my neighbor plays loud adult content while I’m on work calls, letting candidates know my boss is a micromanager, and more

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

1. My neighbor plays loud porn while I’m on work calls

While all my colleagues and I are working from home, I can sometimes hear what’s going on in other people’s environments: things like traffic noise, roadworks or their partner on a call nearby. That’s totally fine but it does make me aware that people can hear perhaps more than you might think they would be able to when we’re talking.

My problem is I have a noisy neighbor. Typically this has meant loud music coming through the walls. If it’s particularly loud, I’ll be extra mindful about muting or else if I’m talking a lot sometimes I’ll mention it. Again, it’s not a massive issue although I wish my neighbors wouldn’t do this! I don’t know who it is because of the nature of lots of flats close together and it’s hard to identify even the floor it’s on for sure.

However, recently things have escalated. Every now and then, during the work day, my neighbor will watch porn, on their loud speaker system. I can hear it pretty clearly from where I am, but again I can’t tell which apartment it’s coming from. I have no idea if my colleagues would be able to hear if I was in a video call when it happened but I suspect it might be possible. What should I do if this happens? I feel like mentioning it or drawing attention to it would be super inappropriate, but I hate the idea that people could hear it and feel uncomfortable! Can I just have technical issues if it ever happens to avoid accidentally broadcasting it? But what if it’s an important meeting?

Oh no. And with so many people at home right now, you can’t be the only one who’s having loud porn intrude on your work day. Plus, people at home with kids! What is this person thinking?

Ideally you’d be able to tackle it at the source by talking to your neighbor. “Please don’t broadcast porn on loud speakers where it can be heard in other homes” is a pretty reasonable request. But since you don’t know where it’s coming from, that’s out. Can you instead contact the building management and see if they can do something about it? Another option is to try to track it down yourself — like going door to door to see if it becomes obvious which apartment it’s coming from. Or — and I say this as someone who’s not usually a fan of notes, but desperate times call for desperate measures — you could even leave notes for all your neighbors about what’s happening, explaining that you don’t know the source so you’re writing everyone in a plea for relief.

But as for what to do when it happens during work calls: when you can mute yourself, do. And if you can’t, I’d refer to it in general terms — “I’m sorry, I have a lot of background noise from a neighbor right now, I apologize if you can hear it.” If it’s really obviously porny, you might have to plead technical issues and/or give your manager a heads-up about what’s going on. It’s certainly not something you should be penalized for. (Also, can you try calling a friend the next time it happens, so the friend can tell you how audible it is on their end? If it turns out they can’t hear it, that might give you some peace of mind.)

Read an update to this letter here.

2. How can I let job candidates know my boss is a micromanager?

I have recently decided to leave my supervising position at a startup, take some time off to specialize in a topic I have been interested in, and go back to my country. But the main reason why I want to leave is that my boss (the CEO) is a micromanager who believes only his ideas are valid and has almost no trust in my knowledge and experience. I have not tried to reason with him because I have seen him argue with enough colleagues. I have decided instead to give my (very long) required notice stating personal reasons to try not to burn any bridge for future references, as I am very early in my career.

In the meantime, I have been organizing initial interviews for an open position here. I generally ask people what their preferences are regarding to tasks assignment and variability, because my boss likes to assign “very urgent tasks” with deadlines early within the same day and we already have to juggle a lot of projects as a small team.

A candidate recently answered by telling me he would not have a problem with multitasking in general, but that would be a problem if there was micromanagement involved. He tried to follow up with an explanation, but I quickly let him know I was very familiar with micromanagement (emphasis on “very”). I did not feel comfortable saying more, so I gave him example of tasks and deadlines to let him decide on his own.

However, I don’t think he understood, as he sent me a thank-you email and reiterated his interest. I didn’t select him as a candidate for the next round, partly because I thought he wouldn’t fit the company. I am still left wondering, though, what should I have said at that point to clarify we have a micromanager? And how can I make sure people know what to expect and decide based on that?

Yeah, I wouldn’t rely on hints for this — a lot of people won’t pick up on hints, especially since people motivated to find a new job often have rose-colored glasses on when interviewing.

But you can describe your boss’s management style without using the word “micromanager” — for example, “On the spectrum of hands-off to hands-on, I’d say Cecil is pretty far on the hands-on side. He makes most of the decisions for the work and is very involved in day-to-day details. It’s not a role with a lot of autonomy; it’s more about executing with a good deal of direction from him.”

Frankly, you could also just use the word “micromanager”; just word it in a way you wouldn’t be uncomfortable with your boss overhearing. I’ve had managers where I’d be comfortable saying to a candidate, “He’s definitely been called a micromanager! If you’re looking for a role with a lot of autonomy, it’s probably not this one.” But it depends on what you’re comfortable saying / being known to have said.

3. Professional mask attire

I have an in-person interview for a job next week. We will of course all be wearing masks (and socially distanced). What is professional mask attire? The ones I have are from Target and while fine for a trip to the grocery store, I’ve been told to dress to the 9’s for this interview (it is with my great great grandboss’s office).

I’d go for a mask that mostly blends into the background — something in a relatively sedate color (no neon green, no loud patterns, no writing). But a lot of that is down to personal preference and is about playing it safe. Wearing a mask with more personality doesn’t have to be off the table; you’re unlikely to go really wrong as long as it’s generally business-appropriate.

But masks from Target that fit that basic description should be fine! You don’t need a “suit mask” with pinstripes or dressy fabrics or anything like that!

4. Continuing work for corporate clients as a freelancer — while still employed at my company

I just got news today that my position is being phased out at my job. I have been at this company for eight years, and along the way saw our customers needed to have a specialist help navigate a design-heavy section of our platform. I helped create a team that focused on doing the design work for our customers, and along the way we even turned it into a paid subscription service, instead of just free help.

Now we have been told that not enough people are adding the service, and it’s costing more than it’s making. This is leaving myself and one other coworker with needing to find new work. They aren’t moving me into another position directly, but encouraged me to apply to open positions in the company if I’d like to stay, which I do. Finding a new position and having to interview is scary enough, but I’m also worried about my clients who I have worked with, some for years.

I have dabbled in freelance design work on the side, and I’m wondering about the ethics of contacting my clients after we phase out their paid service through my company, and offering to continue to provide my services to them on a freelance basis. This would be on my own time, and I would have them set me up a login to their account, so I wouldn’t use my company’s ability to log in. I thought about mentioning this idea to my manager, but haven’t. My dad says I shouldn’t, but also suggested the freelance idea.

Since my company will no longer be providing this service, I don’t think it’s a non-compete situation but still feel unsure about it. Should I mention my idea to my manager, don’t and hope it doesn’t come up, or not even try freelancing to offer my services? Do you have any advice?

You’d definitely need your employer’s permission to do it if you’re going to stay there. There’s a good chance it would be considered a conflict of interest, so you don’t want them finding out after you’ve already started doing it. Part of the issue is that from your clients’ perspective, they’ll be hiring a Company X employee to help them navigate Company X’s platform. Even if you feel like you’re doing it totally separately from your main job, they’re still going to see you as a representative of Company X — which means your company is very likely to consider it their business. So you’d need to get their okay first.

By the way, any chance there’s enough business for you to leave your company and do this as a freelancer on your own? You’d need to make sure it doesn’t violate any existing agreement with your company, but it’s worth looking at.

5. How much PTO should I be charged for a vacation day when I also have a paid lunch?

I’m a full-time hourly employee. I have worked at my company for a couple of years, and our previous HR manager was very vague about how she handled policies/time off/etc. We recently moved to a new system/HR person, which is allowing for more transparency when it comes to timekeeping, but it’s also raising some questions.

I’ve put in for a vacation day, and I asked for seven hours of vacation since I work seven hours and then have a paid lunch hour (for a total of eight hours). I was then told I need to put eight hours into the system, due to the paid lunch, and eight hours will be deducted from my PTO. My coworkers have said this is what they have been told as well.

Is this normal? In previous jobs I haven’t been paid for lunch so this is a new situation for me, but if I’m not working during my lunch hour, it seems odd that I’d need to lose an hour of vacation time for it.

Yes, this is normal! The way to look at it is that each day you work, they pay you for an eight-hour day, which includes a one-hour paid lunch break. That lunch break doesn’t get charged to your PTO; it’s part of your work day. So when you’re out, they’re also going to pay you for an eight-hour day. This is a pretty standard way of doing it.

{ 424 comments… read them below }

  1. Also has noisy neighbors, but not as bad*

    #1 I’ve found using a headset with a boom microphone close to your mouth really helps to deaden a lot of background noise. You might give that a shot.

    1. Amey*

      Yes, I agree. There’s a very noticeable difference in background noise between the people in my team with headsets and those without. I’ve presented webinars with loud construction work going on outside (distracting for me!) but been told by colleagues that they can’t hear it and this seems borne out by the recording.

    2. Pam*

      I agree. My basic Logitech headset/mike does a good job of blocking noisy Jack Russell’s, and a class of virtual preschoolers in the next room.

    3. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

      It will have the added benefit of blocking the sounds for you as well.

      Sorry you have to deal with this OP1 – it’s really gross and inappropriate to be subjecting your neighbours to this type of thing. Definitely speak to building management about it.

      1. lilsheba*

        Seriously, who in their right mind broadcasts porn loudly like that? That’s a private thing….do that all you want but quietly.

    4. allathian*

      Yeah, get a noise canceling headset with a boom microphone. If you’re lucky, you could maybe even expense it, but even if that’s not the case, consider it an investment in your work environment.

      1. Jxb1000*

        Agree, a headset is a must. You may also want to add a white noise machine, especially if trying to proceed without a headset. And check your audio settings, many now have have sensitivity opens for blocking external sound.

        1. Nea*

          I was going to recommend a gaming headset. I’ve got a Razor Kraken and it’s fantastic – very comfortable to wear, has a cord so it doesn’t run out of charge, muffles the sounds around me to my ears and eliminates most to not all for the people I’m talking to.

          1. Wendy Darling*

            My “work” headset is also a gaming headset (steelseries arctis). They’re less expensive than decent business headsets and I find them much more comfortable. Mine is wireless because I have more issues with knocking things over with headphone cords than I do running out of battery, but the battery generally lasts me a solid week. (Also at my last job I was on a LOT of phone meetings where I needed to talk for 2 minutes and then pay like 40% attention for the next hour, so I liked to be able to get up and do chores on mute. Current job has way less meetings that should have been an email and my apartment is way dustier.)

            It’s not unobtrusive, though — you definitely have to be okay with being the person with the big headphones.

            1. Headset*

              After breaking two work headsets, I ended up buying a gaming headset that was cheaper, more comfortable and more effective than the business ones I had been buying.

              Hundreds of zoom calls later, I can honestly say that no-one cared.

          2. Anonapots*

            I just got one for similar reasons, although part of mine was that my husband and I have a small house and after having spent a year in the basement working, I don’t want to be in the basement anymore. However, my game nights make my husband feel like he can’t be loud or play Rock Band. I got the headset so we can both enjoy our living space.

    5. JustKnope*

      Depending what software the company uses for video calls, you may be able to reduce background noise! I know Microsoft Teams has an option to eliminate background noise and it seems fairly effective (while wearing headphones, definitely take that advice).

    6. Cat Tree*

      Yes, headsets are great, even the cheap ones my company gives out. I have a recurring weekly meeting that happens at the exact time that the landscapers are in my development, and when they are literally trimming hedges right outside my window. I’ve mentioned it before and nobody on the meeting can ever hear it (although it makes harder for me to hear them).

    7. *daha**

      Yes. Because boom microphones place the mic close to your mouth, they are designed to expect loud speech coming from your mouth and they bring the volume way down. That means sounds coming from farther away are turned way down too. Also, look for the term “noise cancelling microphone” or “noise suppressing microphone.”

    8. Khatul Madame*

      Agree – I use a mid-range, company issue headset with a mike.
      Some time ago I was having very noisy work being done in the bathroom 10 feet from my (closed) door – think drilling and hammering. I apologetically mentioned this in a meeting, and others were like, what drilling? We didn’t hear anything.
      If the LW is using a speaker, then yes, their team will hear every moan, groan or passing helicopter.

    9. Bertha*

      Adding to the choir here – I have even used an old crappy headphones with mic from my phone with my computer, or had my WebEx/Skype/Zoom whatever “call” my telephone to speak on a phone with my standard issue iphone headset, they were leafblowing outside and I was told no one could hear it. That said, I still had the major problem that the sound was distracting to ME, but, it for sure helped knowing that those on the other end couldn’t hear it.

      Honestly, I mentioned this simple solution — using a basic cell phone headset – – very early on a call with my coworkers where there was a lot of reverb — even sent it in an email — and was kind of frustrated that almost no one decided to do it. It helps make the sound quality much better in general on group calls.

    10. hot priest*

      Yep, I use regular apple headphones with a mic and my colleagues have not been able to hear any of the loud construction noises right outside my apartment window (only I get to hear those lovely noises). I would give this a shot — you can find relatively cheap headphones (~$20) with a mic pretty easily if that’s not something OP1 already has.

    11. whyamihere*

      I have had success with simple AirPods – it’s been a year of seemingly endless construction and renovation inside and outside my apartment building, bit people say they ccan’t hear that when I use the headphones

    12. OhNoYouDidn't*

      Even if you don’t have a headset, or if you don’t want to wear one, a unidirectional mic can do a lot to cut down background noises. They can be purchased as a clip on lavalier mic, or you can get one that sits on your desk. I use a lavalier and it makes the sound so much better on the other end. You can find some very reasonably priced ones to use.

    13. LW 1*

      Oh, a headset is a good idea! I only have one colleague that uses one but I’ve definitely noticed that if she doesn’t have the mic close to her mouth I can barely hear her talking so it must be effective at focusing noise…

    14. Æthelflæd*

      Also, some of the work conferencing apps (MS Teams, Zoom) have background noise dampening settings that actually work pretty well. My dogs have suddenly decided to be annoyingly vocal during meetings, and when I’m wearing my headset, my colleagues say they can’t hear the barking now that I’ve put the background noise dampening settings up as high as possible.

  2. Temperance*

    LW1: if you’re wearing headphones and muting whenever you aren’t speaking, it’s likely that the sound isn’t coming through.

    That said, it’s super gross that you have to deal with that when so many are WFH right now. Alison’s suggestions for handling are good. I would totally go full on Harriet the Spy to track down the creep.

    1. Felis alwayshungryis*

      I also wouldn’t be surprised if the neighbour knew exactly how loud it was and would be quite pleased that the whole building could hear. Eew.

      1. Lacey*

        Yup. I had a neighbor like that. Not with pork, just loud music. He knew literally made our furniture jump and loved it. Pushed his stereo up against the bedroom wall, full blast at 4 am to punish me for complaining to the landlord about it. I normally think noise is just part of apartment living, but this was insane.

        1. Cat Tree*

          What an ass. My neighbors are super loud but it’s easier to tolerate because none of it is intentional like that (just a large family in a too-small house with oddly heavy footfalls). If I had a neighbor intentionally being loud I’d be tempted to do the same back to them, but then I’d worry about bothering the good neighbors.

          1. biobotb*

            Also, sound can travel oddly through floors and walls and end up much louder than you’d expect. My husband is a normal-sized person with a slightly heavy tread, but when I’m in basement, he sounds like a rampaging baby elephant.

            1. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

              Second this. Just moved into an apartment after living in my own home for 11 years, and, while I can barely hear the neighbors next to me and they said they cannot hear me, I can hear every word from the apartment below me. Doesn’t bother me (I lived with my two sons on and off throughout their mid-20s, their friends stayed over, one son’s girlfriend stayed over, there were mini-parties and music jam sessions… I’m used to it all), but it makes me terrified to imagine what they hear anytime I walk around the apartment (which is a lot – it is a long apartment that runs the length of our century-old brick building). There’s no one above me, so all I can do is let my imagination run wild! I ordered several pairs of slipper socks and plan on buying a runner rug for the hallway once I’ve gotten all the boxes out of it. But, yes, OP’s neighbor could be above or below her, and possibly oblivious to the fact that OP’s entire team can hear what he does for fun.

        2. JustaTech*

          I had a college suitemate who did that, but at least she had the excuse of being 18 and living away from home for the first time.
          And commiserating about her terrible music is how I started talking to my now-husband, so one good thing came from it.

          But adults living in apartment buildings? No.

      2. A Poster Has No Name*

        This, indeed, Felis. LW 1, your neighbor knows darn well that their loud music & porn is intruding on people’s workdays, and very likely gets off on it.

        I hope your building management can do something, because I feel like anything you would do to address the issue would only escalate it.

        1. Temperance*

          It’s at the very least a lease violation. Because excessive noise is always banned, and sexual content would disturb the “quiet enjoyment” of the premises.

    2. Beth*

      With my loud neighbor, when they get overly loud, I cover it with noise of my own (usually unobtrusive background music or white noise). But my neighbor is prone to playing video games and the Frozen soundtrack on repeat, not porn! LW1, how awkward—I definitely think this is a scenario that justifies a little hallway stalking to identify which unit it’s coming from and ask them to tone it down.

      1. UrbanGardener*

        I own a condo, but the one below me is rented. My neighbors used to play their music like they were at a club, and I could feel it vibrating through my couch. I didn’t complain, I got a white noise machine. Then they started complaining about how loud I was walking around and my “machine noises day and night”. Then I complained about their music, and how I doubted they could hear anything I was doing over club music. Luckily they didn’t renew the lease and moved out. My new neighbors never complain about me.

        1. PT*

          I lived upstairs from an apartment that rented to students who had their first class at 10 am when my husband and I had a job where we had to get up at 7. Every September without fail, we’d get a note under the door, “You are making too much noise very early in the morning and during our evening quiet study hours, please be more quiet.”

          Yes, that is called “getting ready for work in the morning” and “cleaning up after dinner” and “getting ready for bed before 11.”

        2. NotAnotherManager!*

          Our downstairs neighbors at our condo were like this. They came up once when we stomped on the floor and insisted the music was not that loud. I asked if they were listening to a particular song, and they were surprised that I got it right. Yeah, I can hear it that well, dude.

          1. UrbanGardener*

            There’s zero soundproofing or insulation in my building so I could pick out songs too! And the woman upstairs from me makes my ceiling fan bounce up and down when she walks, that’s how bad it is. But that’s a building problem, not a me problem. I do my best to be a respectful neighbor, but when they asked me to carpet my whole hallway just because the woman downstairs from them (who is the condo association president who complains about everything) asked them to and they did, I told them to go pound sand. I bought the condo after it has been empty a year so they had been spoiled before with no upstairs neighbor.

        3. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

          My first US apartment, the upstairs neighbor once came to us complaining that our kids were too loud (they were) and she’d been trying to sleep after a night shift and couldn’t. She had two preteen or teenage kids, who watched TV (they had one of the first big-screen ones) and played loud music in the middle of the night every night (presumably when their mom was out working the night shift), waking my toddler up. We never came to an agreement.

      2. So sleepy*

        I am giggling at the thought of the same situation for LW but having to explain why Frozen is blaring in the background of your calls if you don’t have kids

    3. le teacher*

      I have since moved, but when the pandemic started I was living in my old apartment. The walls were paper thin. I could also hear my neighbor’s porn loud and clear. Sometimes I could not tell if it was porn or if he was actually with someone. But hearing that actually genuinely felt so violating! I felt like I was being forced to participate in some capacity in someone’s most intimate moment. I am a high school teacher so I was TERRIFIED my students would hear him as I was teaching (can you imagine?!) Fortunately, using headphones and a microphone close to my mouth seemed to cut out any background noise.

    4. Again With Feeling*

      Yes. Even if LW was never on work calls, this just isn’t something they should have to put up with. It’s so gross and violating. Track down the offender and talk to building management!

    5. LW1*

      I’m a bit limited on stalking the hallways to work out who it is because I don’t have access to the building where I think the sound is coming from. We share a wall but not a front door. I know other neighbours can hear it because one of our downstairs neighbours came up once when the music was playing to check if it was us! But at this point I’m pretty sure it’s from any of the neighbours that I share a front door with.

      So a note through the front door of the next door property seems like the best bet if I want to confront it, though it does make me squeamish to think about doing that!

      I very much prefer to think that this is not on purpose and the person doesn’t know how much sound travels. Honestly, I know sound in buildings like this can get amplified without you realising it and there’s a good possibility this person would be mortified if they realised.

  3. Sasha “Potato Girl” Blause*

    OP #5, the only thing strange is that 7+1 hours a day is full time. Every FT job I’ve ever had or heard of is 8+1 hours a day because lunch doesn’t count toward work time. Like a 35 hr/week wouldn’t even be enough to earn health care.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      There are still a lot of jobs that are literally 9-5 (8 hours)! (Also, the Affordable Care Act requires employers to offer health insurance from 30+ hours a week to avoid penalties.)

      1. RB*

        I wrote in about this once because it seemed to me like an East Coast/West Coast thing. People I know who live back East often mention 9-5 as a standard workday, whereas everywhere I’ve worked in the Pac NW has 8-5 or 9-6 as a standard workday. That means that over the course of a year, some people are getting paid for over 400 hours of non-work, and others are having to work that additional 400+ hours to get their full pay. Seems like a big difference.

        1. Anonapots*

          Yeah, every once in awhile I wonder about the 9-5 thing and if that means they get a paid lunch. It’s so foreign to me. I’m also in the PNW, but even before then when I lived overseas, my dad worked 8:00 to 4:30 with an unpaid lunch.

          1. Allison Wonderland*

            I am paid for 7 hours a day (get a 1 hour unpaid lunch). In my previous job it was 7.5 hours a day. I prefer this so my work day doesn’t take up 9 hours!

        2. Rain is water trading from the sky*

          There’s only hours of unpaid work, or hours of paid non-work, if they are on the same contract/award/whatever you call it.

          I have a contract that specifies my conditions. Work hours. Leave entitlements. Public holiday and weekend work arrangements etc. With this comes my pay. Someone else with the same job title and general duties, but working for a different company will have their own contract, own conditions and own pay rates.

          I can decide my company isn’t competitive, but I’m not working unpaid just because another company offers better leave entitlements, or a shorter work week (provided legal entitlements are met).

          Some areas of the world are known for having better workplace entitlements and can attract workers because of this.

    2. Nonbinary Newbie*

      I’ve actually only had full time jobs with a 7+1 arrangement for full time, with health insurance! In fact, my current space is 34 hours a week to be full time. I wonder if depends on the industry.

      1. doreen*

        Either industry or maybe location- I haven’t worked a 40 hr a week job in my entire working life. It’s always been 35 hrs , 37.5 hours or in one strange arrangement we worked 35 hours, got paid for 40 and if we worked an hour “overtime” each day, we had already been paid for it. Even FT retail and food service work 9back when I was doing that) was an 8 hour shift with a half-hour unpaid break.

        1. Karo*

          I think it’s industry-led. Most of the job postings I’ve seen with full-time being shorter than 40 hours are public institutions. If your area has a lot of public institutions, the private businesses may do something similar to try to keep up and attract good candidates.

      1. Beth Jacobs*

        Mine is 38.75! I like it, the only disadvantage is that our HR system shows remaining PTO in hours and I am unable to convert it to days without using a calculator.

        1. MI Dawn*

          Beth – I have the same problem. Can you use Excel to track? I’ve created an excel spreadsheet that does all that work for me!

      2. Sometimes Charlotte*

        My work week is also 37.5 hours – 8-4:30 with an hour lunch. When I put in vacation time, a day is 7.5 hours. My last employer, I was scheduled 9 hour days minus an hour lunch for a total of 8 hours/day and when entering vacation, I entered 8 hours for a full day off. I’ve been wracking my brain thinking over the last 30 years of employers and can’t remember a single one that made us count the unpaid lunch in our PTO!

    3. Sleeping Late Every Day*

      My job was 35 hours per week, 9 – 5 with a paid lunch. We had all the full-time benefits including health and life insurance, a 501c3 retirement plan, about 10 sick days, 4 personal days, and 20 vacation days. I wrinkle my forehead when I read about jobs with longer hours and less PTO. Of course, it was a not-for-profit, so not top pay, but I wasn’t in it to get rich.

    4. BubbleTea*

      35 or 37.5 is standard full time for the UK. I’ve never had a job where people routinely worked more than 9 to 5 (except for hospital shifts in healthcare). I’m sure they exist in the private sector though.

      1. Amey*

        Yes, 37.5 for me in the UK (not private sector) and for my husband in the private sector. We do work extra hours as required but that’s what we’re contracted for. The normal work day at my employer is 9:00-5:15 with 1 hour lunch.

      2. Magenta*

        I’m in the UK and work 37.5 hours a week, 0900-1730 with an hour for lunch is our standard work day

      3. Chas*

        As someone else in the UK I was just coming here to say my full-time contract is for 35 hours, but I’m expected to be at work 9-5 and take a 1 hour lunch break each day. And when it comes to how my PTO hours are calculated, I only pay 7 hours PTO to take off a whole day. But I can see why some campanies would calculate it differently.

        Really it doesn’t matter how they calculate it as long as LW5 is getting the correct number of days off. If they’re concerned about it, they might want to check how many PTO days their position was advertised with (or how many they’ve been told they’re getting) and compare it to how many hours they’re allowed to spend per year (if it’s calculated like that, anyway).

        For example, if they’re supposed to have 20 days per year and get 160 hours per year then spending 8 hours per day is fine. It’s only if they were only getting 140 hours per year then it would be a problem that they’re being expected to pay 8 hours for a day off, because they’d only be getting 17.5 days off each year instead of 20.

        1. a heather*

          Yes, if your PTO “day” that they give you to use is 8 hours, then you use 8 hours when you take a day off. If they only give you 7 hours but require you to take 8, that’s a problem.

          1. Sometimes Charlotte*

            I have never had an employer require me to account for the the lunch hour in my PTO. When I was salaried, a day was a day, no hours calculation. When I’ve been non-exempt, it’s been whatever the worked hours were. If the OP is hourly and puts in 8 hours, they should be getting paid for 8 hours and therefore they’d actually be getting paid more. If they are salaried… why are they accruing and using PTO by the hour anyway?

            1. Chas*

              I’m salaried and my employer counts our PTO in hours and lets us spend a single hour at a time if we want. It lets us do things like book a couple of hours off to go for an appointment/event without having to spend a whole day off. (We don’t gradually accrue it though, they just give us a quota at the beginning of the year based on how much of the year we’re going to be working for. But the quota is for ‘210 hours’, rather than ’30 days’)

      4. UKDancer*

        Also 37 hours per week excluding lunch. I work longer if we’ve a crisis or it’s otherwise necessary.

      5. londonedit*

        UK private sector and my contracted working week is 37.5 hours with an hour’s unpaid lunch break. I’m not expected to work beyond those hours – sometimes I do if there’s a dire emergency, and I’m not always great at bothering to take a full hour’s lunch break, but 99% of the time I just work my standard hours and nothing more.

      6. Cheerfully Polite Grey Rock*

        I’m in Australia and also on a 9-5, 37.5 hour full time work week, with a half hour lunch break.
        A 8-5 regular office shift would be considered a bit unusual, although in retail/hospo no such rules apply. I don’t miss those hours!

      7. allathian*

        I’m in Finland, and my standard workday is 7 hours 15 minutes, that translates to 36 hours 15 minutes per week. But we don’t have any set starting or closing times. The longest day I’ve ever worked was 13 hours but it was an emergency, and although I don’t get paid for overtime, we do have a working hours bank. When the emergency was over, I took a day off and worked shorter days the following week.

        We can even work on the weekend and on holidays if we want, the only requirement is that there must be at least one 36-hour period when we’re not working every week.

      8. Chilipepper*

        In my city job, its 40 hours a week working time so we work 8.5 hours a day to cover our unpaid lunch time.

      9. Marion Ravenwood*

        I’m also in the UK and know a couple of people who work slightly different hours (eg 8-4 or 10-6) because of childcare arrangements or other outside commitments, and I’ve also worked in a few places where there were ‘core hours’ (eg you were contracted to 35 hours and had to be working between 10am and 4pm unless there were exceptional circumstances, but could be flexible outside of that). But I and the vast majority of my friends and colleagues work 9-5 with an hour’s lunch break. I will work outside that if it’s particularly busy or something urgent happens, but work is good at giving us time off in lieu if something goes really long – for example I had to do a little work on Easter Monday for a campaign launch the next day, and am taking next Tuesday afternoon off using my TOIL from that.

    5. Terrafirma*

      My firm has a 35 work week for staffers, complete with full benefits. We realize this makes the place something of a unicorn. That and the generous PTO are what keep people there.

    6. Ali G*

      We have a standard 7 hour workday. You take as long or as short a lunch break as you want. We offer health insurance to anyone who works 28 hours or more per week.

    7. Clem Fandango*

      My company has a 35-hour workweek , so I literally work 9-5 with a 1-hour lunch. When I take leave, 1 day = 7 hours, so it’s odd to me that the letter writer is getting charged for 8 hours.

      1. Tired of Covid-and People*

        Not odd. Your lunch hour is unpaid, OP’s is paid. You work 40 hours but are paid for 35.

    8. introverted af*

      I had this at my last job and I miss it soooooooo much.

      Also, great reference in your name! I can’t wait to get into the last season, my husband and I are working through season 3 just to get a refresher first though.

    9. Spero*

      I’ve been working for 13 years at 4 companies and I’ve literally never had an 8-5 job. All of my jobs have been 9-5, with flexibility to do 8-4 if preferred. Some have had a 1 hour lunch on the timesheet that few people actually took, some have a half hour lunch that most took, some had no designated lunch break on timesheet but most people took one at some point.
      I’m one of the ‘brown bag it and 20 min eating at my desk’ people and frankly I would be annoyed if an employer expected me to be in the office 8-5 – to my mind they’re getting 9 hours work for the price of 8.

    10. wittyrepartee*

      I work a unionized government job (in public health, so we’ve been working our butts off for the most part). But yes, we’re strictly 9-5 with an hour for lunch.

      1. wittyrepartee*

        As a note, I often work over lunch. I take extra long lunches every once in a while, so it’s probably evening out longterm.

      2. AnonFed*

        I’m a federal government and we do not get paid lunch. (We used to have a break mandated but they eliminated it.)

        1. wittyrepartee*

          I don’t get paid for my lunch hour, but I get it. So like- if I’m working overtime or something, I won’t get money for any lunch or dinner breaks. However, we get our salary for 35 hours of work weekly.

        2. Tired of Covid-and People*

          Fed here, no paid lunch but we still get two 15 minute breaks a day and a 30 minute mandated lunch after 6 hours.

    11. Bucky Barnes*

      I’m surprised to seemingly be in the minority on this. I’ve always worked a 40-hr workweek: 8-5 in state gov and 8:30-5:30 in finance.

      1. Paris Geller*

        Yeah, I thought that was surprising too. I work 9-6 now with an unpaid 1 hour lunch, and most of my previous jobs have been 8-5 with an unpaid 1 hour lunch. Maybe a regional thing–pretty much everyone I know works 40 hour weeks with an unpaid 1 hour lunch. I’m salary but this includes my friends who are in hourly jobs.

      2. Merci Dee*

        I live in the southeast US, and every job I’ve had since I graduated from college in 2000 has been 8 – 5, for 40 hours a week. Granted, all of my jobs have been in finance/accounting, but I’ve worked for public and private sector employers. Even though all my jobs have been in finance, I know many people with different types of jobs (insurance, office admin, utilities, etc.), and 40 hours has been standard for them, too, even if they were able to flex their working hours (7 – 4, 9 – 6, etc.)

      3. NotAnotherManager!*

        Full time at mine is 37.5 (with eligibility for benefits starting at 22 hours/week), and that’s pretty common with professional service firms. It doesn’t mean people only work 37.5, just that you get OT once you go over (if nonexempt). I’m exempt and no one cares how many OT hours I have to work.

      4. Violet*

        All of my professional jobs but one have been 8 hours a day of work and 1 hour of lunch, whether I was salaried or hourly.

        One company, the world’s largest retailer, has a standard 45-hour work week for the corporate folks. The office wasn’t near anything so everyone ate lunch at their [open floor plan, in full view of hundreds of people] desks (while continuing to work, naturally). So we were in the office from 8-6 five days a week. My commute was 1.5-2 hours long, so I had to get up at 4:30 AM since I never knew which day was the one that would take the full two hours, and not get back home until 7:30-8:00 at night.

        And the management on my team was hyperfocused in charging us down to the exact hour (in the company’s favor) for any PTO. I left an hour and a half early one day and my manager made me book 2 hours of PTO, despite being salaried (and all those lunches spent working at my desk). I noped out of there after just one year.

      5. semiresponsive*

        I’ve always worked 8:00-5:00 with a 1-hour unpaid lunch break or 8:00-4:30 with an unpaid 1/2 hour lunch break. The abundance of folks whose workdays are 8 hours total, including lunch, whether it’s paid or not, are making me a little jealous! hahaha

        I’ve always thought of 8-5 as ‘regular business hours’ so was never very surprised by this arrangement. I was even excited when my new job was 8:00-4:30 because it feels so decadent to be out of the office before 5! I was also always on salary when working 8-5, so “1-hour unpaid lunch” was more of a guideline than an actual thing.

        For reference/perspective, I work in the US.

    12. Koalafied*

      My company does 7+1, and they actually do only deduct PTO at a rate of 7 hours per day or 3.5 hours per half-day. But that means when they calculate how much PTO accrues to me per pay period, it’s based on the number of full days I’m entitled to multiplied by 7 hours per day (and divided by 26 paychecks per year), where presumably a company that deducts 8 hours per day off would be using a multiplier of 8 hours per day when calculating the annual and per-period accrual.

      1. Pam Beasley*

        In my industry and region of the US a 35 hour workweek is common for hourly workers and a 40 hour (on average) week is common for salaried workers.

    13. So sleepy*

      Yeah, I’m in Canada so it might be more common here, but I’ve never had a full-time job that wasn’t 35 hours a week. We get 35 hours a week with unpaid lunches that are an hour each day. At my organization, any 40 hour positions get a half hour paid lunch (they tend to be management positions where you may have to be somewhat available or stay on site during your breaks). I know there are lots of jobs with 40 hours + unpaid lunches around (for sure), but 35+1 jobs are not uncommon at all. And in many cases it doesn’t really matter – I’m management level and exempt, so if I need to work 8+1 hours, I do. If I need to take a 2 hour lunch and work later, I do. If I need to work 10 hours, I do (thankfully, I rarely need to).

  4. jesicka309*

    LW3: I don’t know what the availability in your country is like, but I’ve found generally if I am being more ‘dressy’ then a plain blue surgical mask is the way to go! Most of my fabric masks are bright and colourful, and rarely match what I’m wearing. I think of those plain blue surgical masks like I would a dark wash jean or slacks – goes with everything. And it’s almost an ‘anti statement’ that reveals nothing about you – as Alison said, it blends into the background as ‘wearing a mask as required’.
    Obviously if there are critical shortages then I’d go with a plain dark fabric (maybe not black as I find it looks really austere/funereal on many skin tones).
    Signed: A person who lived in a country where masks were govt. mandatory even outside for nearly six months.

    1. nnn*

      That’s what I was thinking. A clearly medical mask is kind of outside the scope of fashion, so it’s less likely to be viewed and evaluated through a fashion lens. You look like a person who is wearing a good suit, and is also wearing a medical mask as required by current protocol.

      1. MK*

        I like black masks, but they have unfortunate connotations. My sister video called me while I was wearing one, and she said I looked as if I was about to rob a bank.

        1. Violet Fox*

          But but… all of my masks are black. Granted this might be because I bought about 5 meters of heavy, tightly woven black cotton, and the same in white for linings before they announced the mask mandates here. This was mostly though so I could make them actually fit since I have a bit of a short, round face.

          I think it’s hard to go wrong with black for inperson, or solid color that color matches one’s outfit.

          1. Asenath*

            And small convenience stores and gas stations! The very places that once forbid customers from wearing hoodies with the hood up now require masks! I encountered one place that still had the no-hood requirement in place, though, a small convenience store/take-out that sells great sandwiches. I entered during the winter with my mask in place and the hood of my heavy jacket pulled up over my woolly hat, and the cashier told me to take my hood down! I’m not sure I was any more identifiable without a hood but with a woolly hat and mask, but I obeyed.

            As for OP, any kind of plain mask should do. I’d just avoid my brightly-coloured ones with interesting designs. Or the idea of going with a surgical mask would also work well.

          2. Colette*

            I once stopped at the bank after a hike. I was wearing a hat, sunglasses, and a mask, and I thought “They wouldn’t even know who I am”. And then I realized I was wearing a jacket with my name on my sleeve.

          3. Rusty Shackelford*

            I had to go into a bank to do some business that could only be done in person and it felt very, very strange to be masked.

          4. Chinook*

            DH says the weirdest moment of his life was last summer when he was heading up north for a police rotation with all his gear. When we got to the airport, he put on his mask and walked in with his loaded gun. He said he never felt more wrong his entire life.

        2. pancakes*

          I’ve seen quite a few people make bank robber jokes about masks but I don’t think I’ve ever seen a real or fictional bank robber wearing PPE instead of, say, a balaclava. Or pantyhose over their head.

          1. Chinook*

            I have been playing the Yakuza games for years and one of the tropes they use, since it is based in Tokyo, is a playable character to obscure identity. They never stand out. It was weird to see until I went back to the series this year. Now I am weirded out by how few are wearing them!

      2. Smithy*

        I have a number of these – but do acknowledge that based on someone’s overall attire, the risk of appearing over funereal or severe. With my hair/skin color, I find that the black masks work well. But then I also haven’t done anything wearing a more severe tailored black suit.

        All of which to say, I think that the traditional white or blue paper PPE does somehow manage to appear the least obvious. At this point, Brooks Brothers or other more classic business formal designers haven’t really come up with a design or style that communicates “very successful banker who’s mindful of public safety.”

      3. Elizabeth West*

        I found some of those at Aldi the other day for $5 a box. Got two, just in case I wanted to be fancy.
        Personally, I hope they keep masks in stock forever. I’ve really enjoyed not having any colds this year.

    2. Kuddel Daddeldu*

      Similar here. I work in an environment where attire can vary from PPE (safety gear) to business formal within the same day and I would definitely judge a candidate on their mask (and how they wear it) as an indicator of how seriously they take safety, not of their fashion sense.
      Wear a medical or N95 mask as appropriate for the region and role, and practice talking for an hour through it – not all brands fit the same! Some may slip, some may do their best to rip your ears off, so try to find one that you feel reasonably comfortable wearing to an interview. Also, fry to record yourself to get a feeling for how much you need to speak up or enunciate more clearly to be understood, especially if you have a tendency to mumble or drawl. Masks can muffle your voice more than you think, especially the N95/ FFP2 masks.
      And if you got masks that pull on your ears, there are gadgets (or just a piece of string) that go behind the head and give you a bit of relief from the ear loops.

    3. Kuddel Daddeldu*

      Similar here. I work in an environment where attire can vary from PPE (safety gear) to business formal within the same day and I would definitely judge a candidate on their mask (and how they wear it) as an indicator of how seriously they take safety, not of their fashion sense.
      Wear a medical or N95 mask as appropriate for the region and role, and practice talking for an hour through it – not all brands fit the same! Some may slip, some may do their best to rip your ears off, so try to find one that you feel reasonably comfortable wearing to an interview. Also, fry to record yourself to get a feeling for how much you need to speak up or enunciate more clearly to be understood, especially if you have a tendency to mumble or drawl. Masks can muffle your voice more than you think, especially the N95/ FFP2 masks.
      And if you got masks that pull on your ears, there are gadgets (or just a piece of string) that go behind the head and give you a bit of relief from the ear loops.

    4. pleaset cheap rolls*

      Dark is dressier than light colored in masks. A dark colored surgical mask would better.

      Frankly, I think getting a sedate yet “dress” mask is a good idea. Solid color or very fine pattern, like a nice tie. Probably a dark color but it depends on your skin and overall look. Not shiny like a cheap tie. But no rough weave – a tight weave. Think of a nice tie or a cotton dress shirt.

      1. EPLawyer*

        I make my own masks so I have quite the set. I have my “fun” masks for every day neat prints, brighter colors. I have statement masks — for the 2 months before the election, I wore my “vote” mask or my navy masks for veterans day and memorial day. For the FEW times I actually had to be in court, I have a plain dark blue mask (okay the fabric is a little marbled). I hate my court masks because its so boring.

        1. Carlie*

          I just got out my spring jacket from storage the other day and found a few light-colored masks in the pocket, and thought “Oh nice, I can switch back to the spring/summer patterns.”
          Then I immediately got depressed that we are on the next year’s seasons and still in a pandemic.

          I try not to be too judgmental about mask type, because it’s next to impossible to know how they’re made. I have a variety of fabrics, but they all have a third layer of nonwoven interfacing sewn in similar to surgical masks. And a lot of people have cheap ones from the corner store because they don’t have access to others. I just want people to be wearing them properly – over their nose and not gaping at the sides.

      2. Aitch Arr*

        I bought a set from Old Navy for my son to wear to school, though I snag them myself.

        Cotton in gray, black, off-white, and burgundy.

    5. anonymuss*

      After a year, and 500,000 Americans dead, I’m a little sad that this question “what color mask I should wear” is being asked. Wear an N95, a KF94, or a surgical mask with a cloth mask over it to better fit it to your face. N95s cost about $3.50-$5.00 and are widely available online from sources that don’t interfere with the medical PPE supply chain. These masks are almost guaranteed to prevent you from contracting it, and there’s no better professional look than being alive.

      1. LQ*

        What color still 100% applies to what you are suggesting. I don’t get why you think it’s deadly that someone ask about what color to wear. This post feels like virtue signaling about how much you care about mask wearing. But the OP is clearly saying they will wear a mask and are now just trying to decide on which one. This is very reasonable of them to do.

        I’ve got a charcoal grey mask that looks fairly formal, it was advertised as a “wedding” mask, that I got just for a formal meeting I have (may have) to attend in person.

        1. anonymuss*

          I sorry you read it as virtue signaling. I’m saying: most cloth masks and how they’re worn aren’t fulfilling the function we need them to fill. Wear a medical mask. It looks good.

          1. Natalie*

            Well fitting cloth masks work perfectly well for the average person. I doubt everyone switching to surgical masks would be the silver bullet you seem to think it would be, and this kind of perfectionism is rarely helpful in getting people to actually conform to public health guidance.

            1. pleaset cheap rolls*


              I wear nice looking masks over KN95 indoors because I’m a scaredy cat and want to look nice.

              I don’t understand why trying to look nice is somehow offensive.

              And what Natalie wrote is spot on
              “this kind of perfectionism is rarely helpful in getting people to actually conform to public health guidance.”


          2. Blue*

            You don’t know how the mask was made just from what the outer material looks like. I have cloth masks with a water-repellent exterior, a layer of nonwoven inside, and then tightly woven cotton inside. I take the pandemic and mask-wearing very seriously and I fully trust them- I’ve tested them as best I can and they fit better than surgical masks, so they’re more effective on me.

      2. Insert Clever Name Here*

        It’s ok to want the life-saving piece of clothing you wear to an interview (or to the grocery store, or wherever) to look nice.

        1. UKDancer*

          Yes I think so. I mean I get the purpose of the mask but there’s nothing wrong with wanting something attractive or stylish as well as functional. I don’t see why things that are necessary have to be utilitarian if they are available in a more attractive design. Looking good in something makes me feel happy and good about myself.

          Also there’s a lot about the pandemic and the lockdown rules I can’t control, where to go, who to go with and how often I can do it. If I can control whether my mask is pink or green then it’s one more thing I am in charge of myself.

        2. wittyrepartee*

          I got a bunch of nice looking masks last year to match most of my wardrobe palette. It’s much less depressing wearing masks that look nice and match my look.

      3. Zephy*

        The mask is not to protect you. It is to prevent you from spreading the infection to others.

      4. ThatGirl*

        In addition to what others have said, in much of the US vaccines are widely available. My husband and I are both fully vaccinated, as our many of our friends and loved ones. I am happy to keep wearing a mask! But the risk of spreading virus or contracting it myself is much much lower now, so I think it’s OK to wear a sturdy cloth mask, and it’s definitely OK to think about how it looks with what I’m wearing!

        1. Rain is water trading from the sky*

          Disclaimer: not an expert. Do not take this as medical advice. Follow at least the minimum guidelines for where you live /travel etc. and if they seem on the optimistic side look at expert advice from other reputable sources.

          My understanding is that vaccines reduce transmission by around a half. This alone is not enough to stop exponential spread. Other measures are needed as well to slow the spread right down (distancing, masks, handwashing). This is why the other measures aren’t being removed just because of vaccines.

          What the vaccines do best is significantly reduce chance of severe illness – so greatly improve chance that if you get COVID you will not need ICU and that you will live. Best option is still not getting COVID.

          Totally agree with everything you’ve said though. Thanks for getting vaccinated.

      5. Yorick*

        You can also wear an N95 or KN95 with a cloth mask on top. In that case, you can definitely pick out the cloth mask based on fashion.

        It doesn’t seem like people find it harder to hear me. You just want to make sure your top mask isn’t one that pulls your ears too much.

        1. pleaset cheap rolls*

          I do this going to stores and on public transit. I have two layer cloth masks I wear outside in pubic that look good. When going indoors in public I put a KN95 under it.

          In my office, which I go to rarely, it’s just a few people very very far apart, so once I got off the elevator it was just the cloth, and sometimes nothing at large distance.

      6. Spero*

        I’m in an area where vaccines have been available to everyone 16+ for over a month and no appointment is required. They are begging people to come fill slots, nearly everyone who is interested already has both doses. After being vaccinated myself and most of my friends stopped double masking and shifted back to a simple cloth mask. It seems a little odd to expect fully vaccinated people to still do a daily N95 for routine, low risk activities.

        1. anonymuss*

          True! And this is also the case where I live, though it’s been less than a month that vaccines have been available to 16+, demand has waned to where vaccine clinics are now transitioning to walk-in. However, cases here have not dropped significantly. Masking remains important for those who are not vaccinated or will refuse to be vaccinated.

        2. pleaset cheap rolls*

          I’m still double masking indoors though I’ve had my shots (not in full effect for 10 days though). I think I’ll still double mask myself on public transit and in stores, etc out of an abundance of caution for months. Maybe forever……

          But just walking around on the street – nah, it’s a tw0-layer cloth mask. Actually I’ve been doing that outdoors since last summer – it’s been pretty clear outside is low risk of transmission except in heavy crowds.

    6. NotBatman*

      As somebody who has interviewed in a mask: go for comfort. Like most people, I tend to start fidgeting with any source of physical discomfort when I’m nervous, and that goes for masks. Therefore, I tried several mask types before discovering what’s most comfortable for me (a small-ish cloth mask with elastic across the top and non-adjustable ear loops) then wore that one. It prevented the fidgeting and made me less self-conscious because I soon forgot it was there. Find the mask type that feels most comfortable to you, and buy it in a neutral color as recommended above.

      1. Natalie*

        Specifically, the style you feel most comfortable talking in! I have a few styles that I like perfectly fine for a grocery trip, but if I have a conversation in them they move around too much.

    7. MusicWithRocksIn*

      Well now I want a Pinstripe business mask – and I don’t even wear suits to work. Most of the execs at my Company seem to go for the plain black masks – I would just grab a pack of the black cotton ones, I’ve found them really handy.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        You should go mask shopping on Etsy – you can find lovely pinstripe silk masks. Maybe with matching ties!

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          That sounds lovely, silk is so … silky against skin, except that silk retains heat (despite that cool feel as you put it on) so it might end up making you feel too hot.

          1. UKDancer*

            I definitely like the silk ones for evenings out. They’re also supposed to be better for the skin than some of the other fabrics.

            I get mine from a company on Etsy and have them in 3 different colours.

          2. Rusty Shackelford*

            I bought a few silk masks and I wouldn’t say they retain heat any more than my cotton ones. But they’re a tighter weave so they’re somewhat less breathable.

      2. Case of the Mondays*

        There is a company in VT that sells matching masks and bowties! That would be a great formal look!

        1. Lucien Nova*

          Ah, I’ve seen them! I actually make matching masks and ties myself, too – have become quite handy with a sewing machine over these past months…I can post a picture if anyone wants to see. :D

      1. JKateM*

        I have found the KN95s in multiple colors and in regular and small sizes which actually fit my and my sister’s small faces (fit is just as important as material, even a widely available paper “surgical” mask provides good protection if you have a mask fitter over it). My little sister prefers the lavender color :)

    8. Elsecaller*

      I have several masks so I can always have a clean one, but I have two I default to if I’ve had time to get them washed – I have a super colorful one with party llamas on it, which is the one I wear to the store or just generally, and I have one that’s black and white with a fairly low-key but still aesthetically pleasing pattern, and that’s the one I wear if I’m going to a work meeting or other thing that requires non-casual clothing.

    9. BethDH*

      I go for a woven mask in any color I would wear as a shirt at the same time. For my coloring, a bluish gray works well.
      I think more important is getting one that fits well — fidgeting and adjusting your mask is going to be more noticeable and unprofessional seeming than most masks.

    10. Generic Name*

      Honestly, unless your mask has swear words or NSFW imagery printed on it (or maybe those joke masks with realistic or cartoonish mouths on them) I really don’t think what your mask looks like matters. Wearing one that fits and is comfortable is what matters.

      1. JustaTech*

        Most of my masks have racoons on them (interesting geometric racoons, but still racoons). When I had to come in to the office because the CEO was in I wore one of my two matching mask-and-skirt outfits.

        Thinking about masks looking “office professional” I thought about the picture from the Presidential address the other day (not to be political), where VP Harris wore a plain black mask and Speaker Pelosi wore a mask that matched her suit. Both looked very professional.
        Thought I wouldn’t wear a mask that matched a tan suit, just because then it looks like part of your face is missing and it’s weird.

      2. Elsajeni*

        I do have a couple in prints that I think are just a bit too jaunty and casual for an interview, or for other formal or somber events — like, one is printed with little smiley faces. I don’t think it’s a big deal, but I’d choose something a little more staid, as much for my own comfort as out of any concern for what the interviewer would think. I think my dividing line is: if I found a shirt or dress in this print, assuming it was otherwise work-appropriate, would I wear it to work? If yes, it qualifies as a Formalwear Mask; if no, I’m going to grab something plainer.

    11. Momma Bear*

      Our office provides the disposable blue masks to any visitor that needs/wants one. Some people have purchased their own in black. I would simply stay away from anything garish, distracting, or with a statement on it. I also suggest a well-fitted one that you don’t have to pull on often. Try it on while talking to a friend and see how much you have to adjust it because of the conversation.

    12. wittyrepartee*

      Agreeing with this as a new yorker, where mask fashion is a THING. Either go with the blue surgical mask, or if you can find a black one, use that.

    13. Free Meerkats*

      If you look at the video of President Biden picking the dandelion for the first lady, you’ll see that her mask matches the dress she’s wearing. Back when they were first recommended and masks were in short supply, I dug into my scraps bag and made masks that match the shirts I’ve made for myself. So I have a Starry Nights one and a bacon one and …

    14. Velawciraptor*

      I think you coordinate it with your tie/statement necklace/dress. That shows attention to detail and creates a cohesive look for the outfit.

    15. So sleepy*

      I have some masks with light neutral patterns that I like as well. Like, a light gray/white herringbone pattern, pale greenish plant-like swirls on white, greenish-beige solid, etc. I sometimes find that really dark, crisp-looking colours (black, navy blue, etc.) can be a bit jarring, although usually it’s just be internally going “whoa! That’s… oh, I see, they are trying to look professional.” where I wouldn’t even register a mask like I just described on someone (my brain would process “wearing mask” but if you asked me 10 mins after the meeting I wouldn’t be able to tell you what colour mask toy was).

      Either one won’t really negatively impact someone – the latter just makes sure the mask isn’t seared into their memory (but even if it is… it probably won’t matter). Just avoid wearing “fun” masks or masks that say “I did not consider in any way whether my choice of mask matters” (see: my Superman mask, masks that make you look like a cat, masks with cartoon characters on them, masks with words/messages that you would never wear to work on a t-shirt, masks in colours that would be unusual to wear to a business meeting as a shirt, etc). But there’s a big difference between, say, a big cartoon rainbow with a face and a print in muted colours with small rainbows throughout the fabric. The former would be hilarious and surprising, but the latter would be fine (and I might ask you where you got your mask… I know I made it up, but it sounds delightful! lol).

      1. So sleepy*

        I do think a (new) disposable/surgical mask would be fine as well. I get really itchy and panicky in them so they aren’t something I’d use myself, though.

  5. LizM*

    LW3: I’m a woman, and have yet to find a situation where a solid or a muted floral mask isn’t appropriate.

    I probably wouldn’t wear my tie-dye mask to court, but my black mask with white flowers looks fine with my suit, as does my solid baby blue one. Both are cotton and from target.

    For what it’s worth, I see a lot of men and women in professional settings in disposable masks.

    1. I make the email go!*

      I love the look of a plain black mask, even disposable black masks look very classy. Kamala Harris wore one at the inauguration.

      For a “dressed to the nines” interview, I’d stay away from a blue disposable mask like the kind that are given away by businesses to people who show up without one.

      1. PspspspspspsKitty*

        I disagree with the point about blue disposable masks. My company provides it for everyone because they don’t expect people to provide their own. I think it’s okay for a dressy interview. On a side note, I can hear people through paper masks than cloth ones.

        1. allathian*

          I’ve noticed the same thing. I’m in Finland and here they’re actually recommeding PPT2 masks without vents when you’re indoors. Those are usually a neutral off-white.

          1. allathian*

            You can also reuse disposable surgical masks by boiling them for 5 minutes. Even after 10 uses, they give more protection to the wearer than a cloth mask. I’ll post a link below.

      2. Boof*

        I say the surgical masks will always be ok. They were the original standard for masks! But make sure it’s in good condition. Agree some of the cloth masks can look dressier / cooler but any place that would grade down for a standard mask is… not someplace good. Those masks are often the most comfortable and breathable (in my experience at least) and again, the first job is for health safety so it’s strange to insist on deviating from the original tool for that.

        1. Rusty Shackelford*

          Those masks are often the most comfortable and breathable (in my experience at least)

          Mine too. I have a variety of cute/pretty cloth masks, but if I’m going to be wearing it all day, I choose a surgical mask.

          1. I'm just here for the cats!*

            Thats odd, I find the disposable masks uncomfortable and the cloth ones better.. I had to wear one at work one day when I didnt have a cloth mask. It was supper itchy and I actually broke out from it. I do have super sensitive skin though so that might be my reasoning.

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              I wouldn’t say they’re necessarily more comfortable, but (to me) they’re more breathable. I have pretty sensitive skin, but luckily, they don’t give me any problems. I wonder if there’s an ingredient/fiber/treatment/coating that causes your reaction.

      3. BRR*

        I think a disposable blue mask is fine. A mask isn’t a fashion accessory. A lot of people have chosen the blue disposable masks as their mask of choice during the pandemic. As long as it’s not a super wild pattern it’s fine. I also wouldn’t go for anything that might be distracting for the interviewer.

    2. Beth*

      Yes, I’d go with either a disposable mask or a plain solid fabric one. If OP is really concerned about appearance, coordinating the color to their interview outfit would be a nice touch. But as long as it’s toned down (as opposed to, say, a fun mask with rhinestones, or tie-dyed bright colors, or a slogan printed across the front), it’ll probably be fine.

    3. Audrey Puffins*

      I would worry that a disposable mask could suggest that I’m not taking the pandemic seriously enough to have invested in reusable cloth masks, and I would like a potential employer to be committed to personal safety during pandemic circumstances. Overthinking things? Almost certainly. I’m still going to choose my muted blue patterned mask from Gap over one of the emergency disposable ones I keep in the car if I want to look put together for a job interview.

      1. Nobby Nobbs*

        If you want to look/be really safety conscious, it couldn’t hurt to split the difference and double-mask, cloth over disposable. I’ve been doing it as an everyday thing and it really improves the fit. (If you do anything new, take a few hours to get used to it before the interview. Especially if you wear glasses!)

        1. PostalMixup*

          In my experience, double masking helps with glasses fog so much! The whole point of double masking is that it improves fit, so more of your breath goes through the material of the mask than the sides/top/bottom compared to a single surgical mask.

      2. Lexie*

        I wouldn’t think twice about someone wearing a disposable mask. I keep them in my car in case I forget a cloth one or something happens to it. I have a friend who wears them because she finds they work better for her.

        1. Insert Clever Name Here*

          Shoot, at my doctor’s office they *require* you to wear a disposable surgical mask so they can ensure all the patients are coming in with the proper PPE (they provide them if you don’t have one). No question about if that mask is the appropriate thickness when it’s a surgical mask!

          1. Weekend Please*

            Yep. I work at a hospital and surgical mask are required and provided. Cloth masks are better than no mask but surgical ones generally work better and are easier to breath through. Since cloth masks are unregulated they are highly variable.

      3. Junebug*

        I would think the opposite. Fabric masks became common because medical masks were scarce; they don’t provide as much protection. I would think someone wearing a cloth mask today is either vaccinated or doesn’t care about getting the best protection.

        1. Bagpuss*

          I don’t think that would be a safe assumption at all.
          You can’t tell by looking whether they are using additional filters etc – nor is it always obvious if someone is double masking.

          And a well fitting, well made fabric mask is likely to be as good or better than a poorly fitting medical mask.

          For instance, I use cloth masks with a disposable insert filter – they are all at least 3 layers not including the insert, and they fit much better than any disposable (worn singly or double masked) I’ve tried. The filter is the same materials a disposable mask but at least for the ones I have) more layers than most masks, so it is equivalent to double-masking, but you can’t tell by looking that it is there. I’ve gone to a lot of trouble to ensure that I have well fitting masks to ensure that maximum protection for myself and others, and I’d be pretty offended if anyone was making those kinds of assumptions about me

          I have also found that the disposable ones trigger my asthma – I assume that there is something which is used in the manufacturing process which I’m sensitive to – comparing notes with other asthmatics I am definitely not alone in this.

          1. Weekend Please*

            This may be in part because actual “surgical masks” and “disposable masks” are not synonymous but are often confused (and sometimes even mislabeled). The disposable masks are made to look like the blue surgical masks but they are not actually held to any standard. Some are still good. Some are worse than the cloth ones. I have asthma too. The actual surgical masks I get from the hospital are fantastic. The disposable ones I bought at Bed Bath and Beyond are worse than the high quality cloth masks I got but better than the “fashion” mask I bought online.

            Basically, this is a long winded way to say that surgical masks are the best but disposable masks are not necessarily as good as cloth ones.

        2. BRR*

          I’m sort of with you on this. With every retailer selling their version of fabric masks I’d worry about the quality. But unless it was a clearly poor quality mask or fit very badly, I wouldn’t go so far as to think someone isn’t taking it seriously/doesn’t care.

        3. introverted af*

          I see where you’re coming from, but as an alternative – we bought cloth masks with a fair amount of research to avoid disposable masks early on, and to not have to throw so much away. Even though surgical masks may be more available now, we still stick with our cloth masks because we have them and don’t want to waste the money.

        4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          My cloth mask has a slit to slip a non-woven fabric in. I actually wash old wipes and use them, as a way of forgiving myself for buying disposable wipes for cleaning! The non-woven factor is important, because the whole problem with cloth masks is that droplets can squeeze through an open weave. If you don’t have old wipes a piece of kitchen paper can also work.

          The worst cloth masks are the ones in stretchy fabric because of course the holes are even bigger when stretched.

          I was one of the first to start wearing masks long before it was even recommended by the government here, and I did plenty of research on how to make the most effective masks. When the government introduced regulations for cloth masks, mine more than met requirements.

          1. starsaphire*

            Most of mine have the slit, also. I was doing three-layer (two quilting cotton, one silk) and cutting the silk layer slightly off-grain so that the weaves couldn’t line up. When they started talking about double-masking, I was so glad I hadn’t gone back and top-stitched all those masks! The sources we read said that any non-woven material — even a folded tissue! — provided extra protection in the cloth mask.

            I put a LOT of work into those masks, digging through all my fabric stash, testing cottons, sacrificing a lot of my silk… darned if I’m not going to keep wearing them now I’ve got ones that match my outfits!

      4. pbnj*

        My only thought on disposables is that if OP is interviewing at a place big on sustainability and the environment, I would wear a cloth mask or cloth mask + disposable.

        1. Purple Cat*

          I work for a company that is fairly sustainable. We require and provide disposable masks for all of our employees. We couldn’t expect them to foot the bill for high-quality cloth masks themselves, and taking on the burden of washing/re-distributing them ourselves was too complicated. We did that in the very beginning when disposable masks were scarce, but not anymore.

          Bottom line, safety trumps sustainability.

      5. Momma Bear*

        IMO this is overthinking – many companies provide this type of mask for employees not because it is tacky but because it is a good mask.

      6. Hiring Mgr*

        Yeah you’re probably overthinking it. If someone were that serious about the safety aspect that they’d be judging your masks, they probably wouldn’t be doing in person interviews yet anyway

      7. BuzzOff*

        I highly highly doubt that any employer is going to be concerned with the type of mask you’re wearing rather than just the fact that you are wearing a mask properly (and would you want to work for a place that WOULD make that kind of judgement? nah)

      8. Keymaster of Gozer*

        Definitely overthinking it. I don’t care what mask someone wears, as long as they wear one (and it’s not mesh).

        I use disposable masks a lot myself, because it’s allergy season and my nose and eyes are running like crazy and I don’t want to have to wash masks multiple times a day.

        As long as the mask isn’t one of those ‘fake’ ones (like made out of fishnet tights) and doesn’t have a slogon on it you’re fine.

    4. Fashionista Librarian*

      Nancy Pelosi wears masks that are color-coordinated with her outfits, and I think they look very professional. Even the ones with a pattern.

      1. Threeve*

        I immediately thought of Nancy Pelosi too, but I wouldn’t recommend a regular citizen go as matchy-matchy as she does. She’s making something of an attention-grabbing pro-mask statement by doing so–not a bad thing!–and it means someone put a fair bit of thought, effort and expense into a single outfit. That isn’t really a message you need to send (unless you’re interviewing for something fairly appearance-focused or creative, like a pharmaceutical rep or a graphic designer).

        1. pancakes*

          The idea that someone must’ve put too much thought and effort into getting dressed if their mask goes with their clothes is pretty shallow and pretty uncharitable. As is the idea that looking well put together is meant to be inappropriately attention-grabbing. People who profess not to care about fashion often seem to care a great deal about imagining the interior lives of people who do.

        2. Insert Clever Name Here*

          That’s an interesting interpretation that someone matching their mask to their outfit sends a message that they’re too concerned about their appearance. If I see someone in a well-coordinated outfit + mask, I don’t judge that as them being vain or a clotheshorse. But I coordinate masks to my outfits the same way I coordinate scarves to my outfits, so maybe you’d think the same about me {shrug}

      2. BuzzOff*

        It does look nice, but also I don’t think anyone needs to put that much effort/buy a ton of masks just to match outfits, it’s ok if it doesn’t really match. Pelosi is a public figure and the pressure on her to present herself in a certain way is higher. I think most “normal” people get that we’ve all got a limited number of masks that we’re just trying to make it through with until the end of this whole thing

    5. pleaset cheap rolls*

      “LW3: I’m a woman, and have yet to find a situation where a solid or a muted floral mask isn’t appropriate.”

      I agree. And for men I’d say a muted pattern like a tight grid or tight paisley.

    6. theletter*

      I splurged and bought a silk mask in a gentle pink color for a wedding. After a year of masks, I found it comfy and pretty!

      I’ve found that earth tones, neutrals, masks with just a little emboidery or a tight print can make an outfit. If I’m wearing jewel tones I like to pick complementary colors.

      The most important thing, however, is that you wear a mask, any mask, to the interview.

      Oh I also got some goofy skull+american flag motorcycle face shields early last year. They aren’t particularly attractive but they go over well in red states.

    7. Insert Clever Name Here*

      Agreed. I think you could treat the mask almost like a blouse — if you’d wear a patterned blouse under your suit, you can wear a patterned mask with your suit (though I personally wouldn’t wear a patterned blouse + patterned mask to an interview, but I wouldn’t look askance at someone who did).

  6. No.*

    #2 Slightly related. How do apply for a job and make it clear I don’t like to be micromanaged? Currently thinking of transferring to another department where I’d have to work with a project manager who previously drove me insane with their level of micromanagement (it was almost as if they had nothing better to do than following up!). Would love the job, can afford the paycut, but don’t know if I could last at least a year working with that person.

    1. John Smith*

      I’d just mention that you prefer a high degree of autonomy. No problem with following rules, procedures, working in a team etc but I work best when I know I can be trusted to get on with my work (rephrase needed for that last bit).

      I have an incredibly nanomanaging boss (a few steps worse than a micromanager) which is the source of most of my teams problems, so I know where you’re coming from. Good luck.

    2. hbc*

      Examples really help, because hardly anyone thinks they’re a micromanager (or too hands off, or whatever.) Something like, “I think it’s a good idea for the monthly customer newsletters to be reviewed by my manager, but in my opinion. it’s inefficient and unnecessary for the daily or weekly LinkedIn posts to have to get approved when there’s a clear style guide.”

      A manager who wants to edit every post (or a peer-level interviewer who knows that the manager has their hand in everything) is going to read that as a bad fit.

    3. Cat Tree*

      Honestly, you have worked with this person before so you should expect them to continue behaving the same way. They’re unlikely to change because of anything you say in an interview. I think you need to accept that’s how they are, and factor that into your decision about how interested you are in this job.

    4. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      #2 Slightly related. How do [I] make it clear I don’t like to be micromanaged?

      Isn’t the word for that just… “normal”?

      In all seriousness, I think you just pass on that opportunity. I don’t see you being able to negotiate your would-be new boss.

    5. Cedrus Libani*

      In this case, you know exactly what you’re walking into, right? If you take the transfer, your PM will be Nosey Bob, and you’ll have to contend with his twice-daily requests for a status update. Maybe the other benefits of the job are worth it, maybe they aren’t, but you have the information you need.

      If you’re interviewing somewhere new, I think John Smith’s answer is fine. If the people hiring know you won’t be allowed to tie your own shoes without the boss’ approval, and you say that autonomy is important to you, then (as described by that OP) you won’t be hired. But if you’re in any sort of position to choose where you work, you want to screen out jobs where you’ll be miserable, so this is a good thing.

  7. Ferret*

    #3 is a reasonable question but I’m giggling at the thought that “suit masks” might become a thing if this pandemic lasts too much longer.

    Let’s all hope not.

    1. Night Owl*

      Honestly I’d be surprised if it isn’t already a thing. There are even bridal masks these days! I don’t know whether to laugh or cry at stuff like that.

      1. Xenia*

        Especially since they look like lingerie. I know where the companies are trying to go with them but every time I see an ad for a bridal mask I keep thinking it’s an ad for a lacy bra…

        1. TechWorker*

          Yea I’ve seen some that are mostly lace and honestly cannot remotely do the job they’re meant to do? Lace has holes in it…

          The reviews on the ones I saw were like ‘great! So breathable!’ …*sigh*

          1. Audrey Puffins*

            Do they maybe have a nude coloured fabric under the lace like some fancy frocks do? So it looks like it’s lace over skin but there’s a whole other modesty layer going on too?

          2. pancakes*

            Some masks like that aren’t meant to do the job, they’re meant to antagonize people. One of the Capitol rioter suspects is facing contempt of court charges for wearing a mesh mask to court.

          3. wittyrepartee*

            I do think that a lot of the lacy ones are supposed to be worn OVER a nude or appropriately colored mask.

        2. LQ*

          I got a wedding mask – it was supposed to be the “groom’s” mask, but it’s a very nice charcoal grey that I really like for formal look. Even the white lacy versions I saw were multiple layers of …not lace…under the lace, but they had like 3 layers of lace which created a really pretty effect. There were some that did white lace over coordinating colors too. Lots of options that can still be useful.

      2. pleaset cheap rolls*

        I was tech for a Zoom wedding. The bride and groom had excellent masks – the bride’s had white lace on top and she looked beautiful in it.

        If people are looking at our faces in masks, it seems very appropriate to care about how the mask looks.

        I see a guy in a suit on my commute who has masks that match his ties. It looks good but also a little too “matchy matchy” like a tie with matching identical pocket square. Good effort, and slick, but I think he could do better with some slight variation.

      3. Zephy*

        I got married last year. My mom sent me a “something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue” package, and the “something new” was a his-and-hers wedding-themed mask two-pack. “His” was black with a little bowtie on the bridge of the nose, “hers” was white with iridescent sequins.

      4. Momma Bear*

        There’s at least one company making ties and matching masks, and I’ve seen dress + mask combos online, too.

    2. Grace*

      I recently saw prom dresses being sold with matching (sequin) masks. I could picture suits with coordinating masks. Or would you match to the shirt/blouse?

      1. 10Isee*

        I’ve seen several camis and blouses being sold with matching masks that I suspect were meant to be worn with suits, and I know my dad has at least one dress shirt that came with a coordinating mask. (I have no firsthand experience because we’re working from home in our pajamas at this house)

        1. Lexie*

          My daughter has a hoodie that came with two masks. The masks and the hoodie have Velcro on them so that if she has the hood up she can attach the mask to it instead of using the ear loops.

          1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

            That doesn’t seem like it would give a very snug fit, and thus not be very effective.

            1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

              I had something like that years ago. It was marketed for winter and was quite effective to keep your face warm against cold wind. It would do almost nothing to prevent infections to others, though – so no replacement for a snugly – fitting “real” mask (medical or N95).

            2. Lexie*

              It’s not that bad. Since the hood has to be up it’s more of an outdoor usage because it’s not really practical to keep changing how you wear it as you go in and out of buildings.

      2. Bagpuss*

        I like the idea of a mask of the same fabric as the suit, with the binding round the mask matching the blouse (or tie)
        But I think a mask matching the blouse or shirt would also work.

      3. Foxgloves*

        I’d consider masks for men on formal occasions as more akin to a pocket square- i.e. should coordinate with, but not directly match, the tie.

    3. Llama face!*

      There is a fancy men’s and women’s clothing store downtown in my city that (a few months ago when I passed by) had their window mannequins all in face masks with fabric exactly matching their suits and business wear. So if you wanted to make it a thing, there are apparently shops who have stocked what you need! Lol

      1. Pennyworth*

        The most elegant mask I have seen was the one Kate Middleton wore at Prince Philip’s funeral. It was a perfect fit and was shaped to show off her eyes to perfection.

      2. Willis*

        Nancy Pelosi’s mask always match her outfits so perfectly. I would be jealous, if I still went anywhere that required me to wear business attire….

        1. Windchime*

          Same with Jill Biden. Her masks always either match or coordinate with her outfit and it looks really sharp. I just use the black disposable masks from Costco because I’m lame and have to fashionable aspirations.

      3. Minerva*

        Around here, we’re gearing up for the Kentucky Derby, and all the hat makers are selling coordinating masks!

    4. Julia*

      Someone in Japan actually came up with a stupid rule for which mask goes with which suit etc. I’d prefer if they could get most men to keep their noses in their masks, whichever type it is, but well…

    5. Jerry Larry Terry Gary*

      The first lady always seems to wear masks in the fabric of her dress. Almost…too distracting/drawing too much attention to the outfit?

      1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

        I think her masks are fabulous, and she always dresses suitably for the occasion. First Ladies are allowed to be stylish.

        1. UKDancer*

          Definitely. I think she has great dress sense. It’s lovely seeing a mature lady look so good. Designers often overlook women once they hit middle age. Dr Biden always looks really elegant. I think people will look at her clothes anyway so it’s good she dresses so well.

        1. Idril Celebrindal*

          Teh Wimmins with their attention-seeking ways (TM)?

          I’m definitely getting a vibe of “how dare a woman spend time on her appearance, only men get to obsess over how she looks and I’ll blame her for trying to look nice. Unless she doesn’t look nice and then I’ll blame her for not taking enough care.”

    6. MK*

      I haven’t seen suit masks, but professional ones are already a thing. I work for the Justice Department and they gave us masks with Justice embroidered on it, the Bar Association in my town has provided masks with their emblem, even some big law firms have given their lawyers masks with the firm logo.

      1. allathian*

        My employer gave us cloth masks with the company logo. Mine’s still at the office, though, because I haven’t needed to go in, and now they’re recommending disposable ppf 2 or surgical masks.

      1. Crivens!*

        For a while they included the matching masks for free, and they’re comfortable masks! I got 7 of mine that way.

    7. MsSolo*

      On Great British Sewing Bee this year a lot of the contestants are doing marching masks for their models in the final rpund (I suspect they’re making them beforehand, rather than using competition time, to get a feel for the fabric). It looks pretty cool.

    8. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      One of the many joys of the new series of Great British Sewing Bee (like Bakeoff, but home sewing) is that the models have been wearing masks made of the offcuts of the fabrics from the challenges.

      Imagine having a couple of matching masks for every outfit – like matching pocket squares. I am SWOONING.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        This is the first I’ve heard of that show! Going to have to find somewhere that streams it….I don’t have a TV license)

        1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

          Oh, I hope you enjoy it. It’s very good natured, but with multiple double extenders, and the losers are always very gracious and grateful to have been involved at all.

          Also look out for Glow Up (makeup), All That Glitters (jewellery) and The Great Pottery Throwdown (er, pottery). Same feel.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer*

            Husband unit holds several degrees in ceramics (how he ended up in software about the same time I transferred out of virology is a fun take) and definitely going to point him in the direction of the pottery one!

        2. JustaTech*

          YouTube has got it, or at least has the earlier seasons (sadly it turns out to not be something I can watch while sewing, because to actually understand what’s going on you need to see the screen).

    9. londonedit*

      Most of the big football teams here seem to have updated their team kit to include a mask – so now when the team arrives for a match, when they get off the bus they’re all wearing their matching training tracksuits and matching black masks with the club logo on them, and the manager has their club suit and tie on with a club mask.

      My masks are all in various prints, and I do consider which one would go best with my outfit, but I haven’t encountered a formal mask-wearing situation yet!

    10. PostalMixup*

      There’s a bowtie maker with an online shop that switched to masks during the pandemic. They now sell sets where your mask can match your bowtie.

    11. Pointy's in the North Tower*

      I have a ton of masks since I’m on site M-F, and I use them as my pop of color or to complement my clothes (I’m business casual). I have solids, subtle patterns, and straight up fun patterns. Some of them are definitely more “professional” in fabric and color. I’m not into accessorizing much, so for me masks have been a way to look a little more polished and still be the office quirkball.

    12. Sleepless*

      I’ve been wearing only surgical masks, partly because I hate the way the fabric ones try to suck onto my face, but mostly because I’ve been trying to stay in denial that this is going to go on for so long that it will be subject to fashion rules.

  8. goducks*

    Every job I’ve seen locally has been 8 hours plus lunch, and every time I’ve heard of 8 including lunch it’s been on the east coast (I’m on the west coast). The most common schedule I see is 8-5, which I assume the8 am starting convention is to try to have as much overlap as possible with the east coast, and the 5 end is due to American work culture not respecting an end before 5.

    It blows my mind whenever people talk of a standard 40 hour week that includes lunch.

      1. Lexie*

        I’ve had an 8-5 job on the east coast. I think its not so much about coordinating with other times zones as it is about getting a full 8 hours of work out of people as opposed to getting 7 hours of work and having them eat on the clock.

    1. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Places that require OT if you exceed 8 hours in a day often have a 7.5 hour workday.

    2. Chilipepper*

      My employer requires OT if you WORK more than 8 hours a day, we are AT work 8.5 hours a day (8:30 to 5pm) and have an unpaid 30 minute lunch. Also east coast.

    3. pretzelgirl*

      I have the option to take a lunch but I don’t really. I usually take a quick 15 min break to eat and not work. I personally prefer it that way. I get to leave a little earlier and miss traffic. Well in non-pandemic times that is.

  9. Double A*

    I once had an upstairs neighbor who had very loud sex above my roommate’s room. My roommate left a polite note at one point, and the loud sex stopped.

    In what was a rather alarming early morning SWAT raid,
    that neighbor was later arrested for being apparently a fairly high level meth dealer in the area. So the upshot of the story is, you never know just who will be responsive to a note about sex noises and it’s worth a try.

    1. Cat Tree*

      It makes sense in a way, because a meth dealer probably wants to maintain a low profile and not draw attention.

      But yeah, many times people are just oblivious even when it seems like it should be obvious to them. And I’m not generally a fan of leaving notes but for something potentially embarrassing like “I can hear you having lod sex”, a note is a face-saving favor to the recipient.

    2. Ama*

      I have had pretty good luck with polite notes to noisy neighbors (it has been mostly late night TV/barking dogs for me) when I write them assuming that they have no idea how loud the noise is outside their apartment (or in the case of the barking dogs, how frequently it is happening, since it is often when they get left alone in the apartment). Yes, they might know how loud they are and not care, but it’s basically a version of Alison’s rule about approaching a situation as if the offending party would absolutely want to do the right thing if they knew there was a problem.

      1. Jack Russell Terrier*

        Quite a while back, the Lutheran church across the street was having an extension built. The contractors were consistently not obeying quiet hours – going til 11pm, starting at 6.30am … . I called the Pastor – as I expected, she had no idea. She thanked me for letting her know, saying she really didn’t want to upset neighbors. It stopped.

    3. Nanani*

      I do wonder if LW1 is -sure- that it’s porn and not a live performance, shall we say.
      Snooping around to figure out which neighbour it is might leave more than one party embarassed.

  10. More anon today*

    #3: Okay, but *could* I wear my pinstriped mask for such an occasion? Or would it look like trying too hard? Mostly joking, actually, because my plain black everyday masks (unlike my pinstriped one) are cut so they stay off my mouth, making it much easier to talk, which is probably the most important thing on any business formal occasion. But it did amuse me to find one that matches my pinstriped pants.

    1. LQ*

      Only if the pinstripes are immaculately lined up. If they are slightly off kilter don’t do it!! If someone has a slightly off mask, especially a center seam, it can be distracting. But 100% want to see a full pinstripe suit with matching mask now.

      1. JillianNicola*

        I was a little surprised and disappointed at how little fun was had with masks on the few red carpet events we got this past year. I mean, what an opportunity to take something required but make it *~fashion~* lol.

        1. Gumby*

          I haven’t watched any red carpet events, but was amused at how much bling went onto some of the masks that NCAA gymnasts (women, men’s were plain) were wearing.

  11. Esmeralda*

    Professional mask attire? Good lord. Are paper masks…tacky? Unprofessional?

    I swear, this pandemic cannot end soon enough.

    1. UKDancer*

      No they’re not tacky but sometimes it’s nice to have something that looks better with work wear. I mean I wear paper ones too sometimes but when I’m going out I feel better about myself if the mask goes with the outfit. I figure if I have to wear them I’d like to look my best when doing so. This morning for example I wore one with a lovely picture of some people dancing on when I went out to empty the bins and it made me smile.

    2. Chas*

      Personally I think the paper masks are just the standard acceptable mask. I wouldn’t think anything of someone wearing one with a suit for an interview, or a plain cloth one that was in a colour that didn’t clash with the suit.

      I think the bigger issue would be if you wore a mask with the type of design that looks like something you’d see printed on a T-shirt- stuff like tie-dye patterns or logos/cartoon characters. (I’ve seen adults wearing Mr. Men and Among Us masks, which are fine for casual wear but not for an interview)

      1. ecnaseener*

        I was thinking the same thing, a blue or white paper mask isn’t really part of your outfit, it’s just utilitarian and disposable. But a cloth mask feels more like part of your outfit for whatever reason.

    3. Smithy*

      I think the reality is that with masks still being part of life, there are people, fashion magazines and fashion brands who’ve taken the time to invest into masks to have style. There’s that photo of Kate Middleton at Prince Philip’s funeral and then a number of online vendors have “face masks” as an entire section under accessories.

      All of that to say, for an interview, I’d seek out either a white or black paper mask because I find those to be the lightest.

    4. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

      Another point to consider – my hospital system requires everyone coming in to wear a provided disposable mask, whether they have their own or not, because that way nobody’s coming in wearing a mask with (mesh / lace / vent holes / 6 months of built-up grime / not enough layers). I mean, I love my mom and I’m sure she followed the guidance that was available at the time, but from a risk standpoint, I have more faith in a medical grade disposable mask than in the Mickey Mouse one she sewed for me.

      1. JustaTech*

        My doctor’s office (giant clinic) does this too, and while I completely understand why, it feels really weird and faintly wrong to take my mask *off* and replace it with one of theirs, especially since the staff person taking my temperature and handing me the mask isn’t wearing a face shield, just their own mask.
        (This all happens down in the parking garage.)

        1. PersephoneUnderground*

          They let me just put theirs over my own at the doctor’s when I went, and then when I was away from anyone including the person giving them out I did the proper switch.

    5. Cat Tree*

      I don’t actually own any disposable masks and I probably wouldn’t buy one just for this. I have 10 cloth masks, and several of them are plain gray so I would use those in a professional context.

    6. pretzelgirl*

      People need to stop overthinking this. Paper masks are not tacky. Nearly everyone at work wears them and no one bats an eye.

    7. pancakes*

      People caring about their appearance for job interviews—or in general!—isn’t a special pandemic thing.

    8. Person from the Resume*

      I’ve only worn a paper mask once in this pandemic. I have variety of 5 cloth masks that rotate through based on my activity, but most of the time I used my two most comfortable fitting ones. None of them are neutral because I have not gone places where I dressed up during the pandemic; although, I guess we’re there now because I am vaccinated and things are starting to open up. Luckily I still won’t be going anywhere that I have to look professional.

      1. RussianInTexas*

        I got two sets of cloth masks from Old Navy and they are super comfortable and stand up great to wash.
        One set in solid blues and the other in the fun tartan fabrics. I suppose the darker blue ones can be “interview appropriate”.

      2. OyHiOh*

        I’ve worn paper masks less than five times and each time, it’s been a bit of a head trip. My spouse died in ICU at the beginning of 2019 and his room was on mask protocol. The smell of a surgical paper mask takes me right back to the hardest three weeks of my life, every time.

        I have a set of four green fabric Humana masks (my parents didn’t like the fit so I started using them), and a set of black fabric masks my work had made up for us (have the abbreviation for our org printed across them), and those have been sufficient for the activities I’ve engaged in, and my work environment.

      3. Lunch Ghost*

        I had to wear a paper one a few days ago because I put laundry in the wash, including all my masks, even though I was going grocery shopping. (Dumb.) Compared to my cloth ones, which almost all have a nose piece and I’ve tied off the earpieces to where I want them, it didn’t feel secure enough.

    9. Flance*

      I also find this a bit mind-boggling, and kind of sad because I still think of masks as a temporary thing- they make sense in a pandemic, but am I going to fill up a wardrobe of “fashionable” masks for the potential future? I hope I won’t have too. Granted, I personally find all of them to look pretty awful, I feel depressed looking at them no matter how “fun” people try to make them seem. They are just a constant reminder of the pandemic for me.

      I hope I will never need “professional” masks.

      1. Pointy's in the North Tower*

        I plan to. I have severe allergies and asthma, and every fall/winter I end up with multiple sinus and/or ear infections due to them except for this previous year. I also didn’t get my annual cold that keeps me home from work for three days and takes me two weeks to stop being short of breath. I know part of it is because most of my office is working from home, but I’m sure wearing a mask didn’t hurt. Come this winter you bet I intend to mask up to ensure that I keep myself as not sick as possible.

      2. JustaTech*

        I fully intend to at least keep them around for bad pollen days, medium smoke days, and days when I’m riding the bus and don’t want to deal with people.

        I’ve made like 200 masks and the ones I’ve kept for me are pretty. I’m not just going to throw them away when they’re still useful (thought I will be deeply grateful when I only wear them to the office on days when I’m sniffly).

        1. Flance*

          Well if its your choice have at it, personally once they’re not mandated anymore I plan to ditch them. I hope I won’t have to wear one again in my lifetime, though time will tell.

    10. Bucky Barnes*

      I’ve been in the office for most of the pandemic and have had to wear a mask the entire 8-hr day (not including lunch :) ). The blue disposable ones are fine for me for short periods but an entire day’s use seriously irritates my face. I’ve been wearing different cloth masks with filters instead. Some of mine are solid but management is fine with patterns (and characters!) on them. I’m wearing a Captain America mask right now.

    11. Rebecca1*

      Some people also like to double-mask with cloth over paper. It can help the paper fit better, depending on one’s face shape.

    12. LDF*

      I don’t think anyone said disposable masks are unprofessional. I assumed “masks from target” meant cloth masks, and it’s reasonable to wonder about which ones of those are professional. I have plenty that pretty clearly aren’t appropriate for a suit-wearing interview, and some that are.

    13. Idril Celebrindal*

      I’m confused why this LW’s question is a problem?

      Some people prefer to focus on something functional and basic like a standard medical mask. Other people prefer to exhibit their own personal style through a mask. Others want something that fits an asthetic but don’t want to focus on it more than that.

      It’s an item of clothing in that is worn on the body. There are always people who have these kinds of attitudes about all aspects of clothing, doesn’t make any of them wrong or bad. If you don’t usually get upset about people liking fashion and clothing in general, why not extend the same understanding to mask wearing? Is someone somehow bad for not wearing a mask in what you have decided is the only acceptable way?

  12. John Smith*

    #1 is this something you can report to the police or a local authority if it doesn’t stop after following Alison’s advice? That may seem heavy handed, but playing music/ porn that loud must be affecting the quality of life of people nearby (I know from experience of living next door to neighbours from hell – eventually evicted). While this person may be unaware of how loud they are and may not be intending to cause a nuisance (maybe they’re very hard of hearing? Who knows), it can’t go on. As well as the nuisance, in my country, this would be breaking quite a few laws. Whether it be enforcement action being taken by a local authority/police or assistance from social service organisations (community care supplying a hearing aid for example) this person needs dealing with.

      1. John Smith*

        Oooh, America, yeah sorry. That doesn’t happen in my country (mostly – we get tasered instead or just pestered). But the reason I mentioned the police is that playing loud porn (in my country) can be an offence that the police deal with. Causing alarm/distress, outraging public decency etc.

        1. Beth*

          Even if deadly force weren’t a concern, calling the police probably wouldn’t work on this one in the US. Playing loud porn in public might well be illegal, but I doubt doing so in your own residence is. I can’t imagine they could do much more than let the neighbor know there’s been complaints and ask him to consider turning it down.

  13. WhiteNoise*

    #1 You might also consider one of those white noise machines you see in doctors’ and therapists’ offices; they are designed to cut/replace background noises. Whether someone on the call would be bothered by THAT noise remains to be seen, but it isn’t moaning.

    1. pancakes*

      Or experiment with a white or brown noise youtube channel or spotify playlist before investing in a machine.

    2. Lime green Pacer*

      There are also apps that generate blocking noises and background noises (nature sounds, coffee shop noises etc.) . MyNoise is one app with a variety of noise-blocking sounds.

    3. ValkyriePuppy*

      I’m a therapist and put a white noise machine outside my office door — I can hear it a bit but no one else can. I haven’t tried keeping it in my actual office (the point is to block people outside my room from hearing inside) but I’d imagine if you kept it far enough away it might be ok????

  14. Bilateralrope*

    For #1, I’d suggest looking into some software option to filter out background noise. I’ve heard good things about RTX voice, but that requires you to have an nVidia graphics card in your computer. WFH was never an option for my job, so I haven’t looked into other options.

    Also, calling noise control and/or the police might help get the porn silenced. Remember that if you can hear it, chances are that children in another apartment can also hear it. I don’t know what your local authorities are like, so I can’t say if that would be a good idea for you.

    1. Chilipepper*

      Where I live in the US, noise ordinances don’t kick in until after late at night, maybe 10 or 11 pm or later. I dont think police or other agency can help. But property management might. I’d follow Alison’s advice to talk to management. And get noise cancelling headphones with a boom Mic.

      1. Cat Tree*

        It really depends on the area. In some places, the police would come out specifically for loud porn. In other places, they won’t even come out to the scene for vandalism, just file a report to give to your insurance. Where I live now, I actually had an officer come to my house to pick up a lost dog that I found and return him to the owners.

    2. JSPA*

      OP #1: This is a standard technical problem with a standard technical answer. Get a good directional microphone. That honestly should be all you need. In a general sense, this is EXACTLY the same problem as the cars honking and background music and people’s conversation and dogs barking problem faced by literally every broadcaster, everywhere. You do not need to re-invent the wheel.

      A microphone that’s of limited spectrum, focused on speaking voice (which you may already have, or can get even more cheaply) might also help. If part of the range (and all of the beat) of the obvious music, and part of the range of the sounds are cut off, the remaining sounds might be less obviously…what they are. But answer number 1 is to get the right sort of microphone so that it picks up sound only in a very small area.

      Per some articles (I’ll link one) one can (or one could?) pick up a hypercardioid usb microphone for under $100.

      Also, “I can hear it maddeningly clearly” and “violating noise ordinances” are at super different levels.

      1. LQ*

        Strong directional mic second. The boom mic off a headsets are good, but you can get a standing one or one on an arm. But using the built in laptop mic should be something we should all stop doing please. Make your employer get you a headset!

  15. PspspspspspsKitty*

    LW 1 – Oof. This is terrible. If you don’t want to walk the hallway to find out who it is, it’s okay to go to the complex manager. I can’t see a good apartment manager allowing loud porn to play. Most should be receptive to this.

    1. Pennyworth*

      Some places have regulations about not disturbing the amenity of others sharing the building. I remember reading about a case in the UK many years ago where a couple repeatedly had such loud sex that the authorities did get involved. I think they got fined and issued with an anti-social behavior order after the magistrate was played recordings of their long and noisy amorous sessions.

      1. UKDancer*

        Yes definitely. If there’s an apartment manager or a concierge for the building then my first port of call would be to go to them with a noise concern and ask them to look into it. That’s what I’ve done with concerns about people in my block of flats. They’re a lot better placed to find it and can probably deal with it in a more neutral manner without saying who raised the concern.

      2. pancakes*

        In some places this is called an implied warranty to quiet enjoyment. If it’s in the lease, the tenant has a right to it rather than an implied warranty of it.

    2. Asenath*

      That was a really effective approach in my normally quiet building. It was very loud music at 2-3 AM (and other times), not porn, but the principle is the same. I have never before needed to complain about noise, and I was ready to call the police, who, in my area, do handle noise complaints after a certain hour. I am ashamed to admit that I mistook the source of the noise as an apartment on my floor but in another wing, and knocked on their door. I apologized profusely, and found the correct apartment one floor up, also in the other wing of the building. No one answered the door. Of course, I emailed the management in the middle of the night, and I suspect most other residents did the same. An email came out saying the matter was being handled, and I don’t know if the culprits were made to toe the line or evicted for breaking the building regulations about excessive noise, but the noise stopped.

    3. Caterpie*

      This is good advice. Keep a log of every instance; this will help management if they need to serve lease violations/evict.

      We’ve had very loud neighbors, and smoke come into our unit (non-smoking building), and the log serves as “evidence” should the management need to move beyond warnings.

      1. Reba*

        Yep. Track when it happens so you can tell management “this disrupts my work x times per week.” Remind them that you are a good tenant and ask them to intervene.

        They may not take much action, because IME usually noise regulations are about time of day (no loud music after 10pm for example) so they may not feel they have enforcement power.

        But hopefully just making the neighbors aware will prompt them to turn down the volume!

    4. Yikes!*

      As a woman, I would feel deeply uncomfortable communicating directly with a male stranger who happens to be a neighbor that I’m finding the pornography he’s watching to be too loud.

      1. LW1*

        That is pretty much how I feel about confronting them (if I knew who they were).

  16. Bilateralrope*

    How appropriate would some of the powered masks be ?

    Typically we are talking an active system to push air through N95 filters, instead of just relying on the wearers lungs. Clear plastic over the face so you can see it. Microphone and speakers to amplify your voice.

    And the one made by a gaming hardware company comes with RGB lighting.

    1. PspspspspspsKitty*

      I would say for an interview, probably not. If this is in the USA, it’s not approved to be used by CDC yet. CDC has a list of approved face masks. Honestly, I would be hesitated to meet someone I didn’t know and saw they had a mask actively blowing out air. I wouldn’t know if it’s filtered, what filter it is, and if I will be at risk.

  17. Artemesia*

    Masks — FWIW there are k05 type masks available in designer colors — I have a box with hunter green, plum, blue etc that coordinate nicely. There are tons of plain colored cloth masks. And you can get black ‘medical mask’ style masks, and of course a classic white k95 is fine.

    1. pleaset cheap rolls*

      I have black KN95s and think the look so much better than generic white/off white and generic light blue disposable masks.

  18. Matt*

    LW1: Have you tried It’s a sound cancellation app for conference calls you install on your computer. It might be of some help. An external dynamic cardioid mic such as the Samson Q2U or Audio Technica ATR100x is also an option. These types of mic tend to pic up less background noise than standard condenser type mics – you just have to have them closer to your mouth. Also, I’m sure if you did a bit of detective work to find the flat, building management might help sort the issue at source.

  19. Jcb*

    LW1: I was living with 4 roommates with different zoom schedules and found a white noise machine to be a total lifesaver. If it can block out my two roommates teaching in the living room, I’m sure it would help your situation!

    LW3: Even if it’s not necessary, my favorite masks are actually ones I got from Banana Republic – they’re like suit jacket liner material and super comfy with a space for a pm2.5 filter. I got a set of 3 and they’re all muted grays, I wore them to my first day of in person work when I wasn’t sure how dressy I’d need to be and wanted to not feel awkward about my mask!

  20. Bob*

    I use KN95 masks form Costco when going out, if they are available in your area they are not fancy but they mean business (double entendre).

  21. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

    OP5, it might help to think of your lunch break as a benefit* that enables you to work effectively through the day, similar to an internet connection, parking space, coffee, toilet paper, or air-con (whichever are appropriate to your work environment). On your day off, you don’t expect your company to provide internet access, or pay for your parking, toilet paper, or coffee – or pay you to take a lunch break.

    Not really a benefit so much as a work-enabler.

    1. doreen*

      It also might help the OP to look at it from the other direction – I work and get paid for 7.5 hours a day and have an unpaid lunch so of course I only use 7.5 hours of vacation time when I take a day off. For hourly employees at my job, the easiest way to describe it is that every day must add up to 7.5 between hours worked and leave charged.

      1. Ama*

        That’s literally what our PTO request forms say at my office — after you note the days (or half days) you want off, you are supposed to total up how many hours it is (in our official HR system we accrue PTO by number of hours, not days) and they remind you that one work day is 7 hours (we get an hour lunch).

        I find I am much more productive when I really take a full hour off in the middle of the day. For a short period a few years back I lived close enough to my office to go home for lunch, which was great and something I’ve been trying to replicate during the pandemic by going into another room to eat.

  22. triceratops*

    #1. I would play music in your own house (in an adjacent room to your office, etc) to cover up the porn sounds!

  23. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    I find that some masks are better than others for talking in. Above all, LW should wear a mask they can talk in, for however many hours, without needing repeated adjustment or risking slippage.

    Because I’m a fan of whimsy, I have many patterned masks including characters from TV and books. I would avoid the more quirky ones for a professional meeting in favour of stripes or plain, even in block colours if gentler than neon!

    1. UKDancer*

      I also have a range of masks from the silly to the sober and a couple of silk ones for evening wear. For work I tend to wear subtly patterned For an interview I’d suggest a plain one, possibly black or navy rather than anything more offbeat.

    2. Flower necklace*

      Ear savers are great for keeping a mask in place. I wear a KN95 covered by a cloth mask, and it can be difficult to keep them at just the right tension (i.e. not too loose, not too tight). Ear savers help a lot with that.

      1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I find it’s more that as your chin moves it can pull a smaller/tighter mask down your face away from your nose despite wiring etc. The pleated rectangle style seem to have more capacity for longer handsfree conversations than the shaped sleeker/stretchy ones which are fine for quick interactions.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Don’t know about others, but I’ve found that masks that attach round the back of the head with toggles tend to ride up less when talking than the behind the ears type.

          (Also, yes, stretchy/unfolding masks seem to want to congregate on one’s nose after a chat…)

    3. Generic Name*

      Ooh, yes. Ask others which mask is easier for them to hear you talk in. I’ve seen (homemade) masks that are so tight across the wearer’s face that it really muffles the sound and it’s very hard to hear them when they speak. I have one mask that’s double layered and the inner layer is loose and hits my lips, and I can tell that my voice is muffled.

      1. CoffeeIsMyFriend*

        YES! I am a professor and while I wear reusable pretty cloth masks in my everyday life and in my office, when I am teaching I wear a KN 95 because it allows me to talk AND break AND be heard. Also, if you haven’t had to talk for long periods in a mask, I recommend practicing as it takes some getting used to.

        1. Sleepless*

          I had to stop wearing cloth masks when I was talking to clients; they sucked up against my face and made it truly feel like I couldn’t breathe. (I have a family member who was convinced that she would pass out from lack of oxygen if she wore a mask, so I couldn’t resist checking my pulse ox immediately after one of these conversations. 100%.) I’ve had to stick with surgical masks.

  24. Bagpuss*

    For LW1, if you can’t get the noise to stop, and options like muting yourself or using a mic don’t work or aren’t suitable, could you try masking it instead? Have a white noise generating app running, or music playing, which may mean that the noise audible to others is more a jumble of background noise rather than obviously and identifiably porn.

  25. Akcipitrokulo*

    OP1 – technical solutions might work, but if nothing else works, it is perfectly ok to switch to text and message “too much noise from neighbours here – using messages at moment”.

    Not ideal, but is ok to do this. I’ve had to when headset broke.

  26. Cookies For Breakfast*

    LW2, I have no useful advice and am mostly here to offer commiseration. I have a very similar boss. I couldn’t even use Alison’s line that projects involve a lot of direction from him, because he doesn’t give me any that I can use. He just wants to do all the work himself. He doesn’t even let me help when it’s clear he’s dropping all the balls.

    All the best for your move, and I hope your time off will bring the fulfilment you need and deserve!

    1. LW2*

      Thank you, I look forward to start working on those personal problems to advance in the new direction!
      I am sorry you are in a similar situation. On my side, after a while I stopped caring about things my boss wouldn’t involve me in and he would decide by himself. I didn’t have the energy to try to figure out what was new, that was never even mentioned to me, and I was supposed to lead the technology advancements! While if I didn’t mention some intermediate step he would go crazy and talk about the need for better communication from me. That was it for me.
      I would also suggest asking yourself if you are still doing the job you were hired to do, or at least if you are learning something that interests you. I was asked to do very basic things in a short timeframe, not really what I thought I would do after a Master in Engineering and 2 years of research! It helped me choose it wasn’t for me anymore.

  27. Bagpuss*

    #3 – I would be inclined to go to a plain, dark coloured mask – if you are going to be wearing a suit or smart dress then in a coordinating colour if possible, although I think black or grey would work either way.

    If you wear one with a pattern then a small, subtle one would be OK.

    As others have said, give it a trial run ahead of time to make sure that you can comfortably wear it for as long as the interview is likely to take, and that it fits well so you won’t have to keep adjusting it.

  28. NinaBee*

    #4.. I’m in UK so not sure how it applies to your situation, but many companies have clauses in the employment contracts about client relationships and even working for the same company on a freelance basis (when I left mine to go freelance I wasn’t allowed to freelance there for 6 months). Maybe check your employment contract and see what your options are? It doesn’t sound like they’d allow it though, as it still is/was their product.

    1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      I agree – it’s the fact that it’s the employer’s product (even if discontinued/defunct/no longer officially supported) that is likely to be the problem here.

    2. Oh No She Di'int*

      Agreed. We have a specific clause in our contract that allows freelance work for clients only if it’s clearly unrelated to the main business, e.g., providing office cleaning services while our company designs teapots.

  29. The Other Dawn*

    RE: #3

    Unless you’re wearing a stormtrooper mask (I saw this in the grocery store early on in the pandemic), I highly doubt anyone is going to notice, much less care, what color/style/type of fabric you’re wearing. Just go with whatever is most comfortable since you’ll be talking for probably an hour or more.

  30. WellRed*

    Just make sure the mask fits and you can tolerate it well during say an hourlong interview. I recently interviewed someone (roommate not work) and she kept plucking at the front of her mask. Drove me nuts.

    1. Ali G*

      OMG yes. I didn’t realize how uncomfortable masks were until I had to wear one for like 3 hours straight. I had only been wearing them intermittently (like 5-10 min at a time) this whole time! A few weeks ago I had an outdoor meeting but since it was long and no one was vax’ed yet we all wore masks to be safe. UGH. My ears hurt, my glasses were fogged and useless the whole time and it sucked.

      1. Chilipepper*

        This really drives home the different experiences of COVID. I have been wearing a mask for 8 hours a day for over a year. And I wear a face shield when I am at the customer service desk for 3 to 4 hours a day.

    2. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Also, take a spare mask. The blimmin straps broke on my favourite cloth one yesterday and I had to go home to get another.

      1. Lime green Pacer*

        My kid got a nosebleed in her mask just before I dropped her for a lab appointment. Luckily we had a backup.

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Oh yes, I had actually forgotten this time of year aggravates my allergies so bad that I do occasionally sneeze myself into a nose bleed. I…will pack more disposable masks in the car.

          (Can’t take antihistamines at all)

    3. June First*

      The elastic extenders really help keep masks in place. Most are adjustable, too.

  31. Ali G*

    A couple years ago we eliminated some programs and laid off some staff where I work. One of the programs we eliminated had potential, but wasn’t a good fit for the new direction we were going. We offered the staff person in charge of that (who got laid off) the rights to the program and software and he took us up on it.
    You probably can’t just do this on the side, if you want to keep working there, but you definitely need to talk this opportunity through with your employer about the options you have. You might be able to come to an agreement for you taking this on yourself.
    Good luck!

    1. LW4*

      Thank you! In the past, when trying to freelance, my husband and I speculated on eventually doing the work for my company on a more contracted basis, instead of as a full-time job. I guess now I know I need them more than they need me. The pandemic probably has something to do with it too (lower sales overall throughout the company), but I was hoping I’d always be needed somewhat.
      Depending on how my next couple months go, I may still bring it up with them.

      1. ResuMAYDAY*

        OP, it’s possible that the company may try to convert those clients towards a product they *will* be supporting in the future, so any attempts at contacting them could be seen as a conflict. Tread carefully!

  32. Jack Straw*

    OP#1–Get a headset with a mic. I have a super basic model Logitech with a boom mic, and it’s a champ. My kid could be (and has been, obliviously) standing next to my desk talking to me and the people I’m talking with can’t hear him.

    1. Veronica*

      This worked for me too until my kid leaned into the microphone while I was on a call with a client and said “poop.” I hit the mute button and my coworker burst out laughing. Thankfully, she explained to the client that I was home with a toddler.

      1. Jack Straw*

        Haha! Mine are in upper double digits, so it was more clueless teenager than hilarious toddler. Although I wouldn’t put a loud poop comment past the 16YO TBH.

  33. Rusty Shackelford*

    I saw a young couple in a parking lot the other day wearing masks that said F*** Off (without the asterisks). Don’t wear that mask. But a subtle-enough-to-be-subliminal Hire Me? I want someone to give that a shot.

  34. Weekend Please*

    #1: Instead of setting up a video call with a friend next time it happens, you could simply open a zoom session and record. Then you can play it back and will hear whether or not it is noticeable. This way you don’t need to take anyone’s word for it.

  35. Des*

    LW4 it sounds like you’d actually be in competition with your company, since your potential clients would have an incentive to choose between your and the company’s services.

    1. Oh No She Di'int*

      This wasn’t my read on the situation. I believe LW4 is saying that her services would be supplementary services that help the clients use the company’s main product. In any case, it’s still a potential conflict that has to be navigated carefully.

    2. LW4*

      That may be true. As the functionality that allows these designs remains available to them (along with a library of pre-made ones), and the part they paid my company for was using my design knowledge to build them custom layouts instead, I have been trying to figure out if that is a competing situation. They could pay some other outside designer to do the work for them. I acknowledge Alison’s point that I would still seem like a rep of my company though. When I feel like I have the best knowledge of our quirky system, I want to keep doing the work, but I guess I feel uneasy about it for good reason.

  36. OP5*

    Hi all! OP5 here, thanks for the responses Alison and commenters! When the math is done out we are accruing our vacation time at 8 hours a day, and the reasoning totally makes sense now. (In my defense when I asked for clarity through appropriate channels the original response was “it’s the same for salaried employees” which didn’t really help!) Thanks as always to this community for clear and concise answers, and have a good weekend everyone!

  37. Dust Bunny*

    I just have a bunch of solid-colored masks: Black, white, red, pink, lilac, dark gray. I mostly wear the dark gray ones–unobtrusive but less intimidating than black. Mine are cloth and have an extra panel over the nose instead of a metal insert, which works much better with my glasses since the glasses can hold the panel down. (Stark’s Vacuum, if you want to see what they look like.)

    I made one in olive green with P-40 shark’s teeth on it but obviously don’t wear it to work.

  38. GEE*

    #5 Just change how you’re looking at the situation. You are definitely working more days a year than you are taking PTO. So when you work you are getting paid an hour when you aren’t actually working (eating lunch). You are definitely coming out on top here. Also, it’s paid time off, not working time off, you normally get paid 8 hours so it makes sense you should take 8 hours of PTO.

  39. logicbutton*

    A twitter friend of mine went to her first vaccine appointment wearing a mask that she thought was printed with colorful dog bones but that, as several of our other friends pointed out when she posted a post-shot selfie, was actually printed with colorful dicks. So I’d do a solid color or subtle pattern if you have one.

    1. Llama face!*

      Haha, that reminds me of the dog bones paperclips that had a design flaw (one end disappeared when you clipped it onto paper so it became a dick shape instead). I always kept an eye out for them in stores since they would be such a funny joke gift.

  40. Sylvan*

    OP1: Don’t do this, but I wonder if your neighbor has bluetooth speakers. And if you could connect to them to tell your neighbor to knock it the fuck off.

  41. DataSci*

    For job-interview masks, at a place where you’re expected to dress very formally for an interview I think it may help to think of them as being like a tie. You don’t need to go for black or navy blue (though if you have them in those colors it couldn’t hurt), but also not too garish – solid color or a relatively sedate pattern is almost certainly safe. (Or go for the obvious “this is a medical/safety issue, not a fashion choice” approach and wear a KN95 or a disposable surgical mask.)

  42. ecnaseener*

    Re #2, this might just be me but even if the hinting was effective, it would be a little weird to me as a candidate to get cut off by an interviewer as I’m trying to explain how I work. He was trying to add context for what he meant by micromanagement and LW just blew right past him? Maybe he meant a different flavor of micromanagement than what this boss does, but LW will never know.
    (And also, yeah, not an effective warning. If I were him I’d take that to mean LW had a micromanaging boss at some point in their life, not necessarily now.)

    1. LW2*

      Hello! You are right, it did seem rude if we see it that way. I should have mentioned he actually said something lIke “I am not sure you know what micromanagement is…?” And left me some time to give quick feedback. It’s true that he could have meant a specific flavor, but I think my boss covers them all :)

      Thank you for the feedback! I did hope he would get it from my description of “additional tasks being assigned throughout the day directly from him, with big changes in priorities and with deadlines within a few hours”, but I will be much more direct the next time!

      1. ecnaseener*

        Oh that does make a difference that he basically asked whether you knew what it was. I thought he was trying to say “I have trouble with X behaviors because Y and Z” and you didn’t let him finish!

        1. LW2*

          No he actually asked me if I knew what it was, I don’t remember the exact wording he used but I remember I was a bit confused myself to be asked that question directly!
          Sorry if that wasn’t very clear, English is not my first language, so I sometimes use certain word/sentences incorrectly.

  43. Pineapple on pizza*

    Is it possible the loud neighbor is messing with you? Maybe your telecons drives THEM batty so they retaliate with loud porn? Can you move to a different room or be quieter yourself & see if the neighbor stops? The headset would help with this too since only your quieter voice would be heard & not everyone on the call.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      That *does* sound like something I’d do in my (more) immature days…

      It might take a few days of lying low preemptively before the other party realizes there’s no need to retaliate any longer.

    2. Hates the jargon*

      I wondered about this, too. It would drive me batty to hear loud jargon-laden meetings,”Well, Ferguson, how would you optimize that end product? Well, Sanza, let’s do a top line drop down analysis of the paradigm.” I might crank up music &/or porn…

      1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

        Does this work with coworkers or just neighbors? Theoretically…

    3. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Think xkcd had a cartoon about this problem that involved the use of a large soundwave reflecting dish…

  44. HannahS*

    OP 5, disposable surgical masks are better at filtering than cloth masks, especially the cloth ones with only one layer, and especially the ones made from stretchy knit fabric. For the best protection of yourself and others, wear a medical mask. If you want to wear a cloth mask over top, do so! But let’s not lose sight of the point of wearing one.

    1. Chilipepper*

      Cdc says to wear surgical with a cloth one over it. The problem is the surgical material may filter better, but they leave gaps on the sides so the fit is not as good. Also, there are many companies selling inferior products. Its hard to know which is a good one.

    2. Angela*

      Some cloth masks (100% cotton, not the stretchy/knit ones) have a pocket or slot where you can insert a disposable medical mask like a filter. So you get the fit from the cloth mask, but the extra filtration of the surgical one.

  45. anonmouse*

    #1. I feel really bad for you. I’ve been lucky that my only noise when I’ve WFH is either my other family member on a call or the neighbor’s lawn service. This would have to be embarrassing on a work call.

    I like Alison’s suggestion of calling a friend when this happens to see how it sounds on their end. If you do both phone and video I would try both ways. Another option is to get a nice headset. Almost everyone at my work has one and we never hear anything in the background, even when a child comes into the room. I think that would help a lot.
    #4 Mask attire: I bet you’re over thinking this. Just wear a neutral mask. If you’re able to, maybe match the color to your suit or whatever clothes you’re wearing to the interview. So a black suit would get a black mask. As long as it’s a standard mask and not some ratty bandanna or something with rhinestones you should be fine.

    However this makes me wonder, would a bad interviewer ding you for the type of mask warn? Like if someone wore a paper disposable mask would they think lesser of the candidate if they had worn a cloth mask? It’s going to be interesting to see how people interview with masks and if the color or whatnot influences decisions just like how clothing choices can influence decisions.

  46. HailRobonia*

    I live in a duplex and the other unit has a young woman and her boyfriend who’s bedroom abuts my office. I have more than once heard some “afternoon delight” while working… thank goodness for noise cancelling headphones, and luckily my computer microphone doesn’t seem to pick up their noises (I tested with a co-worker by asking “do you year any unusual background noise?”)

  47. CupcakeCounter*

    Another option that a friend is doing (4 people all WFH and taking lots of calls) is they play classical instrumental music on a central stereo all day. She keeps it low enough that it isn’t a distraction on the call but loud enough that it muffles the other sounds so they aren’t identifiable. She always notes this at the beginning of a call so that people aren’t confused with a quick “Hey just an FYI – I have symphony music playing in the background because of a lot of background noise that can be really distracting”.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      That’s…actually a really good idea. I’ve got loads of new-agey instrumental music that would work…

  48. Jaybeetee*

    LW1: I’ve been living in my current apartment nearly four years now, and *just* learned a few weeks ago that my living room TV is audible from the hallway (I had never been in my building hallway with the TV on before). Which has set off a terror in me as to *what else* may have been audible when walking by my door (I never hear a thing from surrounding units while in mine, so I’m assuming the soundproofing is pretty good on that score).

    Anyway, that is to say it’s possible your Afternoon Delight neighbour genuinely doesn’t realize. Short of trying to track the person down yourself, you could always put it to your property management to figure out. I know that if my “private time” was audible to neighbour’s in any way, I’d want to know about it!

    1. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      I once lived in an apartment right above the communal laundry room, and just before my lease ended I learned there was absolutely no insulation or other material between the two levels – my hardwood living room floor was literally the laundry room ceiling. You could see the lights and colors of my apartment through the gaps in the floor! I left the TV on while I ran downstairs once and every single word was crystal clear. So embarrassing.

  49. JenEsq*

    For unwanted background sounds, try Krisp – it removes all the extra sound that distracts from video calls. I use it because my neighbor has a ‘thing’ with yard work- think hours of leaf blowing and chainsawing – but it has done wonders with roughousing teens, wind, traffic, and ringing phones. It sounds to my colleagues like I’m working from a quiet meditation spot, even though I am definitely not. YMMV, of course!

  50. Gman*

    On the subject of what masks to wear to work,

    In my opinion, a 3-layer medical/surgical mask would be the best.
    It may not be the most flattering for your outfit but it shows you’re choosing the functional protection of a proper medical mask over the potentially spotty protection of a random cloth mask.

    1. PersephoneUnderground*

      I mean, most cloth masks have sleeves for filters, plus the current recommendation is to double the medical ones with a cloth one on top, so it’s a bit odd to suggest the cloth ones are “potentially spotty protection”, or that it’s necessarily an either/or choice between cloth and medical. Unless someone is wearing a style that’s known to be bad (like those ones with plastic vent holes with a single filter layer in the vent) I doubt I’d give it any thought as an interviewer.

  51. Confused*

    Porn dude 100% knows that everyone can hear what he’s doing and he’s getting off on it. He’d LOVE to know that you also can hear it and that it is disturbing you.

  52. Matt*

    #1.. I’m a musician and do recordings. Purchase a digital interface and a condenser mic like ones used for live singing. They are designed to only pick up sound from a close proximity to the pick up (so they don’t pick up sound from live stage monitors).

    You will have to talk directly into the mic but it won’t pick up the porn noises. If you just use some budget options it shouldn’t cost too much either since you’re just using it for zoom meetings.

  53. Harvey JobGetter*

    OP1 — are you sure they aren’t being visited regularly by the naughty cable guy?

  54. Angela*

    For tracking down which apartment is making the noise, sometimes you need to lean against the wall and put your ear to it- or take a glass and use it to amplify. That can help narrow it down between someone sharing a wall versus sharing a floor or ceiling. You can listen against the floor, as well- The sounds (as gross as it is) should be clearer if you’re listening against the unit where the noise is coming from. At least you have an idea of who’s responsible so you can leave a note or complaint.

  55. So sleepy*

    LW5 – most employers only give a paid lunch for a minimum number of hours worked. So if you work 8 hours, they’ll give you one of those hours paid, but if an equivalent part-time position existed, that person might get a paid lunch in an 8 hour shift, but would not for two 4-hour shifts.

    In other words, it’s working time that is given back to you (vs. an hour you are entitled to, no matter the circumstances). So if you were to only take 7 hours off, the remaining hour would need to be worked because you haven’t put in enough time to be entitled to a paid break that day.

  56. AnonEmployee*

    #1 How about testing how loud it actually is by having a meeting with yourself? Set up a meeting on your computer and then dial into it from your cell phone from another room (a quiet room (bathroom?)) if possible. Might confirm your suspicions and in which case, I would recommend head phones like other have suggested, or it might not be as bad as you think.

  57. Plain Black Mask*

    Dress Masks: I take my cue from what I’ve seen when specific types of people are wearing suits and dressed up. Politicians and Executives, for example, but especially their security folks. Every time you can see any member of the President’s security detail or staff on TV, for example, you know they are professionals who will be wearing a suit and the appropriate accessories that go with a suit, and so their example of plain black masks seems to be what goes with those outfits now.

  58. RubyJackson*

    Zoom has a setting for reducing background noise, it’s in the preferences.

  59. JC*

    OP#5: How many hours do you accrue per “day” of vacation? I would guess that you accrue 8 hours per day, which would mean how your office handles vacation time makes sense. I also work 8 hours with a paid hour off for lunch and I only need to use 7 hours of vacation for a full day off. But I only accrue 7 hours per vacation day–so the 4 weeks of vacation I get per year totals only 140 hours of vacation time. If was given 160 hours (equivalent of 8 hours per vacation day), then I would expect to have to use 8 hours of vacation for a full day off.

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