a more vulnerable population, but nobody asked me.

    My job is 100% computer based and is not student facing in any way, but they still want me there. My doctor wrote me a note because I’m technically more prone to complications due to a health issue I have, but it’s not on the list of “approved” HR exceptions. I have not heard back if I am going to be able to continue working from home. My boss is 100% for it, but HR makes the final call for this.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      “Focus on the positive and everything you’ve missed by being at home!!” God, I hate when employers try to emotionally manipulate people into being happy about things they don’t want, or try to “reframe” a negative as a positive. It’s so insulting – like, do they really think we’re so stupid we’d fall for it? Don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining.

  54. Canary*

    Yup. My (former) employer started recalling people right as cases began to spike in our area. Since I fall into a high-risk group for Covid complications and my job was public-facing, I reached out to HR to sort out a game plan. HR bounced me to my manager…who bounced me right back to HR. At that point I decided there was nothing about the job or organization worth my physical or mental health, so I quit. Hope I find something new before my savings run out.

  55. Batgirl*

    I understand employers who are in danger of going under, who admit to and try to mitigate risks. It’s the employers who act like Covid’s no big deal, who scare me; who reopen in largely irresponsible ways before they even need to. I have to wonder how much of that dismissive instinct is based on being white, wealthy and physically well.

  56. Jennifer*

    I am unemployed and I turned down a permanent job where I would have to go to the office to accept a contract role because it’s remote. At least I get healthcare. Who knows, maybe it will become permanent in the future. But I just had a close family friend die from this virus and I’m not willing to risk my life or endanger anyone else.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      I likely would have made a similar choice. My condolences on your loss, and best wishes that the contract position blossoms into a permanent, remote opportunity.

  57. Cashier*

    I wish your article had mentioned the reality of employment for retail workers. Many of us are not receiving hazard pay, most of us do not have health care covered by our employers, and we had to go back to work when states opened up.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      I am so sorry and so angry about the lack of hazard pay. Anyone working face-to-face with the public right now deserves it.

  58. wish I could name my employer*

    I am so desperate to share this article all over my social media but if anyone from my company sees it, I don’t know what will happen and I don’t want to risk it.

    My office is in NJ and many employees live in some of the highest-hit areas in April and we reopened anyway IN APRIL. Before the governor allowed. I didn’t go in, I just said sorry I have no child care hello pandemic what do you want from my life? And I dragged it out until the governor allowed reopening.

    And even now, with my superiors ADMITTING that they have no issues with my work and productivity from home WITH TWO TODDLERS I was still getting things done. But no, I still have to come back in to the office or else. I talked them into only 2 days a week. None of my coworkers feel comfortable speaking up, I tried.

    Coming back to the office, I realized that people are totally incompetent at wearing masks. I am very well protected from the sight of their chins. Seriously!!!! People!!! That is not how masks work! To be fair, it’s not easy wearing masks, its uncomfortable and we shouldn’t be in this position my whole department could really work remotely if the company allowed.

    I hate this. You start to wonder if you are crazy and the rest of the world is sane but you’re still pretty sure it’s vice versa.

    The rest of the world is like “America what happened to you guys?” and we’re not even listening. Fantasy dream world of irrationality where anything you don’t like doesn’t exist.

    Thanks for giving me a place to rant.

    1. Gazebo Slayer*

      Ugh, I don’t understand the chin mask thing. It’s not like having your mask around your chin is even comfortable. It’s either some sort of weird magical thinking where the mask is a warding charm rather than something that covers your nose and mouth, or a deliberate way of saying “look, I’m wearing a mask, you can’t say I’m not wearing a mask, but you can’t tell me what to do!”

  59. Coffee*

    I am pretty sure that someone dropping dead in the office itself would still not change my employers’ minds about getting everyone back in person.

  60. Ellie*

    I just wanted to leave something to say how horrible this all is, and I really hope you all get through it ok. I can’t believe how cavalier some companies are being with their employees health. Please do wear masks as much as you can, and don’t allow other people to touch you and get in your space. And if you can, unionize… push back together as a group. Take whatever precautions are available – you never know which one might save you.

    I live in Australia, in a state with no active cases for a month, and we’re still working from home as a precaution. Of course we are still coping with the terrible unemployment rate, no holidays, no going anywhere without a booking, border closures, and lots of stores have shut their doors, potentially for good. But wow – it could be so much worse.

  61. TeapotNinja*

    I get that some employers feel like they have an upper hand at the moment, and if they really can’t help but be complete monsters they should think this through. Workplaces that are treating their employees like sacrificial lambs are going to see workplace violence skyrocket.

  62. Random IT person*

    With all the issues I have with my employer – this thankfully is not one of them.
    We are invited to come back to the office – they offer people who are not sure a half day off at no charge /cost to inspect the changes made (extra screens – move desks apart – sanitation points with free sanitizer, soap , paper towels inspected twice daily and refilled as necesary – warning stickers – routing changed) – and only if they feel confident they can go back to the office. BUT – if not confident, vulnerable dependants at home, they are provided with WFH equipment (by me, at request of manager) and as long as they are productive and reachable (softphone or mobile) that is enough. For myself – i was asked to make sure all equipment was available – and since i have own transport and own office – risk is minimal – but still i do 2 days office, 3 days home office.

    I work for an American company, but in the office located in The Netherlands – and all of us here are staring in stupefied shock at how the US businesses operate. The lack of common sense, empathy and above all humanity on display these days are just incomprehensible. Close second is Brazil and the UK – and we have the nagging feeling we`re extra`s in some movie – but weren`t given a script.

  63. Imaginary Number*

    I work in a job that, legitimately, cannot be WFH. For a while they had us alternating days so the offices were all half-empty, but they stopped that once the state started opening back up. For the past few weeks at least one person in the office has tested positive each week. They are conducting contact tracing, but their methodology severely limits who they determine is traced. You have to have been recorded as being within six feet of the person for more than 15 minutes at a time. They can’t share names for privacy reasons, but it’s super ineffective and I don’t think they care as long as it appears they’re following some sort of protocol. For example, I literally share a cubicle with someone and was not contact-traced when he tested positive (I sit diagonal from him so it wasn’t quite within six feet.) I only found out after he returned that he was the actual positive case and not someone that quarantined due to contact trace.

  64. littlelizard*

    I was laid off in April. At the time it was devastating, but now it feels almost better than still being there – because my old workplace now has everyone back at the office. (But still not much better, since the boosted unemployment ends this month…)

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