I’m constantly interrupted while I work, no comfortable space to work in at home, and more

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

1. I can’t get work done because of constant interruptions

I work in a very detail-oriented, fast-paced role (IT change management). Interruptions cause me to lose focus and I have made some big mistakes due to them. My workload has tripled during Covid. People have left my team and we can’t fill the spots fast enough. Interruptions are probably one of the reasons for the turnover.

While I do need to know if there is an urgent issue, I cannot take time out to fix a problem that is a) not urgent or b) has come in outside of our request queue. I can’t just hide in Instant Messenger because my team uses it to communicate. Same with turning off my phone, I just can’t do that at my company.

The pandemic has made people pushy and rude. Most people just ignore my IM status of busy and do the equivalent of just barging into my office while I’m working. If I ignore the IM, they call me five minutes later. Even just answering the phone or looking to see who is messaging me constantly adds up to significant amounts of time each day. These issues are not urgent.

Dozens of people do this. Some are re-offenders who do it even after being asked not to do it. They pop up and expect instant help when we have dozens of changes with a higher priority.

How do I manage this? I’m considering looking for another job due to these constant interruptions. I love my job otherwise but I can’t get work done and worse, I can’t even catch my breath. Any suggestions?

The problem is that the system you need to ignore to be able to do your work is the same system these people are using to interrupt you. (Well, the other problem is rude colleagues, but that’s less in your control.) In some cases the answer would be to assign one person whose job is to deal with all those incoming messages and triage them so you don’t have to — but you basically have that in the form of a request queue and they’re not using it. Another option would be for your boss to lay down the law with the people who are doing this, but she’d need to have the authority and the pull to do that. For the purpose of this answer, I’m going to assume she doesn’t.

But where is your boss on all this? Ideally you’d talk to her, lay out the issue, and suggest switching to another system for communication (like a private Slack channel or similar). Another option would be to change your IM user name and not give it out to anyone outside your team. (You could even keep the old one active and set its status permanently to “for immediate help, submit a support ticket.”) That might solve the problem, if your boss is open to it. (If your boss already knows all these details and has essentially said “deal with it,” I’d give it one more try where you point out people are leaving over this and you’re trying to find a way to make staying workable. If that doesn’t change anything, then the people who have left probably have the right idea.)

2. Working from home without a private, comfortable spot to work in

My office will now be permanently using a work-from-home hybrid system where I will still need to go to the office for meetings, but my day-to-day will be at home. We have specific requirements for work from home, like our work stations not being able to be seen by non-staff and being in a private room. These make sense for security reasons, but I live in a small apartment with roommates, so the only place I can have the workstation is my bedroom.

I have what I considered a large bedroom by city standards when I moved in. It can fit my bed, my bureau, a bedside table, and two chairs. But it cannot fit a desk. So when I was sent home last year with a desktop computer, it went on my bureau and I have been sitting on the ottoman that goes with the armchair (the other chair is a folding chair) and working like that for a year. As someone with scoliosis and chronic pain, this has been terrible. My armchair is set up specifically for me to be able to have a lapdesk for my hobby writing, but so far all of my requests for a laptop for work have been denied.

I have asked management for advice in setting up a better home workstation, but they all seem to be wildly out of touch: either use my spare bedroom as an office or just get my own place. I don’t have the money for either of those things; if I did I would not be living in a small apartment with roommates.

I love my job, but I do not love this set-up. I have spun through ideas, but they don’t work. If I replace my bureau with a desk, then I don’t have any clothes storage (I do not have a closet). If I throw out my beloved armchair, I could get a small desk, but I don’t think sitting in a folding chair will be healthy long term. I can’t use the dining table because my roommates have access to the space. I cannot afford my own place and even if I could find a new place with new roommates in a pandemic (cases in our city are going up), I doubt I would have a larger bedroom.

I’d approach it as a disability accommodation request under the ADA. Send an email with the subject line “official request for accommodations under the Americans with Disabilities Act” and explain that due to a chronic medical issue, you need a different work station. Say you need either a laptop or an exemption from the private space requirement. The ADA requires your employer to engage in an interactive dialogue with you about what accommodations will work, so if they again suggest you get your own place (!) or use your non-existent spare bedroom, at that point you will explain that those are not options in your situation and again suggest one of the other two solutions.

Be aware that there’s a risk that their solution could be to have you return to the office full-time (they’re not required to agree to the solution you want, just a solution that works), so if you wouldn’t want that and think they might suggest it, write back and I’ll make further suggestions.

3. Can you negotiate salary for a promotion?

Using tips from your blog, three years ago, I successfully negotiated a higher salary for the first time in my career! Recently, my boss from that same job mentioned he nominated me for another position within the company that he thought would be a good fit for me (and a promotion!). Today I was offered the position with a 15% raise. I’m excited about the position and accepted it, but I didn’t negotiate the salary. While the offer was a little lower than I was expecting, I didn’t know how to negotiate an offer for an internal job transfer or promotion, and honestly, I was afraid of losing out on the opportunity.

That left me wondering, is it okay to negotiate salary during a promotion? And in the future, how would I go about negotiating salary for an internal promotion or job change? Is this different from negotiating an external job offer?

It’s both okay and normal to negotiate salary during a promotion! Companies are sometimes more rigid about salaries for internal moves than they are for external hires (partly because they tend to think you’re less likely to walk away than an external candidate might be). But people can and do successfully negotiate salaries for promotions all the time.

It’s pretty much the same process as negotiating an external offer. One thing that can be different is that you won’t always be given a clear opening to talk about money — sometimes your employer will just assume you’re accepting the promotion and will move forward without a real discussion of salary. That means you’ve got to be prepared to bring up money early in the process — like when you’re first offered the promotion or soon after (definitely before you have officially accepted anything, which is tricky because there isn’t always a clear, official acceptance; often it’s more like “here’s this thing we’re giving you”). You can do that by saying something like, “This sounds great. Can we talk about what salary you’re thinking?” or even just, “What’s the salary for the new role?” … and then from there, you can be off and negotiating with the same advice here.

4. Emailing hiring managers before applying for a job

I’ve been getting some advice (from someone selling a job coaching product) that I should be emailing people who I think might be on hiring committees and introduced myself directly before I apply. If memory this is the opposite of what you recommend. I would be annoyed to receive an email like that. Is this bad advice? I get the sense this person just wants me to buy whatever email template she’s selling.

Yes, it’s terrible advice. Unless you are a very senior, highly in-demand candidate for hard-to-fill jobs, no one wants you to email them to introduce yourself before you apply; they just want you to apply. (And even if you are a very senior, highly in-demand candidate for hard-to-fill jobs, they still would rather you just apply; they’ll just cut you more slack if you introduce yourself first.) Following this advice would make you the annoying candidate most people are irritated by, even if they’re polite about it.

Don’t buy anything this person is selling.

5. Teaching students about employment law

Today I learned that this summer I’m teaching the careers class for Upward Bound, a program that increases the college completion rates for low-income and potential first-generation college students. I’m so happy about this! I’ve been reading your blog almost daily for the past year, and it has been very helpful in my professional life.

In your recent blog post “Should we require resumes from high school volunteers?” you wrote that you would love to see someone teaching high school students about employment law.

I’m revising the curriculum from last summer, keeping the sections on career outlooks and required degrees, licenses, or training, reducing the amount of time spent on resumes, and adding some time on employment law basics. Several years ago you wrote about an attorney who gave a workshop on labor issues at a high school. What else do you think my students will want to know?

Yay! How great.

I’d love for you to teach them:
* what rights you have at work (like the right not to be harassed, not to be discriminated against, the right to be paid your agreed-upon rate and paid on time, the right to have disabilities accommodated)
* what illegal discrimination is (like that it covers things like race, gender, and religion, but not — in most cases — clothing choices or tattoos)
* some specific examples of what that means for them (for instance, employers can’t ban Black employees from having natural hair styles or refuse to let a disabled cashier sit in a chair)
* exceptions to these laws (for example, the Americans with Disabilities Act and most federal anti-discrimination laws don’t kick in until 15 employees, although some state laws apply at lower numbers)
* what unions are and how they work
* what to do if an employer is violating your legal rights (including options before you get to the point of taking legal action)
* how to learn more about your rights (for example, a lot of people don’t realize you learn a ton by just googling the name of your state and “paycheck laws”)

{ 519 comments… read them below }

  1. Taxachusetts*

    LW1 yes yes you need a ticket system. Make a permanent OOO on your email and IM with the message to use the ticket system and your voicemail too. I completely understand the distractions especially with IM. It’s so hard to know what is a real problem and what you can push off.

    LW2 can you convert your bed to a loft bed? Then you’d have more space for a desk and clothes storage below. Brings me back to the dorm room days. Also I cannot fathom how companies who mandate work from home also don’t provide laptops. What century are we in?

    1. D3*

      They HAVE a way for requests – and people are ignoring it. It’s not the lack of a system that is the problem.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, someone higher up just needs to enforce the ticketing system, and the IM left for giving a heads-up about those ultra high-priority cases that have to be dealt with immediately.

        1. anonny*

          Well yeah. But it sounds like the person who should be doing that isn’t doing it and the lw is looking for advice on what to do if that won’t change.

          1. Observer*

            Right – but a second ticketing system is not going to suddenly cause people to cooperate.

            1. John Smith*

              I have this exact problem with my boss who is extremely forgetful and likes to blame everyone else for failures that occur. He wants to examine “systematic failings”, introduce “systematic prompts” and “engagement from colleagues to be proactive in assisting management in their duties”, which translates as everyone running around like bluearsed flies to cover for his inability to follow a simple procedure that everyone else manages to follow. Your managers either don’t care about the situation or are unable to change it. Leave them to sort it out while you work for a new employer who actually gives a shit about their staff.

        2. TurtlesAllTheWayDown*

          It seems like the ticket system isn’t meeting the needs of the people who are supposed to use it. Hence, they’re not using it. Either they’ve gotten used to being squeaky wheels and getting their items addressed ASAP vs. having to wait for the ticket to be prioritized, or there isn’t someone to run the ticket system/prioritize tasks, so it ends up being a free-for-all with no triage anyway.

          The answer is to address it with the LW’s boss or whoever else has authority over the ticket system and figure out something that meets the needs of the business – not just something that fits the budget, or simple exists, or is something that the person 3 IT directors ago used at another company. It might be a different tool, or a different system, or an IT traffic director tasked to wade through the tickets and assign/prioritize.

          1. TootsNYC*

            It seems like the ticket system isn’t meeting the needs of the people who are supposed to use it. Hence, they’re not using it.

            This is an important point.
            I had a job where I was interrupted constantly, and the stress was through the roof. I started getting REALLY FIERCE about people using the inbox instead of trying to hand me stuff or leave it on my desk.

            I had to get really assertive about stressing that indeed, I would see their note in the inbox, it wouldn’t get lost, and it wouldn’t get buried under less important stuff because every time I went to the box, I went through EVERYTHING and reordered it. I actually got a little rude by walking down to people’s office to hand them things back and ask them to put it in my inbox and not on my chair or desk. I didn’t do that every time–only with the worst offenders.

            We also did really dramatic “in-box sortings” right in front of people sometimes. Or I’d call when it was their turn and say, “I went through my inbox, the way I told you I do, and your item it the next most important, even though three things had been set on top of it. So I pulled it out and I’m calling you to follow up.”

            And eventually, as they saw that indeed I had control over the inbox, they started feeling more confident.

            I also did say, “I can’t have these interruptions; it’s too stressful, and I end up losing something because it’s on my desk. I need you to participate so my job can be manageable.” We were pretty visibly stressed, so there was some sympathy and awareness that I could tap into.

            1. lemon*

              From working in customer/user support, I’ve come to realize that people have a weird psychological aversion to ticketing systems. They’re afraid that their message is going into a black hole, never to be seen by human eyes again. Some of that fear is because some systems really do work that way.

              I’ve always had to work pretty hard to train people that the system is the best way to get help. That involves making sure that tickets get answered quickly, and that other ways of contacting (e.g. emailing, IMing) result in longer wait times. Like, if I answer a ticket in a matter or hours but it takes me weeks to get to your email (and you can’t find me on IM because I don’t sign in), people eventually learn to enter a ticket.

              1. Richard Hershberger*

                It’s not weird at all. From the customer’s perspective, the ticket is indeed going into a black hole. Yes, it might be a well managed hole and the ticket will be dealt with in a timely manner. But then again, maybe it isn’t, and it won’t be. We have all had that experience. You need either to be transparent about the process, or build trust that the system works. Otherwise, being the squeaky wheel is a perfectly rational strategy.

                1. lemon*

                  Well, it’s weird when: the system *is* transparent, and everything that can be done to build trust that the system works has been done. I’ve always been a support team of one, and I can’t count the number of times I have told a customer that once they submit the ticket, it goes directly to my personal inbox, and I respond within one hour (and make good on that promise), and they still try to jump the queue by being a squeaky wheel. At that point, it’s not a rational strategy, it’s a rude one.

                2. serenity*

                  Customers and colleagues are two distinct populations that shouldn’t be blurred. And OP’s department does have (it seems) an efficient ticketing system that is not being respected. This is a management and oversight problem, and it seems out of OP’s hands.

                  And just a note, colleagues abusing or not heeding a policy because of leadership issues is not a “rational strategy”. There are deeper problems at work here.

                3. Wintermute*

                  That’s simply not true of a modern, well-managed ticketing system. Ours e-mails you and tells you when your ticket has been assigned to an actual analyst, or re-assigned to another team, or any notes entered into the ticket. You can see the service level agreement time based on your severity categorization, and if that time is breached you get an email that you can see went to each member of the assigned group and its manager.

                  That’s the way most decent professional-level IT ticketing systems work– Remedy, Service Now, ServicePro, SMART, all of the ones I’ve ever used. If they are properly configured that is.

                4. Librarian1*

                  At some point, people need to learn that just because one ticket system was a black hole doesn’t mean that every ticket system is a black hole. This isn’t the IT department’s responsbility.

              2. JustaTech*

                The other thing I’ve found to help get people to use the IT ticketing system is when our on-site IT guy explained that if our request doesn’t have a ticket, he doesn’t get credit for fixing it, and then his numbers look bad. We all really like our IT guy (he’s great: prompt, good, kind about silly problems), so this “doing as a favor to Bob” was the nudge some people needed to start using the system.

                And! When they started using the system they experienced that it was not a black hole but rather they were very prompt. (We had a while with a very nice IT guy who’d been around forever who just stopped caring one day and you could never find him when you needed him and he never responded to tickets so people lost faith in the system.)

                1. Chinook*

                  That helped where I worked too. Most jobs don’t work on a ticket system, so my colleagues didn’t understand the value of it from IT’s perspective – it felt like needless automation.

                  Whenever they complained about the slowness of IT, I also pointed out that the ticketing was a way of tracking the amount of requests and for them to flag to TPTB that they didn’t have the manpower to do the work or that there was a common issue that would be cheaper to fix with new tech or software instead of X number of tickets requiring X minutes per day on the same issue (I may have also learned about this from our IT guys and encouraged multiple users to complain about an issue at the same time to leverage some needed upgrades that the TPTB thought to be too expensive until they saw the money it was costing in IT time and work stoppage. )

              3. sofar*

                Yep. I’ve worked at places where the ticketing system was INDEED a black hole. I’ve had a ticket for “my new employee needs login credentials for a tool that is 50% of their job” take a literal month to handle. And the only way it got handled in the end was to repeatedly interrupt and escallate — and say “I know the ticketing system is supposed to handle this, but it’s been two weeks with no resolution — can you please check in this?” several times. I felt rude and terrible doing it. But, in the end, it turned out the ticketing system had me sorted wrong, thus sorting my request into a queue that wasn’t being looked at by anyone.

                I also worked at a place that had several different ticketing systems (one for IT requests, one for “this tool isn’t working” requests, one for website/product requests, one for login credentials/access requests). Different brands/areas of businesses had their own separate versions of these ticketing systems. And if you used the wrong one for your request, nothing and nobody would tell you. Again, necessitating the need to follow up.

                I’ll admit these experiences have made “follow up on the ticket” an automatic part of my workflow because I do not trust. It seems like you’ve done a lot to make sure your ticketing system is trustworthy and the most efficient way to get things handled!

              4. Glitsy Gus*

                I think it is relevant to look at the ticketing system and see if that is an issue here. For example, if your initial contact turnaround is more than 24 hours, even if that isn’t your fault personally or anything your team can change right now, that could be why folks are trying to jump the queue. It doesn’t make what they’re doing OK, but it does color the reasoning behind the actions. Possibly setting up an auto-response that tells the user the date and time the ticket was logged and that they will hear back within 48 hours or whatever would help if you don’t already have that.

                If you do have all that, and you just have really pushy people (been there) can you set up an auto-response for your IM? I know ours will let you do that so everyone automatically gets “Please send all IT requests through the ticketing queue. I will not be responding to questions via IM at this time.” It may be a little annoying for your team to get that response off the bat, but hopefully it’s just temporary until people get re-trained. Or if you have a way of prioritizing your team, so you get alerted to their messages but not others; or as Allison suggested a dedicated team channel? If you have caller ID and people call, let it go to voicemail and return all the calls at the end of the hour, or send an email with a stock response: “I received your voicemail from earlier today. Please note, all requests must be submitted via the ticketing system. I am unable to respond to individual questions via IM or phone at this time.” That way, you can filter for the really urgent stuff, while training the others to not expect you to be at their beck and call.

            2. Chiropteran of Concord*

              My boss’ response to me trying a system like this with multiple streams of input that need constant triage (during a pandemic, shortly after my mom died) was to tell me that I can’t show stress at work. So I try my best, but someone during my own cancer scare and a few deaths I got visibly anxious, so I got a less than great performance review. I’m manually managing several systems that really need to be automated, answerable to customers, and was the person in my department who took over a project from the entire team that was doing it early pandemic, but not good enough for “good.”
              My 401k vests this year, though!

          2. Amy*

            It could be a poor system. But there’s also the possibility the current way is simply an engrained habit at this point.

          3. Weasel007*

            LW1 OP here. Thanks for everyone’s comments!

            Yes, we do have a ticket system. It has an audit trail that allows us for regulations to track who asked for what, when and why. The problem is with about 15 people out of a 100 still think their stuff is special.

            As for Allison’s comments in her response, unfortunately, having a secret IM name or backup connection for real contact won’t work. We have over 250K people in my company. Computers are locked down. We only can use Microsoft Lync Messenger and it is linked to your email address. Slack or Jabber are not an option for us because we are regulated.

            1. JustaTech*

              That’s super frustrating.

              Can you weaponize the fact that you’re regulated against those 15 people?
              “Marcus, per regulations, I can’t respond to your request unless it comes through the ticketing system. You will have to submit a ticket. My hands are tied.”

              Obviously you would need your boss’ support for this, but maybe you could frame it to them (or they could frame it to their boss) as an issue of keeping proper records so that the department can be appropriately budgeted?

              1. Wintermute*

                Yup, having worked in a fairly regulated industry, they are your best friend. For us, our tickets and incident logs could be requested by the FCC at any time. If it wasn’t in a ticket, it never occured, as far as the government was concerned, and that’s a big deal when you have to prove “best effort to comply” with a regulation or make a fix in a timely manner. Sometimes there are things that just cannot be fixed quickly, if some idiot with an auger rips up a fiber optic trunk the size of my leg, not just severs it but twists it up and rips a several-meter-long section out of the ground and causes fractures for another dozen meters in each direction, that’s not going to be an overnight fix, it’s going to be an unholy mess for weeks, but if that trunk carries 911 traffic, the government is going to want RIGOROUS records as to how you’re restoring service as rapidly as technologically possible.

            2. Kevin Sours*

              Can you turn off notifications for individual users? Or only turn on IM notifications for your team? People are going to keep interrupting you until it stops working. It’s human nature.

          4. JM60*

            The ticketing system might be failing to meet the needs of the people in the sense that there’s a long queue. If that’s the case, the problem isn’t the ticketing system per se (which is needed for efficiency and tracking), but instead that the IT department is overworked, which is made worse by people trying to jump the queue.

      2. MissM*

        And the magic words are here’s the ticket link, or ignoring that person for a bit. You can mute specific people on Teams or put quiet hours on to silence all notifications.

      3. MassMatt*

        I think the issue is staffing, they are expecting the LW to work on system upgrades etc while also functioning as the IT help desk. These need to be separate roles. They need more effective management (as Alison says, where is the boss in all this?) and they need more staff. That people are leaving this job during a pandemic should be a huge alarm bell for a functional organization.

      4. Apple*

        That is what firm emails are for (boss cc’d in). And they should escalate for the repeat offenders. Everyone knows what it means when you put something in writing.

        But OP needs to ensure she has the support of her boss before implementing it.

      5. Wintermute*

        My old IT support department had a picture on the door of the scene from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where he tosses the guy off the zeppelin and tells the passengers “no ticket” with that caption (“no ticket”).

        They were very clear that they needed quantify their workload to justify their staffing, and we would comply, or we would not be helped.

        A lot of IT departments can’t get away with being that strict, especially to executives, but when you present it all around as a matter of “if we don’t have records of how much work we are doing, we have no way to look at workloads and manage them, no way to analyze performance, and no way to determine if our workloads are reasonable” that gets some traction.

    2. Anat*

      Yes, my mind immediately went to loft beds as well. E.g. Ikea has a combo with a desk and shelves for about $470. (Perhaps if your employer is too cheap to buy you a laptop, they could pay for this office setup?)

      Or, could you possibly throw yourself on the kindness of your roommates and move the bureau to the common area?.. or replace it with vertical storage?

      1. Beth*

        People shouldn’t have to set up their bedroom like a college dorm because of their employer, though. If the employer is deciding OP2 is working from home, then the employer should be responsible for whatever is needed to make that sustainable and compatible with a comfortable home. I think they’re getting off pretty easy with OP2 just requesting a laptop; I’d be telling them I need a raise or a stipend to cover the cost of either a 1-bedroom or renting 2 rooms in a shared apartment in my area.

        1. Anima*

          Also, scoliosis and a ladder to your loft bet is no joke. I don’t have any health problems, but climbing up to my loft bed during my early career days after a long work day was a draaaaag.

          1. Julia*

            Agreed. I’d probably try to either move the bureau outside the room or put all my clothes under the bed/in hanging shelves/some other better idea found on the internet before I’d get a loft bed.

            Also, I wonder if OP can rig the desktop so that she has the keyboard and mouse on her lap in her nice armchair and the screen mounted somewhere close by?

            1. lailaaaaah*

              If she could get a decently long video cable and a small side table, she could theoretically rig it up so that the CPU sits on the floor, the monitor sits on the side table and she can use her keyboard and mouse from her armchair. Possibly not the most comfortable setup, and she’d need something to rest the mouse on, but it might work in a pinch and should only cost around £20 or similar.

              1. EchoGirl*

                That’s where a lap desk might come into play I think. She could still use that for the mouse and keyboard even if she can’t put the full computer on it.

            2. Victoria J*

              One of my co-workers was struggling – good working from home spaces in her flat were fought over and she sometimes ended up working sitting on her bed. She was trying to decide between changing to a single bed (!) or moving her wardrobe into the hall.

              I suggested a ladder desk and that fitted in. Worked perfectly for her. (I was so pleased to give a useful suggestion – and she was showing off pictures of her new desk).

              So it can depend on desk solutions that work for particular spaces.

              It’s absolutely the employers responsibility to find something that works. I’m not suggesting LW2 in any way had to find a desk that works. But there can sometimes be more choices when you do something, which can sometimes be worth the trouble/cost.

              We were willing to do it partly because we’re hoping/expecting to keep part time home working when that’s not something the organisation needs. (Also – work for a charity, everything they supply is sooo cheap).

              1. TootsNYC*

                I have a folding tray table, a larger one, that I get out and put away. I just set it in the middle of the walking area and pull up a dining room chair. It’s surprisingly comfortable! Just the right height, good support from the high-quality dining chair…

                I found it at a cheapo store in my neighborhood–not a Dollar General, but a similar local store. They’re easy to find here, but I’ve never been able to find them online to show people.
                It’s 28″ tall (that height is important–the smaller tray tables are 26″ or shorter, and that’s too short, in my opinion, though since I’m 5’2″, the ergonomics folks would say I need 24″), https://www.unb.ca/fredericton/wellness/resources/ergonomics.html

                The top is 29″w x 20″ deep.
                The legs are nicely arranged so there’s room for my knees–this is what it looks like, though these are the smaller version.
                https://www.amazon.com/eHemco-Set-Folding-Trays-Tables/dp/B005H86KLI/

                This one isn’t too bad, though it’s 26″ high.
                https://www.amazon.com/PRESTO-PRODUCTS-COMPANY-American-Arizona/dp/B01MRULQLP/

                But…I also have a laptop, so…
                I -could- move a desktop computer onto it and off of it, but it’s nice to be able to fold up the laptop and stick it in the lingerie drawer.

                I’d pressure them about the laptop–or, if I were in OP’s situation, I’d be asking to work from the office.

            3. Rebecca Stewart*

              I love and adore my AirDesk for sitting in a chair, and it will work for a desktop, they have the parts for that.

          2. Keymaster of Gozer*

            I’ve got a spinal injury and barely manage the staircase in my house. I do wish however I could get a proper ergonomic chair for home because when working from home I’ve not got the right back support.

            (Last chair I had cost over £1000.)

          3. MusicWithRocksIn*

            I know there are some loft beds now that move up and down. Like, you store it high up, and have a desk and chair under it, then you can lower the desk and move the bed down? You would have to buy a whole system, which may be outside the OP’s budget, but storage solutions are super next level these days.

            1. IndustriousLabRat*

              Yeah, and I’ve seen some Murphy bed systems in which a desk deploys when the bed is flipped up, including a few with built-in chifferobe style storage- but a) they’re almost universally designed for just a laptop b) pricey and often odd looking and c) I can’t imagine being a renter and eventually having to move one of these monstrosities!

              Those up-and-down systems are cool. I’ve seen pictures of them in use in tiny house/studio apartment settings to great effect!

              I guess it just brings us back to the question of price and how practical it would be for someone with chronic back pain to be wrestling with large furniture, even with the counterweighted assist systems that the good ones have.

        2. Mongrel*

          The monitor can be wall mounted to free up space on the bureau, even put on an arm to support different working poisitions. Normally you just pop off the stand and they’ll find a square of holes underneath, measure the distance between them and search for “VESA wall mounts” of that size.

          Also, if OP goes the ADA route maybe pitch for a kneeling chair? They can have a smaller footprint than normal office chairs and may assist with the other health issues (obviously speak to your healthcare provider)

          1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

            I have a kneeling chair – it’s great for my back but wouldn’t be any use for working at a not-desk as it needs to tuck underneath.

            I’m frustrated for the LW because one shouldn’t need to have to invoke ADA to avoid such unsuitable working conditions as a longterm solution.

            1. Keymaster of Gozer*

              Ditto. I’m currently gearing up to use my disability as a means of getting a proper office chair for my house. I get why the firm doesn’t want to pay thousands for a home chair but the process of fighting it is stressing me out.

          2. TootsNYC*

            renters often can’t mount things on the wall. There may be woodworking ways to make a stand, but that’s iffy.

        3. lobbyista*

          I gave up my city apartment at the start of this and LW 2’s dilemma is exactly why I’m dragging my feet about coming back until I have a better sense of what return to office life will look like. I feel for people looking at the hybrid model because in some ways, it feels like the worst of both worlds – you need to be close enough to commute in sometimes, but you need enough space for a work from home office (or two, if youre married) – which means a bigger space and likely higher rent.

        4. DJ Abbott*

          Yes, I also don’t see why they can’t give her a laptop. Before the pandemic most companies had extras that were only used sometimes or not at all. Maybe that’s less true now, but they still should have or be able to get one without it being a big deal.

      2. londonedit*

        I looked at IKEA loft beds when I was moving to my current flat (especially the one with a double bed!) but despite my flat having a perfectly normal ceiling height by UK standards, it was far too short. You need nearly 9′ of room height and my ceiling is nowhere near that!

        1. EBQ*

          The double bed was also something I considered but the weight limit is pretty low – like 400 lbs? So it might not be the best option if you’re ever planning on having multiple people in the bed.

        2. All Het Up About It*

          I really, really hope LW2 gets proper accommodations from their office.

          But in the vein of if they don’t, or if they are afraid to raise them becuase they don’t want the answer to be “come back full time” – There are beds out there that have drawers built into the base of them. If you could replace your bed with one of them, then you could get rid of the bureau and have a desk and hopefully real desk chair. Also – don’t be afraid at looking at furniture in different ways and using pieces outside of their intended use. We used to have a TV cabinet in our bedroom. We did store a TV in it, but it also had big drawers that were intended for media. We didn’t need that in our bedroom, so the drawers became my bureau. I don’t want you to have to get creative with your room to accommodate your work, but if that becomes a final option – you can hopefully find a way!

        3. lemon*

          You can shorten the legs with a hacksaw. I had the same problem with an IKEA loft bed in a basement bedroom– hacksaw worked great and wasn’t too hard to do (I’m not handy at all).

      3. On a pale mouse*

        They probably won’t, and I’m assuming LW doesn’t have that much either or they might have bought their own laptop. The good news is, you can build your own loft bed for less than that if you must, with only a few tools you could probably borrow.

        I agree you shouldn’t have to, though. I think the projector idea someone mentioned further down is better, if using Alison’s suggestion doesn’t get you anywhere. I don’t know what is with people who are so out of touch that they think everyone has a spare room.

        1. MK*

          Eh, who is the “you” that can build their own loft bed. I have a very hard time believing the average person has these kind of skills.

          1. LifeBeforeCorona*

            Someone with a bad back and zero skills building anything couldn’t build a loft bed. Maybe buy one from IKEA and pay someone to assemble it.

            1. SheLooksFamiliar*

              I don’t have a bad back, I’m pretty good with a drill, and I have a 2 car garage with only one car. Let’s say I’m in the same spot the OP is in, and I have limited funds and space for a home office. If I somehow convinced myself to build a loft bed, here’s what I’d need to acquire by either borrowing, begging, or buying:

              Several good-natured friends to help me clear out my bedroom and build the loft bed. One should have a pickup truck or van for the trip(s) to Home Depot for supplies, because I can’t pay for delivery and HD won’t carry the materials where I’ll want them.
              Wood.
              A power saw.
              Sawhorses.
              All the hardware, requiring multiple trips to Home Depot since I’m not a carpenter and will probably buy the wrong items.
              Wood glue.
              Sander, because SPLINTERS.
              Varnish or paint, brushes, and drop cloths.
              A Shop Vac for all the sawdust even a small project seems to generate.

              Once those friends help me carry portions of the finished structure to my room and assemble it, and re-create my bedroom space, whatever I saved on materials will be a dim memory. OP needs a different solution, like a more reasonable employer.

              1. TootsNYC*

                I live in an apartment, and I own a power saw, wood glue, a sander, and a shop vac. I wouldn’t feel I could build a loft bed, mostly because of the mess.

                1. boop the first*

                  Not that I entrust ikea with my life or anything, but I wouldn’t want to build a loft bed after knowing of children who died from bunk beds collapsing. Can’t imagine just DIY’ing something like that unless I was a professional!

          2. WellRed*

            Lot of these suggestions are wildly impractical and sound more expensive than buying a laptop.

            1. lemon*

              The laptop issue might not be about cost, though. The company might not want people working on laptops for security reasons– they’re easier to steal, which is a problem if you work in an industry with confidential information. At Old Job, we worked with healthcare info, so laptops were verboten. However, they did give us thin clients (on a tightly controlled basis)– they basically just let you remote into a desktop and don’t store any info on a hard drive, so they’re safer if they get stolen.

              Maybe OP could see if that could be an option with their company?

              1. DJ Abbott*

                If they have something like that, maybe they have a way for OP to log in from her own laptop?

            2. The Rural Juror*

              Exactly. The company should just do what’s right (and not that expensive in the long run) and buy the dang laptop!

          3. JB*

            Or the space in which to do that construction, especially when the whole issue is that LW has very little space to begin with!

            I find it very bizarre that people are proposing all these solutions that would be unworkable for most normal adults, and even less likely to work for someone with the kind of disability LW has, when the business really absolutely needs to just take back the desktop and give her a laptop. She already has a set up for a laptop. Why on earth would the solution be to build her own loft bed and desk just for this job? At that point it would be better to start job-hunting for a more reasonable workplace.

            1. JB*

              Just as a note upon re-reading my comment, by ‘normal’ here I do not mean ‘able-bodied’, I mean that most adult humans of an average size should not be sleeping in a loft bed. It’s not safe. You’re going to hit the ground a lot harder than a kid, and recover a lot more slowly. I personally have an old leg injury from climbing out of a loft bed back in my early 20’s in a dorm room that still impacts my life today.

              1. Tinker*

                I’m a moderately athletic person and do a lot of things fairly routinely that are on the order of climbing in and out of a loft bed. I still ended up deciding against a loft bed for much the same reason I don’t own a stick shift car anymore: it’s all fun and games until I break a finger, at which point my day is sucking and now I don’t have a way to transport myself or a bed to sleep in.

              2. DJ Abbott*

                One of my friends broke his neck falling out of a loft bed! It was before I knew him. Luckily he recovered fully, and he says he doesn’t stand up in bed anymore. I think he and his wife should get a regular bed as they get older before someone gets hurt again.

            2. Keymaster of Gozer*

              From a disabled person’s perspective it’s kinda common. When I complain to someone about not getting clothes that fit me I get ‘why not make your own?’.

              And my current employer’s first response to me asking for a proper chair suitable for my injuries at home was ‘just modify one of your own chairs’. They’re…..currently getting an education as to disability accommodations shall we say.

              1. MassMatt*

                LOL the thought of suggesting people make their own clothes, I mean I know there are people that do this, and it was probably more common when I was a kid, but I’m picturing an array of ponchos, capes, wraps, togas, sacks with armholes cut out, maybe some mismatched sleeves on my most ambitious project.

                1. The Rural Juror*

                  My mother made A LOT of my clothes when I was a kid because she was good at it and she enjoyed it. I CAN sew, because she taught me well, but I don’t enjoy it. I’m on the short side and I cringe at the thought of hemming up my own pants, even if it’s one of the easier things (objectively) to sew. I just don’t want to do it! So don’t tell me it’s easy peezy! Haha

                  So, same vein with the loft beds people keep suggesting. Not in any way “easy.”

              2. On a pale mouse*

                How would that even work? I mean, good work chairs are complicated. I know I was the one who brought up building a bed, but a chair is pretty different. (Clothes are too, to me, because making something functional doesn’t require a lot of skill, but making something that looks good does. It was fine when I had an ugly loft bed because it hid in my bedroom, but I don’t make my own clothes because I have to wear those in public.)

                I am sorry if what I said made LW or anyone feel like I was ignoring that it’s not really a great solution. That is why I said they shouldn’t have to do it.

            3. Sylvan*

              I agree, the DIY solutions aren’t really great for an able-bodied person and they’re probably not workable for a disabled person.

              I’m reminded of a letter sometime… last year? Maybe 2019? in which the letter writer described themselves as working poor and asked for advice on dressing for work. They were having trouble finding clothes. Commenters suggested custom tailoring.

              1. Guacamole Bob*

                I’m also always confused by suggestions that people in cramped living spaces store stuff under the bed. Is there anyone who doesn’t have a closet who just… hasn’t thought of that? In my tiny apartments the under-bed space was always stuffed to the degree that it was hard to access a lot of those items.

                It’s also a possibly a poor option for items needing daily access for someone with back problems.

                1. The Rural Juror*

                  Not to mention, in my smallish bedroom, my bed has to go up against the wall in the corner. It’s fun enough to wrestle the sheets onto the bed. All my under-bed storage is only accessible from one side and I have to move another piece of furniture out of the way to pull the storage tub out enough to open the lid. So, not exactly an every-day solution.

                2. boop the first*

                  Indeed, the beds with the underbed storage sound fun, until you have to walk anywhere around them (every single day), and then it’s toe injury central.

            4. GothicBee*

              This! I’m weirded out by how many people apparently think “build a loft bed” is a good suggestion even if they’re ignoring the LW’s scoliosis and chronic pain (why would you ignore that???) and the fact they live in the city with limited space (do you really think they have a setup for building furniture?). I mean the ADA exists so that people can avoid these weird unreasonable demands. Why ignore that to accommodate the employer?

            5. PT*

              Scoliosis for most people causes back pain, but it’s not a disability that (generally) prevents you from doing things. I have fairly bad scoliosis- I wore a brace as a teenager- and I get back pain from doing things, but it usually doesn’t mean I *can’t* do things. It means I’ll be in pain *after* I do things.

              Certainly plenty of people have far worse scoliosis than I do and I can’t speak for everyone! But it’s wrong to straight-off assume the LW is too disabled to do anything physical.

          4. TootsNYC*

            also someone in an apartment, and someone of an income that they need roommates in order to afford an apartment (tools need room, make a mess, and cost money; so does lumber, especially now!).

      4. LifeBeforeCorona*

        You could also push the bed into a corner of the bedroom which will free up space. Invest in under the bed storage units for clothes. For the bed, buy a sit-up pillow with arms? I’m not sure that they’re called.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Personal review of the sit-up pillow with arms – I have one, and will be taking it to Goodwill this week as I pack up my house for a move. I thought it would be good for watching TV in bed, but could not get it to work with my back. I had a herniated disc 3.5 years ago that healed, but never went 100% back to normal. The pillow keeps making my back hurt, no matter how I try to position myself sitting in it. This was a disappointment as the pillow had been bought specifically to help me sit straight so my back won’t hurt. Not saying that it does not work for anyone, but it didn’t for me, and I tried every which way :(

          One thing my sit-up pillow was good for was, when my back would feel worse from strain etc, I’d lie on my stomach with an ice pack on my back, and the sit-up pillow lying on its “back” under my stomach. (On second thought, I might keep it for these occasions.) But that’s not at all what OP is looking for.

          1. Clisby*

            Yeah, I can’t imagine one of those working for someone with a bad back. They’re great if you like to sit up in bed reading before you go to sleep – but that assumes your back is OK.

        2. Observer*

          Did you actually READ the OP’s letter? What makes you think that there is room to move the bed? The OP is pretty specific that all of the space is already taken up. And even assuming that the OP actually has usable space under the bed, under bed units do not have as much space as a typical bureau. They are also TERRIBLE for people with bad backs.

          It’s utterly unreasonable for the OP to be expected to make their space all but uninhabitable so they can work there.

        3. Nanani*

          Trust that anyone with space issues has already thought of this. Just like anyone with back problems has already thought of yoga.

      5. The Starsong Princess*

        That’s an option. Also ikea has a fold up desk/table that might work and she could wall mount the monitor. There are also folding office chairs available that are fairly ergonomic. Hard to tell without seeing OP’s actual setup but they’ll probably have to get rid of the ottoman.

        The real problem is rules that work for the higher levels with their bigger homes and bigger salaries. Any of these solutions will cost OP several hundred dollars that they probably don’t have.

      6. Observer*

        Or, could you possibly throw yourself on the kindness of your roommates and move the bureau to the common area?..

        Seriously!? Sorry, that’s ridiculous. Even it were possible, the idea that the OP is supposed to give up THEIR privacy AND impose on their room-mates who have zero obligation to the company is about as reasonable as expecting the OP to move to their own place.

        1. Clara*

          I think it’s on the company to figure this out, but having a bureau in a common area doesn’t seem like that big an imposition or loss of privacy.

          1. Beth*

            It depends on how big your common space is. When I lived in NYC, our ‘common space’ was one room that barely had enough room for the kitchen (which took up one full wall), a loveseat (we could have also fit a 2-person breakfast table in that space, but chose the comfier option), and the radiator (which took up most of another wall; it was a short wall, the radiator was right in the middle, and it got hot enough that we really couldn’t put anything up against it). We squeezed in a bookshelf, which overlapped slightly with my roommate’s bedroom door. There would’ve been absolutely no space for additional furniture out there! And while no one would’ve called it spacious, this wasn’t an unusually small apartment for NYC.

          2. FridayFriyay*

            If you’re using the items in the bureau to get dressed for your day having the bureau in the common area basically means you don’t have the privacy from your roommates that you could typically expect while you are in various states of undress. Or alternately, doing complicated juggling to make sure you have everything you’d want from outside of your room before you embark on undressing. Arguably fine if you are a college student or something, but really not what most people are aiming for as long-term solution for a working adult.

        2. Willis*

          Yeah, it’s funny to me how often the commentariat here is quick to say an OP should look for a new job but in this case we’ve got suggestions to build lofts, set up projection systems, stand in front of a bureau all day, move bedroom furniture to the living room, etc. These all seem ridiculous as long-term solutions!

          I’m in favor of Alison’s approach but if the OP can’t get a reasonable resolution from her company on this, it’s time to look for other jobs that don’t have you holed up in your bedroom sitting on a folding chair in perpetuity. I also can’t believe that a company that would refuse to give remote workers laptops and instead suggest they move to another apt (!!!) isn’t failing its employees in other ways as well.

      7. Self Employed*

        I thought I was so clever to set up a home office in my tiny previous apartment under an IKEA loft bed. Theoretically yes, in practice no. Everything your body sheds overnight ends up on the desk, computer, printer, packing tape, organizer trays, and paperwork. Climbing up and down a ladder is not fun as an adult and not at all practical if you get sick and feel dizzy, weak, or nauseated. Plus, having a bed higher than your window (and no AC) means hot stuffy air any time of year it’s not freezing outside.

    3. Cj*

      I’d you have a ticketing system, make sure you respond to it. Our new it guy implemented one last fall. He has yet to respond to a ticket I have submitted even if it says high priority can’t work until this is fixed. I’m a CPA in the middle of tax season. Inevitably I end messaging him on teams before he responds.

      On a medium priority issue, I have waited up to a week to hear back from him. No response until I contact him, then I hear back in less than a half an hour.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          New guy could be ignoring phone calls and IMs too. Can’t fix stupid…

      1. Grump*

        Yes! We have a ticketing system, too, and it’s useless – no one responds in time. Our tech is constantly breaking/failing, and we often need immediate help in order to get it up and running again so we can meet deadlines. In OP1’s workplace, people may ignore the ticketing system because it doesn’t meet their needs. The employer may need to devote more resources to OP1’s department or design a new system that works for everyone.

        1. MassMatt*

          I think this is a resources/management issue and not a systems issue. LW is being assigned high-priority work but there’s no one handling help-desk type responsibilities in the meanwhile. Whether it’s a ticket system or not, LW can’t do both and expecting them to is causing mistakes and driving people away from the job.

    4. Amy*

      Our tech team retrained us last year on the ticket system. They did this by ignoring any request that wasn’t submitted as a ticket.

      It worked pretty quickly.

      1. Antilles*

        I worked at a former company which did the same thing and it also worked really quickly to break everybody’s habit.
        Unfortunately, it only works if the head of IT has the clout/stubbornness to get away with it without blowback from other departments. Which is definitely not the case everywhere.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        Everywhere I’ve worked, the biggest abusers who think they can bypass the ticket system and call the people directly “because this is a critical production issue” are the leadership, director-level and up. I wouldn’t know how the change management would say no to them. But certainly worth a try.

        1. ginger ale for all*

          Our IT people just tell us that they will create a ticket for us over the phone so no jump aheads by phoning.

      3. Colette*

        Yeah, that’s what I’m thinking. They’re pinging the OP because it works. A response of “great, submit a ticket” every time should stop (or at least decrease) the interruptions. The key is you can never help until there is a ticket and it’s top of the list.

      4. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

        Just make sure there is a way to get a hold of tech support when the system is inaccessible. We start a ticket by emailing the IT account, but sometimes I’ve needed help because I can’t log into my email. I’d be up a creek without a paddle if I couldn’t call to get that sorted out. Also the time my computer wouldn’t start and just made weird whirring noises.

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          This is a good point. We have a designated HD phone number that I’ve called in the past when I locked myself out.

      5. The Starsong Princess*

        Also if someone comes to you with a request, fill out a ticket for them rather than doing it. I also have office hours where people can ask me anything. But right now, OP’s colleagues have know the way to get help most effectively is to interrupt and push until it gets done.

      6. Cascadia*

        Yup this is what happened at my org too! It took a long time to train everybody, probably a year or so, but it’s been wildly successful. Also submitting a ticket is as easy as emailing techsupport@orgname, and if you show up to the tech support office in person they have a desktop sitting there and you have to create a ticket before they will help you. On their end, they are VERY responsive to tickets and you get a reply very quickly that someone is on it. I think if you want people to adopt the ticket system you have to be very responsive on both ends.

    5. Aquawoman*

      My mind went immediately to an ADA accommodation also, and I think LW2 should pursue that. It is ridiculous for the company to expect them to work that way. My other suggestion would be if there is a desk in a non-private space that would work better, to buy a screen and call it a “private room” when the screen is up. This may not be doable for other reasons (like if LW is on phone calls where they have to talk about secure info).

    6. Momma Bear*

      Agreed for #1. Our IT team switched to a ticket system. For several months, if you emailed the IT team directly, you would first receive an autogenerated reminder email telling you to start a ticket. They would NOT email you back/IM you back. It’s like telling a child “no”. After a while we all go used to the ticket system b/c that’s the only way we would get a response. The tickets are assigned fairly quickly, and then you get a specific person to work with. Maybe make yourself a quick canned response and enter that into the IMs and let repeat offenders go to voice mail.

    7. TootsNYC*

      Laptops were really hard to get at the beginning of the shutdown. And setting them up to work efficiently would have been a LOT of work for an IT group. My company’s IT crew did an AMAZING job, but I know that it had to have been SO much effort and skill to make it be so smooth.

      They may have resorted to sending everyone’s desktop machine home with them. And now that everyone is set up, why change it? It wouldn’t surprise me if the OP has a different need than other employees do. And so Alison’s advice to speak up is good.

      1. Amy*

        You can easily mail back a company laptop for service though. I have no idea how this would work with an off-site desktop. I’ve worked remotely for years and it just feels absurd.

    8. be not*

      I am the ‘boss’ of my IT department and we have a ticketing system and STILL we get people barging in (as I see it cutting the line) for their non-emergency stuff. We just constantly tell them to go back to their desk and submit a ticket.
      If dare leave your office to go to the lunch room you get ‘I know I’m not supposed to do this but…..” I tell my people to keep walking and say ‘submit a ticket’

  2. Beth*

    Why, why, why do employers think they can require an employee to have a separate home office without paying them enough to have a spare room to set up as a separate home office? That’s not how this works. If you’re going to mandate that your employees to have a private, secure space set aside for you in their homes, you have to pay them enough to cover a living situation with a dedicated office space. And the idea of telling someone in a city that they should already have a spare room lying around that they could use? Laughable.

    OP2, I hope you can get this situation resolved to your satisfaction. Either way, I hope you update us on what happens. I’m very curious to see how employers handle these tensions as many move to keep employees remote or hybrid long-term; I’m concerned that a lot of companies will see it as an opportunity to save costs on office space, without fully compensating employees for the higher costs of a home office. Your employer seems to be making that concern a reality, so I’m very interested to hear how they handle the problem long-term.

    1. allathian*

      Yeah, this is a problem. But the worst thing is, it could be dealt with simply by issuing laptop computers to all employees, at least in this particular case.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I find this very odd because in my field everyone has had laptops as standard for five to ten years (as PCs came to their end of life, the standard replacement was a laptop). I’m not sure when I last even saw a desktop or tower that wasn’t being used by a serious geek and purpose built.

        Laptops are much better nowadays than they used to be, and much cheaper too – particularly if they only need standard WFH processing, graphics etc.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          Laptops are much better nowadays than they used to be, and much cheaper too.

          I think the biggest reason employers move to notebooks is that everything is soldered in. About the only things you can replace are memory and hdd/sdds; anything goes wrong and you just swap it out (which is simple) and there’s no component troubleshooting or upgrading.

          Lack of repair-ability is what drove me back to towers outside of business life.

          1. Momma Bear*

            It may depend on the specs for that employee. My coworker has a laptop, but there are still things they prefer to do in-house because our towers are faster.

            IKEA is great for ideas for small/multipurpose spaces. OP might want to browse their website to see what they might be able to do with that room.

            1. The Rural Juror*

              We didn’t like laptops for a long time because the ones with stabilizers (I can’t remember what it’s actually called) were pretty expensive. They’ve become more affordable now, so that’s changed our thinking and we’ve been slowly replacing desktops as needed with laptops.

              I prefer a tower because I use AutoCAD all day long. So I agree with your comment about preference!

            2. Self Employed*

              And the employer should be paying for it under the ADA if they don’t want to pay for a laptop and appropriate support.

              I’m typing this from a wireless keyboard on a TV tray in front of an iMac on an IKEA kitchen cart, by the way. The cart is great because I can move the computer around my studio apartment to get good light for Zoom or to keep an eye on a simmering pot of food.

          2. NotAnotherManager!*

            The biggest reason employers went to laptops is portability and data security (safer to have people working on a company computer than their personal one, plus you can control security/encryption). Even when we had desktops or all-in-ones as an option, the IT department didn’t do component replacement – just does a lease swap. Many organizations don’t buy computers anymore, they lease them so they get a new machine every X number of years and don’t have to deal with hardware repair or figuring out what to do with the outdated machines once they reach end of useful life. We’re not a large organization, and we haven’t owned computers for at least 15 years. My spouse used to do hardware repair work, but that field has pretty much dried up and he moved into system administration and configuration quite a while ago.

            I have several people on my staff who need something higher test than their laptop and also run processes that don’t work well across a WAN/VPN and typically have limited seat licensure. They get a laptop for home that provides remote desktop access to a more powerful, on-LAN machine physically located in the office.

            1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

              The “it” in the swap was the notebook. I agree with almost every detail you’ve added; thank you!

        2. Cat Tree*

          I didn’t know it was even possible to still buy desktops, except for very high-end gaming ones. My elderly mom requested a replacement for hers for Christmas two years ago, and requested a desktop because they used to be less expensive. I literally could not find a single standard desktop, only very expensive gaming ones or very old but refurbished ones.

          I guess businesses have different buying options, but I’m still surprised they found desktops in 2020.

          1. Observer*

            Where on earth were you shopping? You don’t need to go to fancy place to get standard inexpensive desktops. And, for most people they ARE more ergonomic.

            Links in reply.

              1. Self Employed*

                I love B&H Photo! My ex the photographer used to order from their mail order catalogs in the 1980s-90s. I’ve gotten some gear there including a medium format printer. Good prices AND honest company with good customer service.

          2. NotAnotherManager!*

            My mom has never owned a laptop and doesn’t want one. We get her a new desktop every 5 years or so and have never had problems finding her one that is not a high-end machine. Best Buy has a category on their website called “Everyday Desktops”, so they’re still out there (though BB also offers some pretty nice, affordable refurbs, too – corporate-quality, probably off-lease that are perfectly fine for the day-to-day user).

            For people who do not need portability, my organization offers all-in-one desktop machines.

          3. Jennifer Thneed*

            Go look on cnet.com for buying guides and reviews. I got a new computer last month, and I was shopping in all price ranges at first. They absolutely have the category of “desktop” at a variety of prices, right down to under $200. (And there’s now tiny desktop computers that use components designed for laptops. I saw one that was about the size of a VHS tape, no kidding.)

        3. TootsNYC*

          I’ll be honest; I could do almost all of my work on a Chromebook. I -have- used my Chromebook for work sometimes, if I was traveling and was worried about taking my company laptop.

          There’s one task that needs dedicated software, but I almost never do it.

      2. EPLawyer*

        That’s the amazing part. There is a perfectly simple solution — issue a laptop. For a company, one laptop, even a really nice one, is pocket change. The time spent telling OP she needs to either move or “just use the spare bedroom” (Laughing SOOOOOOOO hard at that one) has probably cost the company in billable time than just buying the damn laptop.

        1. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

          That’s the part I’m really shaking my head over. I live in the suburbs, own my not-tiny-square-footage home, and guess what?!?! Unless I stick both of my (not the same gender) pre-teens in the same bedroom? There’s NO spare bedroom!!!! And in a city?! No way would we have ever had a spare private room.

          Thankfully when we were all WFH, the theme of our company’s game was “this is not going to be awesome or easy, so lets be kind to each other and make the best of it”. In my department, it became a running joke that sometimes we got to go on home tours (with me, what with two kids learning virtually, my coworkers saw multiple rooms in our house by necessity; our school district had the fairly logical rule that students could not be in their bedrooms for zoom sessions).

          1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

            Exactly. I only got myself a home office when one of the kids moved out. (thankfully, years before Covid) And I’ve been doing some combination of WFH and on-call support for the last 21 years. If you don’t have a spare room, you cannot make one appear out of thin air.

          2. SheLooksFamiliar*

            A friend and her husband own a fairly large house and have 2 teens. Bedrooms and free spaces are all spoken for. When she began working at home last year, she tried the dining room table as her desk, which put her in the middle of the kids’ schoolwork. She eventually set up a card table in her laundry room.

            Yeah, free space is hard to come by when you live with more than one person!

            1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              My WFH space was in the basement for years, between the home gym and the small desk that my mom liked to sit at when she came to visit (she lives close, and used to come every day). Some days I’d WFH with my mom on my left, trying to talk to me, and one of the kids using the treadmill on my right. And we were at least lucky to have a basement with enough extra space to set a table in.

          3. Guacamole Bob*

            Wait, what? Why is it logical that students can’t be in their bedrooms for zoom sessions? My wife works from our bedroom, I work in the guest room (where I also sometimes sleep if one of us is having a bout of insomnia and we’re keeping each other up, and the bed is in the background for my webcam if I don’t use a virtual background), and my daughter does zoom school from a desk/table in her room. My son gets the dining room table only because he needs a little more supervision and didn’t already have a desk in his room.

            Whose house is set up to give multiple kids low-distraction workspaces without using bedrooms?!?

            1. NotAnotherManager!*

              Yeah, if my school district tried to tell me my kid couldn’t do virtual class from their room, I’d ask for a housing stipend. (And seriously, how are they going to know? My kid’s desk is situated by their closet, which is kept closed for a neutral background. We have those same style closets in the den and family room.)

              We have four people working/schooling from home right now. My spouse has a basement office because he was already full-time WFH, my older kid has a desk in their room, my younger one is at a folding table in the living room, and I’ve taken over the kitchen table (though my husband did try several times to kick me out early in this adventure). And we’re very, very lucky to have that amount of space to begin with! Never would have worked in our old house or an apartment.

            2. Momma Bear*

              For a lot of kids, the bedroom is a distraction. It depends on the set up of the room and the kid.

              1. Guacamole Bob*

                I totally get that – it’s part of the reason that my son does remote school from the dining room, which does not have an enormous lego collection in it. But a school district issuing a blanket policy is terrible, because kids have all sorts of different needs and home circumstances and sometimes the bedroom will be the best bet.

                One of my teacher friends talks about all the parental fighting she hears in the background of some kids’ calls. And how many are being interrupted by younger siblings, etc. Are those kids really learning better because they’re forced to do school from the living room instead of their bedroom?

                (She also talks about kids calling in from the car while their parents drive for Door Dash, and fourth graders who have been home alone with siblings most of the year. A bedroom with appropriate adult supervision in the house would be a vast improvement.)

                1. NotQuiteAnonForThis*

                  Well, when parents complained about the “you must be dressed to the dress code/please wear something other than nothing but your boxers and bras to class”, they rescinded that, and went with “fine then. No bedrooms.”

                  They don’t know unless there’s a bed in the background. There’s no way to set it up in either of my kids rooms without the bed being in the background.

                  There’s a lot of pearl clutching, prudishness, and general stupidity where I live.

                2. NotAnotherManager!*

                  That is crazy! “Wear a shirt to class” seems like a pretty reasonable requirement.

                3. Observer*

                  @NotQuiteAnonForThis, your school admins are idiots. I’d be willing to bet that some kids are still showing up to “school” in undies or jammies.

                  And who thinks that the appropriate response to stupid complaints is a different and MUCH stupider and more invasive rule?

              2. Observer*

                Exactly – IT DEPENDS. Which means that the school has no business making such a rule.

              3. NotAnotherManager!*

                Sure, we pulled my older child’s Lego bin out of their bedroom so they would not play with it during school, bought them noiseless fidgets, and made a number of adjustments to their room to accommodate their specific needs. But we don’t have anywhere else to put them, even with a decent-sized suburban home, so I can’t imagine how families living in smaller spaces would pull that off.

                The school district seems to assume that every family owns a home that allows for a distraction-free space. I live near DC, and the cost of housing is insane. Some of my kids’ classmates live in apartments where they are already sharing rooms with siblings, and their parents have set up for work in the common areas or aren’t even home during the day to supervise. One of my coworkers is struggling because her family of five is working from their open plan kitchen/family room space. (Have never been so glad to live in an older home with interior walls – I loathe open floor plan in general but could never do virtual work/school in that sort of space.) It just seems like a poorly thought out policy and assumes that everyone has the space to accommodate a non-bedroom work area, like many employers that people write Alison about. That’s not reality for a lot of people.

                1. TootsNYC*

                  that’s a interesting thought–whether the rise of WFH and technology in general will return us to rooms with walls instead of open-concept.

                2. Homophone Hattie*

                  God yeah. Open plan is the devil. We’ve been house-hunting lately and the number of old houses where the lovely solid soundproof wall between the living area and the kitchen has been knocked out to make an open plan room makes me cry!

          4. MassMatt*

            The company’s spare bedroom “suggestion” was laughably out of touch. Why not suggest people set up their home office on their yachts?

            It’s sad that there are so many managers/companies that think this way. Not too long ago there was a letter from someone whose company sent a memo saying “now that people have been working from home for a year, we expect them to have things set up”, with dedicated rooms for home offices and child care “taken care of” by friends and nearby relatives. It was breathtaking.

          5. Observer*

            our school district had the fairly logical rule that students could not be in their bedrooms for zoom sessions

            No, it’s not a logical rule, and it’s INCREDIBLY intrusive.

            1. PT*

              It probably has to do with the child sex abuse prevention policy. It would normally be sex abuse for a teacher to be in a child’s bedroom, therefore they cannot be in a child’s bedroom via video feed.

              1. Caliente*

                Hmm I insisted my kid not be in his bedroom for school but that’s because he feels that he should be IN the bed. Dressed, but seriously, let’s try to pay attention. That said he’s challenged with paying attention and also we have the space for him to be elsewhere privately and comfortably.
                This is very case by case…

              2. Observer*

                Oh come on! Anyone who REALLY thinks that doesn’t know how this stuff works (or doesn’t care.)

          6. DataSci*

            That “students can’t be in their bedrooms” rule, while well-intentioned, runs afoul of the same problems. Say you had two parents & two kids all working or learning from home – how are you supposed to find space for everyone that is (a) sufficiently quiet/private that they won’t distract everyone else (even with headphones, people are still going to need to talk) and (b) not a bedroom? My then-first-grader had a really, really rough time with remote learning last spring – sometimes the only way he could manage was to be cuddled up in his room. If that hadn’t been permitted, he just wouldn’t have Zoomed in at all.

        2. JB*

          My bet would be that the LW is not the only one in her situation at her workplace, and they have probably gotten a lot of very reasonable requests for a laptop, and have made the decision not to issue one to anybody.

          Which is ludicrous, but my point is that I think it’s probably more than the cost of a single laptop for the company.

          1. Antilles*

            That’s likely their justification, yeah. And that’s also why the ADA accommodation in this situation works really well, because it’s now an individual-specific accommodation that needs to be addressed and can’t just be written off as “we can’t do it for everyone”.

          2. Code Monkey, the SQL*

            There are also supply issues going on right now (thanks bitcoin &tc), so they may be looking at the long timeline of even acquiring a batch of ThinkPads and go “nahhhh, just work from your spare yacht, why dontcha?”

            I say this because my work wants to issue me my own work laptop (through odd circumstances, I didn’t pick one up when they started distributing them initially) and my “hey, can I get an upgrade?” request was sent early Feb, answered within 24 hours, and was: “Yes of course, but it will probably be in late April before our shipment comes in.”

          3. Observer*

            So? It’s still a reasonable cost given the problem.

            I’d be willing to bet that a LOT of people are NOT following the rules around privacy. And if there is a ever a breach because they refused to give people laptops to make it easier to maintain privacy, the cost of the laptops will look like pocket change vs the cost that such a breach would be.

      3. MCMonkeybean*

        I am so baffled at how they can be moving to a “hybrid” system where people are mostly at home but still have to come in sometimes and not have all of their employees using laptops. I assume they are not expecting you to bring your desktop computer back and forth. So weird.

        1. GothicBee*

          This is a good point too. I really hope LW isn’t lugging the desktop into work. I mean I assume not since they said they just have meetings at work, but at the same time, wouldn’t it be more helpful to be able to bring your computer to work meetings??? The last time I had a desktop at work it was when I worked in a small call center, and they ended up swapping us all to laptops specifically so that we could use them when we needed to work from home due to weather or other extreme circumstances.

        2. Jules the 3rd*

          Laptops became harder to get last year. Though the demand is easing up some, the supply is still pretty low. Anything with a graphics chip is unobtainium, due to bitcoin mining.

          1. Evelyn*

            I had the same question about “how are you having meetings without laptops” and two separate friends said that it is not part of their company culture to bring laptops/computers to meetings, and that anyone who did would be looked at strangely. Notes are taken on paper (presumably any agendas are printed and distributed), if there’s something that needs to be on the computer there’s one in the meeting room.
            And while I have a laptop, sometimes when I’m going to meetings where I’m not the official notetaker I don’t take it with me, I just take my phone (which has email) and a notebook. Keeps me from browsing the Internet when I should be listening. So if it’s “come to the office specifically for meetings” and they have a company culture where everyone has a desktop and doesn’t bring laptops, the idea might be “we schedule all our team meetings for 2 days a week and then people work from home on non-meeting days”

            1. Marillenbaum*

              In my field, it would be a huge protocol issue if someone tried to bring a laptop to take notes during a meeting, particularly an external one. Notes are taken by hand and typed up later, and we distribute hard copies of agendas at the top of the meeting.

      4. Phony Genius*

        The thing about laptops is that for some jobs, the screen is not large enough for the nature of the work. We work with large, intricate plans. It is easier to see these plans on large-screen monitors. Some employees only have small-screen laptops for their work-from-home days, so they can’t do their work as effectively. Even if a larger monitor was provided, not everybody has the space for one.

        1. Momma Bear*

          Agreed. I don’t have the space to have the same double monitor setup I have at the office. There are specific tasks I don’t try at home.

        2. Cat Tree*

          I always use a second monitor with a laptop, as does everyone I know. As for not having enough space for a monitor, how does a desktop solve that problem? Wherever the desktop monitor would go, you just put the same monitor there but plug it into a laptop instead. Do people really not understand this, or am I just confused by what problem you are actually describing? You can even close the laptop and use only the monitor, and it still takes up less space than a desktop plus it’s portable.

          1. Phony Genius*

            At least one person I work with has to use the laptop, quite literally, on their lap. Some others are on their bed. So the only monitor they have space for is the one on the laptop.

            1. Evan Þ.*

              But then, they wouldn’t have space for a desktop either, even in OP’s jerry-rigged format?

        3. TurtlesAllTheWayDown*

          I spent the first 5 months of the pandemic working from home on my personal laptop with a second monitor until I just went into the office and loaded up my desktop with 2 monitors.

          But I assume the OP knows if they need that kind of set up and has determined that a laptop will still work best.

        4. DataSci*

          I am at this moment using a laptop with an external monitor. When I went into the office, I had an external monitor there too. It’s a pretty common setup. And yeah, not everyone has space, but it’s still less space than a massive desktop, so anyone who doesn’t have space for a large screen just plain doesn’t have space for a large screen, whether it’s attached to a laptop or a desktop.

          1. Self Employed*

            I got a laptop with an external monitor back in 2009 when I took graphic design. I also have an iMac that rides around on an IKEA metal kitchen cart, the little $29 kind.

        5. Grades White Collar Homework*

          I have an external monitor that is attached, via a heavy arm clamp thing, to a teensy (19″ x 27″) rolling, sit-stand desk in the corner of my bedroom. That gives me two screens: the one on my laptop and the larger one clamped to my desk.

          I wanted a third screen because that’s my setup at the office (two monitors + laptop), so I cleared off the top of my short 3-drawer dresser, scooted it closer to my teensy desk, and put the extra monitor on top of it. I could have put the monitor on a tall plant stand and accomplished the same thing. I have a full office setup in a 19-inch by 38-inch space.

          If I didn’t have the floor space for a dresser or a plant stand, I could have attached the monitor to the wall.

    2. Willis*

      Ugh, this. I get that some people enjoy working from home so maybe they’d be happy to trade off avoiding a commute in exchange for working in their bedroom. But personally, I’d probably be looking for another job if I were in OP’s shoes. Even with a laptop, I don’t want to work without a desk or from my room as a regular, non-pandemic thing. Flexibility is good, foisting the cost and effort of setting up permanent workspaces unto employees is not.

      1. AvonLady Barksdale*

        Seriously. At the start of my career I lived in apartments that were decently sized for NYC but would have been suffocating if I had had to work from home. I’m in a position now that is full-time remote and I make enough to afford separate space. I don’t think I would have taken the job if I were still in a 596 sq ft place with my partner.

        This is why I used to get so irritated when people advised at the beginning of lockdown to create fully separate workspaces. A lot of people live in cities or situations where that’s just not possible without major investment and change.

        1. Liz*

          that would be be. I live in a one bedroom, granted, alone and a decent sized apt, BUT its a one bedroom. my bedroom is taken up with my bedroom furniture, and there is nowhere to put any kind of desk or workstation. I work from my dining room table. while not ideal, its gets the job done. It does mean i have to look at my laptop, monitor, at the end of the day, as its a PITA to break it all down every day and put it back the next morning.

          My boss, who was dealing with his college age son being home, was relegated to the kitchen table!

      2. Anonys*

        Yeah, I think entry level employees (or generally those with office jobs but not massive salaries) are so often overlooked with when work from home is discussed.
        So much of the discourse around work from home is about the advantages and how great it is not having to commute and working in sweatpants but so many people really don’t have a sustainable wfh home set up. I for one cannot wait to get away from the tiny desk next to my bed and my roommates constant singing.

      3. EchoGirl*

        I agree, and this is as someone who likes working from home (and, well, doesn’t have a choice, because I freelance, but still). I feel like the “lesson” from pandemic WFH should be “people should be allowed to work in the environment that’s best for them, so WFH should be more available long-term to people who want it”, but instead a lot of people seem to be picking up a message that WFH is super-awesome and should be what everybody does now.

    3. Kathlynn (Canada)*

      Yeah, I’m getting paid minimum wage and have to log in 30 minutes early to set everything up (“it’s your commute”) which I know is actually illegal. But it’s a case of “lose my job by complaining or keep a job that doesn’t trigger my asthma”
      Also, no allowance or anything to offset the cost for wfh when I either need a room with a door/lock or work from my own room. Or anything additional for equipment. Only thing they’ll do is give us the paperwork we need to claim it on our taxes.

      1. Beth*

        Oof, this is ridiculous for minimum wage! Any chance of taking your experience here and using it to apply for better, less exploitative jobs?

      2. Lady Heather*

        Get proof of the 30 minutes unpaid work! Once you have a different job, consider contacting your labour department to get them paid.

        1. JM60*

          I second this. Perhaps forward any emails from management asking you to login 30 minutes before clocking in to your personal email address.

      3. Yvette*

        Your armchair is set up specifically to have a lap desk for hobby writing. Can you mount the monitor on the wall like a flat screen tv at desk height in front of the chair? It would be low enough for all the cords to reach the case and outlets. Then you could get a wireless keyboard and mouse to use on your lap desk. They are relatively inexpensive, a quick check on STAPLES site showed a range of $25-$45.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          Then you could get a wireless keyboard and mouse to use on your lap desk.

          In such an arrangement, I would strongly suggest you look into a wireless trackball instead of a mouse as the pointing device.

        2. Not Australian*

          If it’s rented accommodation they may not be allowed to attach anything to the walls.

        3. Hamish*

          If the OP is in a shared apartment and can’t afford to move somewhere larger in their city, I’d be very surprised to learn that they owned the apartment. Many landlords don’t love people even hanging up pictures much less mounting TVs etc.

          1. Lynn*

            I am of the firm belief that the OP should be issued a laptop by the employer to solve all of this. It is the best solution.

            That said, even if OP can’t attach the monitor to the wall, there are free-standing monitor stands available that would let her put her monitor in a better place without attaching to the walls. So there is still an option to get the monitor to a better place even if the landlord disallows the wall-mount idea or if the wall isn’t where she would want the monitor to be.

    4. KHB*

      I totally agree – hearing stories like this makes me so angry (and worried for my own situation). It’s one of those things where it seems like there ought to be a law; If the employer is shifting the cost of your office space from them onto you, they should have to pay you more. I obviously know there’s not such a law, and I don’t even know what a law like that would like like, but intuitively it feels like there should be. Those overpaid, out-of-touch executives telling you to “just use your spare bedroom” need to get their comeuppance one way or another.

      I wonder if this is something that will sort itself out eventually through the labor market: People will move on from these employers who require them to maintain a home office but don’t pay them enough to do so, the employers will find that they can’t hire replacement workers at the same salary point, so they’ll have to pay more. Maybe it won’t work out that way. But for now I can dream.

    5. James*

      “If you’re going to mandate that your employees to have a private, secure space set aside for you in their homes, you have to pay them enough to cover a living situation with a dedicated office space. ”

      This attitude makes sense in April 2021. In April 2018, though, it would have been seen as nonsense. Working from home was seen as a privilege. It was intrinsically a perk, like a parking space or a corner office. The idea that the company would give you a perk and then pay extra on top of that was a non-starter. We’re already giving you a perk and now you’re coming and demanding more? Either figure it out or be in the office at 9 am tomorrow morning!

      That said, there are some things that a company needs to consider given the current realities. For example, ergonomics–if an employee doesn’t have an adequate chair or desk set-up it can come back and bite the company when they file worker’s comp. Security is another issue. HIPPA and critical infrastructure are two obvious examples of situations where the company is legally required to provide adequate security (Homeland Security does not accept “We don’t want to pay, okay?” as an answer), but it goes beyond that. If you’re processing payments you’re seeing a LOT of personal information and there are requirements for how you secure that information. A third example is sheer ability to do the work. Some places still don’t have great internet access. I have a coworker who arranged to get high-speed internet for his rural community because he needed it to do the job. Obviously companies also have obligations towards those with disabilities, and no one’s sure how to handle that yet.

      Once companies face a few data breaches, lawsuits, and the like they’ll get the message, but there’s going to be a learning curve.

      1. KHB*

        “We’re already giving you a perk and now you’re coming and demanding more? Either figure it out or be in the office at 9 am tomorrow morning!”

        The thing is, we’re talking about all the people who would have been quite happy with the “show up tomorrow at 9 AM” option. These are the people who weren’t working from home before, because this “perk” didn’t make sense with their personal situations, and therefore they didn’t see it as a “perk” at all.

        In a discussion of work-from-home in 2018, these people would have been invisible – they’re just people who are choosing not to make use of the perk. But now, with companies making work-from-home a requirement rather than an option, they need to be part of the conversation. You can’t just brush them off to the side and say “But we’re giving you a perk, what are you complaining about?”

        By way of analogy to a different office “perk”: Say an employer lets employees bring their dogs to the office. To someone who doesn’t have a dog (but doesn’t mind being around them – let’s set aside people with severe allergies and phobias for right now), that’s neither here nor there. Maybe it’s fun to be around other people’s dogs, but other than that, the perk just doesn’t apply to them. But if the employer suddenly required employees to bring dogs to the office – so that if you didn’t have a dog, you had to go out and get one, and bear all the costs of taking care of it on your own time – that would be a whole ‘nother story.

      2. Dan*

        To me, this big difference is between allowing remote work vs. requiring remote work. In the scenario that you could have a desk in an office anytime you want, but are choosing to WFH, I think it’s totally reasonable to place more of the onus for the logistics and cost onto an employee. But as employers shed office space and/or go “remote only”, then the onus is on them to ensure that employees have everything they need to successfully work outside an office.

        1. James*

          “To me, this big difference is between allowing remote work vs. requiring remote work.”

          You know that. I know that. But far too many companies don’t seem to know that. The intent of my first paragraph was to describe the problem, not to state my beliefs; I’m a firm believer in Sun Tzu’s statement that to defeat a thing, one must understand it.

          The infrastructure around work-from-home was built from the perspective of it being a perk, and many companies simply went with what they had rather than building something new. Yes, they should adjust it–but we both know that companies aren’t going to spend the time and money if they don’t have to. If it’s good enough, and employees aren’t complaining too loudly (or are willing to endure it), the situation will continue. Thus the reason for me pointing out specific ways in which this policy can cost time and money. “Should” doesn’t get you very far; liability concerns are a better avenue of attack.

      3. Amy*

        The key word here is ‘mandate’. In April 2018, most people working from home routinely were doing so by choice, so it was more of a perk, as you say. But in cases where it was company mandated, you could make a solid case for needing extra compensation to make it work. In April 2021, it’s more likely to be mandated and non-optional, so seeing it as a perk has become less common.

      4. Alpacas Are Not Dairy Animals*

        I see what you’re saying in terms of the facts on the ground, but it’s important to remember that even in 2018 treating WFH as a perk instead of an accommodation was leading to a lot of inequity.

    6. Generic Name*

      Right? It’s one thing to require this for someone who voluntarily chooses to work from home, but it really is unreasonable especially given that OP doesn’t have a laptop.

  3. Margaret P*

    2. Working from home without a private, comfortable spot to work in – if they won’t provide a laptop, perhaps they would provide a privacy screen protector/filter for your monitor (you have to be directly in front of the screen to see anything) and use of screen lock to restrict access. With that in place it would be easier to justify an exception to the privacy requirement.

    1. Kaiko*

      Yes! If there is space in the common areas and your roommates are amenable, you may want to move your office out of your bedroom, with a desk setup that means others can see what’s on your screen (I was thinking about having it set up so your monitor faces a wall behind you, and a lockable drawer for files if needed); if you need to have short private phone calls, you can use your room. I know that relies on the grace of your roommate, but after a year of struggling, I hope they’d be okay with a corner being taken over.

    2. I'm just here for the cats*

      It might not be just the screen though. If she has to talk about confidential info, either to coworker or to clients, a privacy screen is not going to work. Plus, I can see how the roommates might not like that she is taking up extra space, because it’s a desktop not a laptop.its not like she can just put the computer away in her room each day.

    3. fish*

      Or, OP2, could you make your own laptop-like situation?

      That is, can you get a small monitor, mouse, keyboard, etc., and plug them into your computer, and use that situation with your lap desk?

    4. The Happy Graduate*

      Or can they not just get a separate keyboard, connect it to their desktop, and keep the keyboard and mouse on their armchair set up. That way they’re still comfortable and they don’t have to make any tradeoffs in their room!

  4. Fiona the Baby Hippo*

    UGH I suspect AMA is going to be getting more and more letters from people in LW2’s position as companies move to hybrid models or shut down offices altogether but don’t adjust salaries to reflect the cost of living increase that having a permanent home office set up requires. It makes my blood boil !

    1. Artemesia*

      It is ridiculous to expect this without a budget for home office. My daughter has always WFH in her current company — everyone does except when with clients or occasional team meetings. They provide an allowance for home office as well as the computer — she has bought a convertible desk that can be used standing or sitting and also a sort of bicycle thing that can be used under the desk as a fitness aid.

      1. TurtlesAllTheWayDown*

        My dad’s been working from home for 20 years (his job involves about 75% travel in his area, which is maybe 200 miles in several directions) and had had all of his furniture and equipment paid for by his company (desk, bookcase, file drawers, computer, cell phone, printer, slide projector (?!)), not to mention his company-paid car! I mean, no wonder he’s been with them for 20 years and plans to retire with that company, right?

    2. AcademiaNut*

      The return argument, of course, will be that employees are saving on commuting, parking and professional clothing costs. That won’t pay for a more expensive apartment, but could easily be comparable to what a new laptop costs.

      The problem here is the hybrid model, and employees who were hired for in person, and then switched to remote. If they were hiring for a remote position, requiring a private work space is not a particularly unreasonable request, and a potential employee could make a reasoned decision about whether they want the job, and where they want to live while doing it. And if the employees had a choice post pandemic – they can go back to in person, or be remote, but remote employees will need a private workspace – is also reasonable.

      In the OP’s case, though, they’re getting the worst of all worlds. They were hired for an in person job, are still tied to the office for meetings (so they can’t move to a different city), don’t have a choice about being remote or in person, and they’re having impractical demands foisted on them.

      1. Yvette*

        “The return argument, of course, will be that employees are saving on commuting, parking and professional clothing costs. That won’t pay for a more expensive apartment, but could easily be comparable to what a new laptop costs.”
        That is a valid argument. My commute for OldJob cost me $23.00/day for gas, parking, tolls and train fare. I was able to WFH 2 days/week. $23 * 2 * 50 = $2300.00

        1. ceiswyn*

          But in many cases people aren’t actually saving money.

          Getting to work by train every day, you can buy a season ticket that, for example, turns five days’ worth of train journeys into the cost of three – so working in the office three days a week saves you nothing on tickets. And you still need a professional wardrobe for those days, or client meetings.

          1. Juniper*

            Exactly. Plus, how do you differentiate between the employee that lives around the corner from the office and the one who lives across town? Or the employee that buys all their clothes thrift versus the one who splurges at boutiques? This is just an impossibly messy approach and opens the door to a lot of conflict.

            1. Fiona the Baby Hippo*

              I also understand that some people have really high commuting costs but I pay around $20/week to keep gas in my Prius. I still have to pay car insurance since I still need it for groceries, etc. Minimal savings, and I bet if my employer had to cover a parking pass they’d save more than I would.

        2. Forrest*

          I don’t think this is a valid argument at all. Your commuting costs might have high; mine were 0. (I walked 20 minutes to work.) We both factored those decisions into our decisions when we took the job.

          But the costs of WFH are being shifted onto employees with very little notice, and frequently in ways which are significantly higher burden for lower-paid workers. Obviously this will depend on the geography of your local area, but around here, higher paid workers are more likely to live further away from work in larger houses: they’re trading high commuting costs for a the costs of homeworking, but a lot of them had spare rooms or offices already. Meanwhile, lower paid workers are more likely to live in smaller spaces and already have minimised their commuting costs: they are the ones who are really struggling to incorporate working space into their homes. There *might* be an equivalence for some people between the gains from not commuting and the costs of working from home, but they’re very unlikely to be equally shared and certainly shouldn’t be something companies are relying on without much closer examination.

          1. Nanani*

            Exactly. People on low salaries already were parking at the cheaper lot farther away, sharing cars or taking public transit, etc., so if they’re saving any money it’s negligible.

        3. JB*

          Does $2,300 buy you a spare bedroom or other secure workplace in your home? Not around here it wouldn’t…

        4. nona*

          The return argument is bad. Work equipment (computer, desk, workspace) are costs related to the operation of a business and not costs associated with employment (like a commute would be), and the Employer is trying to off-load business costs to the employee to safe the Employer money. That’s bullsh!t.

          1. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

            Agreed. And working from home comes with it’s own associated higher costs — utilities, better internet (which isn’t even possible for many people), increased costs for incidentals like coffee, toilet paper, …the costs that the company are saving should go directly to the employees to offset, but we all know that isn’t going to happen.

            We’re also going to see a wider disparity between the economic classes: those with spare bedrooms and superior internet get the job and promotions, and those without don’t. Permanent WFH is going to be a giant barrier for the already disadvantaged.

        5. GothicBee*

          Saving commute costs is a nice perk, but that’s still a laughable amount of savings to justify expecting workers to have a private workspace if you’re not already paying them enough to cover renting their own place.

          I mean at $2300 savings per year, that’s only an extra $200-ish (really $191.67) per month to spend on rent. Which isn’t enough extra even in my low cost of living area for someone to move out on their own or rent a place with a spare room. Plus most people aren’t spending that much on a commute in the first place.

          1. Richard*

            If Yvette’s paying tolls and trains, they’re likely in a very big city where $2300 is less than two months rent and is not going to contribute much to an extra room.

        6. Self Employed*

          If employees provide their own laptops instead of the company issuing laptops, it’s going to be extra work for the IT department having to deal with lots of nonstandard equipment…

      2. Juniper*

        It’s not really, though. The mode of transportation an employee uses, how they park their car, where they purchase their clothes, etc. is outside the scope of most employment contracts. The workplace and reasonable work station accommodations is not. Sometimes something like a parking spot is included as a perk, but most employers don’t really care how their employees get to work or how much it costs them, and most employees are responsible for purchasing their own work-appropriate clothing, whatever that looks like. Plus, someone who is no longer commuting for work may very well still have to travel the same distance to pick up kids, run errands, etc., and then we’re looking at a really messy calculation if they had previously built that into their commute.

      3. CherryJam*

        Not sure what savings, I, a bicycle commuter, have made! I spent less than £50/year (an average guess – new lights one year, new brake cabling another). No parking costs, and my clothes outside work are the same at work (yay for casual!). I specifically lived somewhere where I could cycle to work as I didn’t want to spend money on commuting because I’m already paid not very much and I needed that commuting money to live on.

        1. EvilQueenRegina*

          As a walking commuter I also don’t think I’ve saved much – same here for clothes as a lot of mine are suitable for both in and out of work. They’re on about offering voluntary changes to our contracts so that we can work from home on a full or part time basis and laying it on thick about reducing carbon footprint, but honestly it wouldn’t do it for me since I walk, if anything WFH increases the heating I’d be using here.

          As things stand the proposal is under review, awaiting further updates on what form it will actually take, with a view to bringing it in after Boris says there’s no more restrictions on social contact, but as long as it remains voluntary as we were initially told (way back in the summer when it was first mentioned – it was decided in November to put it on hold until after the second lockdown, then the third one delayed it again) then I’m not interested in it. It doesn’t save me anything and while my space situation isn’t as bad as OP describes, it’s not great – small space that is okay for the interim but not really comfortable for permanent.

      4. TechWorker*

        Not sure I really agree with this – yes some folks have an expensive commute but it’s not (usually) an expense all in one go – and cases where someone needs to say buy a season ticket it’s quite a common ‘perk’ to be able to get the company pay it upfront so you can pay it off in chunks. Eg – there’s understanding that dropping a whole bunch of money in one go is difficult for many.

        In addition, the laptop is directly tied to how well you can do your job, the commute is not. If someone has to skimp on a cheap laptop and then has loads of technical problems or things where the computer can’t handle the software used, that’s going to massively affect their performance. If someone can’t afford to take the train and choose a longer, slower commute by bus (for Eg), that’s potentially no impact on the employer. (I’m not saying it’s ‘free’ to the employee, having been in that exact situation, it was a pain, but it was a pain that didn’t cost me any money to get around, unlike if a company relied on me using my own laptop).

      5. Captain dddd-cccc-ddWdd (ENTP)*

        If they were hiring for a remote position, requiring a private work space is not a particularly unreasonable request,

        It seems to me that the nature of the job has changed though, even if OP wasn’t originally recruited to be a remote employee — and the private work space etc is now a requirement of the job.

        Were it not for the health/disability/ADA angle (i.e. someone who doesn’t have a disability or health condition, but otherwise is in the OPs situation of working off a chest of drawers with no spare room or etc) the employer would likely have an argument that the employee is no longer able to meet the (changed) requirements of the job. In the same way that when a company moves location, sometimes staff aren’t able to travel to the new location due to distance etc, or when the nature of the job changes in such a way that the person cannot carry it out any more, e.g. hours that are not compatible with their schedule or similar.

        I think in the OPs case, the ‘accommodation’ route is likely to get the best results, but I do wonder how employers will approach this when ADA etc isn’t a consideration.

        1. Can Can Cannot*

          My guess is that the accommodation will be to have the OP simply come into the office. It’s not reasonable to accommodate by waiving information security policies.

      6. KHB*

        If an employer is so concerned about security that they won’t even let you work in a room where someone else might see you, I doubt they’d be thrilled to have you you doing your work on a personal laptop.

        1. Antilles*

          I agree, though there’s always the possibility that their security concerns are in that nice category of “stuff we care immensely about, right up until the point it costs money to fix.”

      7. Elenna*

        Yeah, that’s the argument my company has been making for why they aren’t giving us more money* as the pandemic stretches on and we move to a hybrid model. Which doesn’t really make complete sense, as discussed by people below. My office, at least, was in an area where nobody really lived close enough to walk, but I’m sure there’s still people whose commutes weren’t expensive enough to make up for home office costs. Plus, it’s an international company, they’ve obviously got other offices in other places.

        The other argument that’s occurred to me is that home office stuff can also be used with a personal computer – e.g. if you buy a mouse for work, you can also use that mouse with your own laptop, so it doesn’t make sense for the company to pay 100% of the cost. But there’s stuff people buy for a home office that they wouldn’t otherwise buy – e.g. multiple monitors, a more ergonomic chair/desk, etc.

        *They did give people a few hundred dollars near the start of the pandemic to pay for stuff, which was nice.

      8. Gan Ainm*

        Besides the point that others have already made about not necessarily saving on commute, there’s also the fact that now people have to pay for heating, a/c and lights all day, possibly higher phone and internet bill, and more misc things that the office likely paid for before, batteries for your mouse, notebooks, office chair, etc.

      9. Evelyn*

        My commute (or most of it) is paid for by my employer as a benefit. If I needed a parking spot, it would be paid for. So I’m not the one saving by not commuting, they are.

    3. CTT*

      Even people with the good employers who do raise salaries to reflect the WFH setup may still run into this issue since having a home office setup is half cost-related and half space-related. Some people just aren’t going to have the space for a home office unless they sacrifice the space used by something they love for a desk.

      1. KHB*

        I think that the need for extra space is part of the cost Fiona is referring to – the cost of having a home that’s big enough to accommodate a home office.

        1. CTT*

          It can definitely be cost-related, and I don’t want to discount that (especially given how competitive COVID has made buying a house or moving into a bigger space), but it can also be preferential. Personally, I really love my apartment, and until March 2020 it was all the space I needed. I’m lucky that I’ve been able to safely return to the office; if I had to permanently WFH, I’d be upset if my choices became either putting my grandparents’ 1960s record player in storage to make space for a desk or leaving an apartment that’s in the perfect location for me. I’ve talked about this with some of my colleagues and setting up a home (rented or owned) with a pandemic in mind isn’t something any of us planned for.

    4. Richard*

      It’s good to remember that, for every person who is wishing for WFH Forever!, there’s at least one person like LW2 having a rough time of it. My situation is about 30% of LW2’s (crappy uncomfortable setup with haphazard furniture) and I can’t wait for it to be over and be back at work.

  5. MacGyver*

    Have you tried making your bureau into a standing desk?

    Ideally, the top of your monitor will be about eye-level — if the bureau is too short, put a book or a sturdy box under the monitor.

    The keyboard should be about elbow-height. Perhaps if you pull the top drawer (or the second drawer, depending on the height of the bureau) out a few inches and lay a board across it, you could set your keyboard and mouse on that while you’re working. (Make sure it is stable.)

    My back got worse when I started working from home, until I put some time, creativity, and trial-and-error into reverse-engineering what I needed in order to feel comfortable. Now I have a “standing desk” (not actually a desk) and it is way more comfortable than my desk back at my office building. Good luck!

    1. Beth*

      Employees shouldn’t have to jerry-rig a workstation out of their dressers as a permanent solution. It’s one thing to do that for a limited period during an emergency like the pandemic has been; in fact, OP2 has found ways to ‘make it work’ for themselves under these circumstances, as many of us have. But now that their work-from-home is transitioning to a long-term arrangement, their company needs to provide the resources to make it work WELL and SUSTAINABLY on a long-term basis. Piling boxes on top of your dresser might be working for you for now, but I can’t imagine it’s how you envision your bedroom setup being forever. OP’s employer is being wildly unreasonable here, expecting employees to make a city bedroom work permanently with no extra budget and no extra equipment.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Agreed. I’ve been desperately trying to build an approximation of the special office chair my spinal injury requires at home and…it’s not going well.

      2. MacGyver*

        Yeah, I guess my advice is meant more for the LW to try 10 months ago. I can’t imagine sitting on an ottoman for a year — it sounds like that has caused a lot of pain, and I wonder if she could have rigged up a better solution last June, once it became clear WFH wasn’t just for a few weeks. That’s when I switched from the table I was using at home (MUCH worse for my back than my office desk had been) to figuring out — with trial-and-error — a standing desk for myself (which has been much *better* for my back than my office desk).

        But I agree with you, now that it’s going to actually be permanent, the company should be coming up with a solution, she shouldn’t have to jerry-rig at this point.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Serious spinal injury here and agree – you’ll never get me using a standing desk.

        (I work hybrid offices/home at the moment)

        1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          Herniated disc here and same. Walking makes my back feel better. Standing in one spot for hours made it feel worse even before I had the back injury. Now it’s just plain not possible.

          1. EchoGirl*

            Yep. I have multiple overlapping issues (probably linking back to some currently-unknown underlying condition), so in my case, standing might not be a problem for my back problems, but I’ll start to get light-headed and feel sick if I stand in the same spot for too long. Probably has something to do with my having low BP.

      2. MacGyver*

        I have scoliosis too (diagnosed in childhood), plus a disc injury from 20 years ago that flares up on occasion — and my back has been feeling much better now than it did when I worked at my desk in the office.

        Not saying that a standing desk would work for all people with scoliosis and/or other back injuries, just speaking for myself — I’m very glad I experimented with different set-ups, and it turns out standing has been great for me!

      3. Generic Name*

        Same. I have severe scoliosis that was surgically corrected (mostly) and I am unable to stand for long periods of time. Even just walking slowly at museums is painful. I’m so grateful for the benches in the center of the room. There’s no way I could use a standing desk.

    2. Tobias Funke*

      I must be the laziest person in all of creation because I cannot fathom standing up in my bedroom working all day. It took me forever to not want to die from how much my feet hurt in retail. I admire people for whom this isn’t a nightmare.

      1. Meg*

        I had a standing desk in the office (it’s still there, waiting for me, if I can ever go back lol) and I think they key to me loving it is that it’s adjustable. I never stood all day, usually just in short stretches and then sat back down.

        Signed, a very lazy person who still remembers her store feet from retail days

    3. Colette*

      Got a floating desk, at standing height, with a drafting chair, so I can sit or stand as I wish. I think the bureau is going to be key to the solution for the OP, since she doesn’t have room for other furniture. If she can get a chair that allows her to use it as a desk, that will help. (This assumes she has room for a chair.) I don’t think a laptop will solve the problem, since working on a chair with Ottoman for 8 hours a day is not great, even if it works for a couple of hours.

      I know people see this as the employer’s problem to solve, but their solution is likely to be going back to the office or a co-working space. They can’t magically make her room bigger.

      1. Beth*

        I haven’t seen anything to suggest that OP wouldn’t want to go to an office or co-working space! It sounds to me like she’s made do from home during the pandemic, and now is upset that her employer is mandating permanent work-from-home. A lot of the replies seem to be assuming that work-from-home is a perk that she’ll want to try and find ways to keep, but that’s really not my read of the situation.

        1. EchoGirl*

          I agree. I think there’s been so much talk about how great WFH is for some people that it’s made people overlook the fact that other people would prefer to go into the office. It’s not just a space issue either; my mom, for example, HAS a separate room to work in with a desk and chair (I don’t live there anymore, so she was able to take over my childhood bedroom) but prefers the office environment because it’s easier for her to focus there. Heck, I generally like working from home (with a fully designated/arranged office setup; I’m a freelancer so my WFH predates the pandemic) but even I find it isolating sometimes. I absolutely think people should be allowed to continue WFH if they want to and if their jobs can be effectively done from home, but I really hope people don’t fall too far into the trap of thinking that everyone would rather be WFH than in the office.

  6. Anonymous for this*

    A former coworker, a high ranking technical manager, has been working from home for the past year with a desktop computer and 2 oversized ancient monitors. Their entire dining room has been taken over because engineering drawings are frequently reviewed as well and a few file cabinets have moved in too. While grateful to own a home large enough, they can’t even have family visit bc of the mess. Companies really need to look at how they are handling this.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      I set up shop in my kitchen over a year ago, much to my spouse’s chagrin. It’s the only space in the house large enough to accommodate my computer, monitor, and file box/supplies, and the table is a perfect height for being able to to comfortably type in an ergonomically-friendly position. I did buy an office chair after the first few months because the kitchen chairs are fine for meals but not fine for 8+ hour days. But, yeah, I’m “in the way” and we’d have to move all my stuff if we were to have to fit more than my immediate family for a meal at our table.

      My spouse has a basement office with a multiple-monitor set up (he works from home permanently) and has a huge desk he got second-hand on craigslist. It’s a pretty sweet setup, and he’s further away from the kids. But he was here first, and I’m just on an extended visit. :)

      1. Feel Like a Pack Mule*

        My husband has been WFH for a year and there is still no firm return to office date. His company kept touting having an “appropriate work only space.” After about 6 months of working off a laptop in a broken recliner in our living room (and he regularly needs to be logged into several customers’ servers at once), we bought him a computer desk, pushed aside several stacks of boxes, and set him up in the basement with a desktop crammed in between the electric meter and the water meter. Our house is small with absolutely no extra room so the basement is a labyrinth of bins and boxes. I am working hybrid now, but I at home I work on a folding table in the corner of our living room and my “office” was dismantled for several weeks because it was in literally the only spot where the Christmas tree can be set up. For the holidays, I worked in my recliner with my “desk” in a box under my feet. I think a lot of companies are clueless about how much space people without 6 figure salaries have in their apartments and houses to create an office.

  7. Beth*

    LW1: This isn’t advice for how this SHOULD be handled. The ‘should’ scenario here is, people should be using your request system, and if they’re not, your manager should be figuring out a system to handle that problem without constant interruptions to you. But given those aren’t happening, and it sounds like this is a long term problem that’s continued without anyone stepping in…my advice is, stop being helpful.

    In fact, be very very boring. IMs always get a copy-pasted reply: “Please submit your request to our request queue here: [link].” Calls always get a scripted response: “Did you submit this to the request queue? Okay, then it’ll be on the list for someone to address.” Any pushback or requests for you to do it now get another scripted response: “I’m sorry, according to policy I need to work off the request queue, so I can’t help you with that at this time.” Any further pushing after that gets “You’d need to talk to [manager/whoever is in charge of prioritizing requests] about that. Do you want me to forward the call?” Same response every time, same wording, no apologies, no explanations beyond your scripted wording, that’s it.

    One or two very persistent people might keep it up. But most will get the picture that this isn’t going to work and that you’re not going to be their dumping ground for their feelings about it not working. In the meantime, until they get a clue, using pre-scripted wording hopefully means you don’t have to think about it at all, so your mind can stay on what you were doing before they interrupted you. Best of all, the really pushy ones get redirected to the one who really should be handling this problem: your manager or whoever is in charge of managing requests.

    1. nnn*

      Building on this, if you have or can borrow the authority to do so, it might be helpful to lead with a general announcement to the effect of “We are no longer authorized to respond to support requests that do not have a ticket number. To get a ticket number, [insert request queue procedure here]”

      Sometimes it’s easier to get people to change habits if they have the impression that some externality has changed.

    2. Beth*

      An added thought: Whatever boring scripts you decide on, share them with your peers and get the rest of your team on board. With that, calls and IMs will always get the same results, so the offenders should get trained out of this behavior faster; the really pushy ones will always get funneled to the person in charge, so they can recognize the full scope of the interruption problem and figure out how to get it handled; and hopefully your turnover problem drops off as a result.

      1. Not A Manager*

        Honestly, if the team doesn’t fully get on board, then the members who don’t follow the script or who give in will get even MORE ad hoc work piled on them, because people will learn who provides results. Either they will eventually get with the program, or LW will stop being pestered as everyone will default to the people who respond to them.

        1. RabbitRabbit*

          Maybe, hopefully. Or maybe (especially if management is wishy-washy on this), they’ll start complaining about how OP doesn’t want to do their job and everyone else does. I think it’s worth getting colleagues in the same position to hold the line with them.

    3. Keymaster of Gozer*

      The broken record approach is frankly the only one I’ve ever found work in these situations (20+ years in various branches of IT).

      I did set up a ‘self help’ channel at work which is for everyone, not just IT, to talk about issues – things like ‘so what days do we get our windows patches?’, ‘how do I get application X to do Y?’ and a lot of others in IT regularly pop in to help out with answers. Sometimes that answer is ‘log a call via help desk’ but it’s actually reduced our interruptions a lot – turns out a lot of our non IT staff know the answers too!

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        This and I’ve done a fair stint in Change Management myself – the pressures really never let up.

      2. Elizabeth Bennett*

        I can confirm having been trained by my friend who is married to a pediatrician. Any time I’d ask her for general pediatric advice for my child, she’d reply, “Ask your pediatrician.” The training worked after about six times, because like Pavlov’s conditioned response, I’d start to compose a question to her and I’d hear her reply in my head, so I didn’t bother any more.

    4. Juniper*

      I’ve now worked at 2 companies with very well-functioning IT processes, and this is exactly how it goes. Any new hire or frustrated employee that tries to go directly to them, gets the same rote response and quickly figures out that they won’t get far that way. They lay down the law, early, without drama or apology. Someone asking a particularly easy question will also likely get a link to a guide that’s already shared in our portal.

    5. Forrest*

      Yes— someone needs to look quickly at whether this is a people problem (a small number of the same people who repeatedly try and bypass the ticket system) or a system problem (a large number of people just don’t know/understand that they are supposed to use the ticket system).

      The thing is, you can’t rely on other people to triage urgency for you. Everyone outside IT had no idea what constitutes “urgent”, “trivial”, “needs concentrated hours of thought”, “easy and routine” etc. If there are a couple of specific people who interrupt and jump the line, you can ask your boss to address it with those specific people. But if it’s a random selection of people who just know that they’ve got a problem and are simply looking for the easiest way to get it sorted so they can do their work, then you need a communications strategy that tells people the only way to get an IT problem solved is to submit a ticket, and a system of automated bouncebacks and consistent refusals to deal with it any other way.

      (FWIW, “busy” doesn’t mean “don’t interrupt me” on our IM system: it means “sure, send a message, but I won’t get back to you right away.” I think there’s probably also something here where you’re finding those kind of interruptions EXTRA interrupty because you see them as rude and they make you angry, which is more disruptive to your working process than something you feel entitled to ignore.)

      1. Doing the best we can*

        I disagree, busy at my work generally means someone is in a meeting. Yes, people might IM, but there is good chance you won’t get a response. A single IM might be like knocking on a door but that’s not what is happening

        The LW says “ Most people just ignore my IM status of busy and do the equivalent of just barging into my office while I’m working. If I ignore the IM, they call me five minutes later.” ”

        It is absolutely unreasonable to IM AND call someone when their IM says busy.

        1. Forrest*

          I don’t really know what you’re disagreeing with— this is a cultural thing, but where I work there’s no expectation that “busy” means “don’t interrupt me”. We have a “do not disturb” status but that isn’t to tell other people not to contact me, it just means that the computer switches off alerts.

          OP’s assumption that “someone phoning me when my IM status clearly shows that I’m busy is the same as barging into my office” isn’t a universal one, and it might be less disruptive to her working process to frame it as a system problem rather than a “these people are rude” problem.

          1. fhqwhgads*

            In that case I suppose it might be helpful for the company to have an explicit written policy. The last several I’ve worked for did, and they all stated that if someone’s status is busy/red, leave them alone, etc. So if there’s a cultural expectation mismatch (“busy” means don’t message vs “busy” means don’t expect an immediate response) that could be useful to clarify. But also, I really question the logic of “status says busy, they didn’t get a response within five minutes so they called” being not rude. I can’t really think of a purpose of “busy” other than to indicate either “leave me alone right now” or “expect me to get back to you once this status changes”, and in either of those cases, calling five minutes later for something non-urgent IS rude.

            1. Forrest*

              We don’t set “busy”— it draws automatically from your Outlook calendar. For some people, the only things they’ll put in their diary are meetings, but some people will use their calendars for reminders like “update monthly stats BY MONDAY” and they’ll make your status appear as busy. So big variance! Generally we’d assume that if someone needs to not be disturbed they’ll switch things off at their end.

              1. fhqwhgads*

                Ah. Ours pulls from Outlook but there’s a different icon for “Outlook says I’m in a meeting” (a little calendar next to your name) vs “busy because I set my status to busy” (red hexagon, evoking thoughts of Stop Sign). The latter gets used when they need to use the program for their actual work (as in the letter, interacting with their actual team) but don’t want anyone else to bug. True, if you want nobody at all to interact, you snooze notifications, set yourself inactive, or just log off.

    6. XF1013*

      100% correct answer. The interrupters are continuing to interrupt because they’re getting what they want that way. OP1 refusing to serve them via any method other than the correct one will slowly train them to use the correct method in the first place.

      It’s not easy. It requires a lot of nerve, because they’re going to get angrier and more rude until they learn. And you must have complete support in this from management or it falls apart; you cannot have a senior VP or C-level exec somewhere who agrees to their request and orders you to drop everything and help them. But if you can make this work, it’s really the only way to stop them.

      1. BoredFed*

        Really? I agree that random users calling random IT folks is a recipe for chaos. But the reason to have an IT support function is to support users.

        If I as a user have an IT problem that is preventing me from getting something important done promptly, then the IT support function needs to help me promptly. This may well involve the use of an IT triage human to keep things organized while meeting mission priorities.

        And if a senior leader tells you to drop everything to get something done, perhaps allow for the possibility that there is a mission related reason to do so, rather than an annoying distraction by contemptible users.

        1. Juniper*

          I don’t think XF1013 is saying that mission critical stuff should never get priority, or that when a C-suite exec asks you to do something you should push back. But it definitely happens that VPs buy into the urgency level communicated to them by their team, and when everyone’s stuff is critical (because most people think their own issue is), then you’re right back where you started. So if a VP isn’t able to discern the critical from the merely important, than it does become a problem because IT resources are generally limited and not everyone can be helped as promptly as they would like.

    7. hbc*

      Definitely. And for those people who never seem to understand that their pop up notification about an expired certificate isn’t a queue-bypassing emergency, I’d get permission from my manager to start blocking them. You can set yourself a reminder to unblock them in a week/month/whatever.

    8. Cat Tree*

      This is a good idea. If their behavior is no longer rewarded, they will eventually stop. The only caveat is that OP has to be fully committed to following this for several days. There will likely be a behavioral “extinction burst” where it gets worse before it gets better. But it definitely will get better, usually after a surprisingly short amount of time (I’m expecting a couple of days).

      The same strategy works for teaching your toddler to stay in bed at night, or training your cat to stop begging for table scraps, or often even getting that stage 5 clinger to stop texting 100 times a day. If they perform a behavior and never get any reward for that behavior, they will eventually stop doing it.

    9. Cas*

      Yep. I have the same job as LW#1 and our company culture is to log change requests which get addressed by a scheduled review process. But getting to this point took a lot of consistent reinforcement.
      We have a similar system with a change request queue, and then morning meetings to review the daily changes and afternoon meetings for high priority changes. Ad hoc calls are encouraged for emergency/urgent changes only and are always brief, just to advise of an issue, reason for change, and schedule a meeting to review and send comms etc. In the beginning I always had a lot of ad hoc messages and calls like LW#1 does, and eventually I started consistently referring the person to the change queue or ask them to discuss during the daily ops meeting instead. If they’re not getting what they want from you, they’ll move on to where they can get it. In our case, it’s by logging change requests and participating in the scheduled meetings. Now it is only the occasional pushy person (there’s always one) who tries to get around the process but consistency will always win out.

    10. Koalafied*

      One of the IT people where I work has changed his display name in our messaging system to something like: “Name – Please email helpdesk@company.com for support requests.” That way he can be on the system to chat with his own team members as needed but feels a bit more free to ignore anything else that comes in because the instructions they need are right there in his name when they try to chat him – meaning he’s not ignoring them so much as they’re ignoring him if they expect him to respond!

    11. Orange You Glad*

      This exactly how my company’s IT department handled this issue. The ticketing system was always in place but people either weren’t using it or weren’t aware they could use it for multiple things (we use the same ticketing system for all IT-related requests – from helpdesk troubleshooting to major project requests).

      A few years ago it all came to a head and everyone in that department began pushing back. A general announcement from the VP of IT went out with clear instructions on how and why we use the ticket system. They also made clear anything requested outside this system would not be addressed.

      After that, every email sent directly to an individual was responded to with a canned message to submit a ticket and the instructions to do so. If anyone ignored those and sent follow-ups, a response along the lines of “Did you submit a ticket? What’s your ticket # so I can look up the status?”. We got really fast and positive responses to questions submitted correctly, and push back for anything outside this system.

      There will always be a few high-level people that cannot be bothered to figure out your system (at my company it’s our CEO and 1 VP) but if the number of special cases is small, that is much more manageable than everyone trying to work outside the system.

  8. Professional Nerd*

    Re. #5 – I’m a high school government teacher and after reading this I’m definitely going to add a class or two covering employment law to my curriculum. My students are 12th grade and many already have jobs, so they need to know these things. Thanks for the info.

    1. Speaks to Dragonflies*

      Yes to this. I would have been great to learn something useful like employment law in high school instead of all the phylums in the animal kingdom. So much useless knowledge was taught when I was in high school. So many things taught that are only useful in specific fields or if you’re planning to be on Jeopardy. To the teacher above and OP 5, this is a wonderful and useful thing your doing and you don’t get paid enough for what you have to put up with. You have my best wishes and all the good will I can send.

    2. Snow Globe*

      I think that is great! I’ve ready where, by far, the most common job to experience sexual harassment are jobs in food service, which are mostly high school and college age people. And most of them don’t know that this is illegal, and they can make a report to corporate (if they are with a national chain).

    3. BRR*

      You and the lw are awesome! In addition to what Alison listed, I’d suggest covering if your employer allowed to deduct from your paycheck, if there are any laws for employees under 18 in your state or city, and unlawful retaliation.

        1. Ashley*

          And I am thinking the many things we think are illegal but really aren’t that come up here from time to time. Such as changing your hours or job duties. I also think general professionalism is helpful, and this is nuanced but learning to recognize red flags in interviews can be huge. (I think many of us have taken jobs because we need the pay check but at least if you go in eyes wide open it is a little easier and you can keep searching in the meant time.)

    4. Smithy*

      One thing that might be really helpful – and perhaps a little more about norms vs the law, is the relationship their parents should or can have in regards to their jobs. For those who have worked since they were under 18 – particularly in roles like junior camp counselors, a level of required and/or reasonable parental involvement may very well have been the norm.

      Again, this can be a case of identifying what is the norm for “in case of emergency contacts” (i.e. urgent medical attention) and when it’s not (i.e. calling out sick, even for more severe illnesses like strep throat or COVID).

      1. Smithy*

        I would also add that there likely are very relevant things to add around employment law for those below and above the age of majority.

        It can be around basic things like at what age you can work how many hours a week and under what conditions and what your parents are and are not entitled to know. But I think that makes for a good transition in how that ties to other norms.

    5. Belle of the Midwest*

      #5–I worked for a TRIO program (an Educational Opportunity Center) many years ago, and at my current university I supervise an Upward Bound rising senior intern every summer for our office. I’m so glad you are doing this for these young people, and I’m going to take the curriculum suggestions back to our UB director (she and I work in the same division) and see if we could use them for all our UB interns on campus.

    6. GothicBee*

      Yes! I’d say high school jobs are exactly when you most need this info because their bosses are more likely to take advantage of their ignorance (or just be ignorant about the law themselves). Plus high school students are young enough that there might be a difference in laws based on age, so it can be helpful to cover those differences.

    7. vampire physicist*

      A couple things I’d add, some of which are laws, some of which are just things I wish I’d known:
      – it is always legal to discuss salary/wages, even if the company discourages it
      – sort of covered in the part about discrimination but: understanding wrongful vs. legitimate termination (I had a roommate once who seriously looked into legal action after she was fired for no-call no-showing in a service industry job)
      – not law so this is a little out of scope, but I got my graduate degree after a few years of work and when I was a TA the conversation I had the most with students, and the one I wish I’d had before my first full-time job, was about setting boundaries at work and taking into account work/life balance (or in other words the ‘I left a well-paying job for this partially because it wasn’t my intended field and I had taken what I could get in a recession, but partially because they were stingy on vacation and didn’t take burnout seriously.’)

      1. OP #5*

        Before I wrote to Alison, I was trying to explain to someone in employment development what I was going to ask about. And while a lot of it has to do with what is legal or not, some of it is about developing some perspective on what is a good job situation, being able to discern whether or not a situation is normal or not.

    8. Working double time*

      One other thing I haven’t seen anyone mention yet is educating students on how to recognize an unsafe work environment and how to push back when that is the case. A lot of workplace injuries and deaths were the result of someone new not being trained properly and/or not realizing that they could say “no” to something that made them feel unsafe.

  9. Vichyssuave*

    #2 – Ooof, I’d be wildly tempted to send back an email asking if I would be receiving a pay raise equal to 3x the rent of a single occupancy residence/apartment in the city (assuming you don’t already make that). How out of touch and demoralizing.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        Except it’s actually being said. =)

        It’s Friday… I can’t help myself.

          1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

            The consensus is that Marie Antoinette, to whom that quote is popularly attributed it, did not actually say it or the like. The phase predates her adolescence, and even then was attributed to a nondescript generic “princess” and no one specifically.

          2. Orange You Glad*

            In french, the original saying was “Let them eat brioche” and it’s just a story. The phrase pre-dates Marie Antoinette and wasn’t attributed to her until years after her death.

      2. Self Employed*

        My allergist threatened to fire me as a patient unless I moved to an apartment big enough to have separate rooms for my bed and the rest of the bedroom stuff like chairs, bureaus, and clothing. This was in a high COL area and I definitely couldn’t afford to rent an extra bedroom for my clothing.

  10. Behind the Eight Ball*

    LW#5, As a well-educated, white woman, I’m so glad you’re teaching this class! Despite my privilege and father’s white collar job and my college degree, I had no idea what I should expect from a job/career when I entered the workforce. I didn’t know anything about rights or that a job would or should have benefits beyond a paycheck (I had the vague notion you needed a job to have health insurance in the US, but that’s about it).

    I don’t know if everyone along my path just assumed I would know those things about work culture or I would automatically know my “worth”, but no one ever told me. I didn’t realize just how much a job could and should offer until I met my now-husband in my mid-20s. I feel like I’m a decade behind in my career growth because no one ever went over the nuts and bolts of a career with me. I heard lots of lofty academic-type ideals when speaking about careers, no mention of “you need to be paid within a specific time frame” or “you should be looking/asking for a salary between x and y based on your education and work history” or “you should be getting a 401k, PTO, and health insurance as part of working full time”. I know those benefits don’t come with every job, but I didn’t know I should be looking for them at all. I thought I just had to work hard and take whatever came my way.

    TL;DR – Thank you for teaching this class. People don’t give young people enough career information.

    1. irene adler*

      Let me echo this!
      OP#5, might want to include specific (and even subtle) examples as to what constitutes things like harassment, abuse, unethical actions and retribution in the work place.

      Reason I suggest this: as a young woman, it was always my assumption that professional adults act professionally. All. The. Time. So if I felt harassed (verbal abuse, sexual comments, being screamed at, unethical behavior towards me, asking me to do something illegal, etc.), it wasn’t that they were doing something wrong; it was something I didn’t understand or I’d messed up in some way and deserved being yelled at or whatever. And, above all, I should just ‘take it’. It’s all part of being a professional.

      It never dawned on me that professionals would act unprofessionally. And that I did have standing to object to such actions against me. Even if they weren’t illegal actions, they sure were abusive. No one should just have to “take it”.

    2. Mixte Feels*

      ITA. I also wonder if there is room to give students the opportunity to role play so they have at least a little practice using scripts and seeing each other handle the tricky and sometimes intimidating/difficult conversations. Kind of like practicting for interviews as Alison recommends, it can be really valueable to have a sense of what these conversations involve.

  11. nnn*

    A bit of an out-of-box idea for #2: what if, instead of a computer monitor, you got a projector and projected your screen on the wall?

    This would let you see your screen from further away, so you might be able to sit in your armchair (mouse and keyboard on lapdesk? keyboard in lap?), and/or shift position throughout the day.

    Obviously this depends on many variables that we can’t see through the internet, like the specific configuration of the room and whether you have a blank wall, but I’m throwing it out there.

    1. anone*

      since the company already isn’t providing a laptop on request, what’s going to turn around and make them provide a projector?

      1. LDF*

        The fact that good laptop can cost thousands of dollars while a projector can cost less than a hundred? And OP might be able to afford it themselves even if the company won’t pay.

        1. Forrest*

          Hm— unless OP is doing something super memory-heavy like graphics or data analysis, I’d have thought a good laptop procured through the company would be more like a few hundred dollars not several thousand. It should be a fairly trivial cost for an employer compared to things like office space, recruiting someone else if OP leaves or paying out an ADA claim.

          1. TechWorker*

            I think laptops that are in the ‘few hundred’ ballpark are generally not designed for usage 8+ hours a day, even if you’re not doing anything particularly compute heavy.

            1. Amy*

              I’ve used a relatively low-cost Chromebook for years. They can definitely handle full-time daily use. Not to mention the millions of Chromebooks are out there in school districts, getting heavily used and beat up by kids on a daily basis. They are workhorses.

            2. Heather*

              Why would a cheap computer not work for 8+ hours a day? It might be a bit slower than something high-end, but it’s not going to arbitrarily turn off after four hours…

          2. Keymaster of Gozer*

            If the company is big enough to buy IT kit in bulk then yeah, most of our laptops here cost the firm about £400 each. Performance is pretty similar to the desktops.

        2. AcademiaNut*

          Good projectors can be more than you think, particularly if you want something that’s sturdy enough to last use for 40 hours a week, bright enough that you don’t have to sit in the pitch dark to use it, and high enough resolution to read small text when projected from across a small bedroom.

          1. anone*

            Yeah, having shopped around for a projector that can be used in just this kind of way…. they’re not that cheap. And from a company perspective, which is going to have a MUCH higher operating budget overall, the cost difference between the two items is likely going to be insignificant anyway (unless they’re planning to purchase in bulk), but if they’re too cheap/disorganized/uninterested to respond to one equipment request, they will very likely to be too cheap/disorganized/uninterested to respond to another.

        3. Observer*

          Lots of laptops cost less that $1,000. And the kind of projectors that work well with normal room lighting generally and also have a very short throw are NOT in the $100 range.

        4. Self Employed*

          Thousands of dollars for a laptop? If I can get a MacBook Pro at Costco for under $2000 what kind of laptop are you paying more for?

    2. jojo*

      Use a cable to plug the computer into the TV. HDMI. USB. My newer TV has two of each, in addition to the red,yellow, white plug ins for game stuff.

  12. Matt*

    #1 same for me, except that it’s an “old fashioned” culture (think governmental IT department that started in the 1970s with punched cards) and people use the phone. IM is something completely new, the last email refusers are retiring at the moment and the main mode of communication is phone, phone, phone. First thing that I learned on my first day as an intern, and later again on my first day as a regular employee, is that if your phone rings and you’re there, you answer it. And if the phone of a coworker who isn’t there rings, you answer it too. (It’s just internal communication, we don’t do customer support.) No worse mortal sin than unavailability. For the recent few years we’ve had a new system where you can set your availability status – but it’s just ignored. And that in the job of a developer who really should be able to work some undisturbed hours. I’ve tried to combat the culture for 20+ years by telling people to please email me, but to no avail – so I just have to live with the reputation of being the Unavailable Guy (thankfully I also have the reputation of being the Crazy Nerd Genius, so the flack I’m getting is not too heavy).

  13. cncx*

    OP 1 is why i am looking. I got roasted last time i mentioned how i was tired of interruptions with ppl like “but it’s quicker to call and more efficient” and like, i get there is a time and place for drive bys but not every single IT issue has to be a call or a desk visit. But apparently not wanting to get interrupted every single second is being “phone avoidant.” And i get for some people calls are better, but does anyone think about my job? We have a ticket system but people don’t want to use it, and it’s “oh it’s just five minutes”- everyone thinks their interruption is minor and short, and even when it is, if i get 20 a day all i am doing is firefighting and i hate it. I’ve tried using my adult words and asking people to send an email, i’ve tried telling them to leave my desk and send an email, i’ve even tried passive aggressive things like not answering my phone or not logging into chat.

    one user, specficially, has internalized the email part but will still come by after she sends it to talk about it. Another will see that i am out of the office in calendar and in chat, and then proceed to whatsapp my private mobile and if that doesn’t get instant gratification, they call my mobile until the dnd wakes up.

    My takeaway is there are some companies with a rotten company culture and you can use your words all you want but if the culture is interrupting people, then being an adult, having a ticket system, all that can’t really fix the real issue, which is that people interrupt there and it is a thing.

    tl;dr i think at some point changing jobs is the answer

    1. Terrysg*

      It’s more efficient for them, but can they understand that you are slower at dealing with their problems because of it?

      1. cncx*

        they really don’t care. i think in normal working places they can eventually transition from drive bys to redirecting people with “did you submit a ticket” to people actually submitting a ticket, but i think in some places the company culture is what it is for reasons that have nothign to do with IT , and that just steamrolling people to get info or tasks is just how things are done.

      2. LilyP*

        The impacts probably don’t circle back to them that neatly unfortunately. They don’t care if IT’s longer-term “important but not urgent” projects get pushed off, or if people using the request system get a slower response!

      3. Firecat*

        They don’t care. If management doesn’t enforce use of the ticket system and punished the IT professionals who don’t adopt a drop everything and help attitude then IT turnover, burnout, and inefficiency is the result.

    2. Gumby*

      Can you make it *not* quicker to call / drop by? Not that you ignore them, but put them in the same queue as the emails. Appeal to fairness. “You are right, that sounds like it might be a fast fix. But 5 people contacted me before you with problems of the same severity so I will slot you in after I handle theirs. It wouldn’t be fair to let you jump the line just because you came over in person.” Or when they do come by, treat it as a request to put the issue into the system. “Okay, tell me about it while I type this up for you. Um hmm. Yeah. Got it. It’s in the system. I’ll let you know when it is fixed.” Short term annoying but eventually when there is no reward for calling / dropping by they will change. But you have to be consistent. If it works sometimes then they will always try on the off chance it will work *this* time. (Barring actual serious emergencies.)

  14. Teekanne aus Schokolade*

    #5: teach about office capital and how to choose your battles if you can, and also negotiating.

    And, perhaps this is most important for me, teach them how to approach criticism as if they are consultants there to fix a problem and not take it personally :)

    1. lone joan*

      I think they are just asking for suggestions for areas of employment law?

      I also don’t necessarily think most people are equipped to teach to that level without specific experience to guide it.

      1. Kaiko*

        No, I actually think this is a great idea. I feel like a couple classes on workplace culture and relationship-managing can be helpful. We knit from reading this site that people tend to use their first job as a place to establish norms for themselves, so a reminder that not all workplaces are the same, and lessons on how to differentiate “work in general” from “this job that I am doing right now” could be helpful. You don’t have to spend a lot of time on it, but I like that idea a lot.

        1. OP #5*

          While my question to Alison was in response to her saying she’d love for people to be teaching some basics of employment law, the question comes out of a place of wanting the students to leave the class developing a healthy sense of what is normal for a workplace. Much of that comes out of law, and some of that comes out of principles of work relationships.

  15. A.N. O'Nyme*

    As a confused non-native speaker of English, can I ask what the difference is between a desk and a bureau? I’ve tried googling but mostly come up with either stuff in my own language (we use bureau as translation for desk) or as an office building ( which is the only English meaning of the word I was aware of and I’m assuming OP doesn’t have an office building in their bedroom)

    1. Beth*

      A bureau (in American English, at least) is like a dresser or chest of drawers–a generally rectangular piece of furniture with several drawers for clothing storage. They’re common in bedrooms, especially if other clothing storage space is lacking.

    2. Allison K*

      A desk is a table for working, that might also have drawers for files or supplies, but there’s knee room underneath it and you put a chair in front. A bureau or “chest of drawers” is a box full of drawers that can be vertical, with all the drawers in one column, or horizontal with two columns of drawers. There’s a surface on the top that people usually use for jewelry boxes or toiletries or to display small ornament, but no knee room – if you pull up a chair your legs will be right up against the front of the drawers.

    3. MJ*

      Yes, in the US a bureau is a different beast. In Europe, it is a writing desk with shelves and drawers and a lid that opens to form a writing surface.

  16. Lady Heather*

    LW5,
    – Independent contractor/employee; it’s not up to your employer to decide which one you are. Same for misclassifying someone as exempt.
    – Marginal tax: earning enough to be in a higher tax bracket won’t ever reduce your income as the higher tax only applies to the higher income. Though it can cause you to lose become ineligible for ‘poverty benefits’.
    This isn’t employment law but briefly covering it may be useful. A number of people think the higher tax applies to the entire income and are hesitant to earn more as a result.

    1. Jaydee*

      Seconding both of these!

      Also giving them information on where to go if they have problems or need help and advice

      – US Department of Labor
      – Whichever state agency handles labor and workforce issues (for things like unemployment benefits, misclassification issues, complaints about workplace safety or wage and hour violations)
      – EEOC and state and local human rights or civil rights agencies or commissions (for any complaints regarding workplace discrimination)
      – legal aid providers and state or local bar association lawyer referral services

      1. EPLawyer*

        THIS. You cannot possibly cover everything nor should you get too much into the “legal” aspects of the law. You’re not a lawyer (if you are, my apologies). Make sure they need where to go to ask questions if something comes up they aren’t sure of.

        Oh and its never too early to start reading AAM.

    2. Snow Globe*

      Agree – with that second one, I’m always surprised at the number of people in their 40s and 50s that still think if they move to a higher tax bracket they will “lose money”.

      On the independent contractor/employee thing, also explain in general why that makes a difference – if they are classified as an independent contractor, they still need to report the income and pay taxes on it PLUS self-employment tax. A friend was put into that situation, and since he just got a regular check rather than a paycheck, he thought he didn’t need to report it.

      1. Boof*

        That’s an interesting point – it may be getting a little into the leeds but there are laws for “household employers” ie, hiring someone to do something; [nanny, yardwork, even babysit] – all the taxes and reporting starts to kick in over certain thresholds (it may be worth letting them know the current local laws and thresholds). Albeit I suspect a lot of people who might hire a HS kid babysitter might not know them

      2. Lady Heather*

        On that note, cash earnings are also taxed. Your employer should be witholding taxes on them, and you should be reporting them any time the government asks you ‘How much did you make this week/month/year?’

        Along with that, if your employer is supposed to be paying taxes and unemployment insurance, but does not, you are often stil eligible for unemployment benefits – the employer may just get fined (as they should!). Either way, just apply for them, the worst that can happen is that they say ‘no’.
        If you are paid cash it can be more difficult to prove you had an income.

    3. MCMonkeybean*

      Omg yes please on marginal tax. This is the most frustrating thing when I watch people try to debate tax policy on the internet and it is so clear that most people have no idea how their taxes work.

      1. Self Employed*

        An alarming proportion of Congressmembers don’t understand how marginal tax works. As they vote on tax plans, it is their job to understand it, but they still don’t.

    4. Smithy*

      I think there are likely some very important features in speaking about working below and above the age of majority. There are certainly legals aspects about the number and kind of hours worked, but also engagement with a parent whether that’s just about permission or access to salary information.

      I think there’s also a nice way to include the norms of how when you’re 18+ there really is no expectation for a workplace to hear from your family/partner unless you’re severely medically incapacitated (i.e. in the ER, in surgery, etc.) or unavailable (i.e. detention). That being said, for young people who have been working since they were younger than 18, there’s no automatic way for them to have those dynamics laid out about what changes because they turn 18 and what doesn’t.

    5. JessicaTate*

      I agree. It’s not exactly employment law, but I was going to add: How to read and check your paystub – and WHY you should do it. How to check your rate/gross pay is accurate. How taxes work/come out. How benefits work/come out. What to do if something seems off. And the difference between being a contractor or employee.

      One thing is checking for wage theft, but I’m thinking of the LW who was being overpaid by $10k/year for 2 years without realizing it, and then was upset about having to pay it back. It’s worth the 5 minutes each pay period to give it a look over and ask if something doesn’t seem right – in either direction.

    6. GG*

      “Independent contractor/employee”

      I came to the comments to make sure someone mentioned this. In particular, OP #5, make sure your students know:
      1) W4 = Employee vs. W9 = Subcontractor
      2) If an employer has you fill out a W9 without it having been made clear up front that you will (legally) be a contractor and not an employee, then that employer is sketchy.
      3) If an employer does not, first thing on your first day, have you fill out paperwork, then at best they’re disorganized. But this could also be a sketchy red flag.

      Other random thoughts:
      * You should also go over the I9, what documents from Columns A, B, and C will work for them, and make sure they know to bring those on their first day of work.
      * Make sure the students understand the concepts of pay periods (not always a week, and not always Sunday-Saturday) and paydays. Also what state law is for pay periods/how often they need to be paid, and how long after the pay period ends payday is allowed to fall.
      * Maybe go into how to spot “job interviews” that are really pyramid scheme scams.

      1. Self Employed*

        Excellent points! And regarding bogus “job interviews” there are also other “jobs” people should run away from, such as those shady door to door sales jobs where they drop off naive young employees to sell stuff or subscriptions.

  17. Willis*

    For #5, this probably doesn’t apply as much to students, but I think state or local laws around asking about salary history are important and something the general public is often unaware of. That may be worth mentioning, if you’re in a location where it would apply.

  18. Despachito*

    LW2 – I`ve read your post and it seems to me that the easiest way out of this would be to buy you own laptop.

    I know it sucks as a good employer would probably provide you this, but given that:

    – it is not possible for you to afford another apartment (and I personally find it WILDLY inappropriate for an employer to even suggest this)
    – it is much more comfortable for you to work from your armchair with a laptop
    – any rearrangements of your furniture do not seem to solve your problem
    – your employer does not seem willing to budge in terms of buying you a laptop
    – you do not seem to want to look or a new job right now, and even if you do, you would probably still have to spend some time working from home

    From all the above, it looks to me that the cheapest and easiest solution for you right now would be to buy our own laptop.

    1. ceiswyn*

      That is unlikely to be acceptable to the employer, in a hidebound or confidential business.

      1. Despachito*

        But do we know that for sure? LW’s backbone would certainly be worth at least asking.

        1. Snow Globe*

          The LW mentioned not working in common areas because of security issues, so I would say it’s very likely that the company would have security issues around the use of a privately owned laptop.

    2. Bagpuss*

      The problem with that is that the laptop may not comply with the company’s requirements.

      I work in a business where confidentiality is very important (and in a lot of scenarios legally mandated, to the extent that there are criminal offences involved if it is not maintained) so we have *very* strict policies around what you can and can’t do on your own devices, and what you can and can’t do on our devices.

      If someone bought their own laptop they would only be able use it for work if they were willing to have all of our normal security etc. installed and to consent to our having full and unfettered access to the device – (which is not something I’d personally be willing to have on a device I owned and paid for) Of course, in our case it’s academic since we do ensure that appropriate devices are provided.
      One of the tricky things when everything was shut down at short notice was getting secure VPNs etc set up, and juggling kit to ensure that the people who had limited space at home did get laptops so they didn’t have to effectively sleep in their office

      1. Despachito*

        Bagpuss,

        I understand the security issues, and I absolutely think the burden of providing the laptop should be on the employer, and that it sucks if they don’t do that.

        However, in the LW’s situation, I see the following options:

        a) get the laptop from the employer (which they are not willing to provide, so this option discarded)
        b) get a new, bigger appartment (not doable, and it makes my blood boil to think that the employer dares to even suggest this, so also discarded)
        c) change the arrangement of the LW’s room (doable but very problematic – it would cause the LW a large inconvenience and if they get rid of the armchair, it would not even solve the health issues – so I would advise against it)
        d) find a new employer (which would be preferable, but understandably difficult given the current situation)

        e) buy their own laptop, and if necessary, grit their teeth and let the employer install whatever they want on it. And start searching for a new job. This is by far not an ideal solution, but it would buy some time and at least ensure a bit of comfort to LW’s back, and I assume that once LW finds a new job, the laptop can be reformatted.

        1. Caragh*

          No, the options also include following Alison’s advice, invoking the ADA, and getting their employer to do the right thing here. That’s the right way to go. “Just spend a fortune of your own money to deal with it yourself because your company isn’t making things easy” isn’t actually reasonable advice here!

          1. I'm just here for the cats*

            Also , is there a reason why LW couldn’t go back to the office full time? It sounds like the office is still there as they have to go in for meetings occasionally. I think the best option is to just work in the office. I bet other people are in LW same shoes.

          2. Just Passing Through*

            I may be totally missing something that makes it obvious that OP is in the US and therefore can request accommodations under the ADA, but I’m wondering what an equally viable solution would be for someone not based in the US who isn’t protected by the same disability laws.

            1. fhqwhgads*

              It’s a US-based site. So unless a LW tells AAM they’re not in the US (or something in their email address or spelling indicates they may not be), it’s very logical that the advice is default geared to the US. AAM’s an expert in US employment stuff, not elsewhere.

              1. UKDancer*

                In addition many countries have legislation providing for reasonable adjustments to be made. The UK for example regulates this under the Equality Act. I believe EU countries have similar legislation (although I can’t comment on the detail of it).

                So I think probably the advice for a non-US resident would be “check the legislation in your country of employment and see what recourse it provides.”

    3. Cj*

      I would love it if my employer but let me use my own laptop. It is way better than my work one. But I can’t. Security issues.

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        My productivity took a significant hit when we went from BYoD to central control. One-size-fits-all is hard; some employees prize mobility, others performance, and everyone’s sensitivity to price is different.

    4. I'm just here for the cats*

      This is not going to work. In every job I’ve had, especially with dealing with se sensitive info, there was specific software that was how we did our job. It was like we were just using MS word or something that you can just download off the web. Are software was specific to our company.
      Plus if the company has tracking software or something that’s not going to fly.

  19. Roeslein*

    That is one thing that really confuses me about the entire work for home discussion. Surely it’s obvious that people are going to need larger living spaces if they are going to work from home on a regular basis? After a year of working from my son’s bedroom (meaning he can’t go to sleep when I work late) while my husband works from the kitchen table, we are now looking for a bigger apartment (4 rooms instead of 3 – although ideally we would need a study for each of us as we are both in calls a lot of the time) to accommodate this and they are a lot more expensive than smaller apartments. Our salaries haven’t increased along with this, even though companies are saving money on real estate by downsizing offices! Why is nobody talking about this? Virtually nobody I know in Europe with a family has a spare room!

    1. Amy*

      I don’t know many people, in Europe or America, with a family or without, who have a random spare room available to be commandeered as a home office! Most everyone I know with extra space had to do a fair bit of planning to have it (because they chose to work remotely and were able to live in a lower cost-of-living area as a result, for example), and even that isn’t enough now that a lot of households have multiple people working from home.

      1. Rebecca Stewart*

        We just moved to a house that gave my fiance his own 12 x 14 office upstairs (spare bedroom) and gave my girlfriend who lives with us her own 15 x 20 bedroom downstairs which she obviously uses as both sleeping and work space (she’s in college) but she says that when we move, she wants her own office separate from her bedroom. So we are going to build a house with two master bedrooms and two purpose-built office rooms. With the way things are going, I think it won’t hurt the resale value.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          So we are going to build a house with two master bedrooms and two purpose-built office rooms.

          Master, two traditional bedrooms, in-law suite. If you sell it, you’ll do just fine; that setup is beloved. Your only “concession” is designing closets into the office rooms.

        2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          When I bought my house, one of my requirements was that each of us had a space for personal use that was separate from a sleeping place. I worked from home full-time at the time – now, five years later, all three of us work from home, two full-time and one 4 days a week. My husband’s office space is the largest non-master bedroom, my housemate has pretty much the whole finished basement to himself (with a sleeping room and a living/working area for his stuff and his snakes), and my house did that mid-80s “living room and family room” thing, so I took the one that’s off to the side as my office and left the central one as the functional living room. But I planned all that from the get-go, rather than having to make it work on the fly, and I wouldn’t have been able to afford a house large enough to do it that way in a higher COL area.

      2. ThatGirl*

        We (my husband, me, our dog) live in a 3-bedroom house, but the two extra rooms are a guest room and storage. Hypothetically we could rearrange the guest room or clean out the extra storage room, but the reality is that it would require time and money, and possibly require a wifi booster and more furniture. (For some reason the wifi signal is lousy in the guestroom, so Zoom calls from up there are a no-go.) So for the past year we’ve been mostly working in the living room together, occasionally from the kitchen table, and my husband does his confidential client sessions in our master bedroom with the fan on. It’s not a *great* set-up and I’m sort of waiting to see if we will need to invest some extra time and money into a workspace if I will be WFH more permanently.

    2. lailaaaaah*

      Also, prices for places with spare rooms and gardens have shot up due to lockdowns – and they were already expensive.

      1. MCMonkeybean*

        Seems like prices for pretty much anything have shot up around me. The housing market has gotten pretty crazy!

        1. EchoGirl*

          Yeah, I remember that a few years ago they were saying we could see a housing recession in 2020. I remember that my instinct at the time was that we should wait to think about buying a house because we could likely get a better price in a year or two, plus concerns about negative equity. Fortunately my husband talked me out of it.

          1. EchoGirl*

            Belatedly adding, it occurs to me that, even apart from the question of when the house was on the market, there’s no way we would have ended up with the house we have now if we’d been dealing with a 2020 market, because it has a really nice little double office in the basement. That apparently wasn’t a huge selling point in 2018 (by the time we came around, the sellers had had to lower the asking price significantly due to not being able to sell it at the higher price), but they’d have been raking the offers in in 2020.

    3. WS*

      Yeah, pretty much everyone in my area has a spare room…because it’s a rural town of 800 people far away from any cities. Most people don’t have this, and even here most people don’t have a spare room for each adult worker.

    4. Keymaster of Gozer*

      No spare rooms in our house here in the UK and no kids either! Husband unit has been working from the sofa and I’ve been switching between the room we keep our gaming rigs/household cleaning stuff in and the bedroom.

      (Technically it’s the cat’s house, I’ve been reminded. We just happen to be his live in staff)

    5. allathian*

      We have a spare room, but only because we planned for two kids when we built our house and it didn’t turn out that way, secondary infertility due to my age and increasing weight. I’ve come to terms with that and I’m rather happy to have a home office, especially now.

    6. Snow Globe*

      Over the last year in the US, the market for first time home buyers has been on fire, and one of the reasons is likely due to people needing more space for WFH situations. Many people have also been moving from downtown small apartments to suburban , larger apartments, likely for the same reasons. If you work from home exclusively, it may work to move further out where you can get more space for the same money, but if they eventually expect people to be able to come in to the office once a week, that won’t work.

    7. Amy*

      Lots of people just work in either bedrooms or living rooms. Before the pandemic, I used to mix it up at coffee shops too.

      Even in a small space, for me, it still beats needing to be in an office 5 days a week.

      1. Crivens!*

        Yeah, luckily for us my husband and I are about to move to a new apartment that offers me a small sunroom to use as an office and him a second bedroom to do the same, but even if we were staying in this one bedroom where he works at a small desk in the living room and I work on the couch, I would do that forever as opposed to going back into the office regularly.

    8. Malarkey01*

      I think it really depends on the job needs and equipment. I’ve WFH for years and traveled a lot for work, and we all use laptops which I unplug and carry around my home, office conference rooms, coffee shops as needed. All I need is a chair (although I’ve also worked on floors at times) and an occasional quiet space for important conference calls.

      I know this isn’t true for everyone.

    9. Joielle*

      We’re currently in the process of buying a new house to have two separate offices, since my spouse and I will both be working from home at least half the time going forward. We were planning to buy a bigger house at some point anyways so not a massive problem, but the WFH schedule definitely moved the timeline up a few years. It is extremely expensive! The market is wild around here (and everywhere, sounds like). We’re not willing to move to the suburbs, though, so that cuts out some cheaper options.

      1. hamburke*

        We closed last month. Super hot market! But buying was cheaper than renting. Our mortgage payment will be $250 less than going rental rates.

        And we had to move – our landlord was not keeping up with maintenance and causing water issues – terrible for our mold-allergic asthmatic kid…and not great for anyone else.

    10. anonny*

      My employer is going to have everyone work from home for likely the foreseeable future because they’re saving so much money on it. They’ve given us a small amount of money to cover WFH expenses, but personally it’s only covered a fraction of what I’ve had to spend to get a basic home office setup that doesn’t antagonize my roommate or leave me with tons of back pain.

      It’s so frustrating that they won’t pass along more of the savings to employees, many of whom earn fairly low salaries and live in an expensive city where cramped apartments with lots of roommates are inescapable on said salaries.

      1. Heather*

        I completely agree about these kinds of policies, but hopefully companies will learn in the next few years when it becomes harder to attract applicants if you can’t offer them a space to work. Perhaps we will move to a system where WFH jobs pay better.

  20. mako*

    #4 Only exception would be if it’s an internal job posting and you’re reaching out to the hiring manager as an internal candidate. At least this is encouraged at my company to have informal meet/greet with hiring manager to make sure applying for the job really fits with career goals, and that you’re aptly qualified, etc.

    1. Daisy*

      Additionally, I’m in the UK and I commonly see on external job postings things like, ‘we encourage potential applicants to contact Blah Blah at email address for an informal conversation about the post’, so I’m not sure it’s as verboten everywhere as it apparently is in the US.

      1. Forrest*

        Yes, this is a massive difference between US hiring culture as I understand it from Ask A Manager and UK hiring culture. I think the UK expects a lot more work from the applicant upfront — most applications for professional roles are at least a couple of hours work, and they usually take you straight to a formal interview with decisions being made after that. So it makes sense that we get to ask questions and find out about the job before we invest time in the application! The US system seems to be a lower level expression of interest in the first instance, then phone screens to establish mutual interest and find out more about each other before proceeding to (one or more) full interviews.

        1. allathian*

          Yes. In addition, at least in Finland the hiring manager’s phone number is often published on the job posting, meaning that the phone screen is just as often initiated by the applicant as by the hiring manager or HR department.

      2. Elle by the sea*

        Yeah, it’s quite common here, both in academia and industry. And many “FAANG” hiring managers have it on their LinkedIn profile that they are hiring for roles and anyone interested should message them. I guess these managers prefer hiring someone from their network. There are even jobs where you are encouraged to not apply before contacting the hiring manager.

        But in general, if isn’t clearly indicated anywhere, hiring managers might get irritated if you contact them before applying. Those ads usually don’t even have the name and contact detail of the hiring manager, which is a good hint suggesting that they don’t want to be contacted by applicants outside the application system.

  21. Andy*

    #1 Some IT administrators solve this by being constantly cranky. It works perfectly, but has drawnback that people then don’t like you all that much.

    Less hostile solution is to not cooperate with these requests, no exceptions. Every single time someone interrupt you, politely tell him/her to report to proper channel (wherever you want to collect requests). And then work ONLY on requests that are reported into proper channel, again no exceptions. Ideally, cooperate with other people in the same position.

    People will NOT like this. They might complain about you being uncooperative yadda yadda. They will try to go through your manager etc. However, you need to persist through initial pushback, and act respectfully all the time so that they have less “proof” of your uncooperativity.

    But, they will get used to it and the system will work better.

    1. lailaaaaah*

      This definitely works. The most effective was when I went out on annual leave for a week – people quickly realised that their emails and IMs to try and jump the system for their ‘urgent’ queries were actually going entirely unanswered, whereas tickets were being picked up. I still get the odd problem staff member, but generally speaking, making myself totally unavailable on anything but the ticketing system has done wonders.

    2. Forrest*

      Yes, I’ve been through the settling in pains of IT systems switching from “however you can get hold of someone” to “tickets or gtfo” in a couple of jobs. The transition period is Not Great, as people keep trying the old way and ringing whoever was helpful last time and getting increasingly irate, “have you SUBMITTED a TICKET?” responses, but once it’s bedded in it’s so much better and simpler as a user, and way less stressful for staff.

      However, it doesn’t sound like it’s OP’s job to introduce it manage that system! Handling how the IT service operates and making sure it DOES operate that way should be someone’s actual job. Hopefully that’s something OP can get their manager onto. If you can’t, OP, that would be where I’d look for another role.

      1. Andy*

        > However, it doesn’t sound like it’s OP’s job to introduce it manage that system! Handling how the IT service operates and making sure it DOES operate that way should be someone’s actual job.

        Honestly, welcome to typical IT management. Frankly, unless you work in a company that requires technical background for managers, it wont happen. Because your manager wont really understand why you need uninterrupted time and how big issue those interruptions are. And wont care.

        Moreover, this change will annoy people outside of department. And again, managers typically really really dont like to make such changes, no matter what other consequences of situation are.

        Yes, theoretically managers should do these things.

    3. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I confess I read way too much of the BOFH archives when I started working in IT to ever be anything but ‘slightly prickly’.

  22. A.N. O'Nyme*

    Now that my confusion over the term bureau Vs desk has been cleared up (thanks, everyone!)… honestly that sounds like a painful set-up even for people without health issues. Your company is being pretty tone-deaf, and I definitely hope the ADA conversation will pan out reasonably.

  23. DyneinWalking*

    #5: I feel like this is an opportunity to also mention the inherently transactional relationship between employer and employee that Alison so often has to point out.
    Employers are basically purchasing a “product” (the employees skills and work time). Employment is not a favor and not a charity – the company makes money from the combined work output of its employees; compensating the employees for their part of the work output is a business expense. If the company owners can’t afford to adequately compensate their employees, they can’t afford the business. They have to invest more in the beginning to get the business running, but if it’s successful they’re pocketing the difference between the business expenses and the gross earnings (i.e. the profit). They have an inherent interest in pushing down employee compensation – this reduces expenses which increases the difference which means higher profits and more money for them!
    It’s scary how many letter writers here don’t realize this and let themselves be guilt-tripped into working super hard for peanuts. Of course the power differential often means that they have little choice – but at least they should be aware that caring and investing less is not a moral failing, and that they deserve to be fairly compensated, and that they get to not feel loyal and job-search for a company that treats its employees fairly. Loyalty is earned by the company by being loyal to its employees, not owed inherently – and in many situations in employment, loyalty is a completely misplaced sentiment. Loyalty to bad employees decreases the quality (and increases the business expense) of the company product (and it increases the work for the good employees), loyalty to bad companies encourages unfair treatment of employees.
    Even though contracts are not the norm in the US I think it makes sense to mention that that’s common in many countries, because that further underlines how it is (should be) a transactional relationship with no favors owed.

    Also, for the part that covers applications and the interviewing process, I think you should mention that the interview really takes place on both sides – the interviewer is trying to vet if you’re the right fit for the position and the company, and you are trying to vet if the position and company are the right fit for you (even if your options are limited). At the very least, you should figure out if you could fulfill the work expectations – what’s the point of taking a job you can’t do well? You won’t advance, won’t get a good reference and might even be fired, and then the next job search will be even harder.

    Basically, my point is to cover the common misunderstandings about work that come up on this blog. I’m sure there’s more, but these two misunderstandings are the ones that struck me most and I think that they could really impact people’s careers. And they’re probably especially common among low-income students, where working for peanuts and feeling like you should be glad for any job you can get are probably just the way things are.

    1. Escapee from Corporate Management*

      Great suggestions. One more: discuss the legal definition of a hostile workplace environment and that in a transactional work world, it applies not to a boss being “mean”, but discriminating based on specified personal characteristics.

  24. lailaaaaah*

    LW1 – my IT team has moved largely to WhatsApp (and more recently Signal) to communicate between ourselves, because otherwise we get the same issues you’re describing with people continuously trying to jump the ticketing system and management being unwilling to enforce it. Is that something that might work for you, too?

  25. Jenny D*

    LW1: I’ve been you, so this responsei s based on my own experiences.

    The reason that people keep interrupting you is that they get what they want when they do that. In order to make them stop, you need to make it more productive to do it your way and less productive to do it the wrong way. To do this, you *must* have the support of your manager and coworkers!

    Every time that someone calls or messages you about something that is not actually urgent, they go to the end of the queue. Whatever they request, tell them that you can do it once you’ve gone through the queue in your ticketing system and if they want to be sure you that it gets done, they can put in a ticket for themselves. Otherwise you’ll do it as soon as the queue is empty. (Which is never, by the way.)

    Every time someone puts in a ticket and then call you to make sure you take their ticket before all the other tickets, that ticket gets put at the end of the queue.

    In order for this to work, *everyone* in the team needs to work the same way. If you’ve got one person who wants to be “nice” or “kind” by helping out outside of the system, that person is going to get inundated with requests and they will completely blow the system out of the water. (Again, speaking from experience here!)

    And your manager needs to fully back you. Because people *are* going to complain to them, and people are going to complain to their own manager who will then complain to yours. They need to have your back here. Better still, they can be the ostensible reason for taking a hard stance – “well, I’d like to help you, but Boss has said that we have to ask everyone to put in their own tickets, so I can’t do anything until you do that.” If people ask why this is necessary, one answer can be “because that way we can track the number of requests so we can get enough staff so there won’t be delays in handling issues”.

    If you also have a setup with one person being the go-to interruptee on any given week, get a separate “duty manager” phone number that is used for this. If someone calls you when it’s not your week, tell them “oh my manager wants everyone to use the duty manager number so that they can track how many requests come in on phone. So I’m very sorry that I can’t help you unless you put in a ticket or call the duty phone.”

    As I said, I was you. But I did have my manager’s support, and when we got the system going and the entire team was handling calls etc the same way, it really helped. There were still some people who would call, but they did learn to call the duty phone, and after a while nearly all those calls were either urgent issues or “I’d like to put in a ticket but I’m not sure on what I should write, can you help me do it right?”. Needless to say, the latter calls should always be handled promptly.

    To summarize: Make it more rewarding to use the right way and less rewarding to do the wrong thing. People will eventually do the thing that gets them what they want, so make sure that they only get that if they do what *you* want.

  26. Knope Knope Knope*

    OP 1–since people won’t stop with the “emergencies” can you create an on-call shift schedule during working hours? Basically designate one person to handle all of the incoming requests at a time. Then send out a communication—emails, meetings, whatever—that all urgent requests need to be directed to the urgent slack channel/IM account etc. The on call people can consistently say “this isn’t an emergency, file a ticket” but at least it diverts the interruptions away from you and let’s people on your time essentially schedule a time out of their week to be interrupted and claim back the rest of their time.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Eeek no, bad idea, bad idea. That actually rewards the queue skipping, puts extra strain on your staff (I do on-call stuff but I’m paid VERY well for it), diverts one person a time away from BAU work….

      The trick is to find a solution that doesn’t increase the workload of the already beleaguered IT staff.

      1. Allonge*

        May I ask why this would increase the workload? Our IT support has a setup that sounds like this – there is one central phone number to call for issues (and one central email) and they take turns being responsible to pick up the phone (morning / afternoon). When they have the phone, they are not scheduled for other work (or at least not time-sensitive other work). Everyone else does not get (or take) calls. It’s distributing the work differently.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Simple mathematics- you’re adding on an extra task to the whole department. Therefore more man hours are required overall, unless you decrease the BAU workload. Which, in IT, never happens.

          1. LilyP*

            People like OP1 are *already doing* this work (answering phones/IMs and redirecting work) though, they’re just interleaving it with their regular work and therefore wrecking their ability to focus and be productive. If you can concentrate the interruptions on one person, everyone else should have much more time/concentration to finish the actual work.

          2. Knope Knope Knope*

            We do this on my team. It actually decreases workload and interruptions. It works out to about a half-day shift per week. During that time the person on the phone isn’t doing anything else, and it prevents anyone else from being interrupted.

      2. cncx*

        yeah, this happened where i worked and guess who got all the thinking time and the recognition for project work and guess who was on the phones with queue skippers all the time… it isn’t ending well.

        1. LilyP*

          I’m guessing women are getting stuck with queue duty? Still, isn’t it easier to point out that discrepancy and address it under a system like this, vs women just in general picking up the phone more often because they’re more pressuredd to be ~~helpful~~?

  27. Ange*

    LW#5, I would also include that employment rights are subject to legislative change/different in different jurisdictions, and how to check for any changes if they move to a new location/new laws are passed.

    1. irene adler*

      Yes! Good point!
      And some rights are not enforceable in very small workplaces- like under 15 employees. So be aware that not everything applies in all sizes of work place.

    1. Datalie*

      I second this as someone who participated in Upward Bound as a high school student and the McNair Program as a college student! I got SO SO SO much out of both. The career class did not include anything on employment law which would have been helpful. I also wish I had the opportunity to learn more about the different types of jobs there are out there. I didn’t even know the role I am in now and love even existed!

      Best of luck with the class and thank you for working with the Upward Bound program!

      1. OP #5*

        Thank you for sharing how TRiO works! I was an EOP student myself a few years ago. The career landscape sure does change all the time, and one thing I’m hoping students leave my class with is the ability and the curiousity to find what they’re looking for in their education and their career.

      1. Bob*

        You are welcome.
        You may also want to consider expanding the reach of your course, either offering it online or licensing it or running seminars to train others or to train others to teach it. Or turn it into a book or textbook. Or even YouTubing it.
        You might be able to make an income stream of it and you could expand your reach immensely.

  28. Archangelsgirl*

    LW #2 – I have never had a bureau in my adult life. I hate them, because they take up too much room. I have a bed with double drawers underneath. This gives me 8 drawers, four on each side, and way more storage than I could ever use. If you’re not close to six feet tall, you may just want a single stack four drawer bed. It’s queen sized. I would recommend this regardless of what you decide to do about your home office situation. Just thought I’d pass it along.

    1. Diana*

      Even without buying a bed with drawers, they make individually sold drawers to put under beds.

      1. Tabihabibi*

        Its true. I got cheap cloth/plastic under-bed storage for my clothes from Ikea when I was starting to semi-live with my now husband, and 6 years later I’ve stuck with it because it works so well in our small bedroom. They are still in great shape. Small apt city dwellers are sometimes already using that space to have any storage though, so it wont be a solution for all. Personally, I’d rather cram in and work from home and consider that enough of a perk, but the trend has indeed been for employers to pass on costs where they can and some pushback may be warranted.

  29. items*

    I’m LW4. This person also advised I tailor my LinkedIn and resume carefully, only applying to the jobs that match them very well. And this seems like great advice, is it?

    I’m trying to transition from chocolate teapot delivery to design. There are a lot of skills that overlap but work and hiring norms are different.

    1. Allonge*

      This sounds like pretty basic (and so, mostly correct) advice.

      The part I have an issue with – this may just be the phrasing – is applying to jobs that fit your resume. You should tailor your resume to the specific job you are applying for and not the other way around! The point of the resume in the application is to show your experience and skills in a way that applies to that particular job.

      1. items*

        Right, I guess what I’m paraphrasing is “don’t apply far and wide, decide on a more narrow set of traits and target those jobs”.

        1. Allonge*

          I see. This sounds right, as long as you don’t go too narrow. Knowing what you would like to do and having a sense of what kind of jobs allow you to do that is a plus. The opposite (send as many applications as humanly possible, it’s a numbers game, apply for everything) is mostly untrue.

          I have to say though, for me it sounds like basic advice still, so I would not take it as evidence of the high level expertise of this person.

        2. ceiswyn*

          Yes. Pick the jobs you’re really interested in, and do a proper job of those applications.

      2. Keymaster of Gozer*

        It’s like dressing for the interview, not expecting to find companies that’ll conform to your preferences of dress.

        (And why I own far too many suits)

  30. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    LW1, if you have the latitude to set up a parallel chat system that’s restricted to only your team, that could help. My team used icq on an encrypted channel in the past, and currently about half of us use group MMS (mindful of its insecurity).

    LW2, you can ask your employer to open up RDC or VNC (Windows or OSX/Mac) remote desktop and use an inexpensive Chromebook from your armchair. Perhaps not the ideal solution, but Chromebooks make cheap terminals, most models have excellent battery life, and you need very little computing horsepower for remote desktop.

  31. AuntAmy*

    LW1, really, your manager needs to advocate for you, but you know this already. Would you and your team be able to set up a weekly “office hours” situation where users could get their “easier” questions answered, get tips, etc.? If you implement this, you could also place it in your auto-reply: “please attend office hours on Weds from 11-12” or some such.

  32. Bree*

    LW certainly needs and deserves a laptop, but if the entire office is moving to a hybrid office-remote model, the employer should also probably be planning to get them for everyone else, too. Asking people to come in for meetings regularly but without the technology they need to conduct them or to smoothly continue day-to-day work around meetings and between settings seems like a recipe for inefficiency. Every workplace I’ve seen where partial remote work is successful requires being able to carry your computer around with you! Companies who are saving on rent with this model should definitely invest some of those savings into upgrading technology.

    1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

      Was thinking exactly this! We are prioritizing laptops + docking stations for current + new hires vs. desktops for this reason!

  33. Amy*

    My company has company cars. They cover all the associated costs like gas, insurance, tolls, parking. We’ve still had a few people in NYC who have refused the car. Even with all the costs, it can just be a real pain.

    I’m sure it’s always a risk and it depends on company culture and your workplace collateral but not having a desktop computer in my tiny studio apartment is a hill I’d be willing to die on. (I’ve worked from home in tiny NYC apartment and roommate situations for years) It just seems ridiculous to me.

  34. it_guy*

    LW1 – One of the simplest solutions to the people who jump the queue and call you directly is to tell them they are not the highest priority and you will get to it when you can. Even if the change is a 2 second change, they need to learn not to do this.

    1. Boof*

      I think there will be more success just saying what the person should do “oh ok! Put in a ticket and we will get to it within 2 days [or whatever is a realistic timeframe]” rather than getting into Reasons why you won’t drop everything and deal with it right now and how they aren’t a priority.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I have a very informal and never spoken about at work list that I drafted up at home that has things like:

      ‘Approach me outside of work to talk about your IT issue: extra day added onto all your calls.
      Demand I fix your kid’s pc as well as your work one: 5 hours added onto your call times.
      Call me rude names? Get used to a broken computer’

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        Call me rude names? Get used to a broken computer’

        I found that adding “–noverbalabuse” to my dnsmasq.conf file makes my router extremely temperamental to bad behavior coming in over VoIP… Address me with an expletive and the call will probably drop!

  35. Ginger Baker*

    LW2, if your roommates would otherwise be okay with you moving your desk into the common area (which it sounds like they would be?) could you instead move your wardrobe to the common area (thus preserving your clothing storage albeit in a non-ideal space, and freeing up space for a desk of some kind)? It’s not great but it might be a solution.

  36. IDK*

    OP 1 – my husband is in IT and when someone comes to him directly instead of following the channels put in place, his response is “put a ticket in.” After someone hears this a time or two, they will start to do it. It’s a form of training them to follow the proper channels. It’s not rude (as I feel some IT people fear coming across). You simply cannot adequately prioritize every task if you don’t have the tickets.

  37. fhqwhgads*

    The exception to #4 is if you actually know the person already, but then it’s less-so “introducing yourself” and moreso “letting them know you’ve applied”.

  38. Sylvan*

    OP1: Sorry, but I’m not understanding Alison’s advice to change your username.

    Anyway, my company’s IT department had a very similar problem. They solved it with a policy supported by management: IT can only be contacted for support by email. They’re allowed to reject or ignore Teams messages, calls, texts, in-person drop-ins, and emails to their personal email addresses (instead of the support email address).

    1. Sylvan*

      Also, management shared the new policy with us, not IT. When IT noticed that people were falling back into old habits, management sent (pretty harshly worded, lol) emails about it to the entire company. I don’t think this could work so well without such clear support from higher-ups.

    2. Fabulous*

      I think the username advice is more applicable in a program like AIM, but the corporate messaging programs I’ve used, like Skype or Teams, doesn’t allow it.

      1. Sylvan*

        Oh, AIM. :’) IIRC, you had to make a new account when you wanted a new username.

        Slack lets you change your display name, but you’re always identifiable by your real name — changing your display name won’t stop anyone from contacting you.

    3. JimmyJab*

      The main reason I ever have to contact IT is because my email isn’t working at all (common issue with our setup and password changes) so having no phone number would be wild where I work. Just saying, sometimes email really doesn’t work.

      1. Sylvan*

        Yep, that has happened to me, too. At my company, if you can’t send an email, you contact your manager and they send an email for you.

      2. Forrest*

        All our phone systems work through our computers so if you can’t log on to your computer you’re just ENTIRELY stuck!

  39. IWantToGoToThere*

    LW2 – I may get some blowback for this comment based on what others’ opinions on your situation seem to be, but this is something I would probably do, so I’m putting it out there. Can you just… move your workstation to the common room and not tell your company about it? It sounds like on the days you have meetings you’ll be in office, so when you’re working from home, you won’t have meetings and no one will have any way of knowing that other people are in & out of the room. You would still have the option to step into your bedroom and away from roommate noise for phone calls.

    Companies have security measures in place for a reason, and I understand why they want to err on the side of never allowing a non-employee to be able to view what’s on your screen. But these are not random strangers, these are your roommates! And when you’re working from home, you’ll be home with them, with very minimal potential to leave your computer unattended. I don’t know you, but I assume it’s very possible that your roommates do not work at competitors in your industry, or even work in the same field as you. Unless you have reason to believe they are particularly nefarious and would sneak over to your computer to view sensitive information while you’re in the bathroom or taking a break for lunch, and then do something harmful with that information, I don’t see this as a big security risk. Even if you did, you could make a point to lock your computer any time you step away. This is not equivalent to leaving your laptop unlocked for hours where any stranger could access it.

    Yes, it’s technically against your company policy to have your computer set up in a common space. But you’ve tried to work with them on the issue, and they’ve been unhelpful thus far. My advice: keep pushing for a laptop (how absurd in this day and age that they won’t provide one), and in the meantime move your stuff so you can work in the common space.

    1. Metadata minion*

      If it’s something like medical or legal information, both the company and the LW could get in serious trouble if literally anyone who isn’t explicitly allowed to view the information has access to it. It doesn’t matter that the roommates are more than likely decent people with no desire to get access to someone’s medical records; the laws are strict for a reason there.

      1. pancakes*

        I’m a lawyer who was working from home before the pandemic and no one has ever inquired about who else is in my apartment. Confidentiality is extraordinarily important, yes, but so is trusting professionals to use their professional judgment. I’m inclined to agree with IWantToGoThere that the letter writer is likely better positioned to understand the risks associated with their own roommates better than the employer is. I’m not sure exactly what you mean by access – unless the letter writer keeps their bedroom door bolted every time they step out, the roommates would have some access to their computer. That isn’t necessarily the same thing as having access to secure information. I log on via VPN with two-factor authentication, and don’t keep local copies of anything at all on my own system. Even a prying roommate, if I had one, wouldn’t get very far if I left the computer unattended.

    2. Delta Delta*

      And also, why should the roommates have to surrender part of their home to one roommate’s office? That’s not fair, either.

    3. doreen*

      But these are not random strangers, these are your roommates!

      They can be both. It is not uncommon for landlords in my city to rent out bedrooms individually, so that the people renting bedrooms 1-3 have no say in who the landlord rents bedroom #4 to. Bedrooms in this situation usually have locks on the door to keep the other renters out.

      1. IWantToGoToThere*

        I suppose you’re right, I don’t know how well LW2 knows their roommates. It’s possible they have no personal relationship; and even if they’re not in the situation you describe, they could just be acquaintances who live in the same apartment vs close friends. My point, I think, still stand though. Unless a roommate is literally looking over their shoulder while they’re working, I don’t see how working in a common space is any more of a security concern than working in a bedroom – presumably, if a roommate wanted to try to access LW2’s locked computer, they could do that any time LW2 left the apartment.

        As someone who works (from home) with sensitive personal information regularly, I appreciate the security concerns about not letting this info get out of my hands, but I also appreciate the blandness of this information when you’re not seeking to exploit it. Like oh, I know that Jim Smith at 123 Main St. in Omaha, NE has a 682 credit score. Super interesting. I don’t know Jim Smith, and I’m not seeking to exploit him, so this information isn’t useful or interesting to me. Even if a roommate saw something like this on a screen in passing, I can’t imagine it would interest them at all.

    4. Observer*

      and I understand why they want to err on the side of never allowing a non-employee to be able to view what’s on your screen

      You are assuming that it’s an “error”, but it might not be.

      But these are not random strangers, these are your roommates!

      There is a lot of privileged information that one is not even allowed to share with immediate family, much less room mates (who may not even be friends).

      And it’s not just about someone sneaking something off an unsecured computer. It’s being able to look over someone’s shoulder to see stuff.

      People don’t have to be “particularly nefarious” to misused sensitive information. The OP could easily lose their job over this, and it would be the kind of firing that makes it EXTREMELY hard to get another job in the industry.

      1. Forrest*

        Yeah, although there’s a point where if the data is THAT sensitive the company needs to get real and provide the damn tech. “This is highly sensitive and you need to treat it as such” is one thing; “this is highly sensitive and you need to treat it as such and btw that’s all on you we’re going to do nothing to support you” is quite another.

        1. IWantToGoToThere*

          Yes! This is the point I was trying to make. Protecting sensitive information is serious business. But if the company or its clients/customers are put in jeopardy by a passing roommate or family member glancing at the screen of someone working from home, they probably shouldn’t have the employee accessing that data from home at all.

          In the strictest sense, it is against security protocols if my boyfriend is working from home with me, passes my desk, and glances a table I have pulled up with sensitive information as he says hello to me. But in reality – there is no impact to the business or to the people whose information I’m viewing. It’s a letter of the law vs spirit of the law kind of thing.

          LW2 needs to evaluate the risks of their roommates inadvertently glancing at their screen from time to time (and the likelihood that their employer would find out somehow, and be upset about this) vs the inconvenience of not having a dedicated space that’s comfortable for them to work. Only they have the information needed to make that call.

        2. Observer*

          Yeah, although there’s a point where if the data is THAT sensitive the company needs to get real and provide the damn tech.

          Of course! No excuses for the company here. But that’s not going to help the OP if they get fired (or worse.)

          Honestly, I think that if the ADA accommodation rout doesn’t work the OP should consider looking for a new job. This company is not behaving responsibly.

  40. Anon this time*

    LW2: You may be able to use your desk PC from your armchair.

    See if there’s a monitor stand that’ll work with your armchair. (Several office supply websites offer them.) Then see if, under ADA, your employer will pony up for the cost of it, plus a wireless keyboard and mouse/trackball/trackpad.

  41. Delta Delta*

    #1 – If the OP has a workspace with a door, and if the door has a lock, lock the door.

    1. ThatGirl*

      The interruptions seem to be mostly virtual (IM, phone), not people literally barging in.

  42. Essess*

    OP5, make sure to cover multiple types of common wage theft. Especially for types of starter/minimum wage jobs. Examples – restaurants trying to dock employee pay when customers walk out without paying, docking pay for accidental breakage, refusing to properly distribute tips (especially bosses that take the tips which is illegal), any job that orders you to work while off the clock or punch out before finishing cleaning duties. Also about time reporting, and the laws against shifting worked hours to the next week’s timesheet to avoid being paid OT. Also check your state laws about how soon a schedule must be posted — some states require x day notice for schedule changes. All of these are common illegal tactics that employers do to young workers who don’t know better.

    Also – teach laws about required breaks and mandatory lunches to make sure they know their rights. Also about invalid questions during an interview and a recommended way to deflect answering inappropriate questions (such as marital status, national origin, disabilities, etc…). Make sure they know the actual definition of ‘hostile work environment’ and the actions that fall under it and how to report it properly.

    1. Nona*

      I came here to say the same thing. I’d also include unpaid trial shifts. Some basics of how to negotiate a new position, and knowledge of employment norms/laws (or even better, how to find out about norms/laws in the future when they’ve forgotten everything else in class) so that you students have the confidence to leave a terrible employer. So glad you’re doing this, I would have found is so incredibly useful.

      1. triplehiccup*

        Re: having the confidence – I recommend having students roleplay these conversations (ideally with strangers pretending to be grumpy bosses). Looking back, I had a hard time identifying when things were wrong in real life even though I could talk about it in the abstract, and I definitely didn’t know how to address it. They could practice doing it in writing as well. Ooh, that makes me think of the idea of documentation – when, what and how do you track harassment and other problems at work (e.g., have copies not stored at work or on work machines).

  43. Hopeful*

    LW 5. This is such a good idea! I had a similar class for my major and I would have loved for them to cover employment law. Another thing you might want to (briefly) cover is benefits that can come with jobs. I know that every company is different and offers different benefits, but going over the most common ones (health/dental insurance, 401k, etc.)

  44. Jyn'Leeviyah the Red*

    LW #5 — this is so fantastic and helpful of you to organize! I would also suggest, depending upon the area(s) the students wish to enter for careers, that social media presence be addressed. As an educator, one thing I encourage interns do is look at their social media with a critical eye. It may not seem fair, but employees have been dismissed (or not interviewed) due to posts. I’m not sure what the laws are in your area, but it would likely help the students to be aware of what might come back to bite them.

    1. MissCoco*

      Regardless of their fields of interest, I think it’s a great idea to discuss social media use!
      Things like privacy, and how to express themselves in a way that will be palatable for future employers would be useful for everyone, and it would be useful for students to know if they have interests in particular fields that are more likely to monitor or look at social media, so they can be aware of that early.

      I think it is a wonderful idea and I wish LW 5 lots of luck!

  45. JohannaCabal*

    #5 This is a very good thing you’re doing.

    Also, some employers can take advantage of younger workers who don’t know their rights, particularly young employees in their first jobs. In my experience, such employees may not tell their parents if something comes up that is troubling, either because their parents work similar jobs or they don’t want to involve their parents. For example, I’ve heard of employers docking worker’s pay because of someone using a counterfeit bill to make a purchase, stealing goods, or dine and dashing. Docking pay for dine and dashing really gets to me because waitstaff pay is usually low (and I’m sure the pandemic has lowered it more), and this can put the worker in the negative. In fact, I think NY and California forbid restaurants from requiring servers to pay for a dine and dash. You may want to look up your state laws for this.

    1. irene adler*

      IF nothing else, give the younger workers a way to find out for themselves if they suspect something feels not okay in regards to their employer or employment situation.

  46. Heffalump*

    LW #5: Cover the employment at will doctrine. Young people tend to assume that if something’s unfair, then it’s illegal.

    1. Spearmint*

      Yes, this is very important, though the reverse misconception of “if my employer does it, then it must be legal” is also pretty common among young people.

  47. JXB500*

    LW#2 I’m sorry you have to deal with this and I hope your company will at least cover some of the costs of whatever you need. If you must make do with your current situation, then it may be that you need to sacrifice your dresser and move your clothes to underbed storage and looking at other ways to add storage to small spaces, such as wall shelving, over-the-door hooks or storage. Risers for your current bed would be the simplest/cheapest way to gain more height underneath, but not my first choice. We really like the metal folding platforms that serve as the mattress foundation. Inexpensive, sturdy. Easy to move when the time comes. They leave about 14″ of storage space underneath. In small rooms, we place plastic pull-out drawers underneath.

    I personally can’t work with a laptop in my lap. But I do use a Bluetooth keyboard, mouse, plus external monitor. So as long as my monitor cable can reach – it doesn’t really matter whether I have a laptop or desktop and where it sits. If you mounted your monitor on a swing arm or rolling stand, you could work from your side chair if that’s your choice. We also use the rolling laptop desks, a bit bigger than a TV tray.

    Best of luck.

  48. Archaeopteryx*

    LW2 in the meantime while you work on this disability accommodation request, as someone who also has scoliosis I would definitely recommend propping up your keyboard on some books to a height where you can stand all day. It takes some getting used to but it’s really good for your back, and if you don’t stand stationary but kind of jiggle around and stretch, it doesn’t wear you out after the first week or so.

    1. Cedrus Libani*

      When I was living in San Francisco on a grad student salary, I had just enough room for a bed and a bookshelf. The bottom half was storage, the upper half was a standing desk. One shelf at elbow height for an external keyboard and mouse, and then one above it for a monitor. Wasn’t perfect (I’m a good touch typist but being literally unable to see the keyboard was an adjustment) but it was very compact and very cheap.

  49. Public Health Professional With Scoliosis*

    Regarding the person with no comfortable space to work at home: it definitely sounds uncomfortable, and I could see where that would exacerbate back pain. But, it may be worth noting that scoliosis is not usually associated with back pain and is not worsened in the short or long terms by sitting in an uncomfortable spot, so that specific basis for accommodations might not make much sense. If the scoliosis is so severe that looking at a computer screen at certain angles is literally hard to accomplish, the scoliosis is actively and rapidly worsening, or you’ve had recent surgery to stabilize your spine, that would be a different matter — but relatively few people with scoliosis are in those situations. If you have mild to moderate scoliosis that has resulted in some imbalances in muscle use, physical therapy can often help, and its availability would be independent of changing your workspace setup. (Physical therapy can also help with back pain in general, of course.) This doesn’t mean changing your setup or getting ADA accommodations is necessarily wrong — it really sounds like a better work setup is well worth it here — but scoliosis might or might not be disabling, and your overall condition may be treatable. Good luck.

  50. GiantPanda*

    OP1, have you explored the privacy options of your system?

    Ours has a setting “Do not disturb” (not the same as “busy”) that blocks messages and calls from non-priority contacts. If you can put your team (and your bosses) on priority and everybody else on normal this might help.

  51. kt*

    I have not read all the comments but here’s an idea for the LW who doesn’t have space for a good office setup: if accommodations are really hard to come by and for some reason in-office doesn’t work, see if your company will pay for a co-working office. Yes, that’s a bizarre solution, but in a few cases it might make sense (company has dramatically downsized office space, a closed office in a co-working space is secure enough, and it is cheaper for them to do that than provide accommodations or have OP in office).

  52. DrSalty*

    LW #2 – can you negotiate working from the office full time? If you have to be onsite for meetings then they must have a site. I’ll be honest, I don’t really understand how that works. Do you have just one meeting every day? Are all your meetings on one day of the week? This seems like the worst of both worlds to me.

  53. Boof*

    OP5 – I am not sure how much you want to get into some of the scammy things out there, but also consider discussing the pros and cons of “direct sales” particularly MLMs, and breakdown the actual finances usually involved.

  54. NewYork*

    LW1, you might also want to look at the form for help, and see how complicated it is. People complained to our IT about this, and they may it more user friendly

  55. HungryLawyer*

    Kudos to you LW5! Those kids are lucky to have someone invested in teaching them about their rights in the workplace. While it’s not an employment law topic per se, I recommend teaching them about the role of HR. This might fit in nicely with Alison’s suggestion of “what to do if your employer is violating your legal rights.” Understanding that HR is there to guide and protect the company, not the worker, would be a really helpful frame of reference for your students.

  56. LilyP*

    For OP1 — it sounds like maybe even just picking up the phone/responding to the IM to say “sorry make a ticket” (or possibly even just looking at the phone/IM program long enough to see who’s calling and screen it) would be enough of an interruption to knock you off track, which I totally relate to. In which case, you need to figure out a way to carve out time to turn those things OFF so you can focus. I know you say that’s not possible but I’m gonna throw some ideas out there — if neither these nor “retraining” people can solve your problem I think you’re left with either mentally readjusting to see on-call support as a core function of your job here or finding a new job.

    – Designate focus blocks of 1-3 hours at a time on your calendar where you set an IM/email status and turn your phone completely off. Work with your manager/team to schedule these so they’re less disruptive to your team.
    – Set up DND mode on your phone so it only puts through calls from your boss/key coworkers. Or maybe you could get a google voice number only for your team or something. Respond to other calls/voicemails all at the end of the day, or not at all.
    – Shift your schedule so that there’s a hour or two at the beginning/end of your day when most people aren’t online.

    If all of these get vetoed by your manager, put it back in her court to figure out if there’s any way forward here, or if handling these side requests promptly is already part of your job.

  57. A commenter!*

    OP4- there’s no reason to email a hiring manager first. As a hiring manager I cannot talk to one candidate and not another, so if we would actually consider you for the role it’s better if I don’t talk to you. If someone emails me I just refer them back to the recruiter to get the process started – which would have happened anyway if you applied for a role through the careers portal and were qualified for it.

  58. AnonEmployee*

    OP 1, I live your reality too. I still have users who email then send a chat asking if I saw their email, chat me about things that anyone from our service desk can assist with, or call me now that we’re WFH. We have an established server desk that users can email or call into so a ticket can be created and assigned to either myself or one of the other five on my team. I have more control now that people can’t physically see me, but it’s still interruptive. I am now pushing back a LOT more, if someone chats me, I tell them I’m busy and redirect them to the proper channels, same with calling my cell (I don’t answer any number I don’t recognize anyway), my vm message directs them to call/email the service desk. You have to be a broken record with this until they GET IT. I’ve been able to train some, not all, so I just keep redirecting as needed. The only ones I don’t redirect are senior staff, everyone else, REDIRECT. You have to block any other forms of communication, and yes IGNORE people who run roughshod through your Busy status. I have my manager’s back on all of this, and hope you do as well.

  59. JT Rideout*

    #3! I can definitely relate to the hesitation for asking for more during a promotion. One thing to think about is if you’re not fully happy with the salary when you first accept the promotion, imagine how unhappy and underpaid you’ll feel once you’ve been in the new role for a year (or 2!) with that salary.

    I had a similar situation a few years ago where I knew I would be getting promoted to the next level, and it would be a significant jump. I did my research in preparation and had $X in mind as a minimum for the new role. When my boss gave me the promotion papers, my new salary was $X -3k. I ended up chickening out: it felt weird asking for that extra $3k when I was already getting a 10% raise, so I didn’t negotiate.

    Fast forward to now- my boss’s boss was so apalled when he took over and saw my salary that I’ve gotten a 13% increase the last 2 years in a row to make up for it. I was lucky that I had grandboss to advocate for me, but not everyone will have that; we have to be willing to advocate for ourselves!

    1. Letter Writer 3*

      Thank you for the advice! “Advocating for ourselves” is a very helpful way to view this.

  60. ArtK*

    For #1:

    They: Help! I’ve got this (not really) urgent thing for you to address.
    You: Please file a ticket!
    They: But.. but… but, this is “urgent”!!!!!!
    You: I can’t (really won’t) work on it without a ticket.
    They: That’s too much trouble!
    You: I can’t work on it without a ticket.

    Repeat that last line as a response to any objections. Eventually they’ll either get trained to go to the request system first, or get so annoyed they move on to another person (who should use the same technique.) If they gripe to your boss, boss should have your back: “The way to get help is through the request system. Period.”

  61. Amethystmoon*

    Something that might help for #1 is a group mailbox. Think something like requests@xyzcompany.com. We do this where I work in some depts. All official requests must go through the group mailbox and not personal mailboxes. Give full access to only those in your team. It helps.

  62. Message in a Bottle*

    About #4’s question. I have seen advice on LinkedIn about reaching out to hiring managers and trying to establish a networking type relationship with them so they know your name if a job comes up. It is not about asking for a job, to be clear. Just about networking in your field and also providing value to the person before anything. Sometimes the advice is to read and like their content. Though some hiring managers don’t post content, just jobs. Sometimes it’s about reading the company’s blog or IG or any interviews the managers have done and commenting on how it helped you. I don’t know if that’s annoying. It’s also about doing this for months with nothing in it for you except getting to know these folks over time. That’s the advice for networking I’ve seen.

    I haven’t taken this advice but some have said over time it’s led to opportunities but usually far ahead in the future like any networking.

  63. SugarHaus*

    OP #5 As an Upward Bound alum and the first person in my family to graduate college, I just wanted to say thank you for all the work you are doing!

  64. Becca*

    LW2, I’ll preface this by saying this is not what you should have to do, but assuming you A) don’t want to leave this job and B) even if your company provides accommodations, you might still not want to work in your living room longterm, there may be a way to create space in your bedroom for your “office.”

    I live in NYC and have a 10′ x 11′ bedroom (which includes the closet space, which protrudes out from the wall about 20″ and takes up one whole wall with the door along that wall, cutting the actual space in the room down to about 8.5′ x 11′. My husband and I have a queen size bed, a tall dresser, and my desk (about 36″ wide) + ergonomic desk chair in there. It’s puzzle-pieced together, but as long as we’re diligent about keeping the space clean and tidy, it works very well and I have a dedicated space where I can sit down to work each day and then get up and “leave” work when I’m done. Sometimes I’ll still work on the couch or at the dining table to mix it up. My company has also decided to go remote full time, and while it sounds like they handled it better than yours, they can’t magically create more space in my tiny apartment! My husband’s job is location-dependent, so we also can’t move (even though my company did give us the flexibility to do so.)

    All that to say, if you have room for two chairs in your bedroom, there is likely room for an office setup instead of the chairs. I am not saying this is what you should HAVE to do or that any of this was handled well/correctly! I’m just saying, if you want to stay at this job and you want to keep your living room separate as your “social, non-work space,” there may be more opportunity to create a permanent workspace in your bedroom since there is room for two chairs in there. On the other hand, you may prefer to keep the chairs in your bedroom so you have a place to chill out in there other than your bed, since you have a roommate.

  65. Tinker*

    #5 —

    A subtle point I think might be valuable here: be direct about the point that just because something is legal does not mean that it is right and does not necessarily mean it’s unavoidable, and in that light address other viable tools for solving the problem. What I mean here is basically the distinction between “actually that’s legal and therefore lie flatter” and “actually that’s legal, so here’s how to address it with your manager or skip-manager, here’s how to gauge whether there are alternative employers who don’t do this, here’s how to form a union, etc.”

    It seems like when folks speak off the cuff of essential knowledge for pre-career and early-career folks, it tends to be of the form “they need to learn about dress codes, coming to work on time, paying your dues, and not arguing with the boss” — points that are disproportionately about deference, conformity, and responding cheerfully to unpleasant situations. These points do not lack value, especially if they’re properly taught (for instance, that dress codes are arbitrary and hence variable, and that you shouldn’t argue with the boss in much the same way as you shouldn’t argue with anyone), but I think the message that it is actually okay to want things (to not be yelled at, to have some convenient piece of equipment for your work environment, to wear functional clothing, whichever) and to pursue having those things by whatever method is likely to be effective is comparatively underemphasized.

    Not to say that the central issue shouldn’t still be the law, it’s a question of the tone to take when the answer comes up “it’s legal”.

    1. OP #5*

      Your points are well-taken. And while my initial question to Alison was in response to her remark about wanting someone to teach high school students employment law basics, somewhere in there was also wanting to give students a healthy baseline of what a job can be, so that when their job isn’t they’ll realize that it’s not good sooner than they would with no perspective on what a good job can be like.

  66. Hiring Mgr*

    This may not be answering the question directly, but how is #2’s employer planning to have the entire company work from home regularly without providing laptops??

    1. Fabulous*

      She said they sent her with a desktop setup. I think as long as they provide a computer, it doesn’t matter as much what kind it is.

      1. BlogsFrogsMogs*

        Actually, it sounds like it very much matters what type of computer their company provides.

        1. LilyP*

          They might be providing desktops specifically to make it harder for employees to violate the confidentiality requirements. Can’t give in to temptation and work an afternoon from the coffee shop if you physically can’t bring your computer there!

          1. Not Australian*

            Well, maybe, but those are two separate problems. It’s completely possible to track *where* a piece of equipment is being used, and if you specifically ban your employee from using it in public places than you have good cause to take action against them if they defy that. OTOH the laptop gives a work-from-home employee plenty of options, like – in ideal circumstances – opting to work out of doors in good weather, or in the kitchen while their partner is ill in bed, or whatever.

    2. The Other Dawn*

      Most people in my company who have been working from home since the start of the pandemic don’t have company-issued laptops. They use their home computer and a VPN application to log into the company servers, which is a desktop. The only people in my company who have a laptop are managers and above. At my previous company, there were no company-issued laptops at all. Anyone who wanted the ability to work from home occasionally used their home computer and the VPN application.

  67. Raja*

    So I am one of those people who didn’t work from home before, did during the pandemic, and would like to stay WFH. I am also lucky to have been able to move to get a bit more space for desks when my husband and I both started WFH. So my perspective may be skewed.

    But I am also a person who started working at a job that was an 8 minute drive from my house and then the company moved offices to make my commute 1-1.5hrs by car or train. This is a thing that happens, can be deeply inconvenient, and that the company is within its rights to do. I had to decide if the job was worth the commute. For other people this was a boon, as they lived where the new office was and had been doing the reverse commute (for context, I live in a big metro area so the office moved from a suburb where I lived to the main city, where many of my coworkers lived).

    Outside of the very reasonable accommodations that this employee is asking for (just get them a laptop! that should not be hard), I think of this as something similar. Would this person have taken the job if they knew they would be working from home most days? Perhaps not. Would I have taken my job if I knew the commute was so long? Probably not. But circumstances change, and sometimes a job becomes not the right fit. This person’s company has “moved offices” from a physical space to a WFH arrangement – something that can be deeply inconvenient or a boon, depending on your circumstance.

    I do think that the company should do whatever possible to ameliorate the negative effects of the change on its employees, to acknowledge that this is different from what they signed up for. This could be helping people with home office setup, and should definitely be getting people laptops if that’s how they can make it work in their space. For us it was paying for a train pass for 2 years after the move for anyone affected. But I don’t think that they are required to increase salary to cover the cost of a spare room, just as my company didn’t increase my pay to cover the lost time from my new commute or the extra hours of daycare. I also think the company needs to think hard about whether it really needs to require a private space and not just require it reflexively, but there are some scenarios in which it does make sense for a company to need this.

    It’s not so easy to just get another job if the one you have changes so much that you don’t want to work there anymore, so I don’t want to sound like that’s an easy solution! But sometimes a job changes – could be a new manager you don’t like, a new product line that makes the one you loved working on obsolete, a new office floorplan moving you from a private office to an open space, or a new office location that changes your commute. You need to decide if you’re willing to continue to work there. This does NOT apply if you are seeking reasonable accommodations for a disability (or small accommodations like a laptop v. desktop even without the ADA), so it’s not directly relevant to the LW, but addressed more to the comments about it being unfair in general for a company to make a change like this.

  68. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

    LW1: Not justifying the behavior *at all*, but on the flipside of this, I do think work at home has exacerbated a lot of tech issues that previously wouldn’t be considered emergencies.

    For example, if I get locked out of my work cell phone while I’m at the office? It’s an inconvenience. I can put in a ticket, and they get to it when they get to it. Even if not until the next day, I have a personal cell for after hours and can tell my boss to ping me there if it’s a true emergency. But if my work cell is borked when I’m working from home? That’s the device I use to actually log into our secure system (for those that have them, it’s an RSA Soft Token app). I can’t even *check my email* until it’s fixed, let alone do any work. This is an OMG RIGHT NOW emergency (and I am not even able to put in a ticket myself to fix it! I would HAVE to call someone!).

    That’s an extreme example, but there are others: i.e., it’s your work from home day and you have x,y.z planned because you have fewer interruptions, but the system you need Y for has crashed. Your deadline may not be until next week, but doing that from the office is problematic. Similarly, you have a,b,c, planned for an in-office day because you can’t do that efficiently from home (example for me, I don’t have my double screens at home), but B has crashed. Are these emergencies? Probably not, in the grand scheme, but they feel that way to the employee because now their ability to do their work efficiently is compromised.

    As a solution: I am wondering if you can work out some sort of hybrid with your boss? For example, allowing you to block off certain swaths of time to turn off your phone/IM (maybe have an alternative method FOR CERTAIN PEOPLE ONLY – a personal cell vs. work cell, for example) so you can concentrate. So it wouldn’t be all day, but you would have something. Then when the needy folks don’t get you, if it really is an emergency, they’ll escalate it.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      But all of those examples could be managed by having one person triage incoming messages, tickets, calls, etc. Maybe each person does one triage day a week or fortnight (possibly including handling the thirty-second tasks like password resets) and everyone else can work through the tickets in triage order, uninterrupted.

  69. Engineer*

    OP #5: Include laws about hourly pay, minimum wages, overtime, and who is responsible for paying for employer’s property when broken on the job. Shady restaurant owners love to make servers pay for broken glasses, dropped food, or say a mandatory meeting outside of regular working hours shouldn’t be paid.

  70. hamburke*

    Lw5- can you teach about the employment paperwork? The number of improperly filled out I9s, W4s and especially VA4s I get says this is an issue!

    1. OP #5*

      Yes, I am planning on spending some time on the application, and that’s also a great time to talk about handling the hiring paperwork.

    2. PersephoneUnderground*

      Chiming in to say- teach them to read all paperwork! It’s unusual, but important, and it’s on you to understand what you’re signing. If someone verbally says “oh we don’t actually follow that” then ask to have it removed, or cross it out and initial that section to show you haven’t agreed to it, because it’s still legally binding whatever is said at the time. So yeah, teach them to go ahead and ask questions about paperwork if they don’t understand some of it, even if it’s boilerplate.

      Common example: getting a page to sign saying “I’ve received the employee handbook” when you actually don’t have a copy yet. They might forget to send it to you, but if you sign that their records now say they did, and there may be important policies in there you need to follow. So ask for a copy of the handbook before signing that particular form to ensure you’re being accurate. Etc.

  71. nnn*

    #5: One thing I’d love to learn about in this kind of class is what happens day-to-day, on the ground, in terms of direct interpersonal relationships, when you try to stand up for the rights your employer is denying you. I find a lot of information out there about your legal employment rights don’t get into this, and for many people it’s not at all intuitive.

    Example: At my first job, we had a series of tasks we were required to do before we clocked in for our shift (counting tills, etc.), and a series of tasks we were required to do after we clocked out.

    Clearly wage theft. Clearly illegal.

    But if I mention it to my manager, she doesn’t change a thing. (And likely mocks me in front of other employees and customers). If I put in for the time I actually worked, she pays me for the scheduled shift. If I don’t start counting my till until the actual moment my scheduled shift begins, the cashier who was on before me can’t leave until I’m ready to start, therefore making her work extra time that will also be unpaid. I had a lot of trouble finding a job because I’d never had a job before and this manager is my only employment reference in my whole life.

    How does teenage me actually handle this, in real life, with the actual real-life interpersonal relationships involved?

    Yes, this is HARD! That’s why it would be particularly valuable to learn about it in class.

    1. PersephoneUnderground*

      Yes, important to tackle these hard questions. Another is what to do if you’re being sexually harassed, what your employer’s response should be, and what to do if their response isn’t good enough (e.g. your hours are cut or your shift moved so you aren’t working the same times as the person harassing you- not good enough, also illegal because you’re being punished). It happens a *lot* at service industry jobs and to young workers because the harassers bank on their victims’ inexperience.

  72. Raine*

    RE: LW#5 – some things come to mind that may not have been previously mentioned:
    – “intern” does not always mean “work for free”. Two of my past companies not only paid interns, but gave them limited benefits as well.
    – along with that – “trial period” should not also mean “work for free.”
    – definition of “probationary period” and what’s a reasonable length of time for one (e.g. up to 90 days)
    – what “other duties as required” might entail if listed in a job description
    – the difference between between friendly at work and friends – what not to share (e.g. it’s OK to say you need time off for a personal appointment; nobody needs to know what that appointment is for)

  73. Raida*

    the WfH thing is a real pain, basically it’s businesses saying “We are renting, for free, office space in your homes. You will provide the furnishings, pay the electricity, ensure the internet is working and paid for.”
    Do they ever look at it like that? It’s SUCH a presumption, and that’s because usually someone *requests* to WfH a portion of their time so they need to be responsible for providing the things needed for *their desired* workspace.

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