my whole office works from home except me — and I’m getting stuck with everyone’s admin work

A reader writes:

Like many other businesses, my company made a decision at the beginning of the pandemic to let anyone work from home who wanted to. Nearly everyone took them up on this offer and scrambled to find a way to make it work, slapping un-tested procedures together that were never intended to be long-term. I chose to come into the office. I figured if I was alone, then my exposure was just as limited, and my bosses were happy to have someone holding down the fort. My coworkers asked if I could take care of their in-office work since I would already be here, and I of course agreed since at the time we thought it would only be a few weeks of additional responsibilities. We’re all in this together, right?

That was more than a year ago and I’m still the only person in the office. Not only have these responsibilities morphed into bigger responsibilities, but everyone seems to have forgotten this was a FAVOR that was supposed to last two weeks. They just think of me as the in-office help and forget that I have my own job, just like they do. Things become my problem just because I’m the one here. If mail is returned because the address was wrong (not my fault or my responsibility), it will just sit here for weeks until someone calls around to find the correct address and re-mail it (“someone” is me, of course). Even on the rare occasion a coworker comes in to work for a few hours, they will still forward their finished document to me so that I can print and mail it. While they’re still in the office. I deal with angry clients, new clients, vendors wanting payments, delivery people, repairmen, salesmen, and scheduled meetings that my coworkers don’t bother coming in for. Which is great! For them. Why make a special trip if they can just make me do it?

I have no idea how to combat this. Pushing back makes no difference, and I frequently get looks like they can’t believe I’m making a big deal out of something so silly. It’s just mailing something, how hard can it be? And I get it — I don’t want to make people come in and print things any more than my bosses do — but I’m not the office admin and I want it to stop. My bosses tell me frequently how much they appreciate me taking care of … well, EVERYTHING … but appreciation only goes so far. I want people to take their responsibilities back, period. They should have to figure out for themselves how they’re going to get their jobs done from home and not make it my problem anymore. (There’s no plan to bring anyone back. Everyone except me will be allowed to work from home as long as they want to.) I asked if I could work one day from home, or even a half day, and my boss actually flinched. She said I have work that can only be done in the office. And I do! We ALL do!

To be clear, there’s nothing about my particular job that makes me more vital to in-office work than anyone else. I’m not the newest person, I’m not the lowest on the org chart, I’m not an admin. I’m just the idiot who agreed to stay, and now I’m the idiot who’s stuck. Is there a way to fix this?

This sucks!

It especially sucks because now this is the plan forever?

If your office was planning to bring people back in a few months, I’d tell you to just hang on for a few months more — that it’s annoying but there’s an end in sight. But the new permanent plan is that everyone else gets to work from home forever and you don’t, just because you volunteered to do something helpful for a couple of weeks a year ago? And the new permanent plan is that you now have a significant new admin support component to your job that wasn’t there before, again just because you volunteered to do something helpful for a couple of weeks a year ago?

I know you tried talking to your boss about this and she flinched — she flinched! — but if you just approached it by asking to work from home some of the time, she may not realize exactly what your concern is. Before you conclude she won’t budge, try laying it out differently.

Ask for some dedicated time to speak with her and say you have something important about your job you need to discuss. Then say this: “When I initially agreed to this set-up, we thought it would be for just a couple of weeks. Obviously it turned into a lot longer than that, but I was willing to keep helping out while we were in a crisis. But this isn’t something I’m up for doing long-term. Because I’m still the only person in the office, I’ve turned into everyone’s admin support — I’ve ended up in charge of the mail, delivery people, repairmen, and salespeople. I’ve ended up being the one who deals with angry clients. I even end up dealing with meetings on X and Y that other people schedule but then don’t come in for since they figure I’m here and I can do it. This has significantly changed my job into one very different than what I signed on to do. I’m spending about X hours a week on these things, and it’s preventing me from being able to focus on projects like Y and Z. Again, I volunteered to pinch-hit when we were in a crisis mode, but now that we’re planning for the long-term, I’d like the same options to work from home that everyone else has — and we need to figure out solutions to the work that was temporarily added to my plate.”

If she doesn’t seem to get the point from that, say this: “Right now it feels like because I stepped up and offered to help when we really needed it, I’m not going to be allowed the same options as everyone else going forward, and that doesn’t seem right to me.”

It’s possible your boss will say that the nature of your job has changed and this is now the role, take it or leave it. And if so … well, then you know and you can decide if you want the job under these terms or not. But try spelling it out this way — being this explicit about the problem and the impact on you — and see if it changes anything.

Read an update to this letter

{ 322 comments… read them below }

  1. Snarkus Aurelius*

    I have nothing to add except…

    I felt super bad when I asked one of the assistants last year to make sure my plant doesn’t die.


    1. MassMatt*

      I was in a similar position years ago with various administrative tasks. I was one of 5 team leaders in 2 locations. Many of the tasks came from someone who sat near me and others I just did several times and then it became the default that these would be things I’d do. If I was out for the day, these would pile up until I got back in. It became a serious drag on my time.

      I raised it to my manager (who in retrospect should have been the one assigning this work) and his reaction was a breezy “it doesn’t matter WHO does it. We’re all one team!”. Fortunately my relationship with him was such that I could say no, you don’t understand, at this point I am doing all of this and it’s dragging down my ability to do the managing job. We came up with a rotating schedule of who would be “manager on duty” for all this and it was much more fair. If your business cannot afford to have an admin (or there isn’t enough work for one to do) then rotating the work sounds like a possible solution.

      It’s infuriating to hear someone blowing of their work on you say how it’s not a big deal! If it’s not a big deal, it sounds like you won’t mind doing it!

    2. CrazyOfficePlantPerson*

      Me too! I took the fussy little ones home, but I have some big ones that are now permanent fixtures in my office.

      Luckily I had just bought the large container of plant food! I was planning on getting her a gift card for a nice dinner when I can get back into my office. I may just do it now since I still haven’t heard when that will be.

      1. New Job So Much Better*

        That’s what I did to the kind coworker who watered my plants. After about 6 months I picked them up, and sent her a nice gift card.

        1. CrazyOfficePlantPerson*

          Hmm… I don’t think picking them up is an option anymore, the last picture I saw they are climbing into the ceiling tiles!

          Let’s just say I’m planning on a really really really nice dinner for her!

            1. Elizabeth West*

              I had one I trained to go all the way around my cube. They seem to like office lighting.

          1. I edit everything*

            Well, you know–they did say that with fewer people going out, nature is making a comeback.

    3. Bunny Lady*

      I left my plants in the office when the pandemic was new and I wasn’t sure how long working at home was going to continue. We were taking turns going in to handle the mail, meet repair people, etc. and water plants. But then I think it dragged on too long and people got bored of watering everyone’s plants… I finally went in and rescued my poor plants. It was too late for one of them, but the other one was somehow THRIVING. It prefers neglect, I guess.

    4. A*

      I had to go back to the office ~1 week after the shut down to retrieve a few things. Had to jump through many hoops to get approval, and was one of the only requests that got approved. Got a call from one of the junior employees on my team, in a panic, explaining that she had desperately been trying to get approval to go in to retrieve her FISH.

      I ended up scooping the fish out of the bowl with a red solo cup, and drove home with him in the cupholder. My very relieved and grateful colleague picked him up later that day. Apparently he’s still doing well, shocking given the amount of trauma involved with the transport and chilling on my stoop for ~10 minutes during the hand off.

      It takes a village!

      1. Your Local Password Resetter*

        That’s awesome!
        It would be awful if that poor fish just starved to death because of these pandamic shenanigans!

    5. Liz*

      On our final day in the office, in the fit of a need to be in control of SOMETHING, I allocated myself two tasks:
      – remove any perishable food from the office and either donate it to a food bank if unopened, distribute among staff if they wanted the open stuff, and trash the remains.
      – try and find each of our plants a temporary home with a willing staff member.

      This second task has resulted in some beautiful stories.
      – One colleague took an impressive Japanese peace lily. She has recently left our organisation before we were able to return, and is delighted to be keeping the lily as a souvenir.
      – There was a small piece of a larger plant that had been broken off a few weeks earlier that another colleague had saved by putting in a jar of water. I took that too, repotted it, and gave it back to her, thriving and very much alive, for her birthday. She still sends me photos so I can see how it’s doing.
      – I took a rubber plant that very soon after lockdown started to wilt. But before it died, it grew a baby shoot, so I separated the shoot, repotted it, and disposed of the original. The next generation is doing well.

    6. Miona*

      This has happened to me too. I was employed as the finance officer and due to Covid others were furloughed and when I was brought back it was on reception. I am now doing a job I would never have applied for and have no interest in although I can do it. To ad insult to injury my manager doesn’t even ask me how I’m going. Due to lack of staff I haven’t had a lunch break in months and like the other person those doing WFH expect me to do office based tasks for them. I will leave as soon as I can find a new job but feel very let down by this whole experience.

  2. Monty & Millie's Mom*

    If nothing changes, you could also try to negotiate a higher salary, as you are doing extra things on top of what you were hired to do. Perhaps you could suggest that in your original talk with your boss. They can either pay you more, or pay someone else to come in and take care of admin stuff. I’m sure that will have to be phrased delicately and not as an ultimatum, but if “that’s just how things are” now, then that additional work needs to be compensated somehow.

    1. 70C*

      This!! Translate the time it costs you into money. I forgot who the brilliant commenter was that provided this narrative: “now that my role has expanded, I would like to renegotiate my salary to account for these additional responsibilities”. Put it on management – what they do (or don’t!) will be telling.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        Except that it sounds like the new responsibilities are all pretty low level. I think you’d possibly have a chance of more money for higher level work, but not for doing everyone’s annoying admin tasks.

        1. A Girl Named Fred*

          They’re still responsibilities which require time though, and that time then has to come from other projects or areas. So make management decide: would they rather pay OP their (presumably higher) salary to print and mail and file, or get an actual admin in there to handle those things/spread that time cost to other staff as well?

          I don’t mean to come off as combative and I apologize if I’m doing so, but I’m an admin – just because my responsibilities are “low level” doesn’t mean they aren’t worth compensating, particularly for someone who didn’t sign up for it in the first place.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            No, I wasn’t saying the lower level work wasn’t worth money. Obviously it is. I was saying that someone was hired to do not-admin work isn’t likely to get a raise because a lot of admin work has been added to their plate. The best plan, IMHO, would be to either put this work back on the people who are pushing onto the OP, or hire an admin to work in the office and take care of it.

          2. I'm just here for the cats*

            Admin here too and I don’t like how people say our work is low level. I will have to teach my boss how to use the excel tables I created because they don’t know the intricacies of excel.

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              Low level meaning low(er) pay level. Sorry, didn’t think that needed clarification, having been an admin and having been paid admin wages. If you’re getting paid $60K to do something, and you suddenly add work the admin would get $35K to do, you’re probably not going to get a raise by adding the admin’s work to your plate.

            2. fogharty*

              “Admin here too and I don’t like how people say our work is low level.”

              Hear here!
              I’m the only person who comes in on a daily basis, everyone else works from home. A few months ago our department admin left to go to another job, and I’ve taken on most of her duties until we can rehire. (I’m a part-time office associate.) Since then I’ve let everyone know that they should never take a good admin for granted again… just the act of scheduling meetings can take up a good portion of the day. Then there’s all the paperwork for travel (once people travel again) and project management and all the… stuff… that has to be dealt with. It’s an incredible amount of work. I miss her.

              1. Mrs. Hawiggins*

                Admin here too. I’m starting to get a lot of requests from others that are not in, and many of them are appreciative, I’m lucky there. I still work 1 or 2 days remotely though and there are a lot of coworkers who get super nervous about that. “Oh Mrs. Hawiggins you’re not in today? How will I get x,y,z done?”

                Uh, here’s a thought…

            3. staceyizme*

              Indeed! I’ve had to ‘excel’ my way through a couple of projects recently and it was UGLY! You don’t even want to see me configuring a web page or any number of other “admin” type tasks. I bow before the Admins in my circle (and thank them for rescuing me on a number of occasions!)

            4. Pointy's in the North Tower*

              Seriously. I’m the office AA and one of two people in my building on site five days a week (the other *shocked face* is the AA for a different office). Covering the phones and reception are my two big tasks, but not the only ones by far.

              The people who cover reception duties when I’m out can’t figure out where/how to transfer calls (it’s listed on the call log sheet and been told/shown multiple times), what to do with packages, where to find more paper for the copier, etc. I’m not saying my job is hard, because it’s not, but other people can’t even manage the most basic duties of my job for a couple hours.

          3. Who Plays Backgammon?*

            You’re not combative, you’re saying the straight scoop.

            So many people say “Oh admin work is so important to our operation (as long as I don’t have to do it).” And people shove their tasks onto the admin with that “we’re a team” crap. Or the “appreciate ya!” that makes it OK to shove your work onto the admin.

            So here’s my question to non-admins who may be in OP’s boots: How does being in this situation color your view of the people who do this work now?

          4. Fleapot*

            I’m consistently amazed by how quick people are to devalue admin work. My position is mostly communications with some admin (it’s a small company…), and I remember one of the engineers saying she thought I was a “woman with a little job” until she saw my grad school credentials in my email signature. I’m pretty sure she was about two years out of her undergrad degree at that point…

            But of course they pay her more than they pay me, even though I actually bring in more revenue through proposals, etc. At the end of the day, I’m still the person who orders in the copy paper* and calls the courier when we need to send a package–and I never use a soldering iron. It’s a pink collar problem, I think.

            My point, I guess (aside from “I’m extremely bitter and need a new job!”), is that realistically, it’s probably true that all of this extra work is *construed* as low level, and it’ll be hard for OP to get the compensation she deserves. It sounds, in fact, like she’s been in this situation for a year because her managers and colleagues barely register all of this extra stuff as work. That’s not right or fair, but in terms of OP’s strategy for making things more tolerable, asking for a raise is likely a dead end.

            * I really, really like stationery, and would be totally happy with this part of my job if it weren’t for the perception/valuation issue.

        2. Aquawoman*

          Well, either it’s valuable for her to be doing them or it’s not. If it’s not, she can stop, and if it is, she should get paid. I was thinking a bonus rather than salary, but still.

        3. Queen Anon*

          I’d be concerned that if management figured out how much of their job now entails admin work that they’d get a pay cut instead. Support staff is generally paid less than other types of jobs though there’s no argument that they work hard. When you come right down to it, most people don’t really value it – they may say they do, but too many companies don’t want to put their money where their mouth is. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that anyone can do admin work. It’s very frustrating. (Including the office manager who was overheard saying “a trained monkey could do their job” – thanks, OM. We really appreciated that.)

          1. nonegiven*

            If they don’t want to hire someone to be there all the time, doing all that work, then they need to rotate who comes in to do it every day. If there are 6 people in the team, then once every 6 workdays you’re the one to come in and do all that.

            1. SarahKay*

              No, make it once every six weeks for a week at a time. Otherwise you’ll get a lot of people deciding “that task can just wait for tomorrow” and not doing their share.

              1. cynic*

                You get that with weekly rotations too. Things that come in on Thurs or Fri can “wait” until Monday. Then you get an email from the requestor on Mon/Tues asking what the status is on the thing they submitted last week, assuming your team has started it by now.

          2. "Trained" Monkey*

            My department of reference librarians at a major university got the “trained monkey” comment. Since there is no arguing with the dean, we started a monkey theme in the department. Stuffed monkey over there, monkey paper clip holder, monkey themes for the people retiring. Still bitter, but it did make us bond…over decapitated monkey heads as people retired.

    2. Anonapots*

      This is what I was thinking. If the boss doesn’t see how this has changed things, the next step might be to say something like, “Since my position has changed so dramatically and it looks like you’d like to keep me on in this new role, I need to discuss how this will change my pay.” It’s possible that will snap the OP’s boss out of this completely nuts “it’s just the way things are now” position.

      1. Sparrow*

        If OP wants this to stop, I think she should not even imply that it’s something she’s willing to continue doing for more pay. Their plan to keep going like this means she needs to speak up ASAP and make clear that she’s not willing to keep this status quo. If she hasn’t been incredibly clear about how much this is impacting her ability to do her own work, she needs to be because it’s entirely possible that no one is really thinking big picture here and hasn’t taken into consideration that they’re not the only person asking her for favors.

      2. Gan Ainm*

        The challenge with that approach is I don’t think OP wanted to be doing this at all, extra money or not. She runs the risk that they will say “sure! A few extra bucks to solve this headache and we don’t have to hire a whole new person or trade off? Sounds great!” Also the OP specifies they aren’t the lowest person on the staff nor does their work have anything to do with admin work, it sounds to me like the trap many women fall into of trying to be helpful (cleaning up a conference room, a kitchen, knowing how to fix the finicky printer) and then they get stuck doing that forever and get pigeonholed to boot.

      3. Librarian1*

        No, she should say she’s not going to do that stuff anymore. She clearly doesn’t want to do it, don’t offer it.

    3. Beth*

      Yes, this. I personally like going into difficult conversations with a couple plans ready to propose. Plan A here is obviously offloading this work from you (mandating that people come in when they need in-office stuff like meetings and insisting they handle not-office-requiring things like printing/mailing themselves from home, or, alternatively, hiring an admin to handle all these tasks). And plan B might be a more equitable sharing arrangement (a rotation of who is the ‘in’ person each day, for example). Plan C could be “I was willing to step up in an emergency, but if you’re going to reassign these duties to me permanently, I need that reflected in my compensation. I’ve documented how many hours I spend on this each week and you can see that it’s a significant increase in my duties; let’s talk about what the options might be for reflecting that in my title/compensation.” Plan D might even be telling your manager you’re reconsidering your future at this company if this doesn’t change.

      Having backup suggestions lets you control the flow of the conversation and keep things focused on what will actually work for you, instead of getting stymied if your manager says no to plan A. And sometimes listing out the alternatives can really slam home that your plan A actually is the best and most viable plan, even if it wasn’t initially appealing. No matter how you approach this, hopefully your manager listens and you’re able to get what you need!

      1. Salsa Verde*

        Yes, this is great – always come in with an outcome in mind, and at least one backup plan if your ideal outcome is not possible. Bosses might be more open to a solution that just involves them saying yes, rather than having to figure out a solution themselves.

    4. Elbe*

      “She said I have work that can only be done in the office. And I do! We ALL do!”

      I wonder if there is anyone with the LW’s same title and responsibilities that is currently working from home. If so, this is a pretty blatant double standard that the LW can point out.

      If they’re taking the official stance that her job now includes this (which would be incredibly crappy of them), she needs a different title (one that would include all of her roles) and a better salary due to the increased hours.

    5. MissBaudelaire*

      I was just wondering if LW could say they were going to need a raise to accommodate the new responsibilities that have grown with their title.

      LW, if someone has to be in the office, I don’t see why it can’t be set on a rotation, other than the fact that would mean people who don’t wanna are now going to have to come in.

    6. Abogado Avocado*

      Agree! And agree with Alison.

      OP: Whatever you do, put in writing in a memo to hand to your boss, a list of all the extra tasks you’ve taken on in addition to your regular work tasks, which you also should list. Put each list in numbered or bulleted format. (And, when handing this document to your boss, you can say, “I put these lists in writing to make it easier to see all the additional work I’ve been asked to take on in the past year.”) Based on what you’ve written here, showing her — as well as telling her — will make it a lot harder for your boss to say, “Well, that’s just your job now.”

      1. Internet Rando*

        And note how much time each task takes per week…

        Dont ask for additional pay if you dont want this job,

        If you cant get other things done in the time you have because you are doing these other task, stop doing the stuff you are supposed to do and let your boss know that because of these other tasks you wont be able to get everything done.

        One final idea – just tell the boss that things have changed you now need to work full time from home. Like everyone else. And that’s it. Since it seems to be a company option, you will be taking it. You don’t need to go into details. Just say “Some things have changed and I now need to work from home. I have covered for everyone else for over a year. You will need to either rotate people back into the office (which seems most fair – everyone has a day onsite) or someone else will need to volunteer full time. My time is up.” That’s it.

        I think you are being too nice. You need to be more direct and push back. You helped out. You cant do it anymore. Its time to ask other people to cover.

    7. MusicWithRocksIn*

      Personally I would be pushing harder to work from home instead of a higher salary. She has handled all this work for so long, it’s someone else’s turn. And coming from the morally low standpoint, I would just make up a reason I need to be home for awhile and point out that everyone else has been able to work from home. I would say I threw out my back and couldn’t drive for awhile or hurt my neck or my foot, so I can’t come in today and doctor doesn’t want me to drive for X days so I would like to switch to working from home for the foreseeable future until driving is comfortable again. Then they will realize the situation is untenable or they will scramble someone else into the office. I know it’s not the most upstanding way to handle it – but it would totally be my move.

      1. EmmaX*

        I agree with this. It might not be the most mature way to handle it, but oftentimes people don’t take it seriously when they are told how much extra work something is. Especially when each task only takes 5 minutes or 15 minutes. But it’s like being nibbled to death by ducks.

        So if it is demonstrated how much extra work it is, it gets taken more seriously.

        There are so many reasons to work from home now, plus everyone else works from home so I strongly encourage the LW to take two weeks and stay home. It feels a bit disingenuous, but theoretically everyone at your level is able to work from home so by actually staying home for two weeks, this makes all those other tasks someone else’s problem.

    1. Lana Kane*

      I’ve learned to be a lot more selective with my good deeds because of this. And the thing is, it’s not something that common sense would tell you. You have to learn this about people the hard way – by doing the good thing, and then having it blow up in your face.

      1. Finland*

        I’ve learned the exact same thing about work and personal friendships. I’ve started to become very selective with whom I befriend and do favors for because I’ve been burned several times by people, especially in a work context. I’ve been too generous with my good deeds and I know now to be selective, like Lana Kane said.

  3. Ms. Yvonne*

    Yes, I was wondering when we’d start seeing letters like this… I get it re going in if you’re alone all day. Eh. But it sucks that your boss thinks another 0.5 person work belongs to you because you’re physically there AND it’s the new normal. I hope you get this resolved.

  4. Colette*

    I’d also suggest being more direct with coworkers. They send a letter that comes back? Let them know and ask them to find the right address. They are in the office and ask you to print something? Point out that they should do it. Someone sets up an in-office meeting and doesn’t show? Call them and make it their problem.

    1. Clorinda*

      All of this. But especially the meetings. Why should people assume someone else would take their meetings? That doesn’t even begin to make sense.

      1. Julia*

        How do they know OP is there that day and not a) out sick or something or b) in someone else’s scheduled and abandoned meeting?

      2. Marzipan Shepherdess*

        Why should they assume that the LW will do THEIR work for them? Because that’s what the LW has been doing for the past year, it works out just fine for the colleagues who are unloading their admin work onto LW and said colleagues have no incentive to stop their lazy, selfish behavior – that’s why!
        Alison is right; LW should specify to their manager how these extra chores are impacting their own ability to get their work done and how this affecting the company’s ability to complete projects successfully. Ideally, the LW should also be able to work from home full-time…although, give their manager’s reaction to the suggestion that the LW work from home even ONE day a week, even this may be futile. The manager may not be the only person at that company who’s gotten used to being selfish and careless of the LW’s time!

      3. Malarkey01*

        I’d also push back hard on printing and mailing stuff unless it’s really awkward size things like posters or brochures or something. We’re a year in and if this is permanent people need to have a way to print and mail things from home. If that means people need to take mailing kits with letterhead, envelopes, and stamps home fine.

        I also wouldn’t take angry customer calls. They can call people directly not unload on the person who happens to be sitting in the back of the office.

        1. Ladybird*

          Definitely. It’s not hard to have a system for posting things from home.
          I took home paper, envelopes of all different sizes, headed paper etc.
          I have an account with the post office (UK based) where I can print postage paid for by my workplace.
          It wasn’t hard to arrange and was arranged less than a week after lockdown was announced.
          An alternative way can be found that doesn’t rely on dumping it all on the poor OP.

        2. Heather*

          I agree with you, but on similar threads people here have commented that companies can’t even expect people to have a desk setup at home so I doubt everyone has a printer.

          1. Anonymous Engineer*

            The company can certainly expect it if they pay for people’s home printers!

          2. Emilia Bedelia*

            It sounds like they are all choosing to WFH though. The company should be able to say “Here are the requirements for permanent WFH – if you cannot or do not want to get a printer/desk/etc. then you need to plan to work from the office as necessary to get your tasks done independently.”

        3. AnonInCanada*

          For the angry customer calls (because you still represent the company, in spite of colleagues trying to pass the buck on you:)

          OP: “I’m sorry you’re having trouble. May I please know your sales rep/project lead/llama groomer?”
          Angry customer: “%#*!)$ it’s (colleague).”
          OP: “Let me give you their direct number. I’m sorry, but they’re currently WFH and not in the office.”

          That’ll shut that down in a hurry. Make it the colleagues’ problem, not yours.

          1. Not Alison*

            Do NOT do this. Do not give out your co-workers personal number to a client unless you have their permission to do so. On the other hand if you can forward the call to your co-worker without having to disclose their personal number to the client – – then go for it!

            1. Workerbee*

              I assumed that “direct number” meant their company phone number, which in a sane company would have been forwarded to a home phone (or they’re on Teams, etc.).

            2. Tisiphone*

              Employees working from home probably have a cell that is explicitly for work or they forwarded their work number to their home phones.

            3. AnonInCanada*

              I would never give out any coworker’s personal number. Their direct office number? Definitely would be giving them that, if I were in OP’s shoes!

      4. Amaranth*

        What strikes me is this indicates OP is a peer, so obviously has same-level meetings and commitments to take care of on their own behalf.

    2. OneTwoThree*

      This! As someone who always wants to be helpful, this would be hard for me to do. I’d have to “amp” myself up for each one of the conversations pushing back. However, I think this is the correct solution. If you stop volunteering to take care of others, they will stop expecting you to.

    3. Person from the Resume*

      Don’t take the meeting. Act confused and give the person in the office for the meeting the phone number for your coworker who scheduled the meeting.

      “I’m sorry, I can’t print or mail that for you because I swamped with my own duties” (which you are because you’re doing too much extra work._

    4. NotFashionable*


      “Oh, can you just do that for me? It’s so much easier for you to do it, you have everything right there, and you have to mail it anyway. I’m just asking you to do me a favor. Why are you making such a big deal about it?”

      Good luck fending them off, LW — rooting for you!

      1. Anonapots*

        At this point, the OP is setting the boundary and it’s not “so much easier” if they refuse to do it. “I’m sorry, I can’t” is enough of a reason.

      2. boop the first*

        Not much of a reason! It’s a lot easier to let someone be annoyed than it is to just take on all the work. I’ve had the experience of a coworker just dumping something urgent onto me and he was quite displeased when he had to walk back and just do the thing. He thought he was so clever saying “that wasn’t so HARD, was it?”

        Hello, that’s the point, dude! Ha ha. As long as they do the thing, they can grief all they want.

        1. AKchic*

          Whenever someone uses the passive aggressive “well, that wasn’t so hard, was it” when they’ve had to come back and take a dumped job from my desk that they should have done themselves in the first place, I like to reply “yes, I’m glad you found your job so easy to do. You sure found a time-efficient way to get that done!” and just let it sit. There’s really not much they can do. They already knew they were trying to guilt trip, and not only did I not board that transport, I threw *their* luggage aboard for the ride.

    5. SomebodyElse*

      Maybe I’m missing something, but my first question was “You don’t have a printer or mail service from home?”

      I agree with your advice

      1. Sondheim Geek*

        I mean, I don’t have a printer at home, and I can’t send mail directly from my home (I have to find a US mailbox, which isn’t difficult). But if I need to print or mail something something, I make time to go into the office and do it (or if another member of my team is going in anyway I ask if they can do it). I’m certainly not going to ask someone else to shoulder the responsibility.

        1. twocents*

          My other thought is, even if I do have a printer, this is a business cost the business should fund, not my personal ink/stamp/paper supply.

          1. SomebodyElse*

            Then you need to go into the office to perform that critical function. It’s a pretty easy solution.

            Well not easier than getting some other person to do some unrelated task to their job that you could do, granted.

          2. Internet Rando*

            It is an office cost. So the office is going to need to figure this out. But the office might say “you are saving money and time by not commuting so you will have to pay some of these printer/mailing costs.”

            Bottom line – no one in the office has really thought through how this would work long term. Maybe the office needs to hire a full time onsite admin person? Maybe people just eat these costs if they arent printing that much? Maybe people rotate in one day a week onsite? Not the letter writer’s problem to fix and until she says she wont be coming in anymore, she will be the solution.

            Just start working from home.

        2. JustaTech*

          Asking the OP to print and mail something when the print-er is WFH? OK I guess.
          Asking the OP to print and mail something when the print-er is also in the office? Heck no.

          I’ve had coworkers like that, including the guy who just ignored a very loud alarm, meaning I had to rush back to work (in the middle of a run!) to check on it while he was sitting 10 feet away. I read him the riot act.

        3. Liz*

          Same here. While I do have a printer at home, It’s a basic one, and I pay for it, the paper and ink it uses. So if I need to print something out to mail, i make time to go INTO the office.

          1. Cough cough hack hack*

            when I used to do some OT from home for special projects, I would just bring a ream of paper with me. And if you’re using your personal printer for work., I’d hope your employer could spring for a toner cartridge and some paper.

            1. Mongrel*

              My company did.
              We had plenty of time to sort it out as we got sent to WFH before the plague, and because it was due to relocation some people took home some older laser printers that our QA dept. were using.
              I already had one so just order decent printer paper and black toner and reclaim on expenses, since they’re paying I also make sure to get the branded stuff :)

      2. Rachel in NYC*

        My office went from ‘everything must be in paper form’ to ‘why would you be printing/mailing anything’ within 3 months because of Covid.

      3. Aggretsuko*

        Wouldn’t work in my office. Heck, we can’t even hit print from home to have something print in the office because we have to have special paper and special mailing services… so yeah, I definitely can’t do any physical mail from home.

        1. SomebodyElse*

          Then that’s your answer, you can’t fully function working from home and shouldn’t expect other people to do your job.

          1. Gan Ainm*

            Yes! This is so well put and the most clear explanation I’ve seen and I think should be incorporated into OPs discussion with their manager. Their options seem to be: 1.) people figure out how to do these tasks from home 2.) if they can’t, they either come in occasionally/rotate tasks among themselves for who comes in, or hire an office manager / admin 3.) if none of the above work then that means they can’t fully do their jobs as wfh and need to be in the office. That’s it. OP is not one of those choices.

            1. AcademiaNut*

              Yes this.

              It sounds like they need an admin whose job it is to recieve and check paper mail, meet with vendors and repair people, print and mail stuff, and answer phones. They can hire someone, or they can rotate it among the employees evenly.

              If the OP finds another job, they’ll have to do that anyways, and in a mad scramble rather than a more deliberate fashion.

      4. Maggie McT*

        Seriously. I’ve been working from home for a year. Guess what? My printer works. Guess what else? The Post Office is still functioning. Guess what else? My car still works, so if I need to go to the office, I freakin’ go to the office. Geesh.

      5. Beth*

        Yes! I didn’t have a printer at home pre-pandemic, but I sure do now. And if that’s a purchase my humanities-stipend-grad-student budget could figure out, and my tiny studio apartment could fit in it, I’m really not sure what excuse OP’s coworkers have. AND, if they really don’t want a printer, or don’t want to cover the cost of paper/ink/etc, they have the option to go into the office and do it there, which isn’t an option that’s even been available to me. Given all that, I’m really not clear why OP doing this is apparently the only solution.

    6. Maltypass*

      This is still WORK though – especially when you’re doing it with multiple coworkers. It’s one thing when LWs write in with one coworker causing an issue that they then have to manage, but if the whole office is expecting LW to do multiple tasks for them and not getting it when they push back, it’s asking more work of LW to chase them. They need help from their boss to address getting out from under this problem, not to ‘better manage’ it themselves

      1. Colette*

        She needs both. Yes, talk to their manager, but also … stop doing it. People are expecting her to do it because there are no consequences to them. If she starts putting it back on them, they’ll adjust.

      2. reject187*

        Yeah, but putting in the work now to set those boundaries with coworkers is going to pay off later. Yes, they need support from their boss to be able to stick those boundaries, but they also need to show that they’re not willing to do everyone’s admin anymore as well.

    7. No Name Today*

      When they give you a look, like, “geez, ok, you can’t mail one thing that I sent to the printer…OK…”
      stop and say, “I know it seems like I’m saying I can’t mail one thing that is on the printer, but it is not one thing. Remember, I am the only one printing and mailing everything for everyone. When you are home tomorrow and have something that needs printing and mailing you are going to contact me. Just like everyone one working from home is doing today. thanks for understanding”
      then go back to work. This isn’t a debate.

      1. Colette*

        That’s way too long, IMO. I’d go with “You’re here to take care of it, you don’t need my help” or “I’m only taking care of that for people who aren’t in the office”.

      2. LCH*

        “i already mailed *one thing* today so i guess yours will have to wait. i currently have a queue. one thing per day. yours is number 30. sound good?”

    8. Seashells*

      Yes to all of the suggestions. I am an admin but I’m not expected to correct people’s mailing mistakes or take their meetings. I suggest you stop doing it. If someone calls/emails asks about something just tell them you are too busy doing your job and you can’t take care of it.

      I made the mistake early on by trying to be too accommodating, but my boss assured me it was ok to say no to things. I hope you can that, too. If Alison is right and your boss says this is what the job has become, you can float along and look for another place. It’s so easy to say that and hard to do with the current state of everything.

      Good luck!

    9. Green*

      I’d send everyone a stack of envelopes and company letterhead to their home and call it a day.

    10. Alex*

      This. If a client/Salesperson comes to the office and the person that SET UP THE MEETING does not bother to show? Don’t bother to humor them. Tell the visitor you’re terribly sorry the colleague is a no-show, but don’t take over the meeting or do the work for the colleague. Offer them a coffee for their trouble, and then send them home.

    11. Tara*

      Yeah I would be calling them, in front of the clients and saying “Hey X, I’m here and your clients are here – I know you’re probably really embarrassed that you’re not here to meet them and are running late, so I’ve told them just to wait in reception for 15 mins!” all cheery and positive. Once it starts impacting client experience companies care a lot more. That said, I am probably a lot pettier than LW is, and would’ve made some incredibly scathing and condescending remarks back to being asked to do some of these ridiculous and menial tasks (printing things for people in the office with you? Are they SERIOUS?!).

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I wonder if the boss knows they’re missing meetings. Maybe LW should mention that.

        1. Grizabella the Glamour Cat*

          Yeah, I think there’s a pretty good chance the boss may not know about all of this stuff. LW needs to make sure they are aware of it going forward.

  5. Sabine*

    I would be so tempted to come up with a reason why I had to work from home for the next two weeks. Maybe when they realize the work load you’re managing it’d encourage them to hire an actual admin.

      1. No Name Today*

        This. OP, your second mistake, besides thinking people would think about anyone but themselves, was to continue thinking this is a matter of, “people will want to help me, because I helped them,” not, “people need to help me because I can’t do this anymore.”
        Your boss flinched when you suggested working from home.
        You need to go back and have that conversation again.
        It can’t be a suggestion. It doesn’t have to be a threat.
        List all the things you told us. (People are skipping MEETINGS and you take them? How is that a thing?) and state that you need a plan going forward to determine what is and isn’t your job because “holding down the fort” is now “running the office.”

    1. Artemesia*

      Once you do admin work, you are the admin. I don’t see any way out of this except working from home and maybe they rotate others through the office or finding a new job.

      I would be very direct. I have been made the AA default since I agreed to step up and do that in an emergency. I didn’t take this job to be an admin — I took it to transmogrify widgets and that is getting a back seat to being everyone’s secretary. We need to hire an admin so I can get back to my actual job.

      And if direct doesn’t work and you aren’t allowed to work from home — time to find something else.

      1. Elbe*

        “Once you do admin work, you are the admin.”

        Only if you work with a bunch of jerks. Reasonable people can understand someone doing them temporary favors during a crisis.

        1. Artemesia*

          Women who do admin work become viewed as admins; it is why they should avoid volunteering to ‘answer the phones when Susie is out’ or pick up Fergus’s work at the copy machine, or bake cookies. It is easy to get perceived as ‘the help’ and VERY VERY difficult to get out of that. And once it is your job, it can be made your job — ‘well that is now part of your job description; we need this done.’

          When I was young, I was advised to ‘never let them know you can type’ and ‘never volunteer to take notes’ in a meeting — it was good advise then. I have watched many professional women over the years get slotted into these admin roles and have trouble getting out.

          It isn’t even about them being jerks. It is that people exploit people if it makes their life easier. Don’t set foot in the quicksand if you don’t want to sink. If the OP had worked from home every other week or two days a week from the start and been less available to take other people’s meetings, she might not be in this mess. It won’t be easy to get out and the image is likely to stick forever. Now if she pushes back she is ‘difficult’ and ‘not a team player.’

          1. Elbe*

            “It is that people exploit people if it makes their life easier. ”
            I mean… I would consider that being a jerk.

            I agree that there is a lot of sexism and a lot jerks in the workplace today. But I really don’t like the framing of “this is how it will always be and women should work around it.”

            I don’t think that the LW was wrong to help out her coworkers in a crisis. If these people think that going above and beyond for whole year makes her a NOT a team player, they are completely unreasonable and she should try to find another job. The goal here isn’t to find a way to survive in a place with sexist jerks – it’s to find a better environment (if she can) and let them scramble to deal with the mess when she leaves.

            1. Green*

              There are a lot of people who genuinely rationalize it to “X is so good at taking the notes, she probably likes taking the notes” or “X has always taken the notes since I’ve joined, I guess that is part of her job” with a healthy dose of implicit sexism. It doesn’t mean they are jerks; it does mean that if the person who is the object of this wants a reset, they have to push really hard for a reset since people have just changed their perception to accommodate the new reality of OP doing the work.

              1. Elbe*

                If people are genuinely under the impression that this is part of the LW’s job, that’s a completely different situation. A lot of the advice here has been for the LW to make it more clear to her coworkers that this isn’t her real job so that she can separate these two possibilities.

                What I was replying to was Artemesia’s implication that helping coworkers is always inherently fraught and that the only solution is for women to avoid it entirely. The analogy used is that helping coworkers during Covid was like “setting foot in quicksand.” I just don’t think that that’s actually the case. I think that there are plenty of environments (most, even, even if this is still common) where favors can be granted without consequences like these, and when it does happen it’s the fault of that environment.

                If the coworkers are aware this isn’t her role and they’re still behaving this way, then they are particularly bad coworkers. If you tell someone “I’m not able to do this favor today” and they balk, that’s on them.

                1. MsClaw*

                  The problem is that the may genuinely believe it’s part of someone’s job *due to their implicit bias*. They just assume it’s Susie job’s to take notes or Brenda’s job to restock the fridge in the break room, or Kyla’s job to dump out the recycling because they see them do it once. And they don’t want to do it. They can’t imagine anyone doing out of the goodness of their heart. So they convince themselves it’s part of that person’s job or that they … dump recycling bins as a hobby. (And yeah, a lot of people are kind of jerks). Then if you stop restocking the fridge or whatever because you’ve got a work deadline or just don’t feel like it, people think *you’re* being a jerk even if your actual job is accounting or llama grooming or project management or teapot design.

                  That’s the problem OP is running into and exactly what Artemesia is warning against — once OP printed a few things for people, people began to see that as part of her job. Even the ones who aren’t particularly bad coworkers. It’s not right, and it’s not fair — but people aren’t fair. Really all the OP can do is say the requests have become overwhelming and people will need to find a different solution. Some people will absolutely be complete tools about having to go to OfficeMax or whatever instead of expecting OP to mail their letters.

                2. Elbe*


                  I understand all of that. But there’s two major points here:

                  1) Having an implicit bias doesn’t necessarily make someone a jerk. But choosing to cling to that bias even when someone clearly, directly challenges it CAN indicate that someone is a jerk. The LW can say, “this isn’t my job, and I’m working too many hours to keep doing this many favors.” A lot of cultural factors can shape a person, but people are still responsible for their own behavior. I don’t feel any need to make excuses for people who would continue to demand things of the LW, even after it’s clear that it’s not actually her role and that it’s hurting her.

                  2) Some environments cultivate these attitudes more than others. Workplaces aren’t equal. If the LW has ended up somewhere where there’s a lot of sexist assumptions and entitlement, the best path is to leave. It’s not perfect anywhere, but this sounds particularly bad. If you’re working somewhere where you’re afraid to do even small favors for your coworkers, that’s a really bad sign. Avoiding favors may be the only path if someone can’t switch jobs, but the best option here is to just find a company that is less dysfunctional. Because a company that has these kinds of attitudes isn’t going to pay a person fairly, or promote them fairly, or protect them from harassment, either.

                  I don’t want to the LW’s take away from this to be “It was naïve of me to help people during a pandemic.” I want it to be “this place has problems and I’ll find something better.”

          2. Jinni*

            OMG this. When I worked in any office, I never offered to do anything perceived as ‘helpful.’ No printing. No copying. No typing. No baking. I actually don’t mind any of this – and as someone who has been self-employed for year – obviously I do them. But my experience was women can get sidelined. I’m not saying that there’s anything wrong with admin work at all, but I’ve never seen any man get tapped or trapped into photocopying and party planning.

      2. EventPlannerGal*

        Yep, from past experience it is really really easy to go from your actual job to Being The Admin and really really hard to get back out. People hate doing admin so the second they see someone they can shovel all the stuff they don’t want to deal with off to then they will, and they will mightily resist any effort to make them take it back. The OP needs to be as direct and clear about this as she possibly can or it just isn’t going to happen.

      3. DarnTheMan*

        My first job was like this; we happened to have the office printer for my side of the office sitting in my team’s section and it seemed like if anything went wrong (ran out of toner, ran out of paper, etc.) instead of tracking down the office manager like they were supposed to, they just expected my team’s admin to fix it because her desk was closest. This was inherited behavior from the previous admin who would but I lived for watching our new admin, who would just smile, blink and go “okay…?” every time someone mentioned to her that it wasn’t working.

    2. Mary Richards*

      If I had the available vacation time, I’d take a mental health day with the minimum possible notice and see what happens.

      1. Caroline Bowman*

        Yes. Childishly, I might find myself really quite ill and needing to be at home for a few days at very short notice. A bad stomach bug could fit the bill. Can’t work for 2-3 days at all.

        1. BeautifulVoid*

          Not exactly the same situation, but I took a sick day purely out of spite once, and it was glorious. I made sure it was on a day where my closest coworker, who knew what I was doing, wouldn’t be affected, and she cheerfully reported back to me at the end of the day that there was a little bit of freaking out when people realized I wouldn’t be around to handle all their messes that morning. It was over ten years ago, and I still have zero regrets about watching trash TV in my pajamas all day while imagining the chaos ensuing in my absence. (No, it didn’t really change anything long-term, but still. Worth it.)

          1. Chas*

            I emailled my boss one morning saying I’d be a few hours late in because I was in the middle of a migraine and needed some extra sleep to be functional that day (My job is flexible and independant enough that this wouldn’t impact anyone else). I almost laughed when my boss’ reaction to my arrival at 11 am was “Ah, thank goodness you’re here!” and insisted I come into his office to discuss something that apparently couldn’t wait (even though I’m 90% sure it was something that could have waited even if I’d needed the whole day off…)

      2. No Name Today*

        And when OP comes back to find everything waiting for her to do, hit up boss with a list.
        “I was out for three days, I now have a list of tasks:
        Name: meeting schedule
        name: print/collate/mail
        Admin task: name, name, name, name
        Client who was mad Ethel’s meeting didn’t happen because I wasn’t here
        Client who wants to schedule meeting with Fred but can’t because I wasn’t here.

      3. Just Another Zebra*

        This inadvertently happened when I went on maternity leave. I’d been telling my supervisor/ manager/ boss (three different people at different tiers) that my workload had exceeded the hours I was working. They didn’t believe me until I was out for 10 weeks that one person really couldn’t handle it all

        1. 2 Cents*

          It took me quitting (for a better paying, more reasonable job) for my boss to stop relying on me to do 3 people’s jobs. But he had no incentive while I was still there, doing it all.

          1. MissBaudelaire*

            When I quit my last job and suddenly the crummy weekend hours weren’t all dumped on, and were instead evenly distributed amongst all those with availability, suddenly the expectations of the weekends began to change. Fascinating how that happens.

        2. AKchic*

          When I left my job 5 years ago, they promoted a lower-level worker to my position, but took the majority of the work away and spread it out among 8 c-suite directors and the office manager. Not a single regret.

      4. Marzipan Dragon*

        I just did this last week. I’m an admin and since I’m the only one in the office full time the other admins are “not having time” to do the undesirable parts of their jobs when they are in the office part time. I took a week off and the only upshot is that now I have to tell EVERYONE when I am out instead of just my boss so that they know what weeks they can’t be lazy.

      5. Alex*

        mental health day? more like a mental health week – a day is just not “felt” hard enough.

      6. Internet Rando*

        Take a one week vacation followed by a 2 week quarantine where you need to work from home.

    3. pbnj*

      Right now it sounds like if OP even took some vacation time, the company wouldn’t even be able to function. Such a totally unsustainable situation.

    4. RecoveringSWO*

      I was just about to suggest that LW takes 1-2 weeks vacation (preferably 2 weeks) soon to highlight the need for change.

      1. BadWolf*

        Me too! I was thinking that the LW, if able, should take the biggest chunk of vacation they can and let everyone reality check.

      2. Chilipepper*

        I suggest a week or 2 holiday followed by a possible exposure to covid that requires 2 weeks working from home. Then a stomach bug that keeps you home a few more days.

        1. Hare under the moon with a silver spoon*

          Liking this. Possible to endlessly circle from exposure to stomach bug for a while mwahahaha.

    5. Cj*

      I don’t know why the OP asked if she could work from home one day a week in the first place. She should have just announced that she would be working from home everyday like they were told they were allowed to do. If she happened to decide to come in to the the office occasionally, her co-workers wouldn’t need to know that.

      I am curious to know how the OP would get the type of admin work done for her own job that she is doing for other people if she worked from home everyday. If there a good answer? If so, she should be telling her co-workers do handle it that way. If there is not a good answer, then the company probably needs to hire at least a part-time admin that is in the office.

      1. Chilipepper*

        I agree, just start working from home like everyone else and act confused when asked about it.

        1. MissBaudelaire*

          Love this!

          “But WFH is being offered. Why can’t I take it? What? No, my tasks can be done out of office, just like everyone’s else.” Like, I feel like LW’s boss is going to have to admit that it’s because LW is doing work that isn’t theirs to do, and that can be a conversation about gee, boss, that sounds like something you need to fix. Good luck, though.

          Alison is right, Boss can say “Well, this is the job, take it or leave it.” but then at least LW would know.

  6. Colorado*

    Can you start working from home a couple days a week and wean the people from your support? Or start pushing back, “as of X date, I can no longer support these tasks..”, and repeat? This sucks and I hope you use Alison’s script with your boss. Please let us know how it goes!

  7. I Herd the Cats*

    Ha! That was me for awhile too! Part of the problem is that the individuals only think of it as “this one favor” — they don’t see what it’s like to be doing it for the entire office. And your boss probably doesn’t get it, either. Personally, I’d take this script, flesh out the details, and email it, so your boss can read it and think about it. I’d also suggest working in some suggestions for solutions, if you have any — was there an office manager/admin before? Can that person now come to the office x days per week and be responsible for these things? If not, what are other solutions (rotating schedule for mail and admin duties etc.) Because if your boss flinches at that, she’s acknowledging that it’s work that *nobody* wants to do, and she doesn’t get to arbitrarily stick you with it for eternity, either.

    1. Antilles*

      To the individual asking, it’s just one little favor. This takes like five minutes, ten tops! Why in the world would this ever be a problem?
      But it’s not just one person, it’s actually twenty people all with their one little favor and welp there goes half your day.

      1. Kelly L.*

        This! I actually am the admin, but I’ve noticed my workload has gotten worse since everyone started WFH, and I’m theorizing that it’s because no one can see my work anymore. When we were all in the office, people would see me right in front of them, see that I was (e.g.) filling out a pile of forms, and decide “Hey, I only have one copy to make, I’ll just make it myself.”

        But with WFH, they can’t see that pile of forms, they only see their own slice of the tasks, so they don’t realize I’ve gotten 20 other requests that morning.

      2. Mockingjay*

        Yep. I work on a support team, and my supervisor is adamant that all tasks must come to us through our tracking system. Emails, phone calls, break room chat – none are acceptable because people end up with uneven workloads and unrealistic expectations. (That “quick” task or favor usually turns out to be weeks of work.) Put your request in the system with due date and priority, so it can be assigned to available staff and completed on time. The system is also useful to weed out extraneous tasks and services we’re not supposed to provide. (Hard to justify asking tech support to upload batches of files because you work offline instead of updating the master files within the server like you’re supposed to.)

        Of course my project is the worst offender…Sigh.

    2. JB*

      I feel like the boss must know; based on her reaction to LW requesting to occasionally WFH, it sounds like she’s fully aware of how much work now relies on LW being in the office.

      1. EPLawyer*

        Which what did they do in the Before Times? LW wasn’t the admin then? They had someone doing some of this stuff. Or it was the expectation that everyone did it. That should not change just because of WFH.

        1. Guacamole Bob*

          It sounds like a situation where 10 people each had 2 hours of admin work in their week, and it was fine for everyone to handle it themselves. In a pandemic situation it does make sense to temporarily shift that around so that 10 people aren’t going in to the office just for 2 hours of work a week, especially if it’s a few small tasks a day that would mean people going in 2-3 times a week just for a few minutes of printing and mailing and such.

          So “let’s go back to the way it was” isn’t really a solution if they want to stay more flexible on WFH. The company needs to recognize the in-office support required to allow WFH, and either specifically make that part of someone’s job duties or decide that WFH isn’t actually feasible in these roles.

          1. awesome3*

            Honestly everyone going to the office 2 hours a week does sound like the kind of solution they could consider. If they are still going to be leasing the building, and they can’t afford an office manager, maybe they can say “you can work from home but sometimes you’ll need to pop into the office for your work that requires it.”

            1. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

              It sounds like it’s not blocks of work in that way. It’s a few copies on Monday, printing a label and mailing something on Tuesday, meeting a contractor on Wednesday, more copies and accepting a delivery on Thursday, and talking on the phone to a client on Friday. Few that can be anticipated, and some of which COULD be put off to do all at once, but since OP is there they don’t bother. A

              Although making everyone come in once a week/once in a rotation and do all the admin for everyone else that day would be an awesome idea. Like if there are 12 employees, every 12 days you’re up, and you have to come in and work from the office, and do whatever admin people call in.

              At the very least, people would realize how much work it is. But if you’re going to go that far, you might as well hire an admin, at least part-time.

            2. Slow Gin Lizz*

              Yeah, and if OP wants to WFH once in awhile (or a couple of days a week or whatever) maybe someone *else* could go into the office on those days? If they really do need office coverage every day, they should spread the wealth.

  8. Binky*

    Can you quantify the amount of time this is taking and advocate for either bringing someone back to the office part-time to share the load, or just hire a full or part-time admin to do all the in-office work?

    I’d start looking for a new job, too. You don’t have to take it, but it’d be good to be prepared.

    1. Lacey*

      Came here to say the same thing. My boss used to ask me to do things he thought wouldn’t take very long. I explained that it would and he would say, “Well, log your time and we’ll see”. When he saw the actual time involved, he changed his tune about how easy it was.

    2. Just Another Zebra*

      We actually did this at my job in January. Made a complete list of job duties, how much time they each take, and how often I do them. I didn’t lose any tasks, but I got a nice pay bump, which is a win for me.

    3. Bagpuss*

      I was going to suggest this.

      Also – when you speak to your boss, suggest practical alternatives – e.g. ask that they arrange for those WFH to be provided with printers so that the temporary solution of you printing stuff is phased out.
      Propose that those people WFH are required to have their direct phone number on their outgoing post and e-mails so that calls for them go to them, not via you (and / or that the phonelines are diverted so that external calls go direct to one of the WFH people as answering the phone is absolutely something that can be done remotely)

      Be less responsive. When someone forwards something to you to print when they are in the office, ignore it. Or start sending all your stuff to them to print.

      (We have had a small number of people in person throughout, as we can’t go fully remote, and we were able to get the numbers down to a point where it was safe . We explicitly reallocated tasks so that (for instance) because the ion person people were doing lots of printing and scanning for those WFH, the WFH had to take responsibility for incoming calls and to do more of other which could be done remotely. Some of them didn’t like it, but as management we enforced it and it did help reduce resentment. I think the in person people were still doing more over all, but they could see that we were doing what we could to balance the load.

      1. Ama*

        The delayed response is particularly useful as an immediate tactic. My department maintains directories that everyone in my organization uses — they all have access to them, we just make sure any changes get put in. Several coworkers developed a bad habit of using me as a personal rolodex instead of checking the directories first (I suspect this started because I was willing to do it for the C-levels and they started telling people “oh just email Ama”).

        However, once I started letting the “just looking for so and so’s email” messages sit for a few hours (and then replied “have you looked in the public directory?” rather than actually giving them the info), it was amazing how many of my coworkers suddenly checked the directories first and only came to me if there was a question about the info itself.

        1. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

          Yes, I love delayed response. It has a similar effect as “don’t be so good at the stuff you don’t want to do.” Make it more inconvenient for YOU to do their tasks that they could do. And for the stuff that only you can do in the office, do it, but don’t let it take over your time. Block time to do other people’s mailing all at once at the end of the day/week. Also makes it easier to record how much time it takes. Get back to people later. Track your time. Find ways to pass the pain of the meetings and stuff back to them.

      2. Salyan*

        I like this. Also, if they’re in the office, in addition to sending them back their own document, send them all the other documents you were sent that day so they can help you out ‘while they’re at it.’ Because really.

      3. Happy Lurker*

        I want to highlight what Bagpuss say “Be less responsive”. Even if you can’t eliminate other’s admin work, you can control when you do the extra work and what priority you give it over your core work.

        I can’t ignore stuff, but I can block out an hour a day when I deal with certain tasks. Maybe OP can let others non emergency requests sit for 24 hours and then wait until the block of time to address it. Unless you are the receptionists (which it seems you may have become) phone calls do not always need to be answered. If you are in the rest room, break room or away from the phone, let it go!

        I am also a fan of the delay feature for sending emails. I find it cuts down on the back and forth when I respond quickly.

        Your crisis does not constitute my emergency is a favorite saying through the years.

        Best of luck OP and please give us an update.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          I prefer the version “failure to plan on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part.”

        2. Eeeeevvviilll*

          I agree and wanted to add from the demon on my shoulder that you carefully consider who has been appreciative and who have been jerks about making you do their admin work. If someone has been appreciative and even as one person said sent a gift, help them _if you have time_.

          If someone else is a jerk and just considers off-loading to you is good for them with no appreciation…be bad at it. Especially if they are scheduling meetings and expecting you to take care of them, don’t. Frankly, who does that??? Answering the door and phone would be my lowest priority unless I am expecting something for my own work.

          If everyone has stopped being appreciative and gotten into the low hum of expecting you to do stuff for them, again be bad at it. Sometimes we are brainwashed that we need to do stuff for “the team”, but remember if you have performance issues due to doing the admin, you will be kicked out so fast your resume would spin.

          As someone who have been caught by the “no good deed goes unpunished”, look out for yourself and go out on work from home. It saves me two hours a day commute time, but if I need to do admin stuff, I go into the office and do my own admin.

      4. Tabby Baltimore*

        I know this will sound evil, but seeing Bagpuss’ response made me wonder if you couldn’t program everyone’s office phone to auto-forward to his/her/their “new” work (i.e., cell or home land line) phone? Thereby at least relieving you of having to answer telephones?

      5. wayward*

        Yeah, seems like slow-walking the stuff that’s getting dumped on you that isn’t part of the job you hired on for might encourage people to be more resourceful about taking care of their stuff. And this way, you’re not exactly saying no to “just a favor” — you’re just making it take a while.

  9. Lady A*

    I suspect that after a year of this everyone has forgotten that you originally stepped up to help out in crisis mode and now believe that “they can do it, this is their job” when it is not. Can you offer solutions to your manager that you all set up a schedule to rotate in and out of the office to perform these duties?

    1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      This is what I think is happening as well. They forgot this was the stopgap – you have become the owner of these tasks in their kind.

      I would document how much of your work day is being spent on all these other tasks, and go back again to the manager and use that as evidence to push back.

      Oh, and I definitely second the suggestion above of looking confused and giving out phone numbers for folks that schedule and don’t show for meetings. How do those coworkers know you are even part of the loop on the project? After all, in their mind you have been demoted to the office admin (who occasionally gets to do other work tasks [sarcasm alert]).

    2. Elbe*

      “Even on the rare occasion a coworker comes in to work for a few hours, they will still forward their finished document to me so that I can print and mail it. While they’re still in the office.”

      I don’t think that I have the patience to respond politely to this situation. Kudos to the LW for not snapping.

      The LW should start being much more direct in reminding people that these tasks are favors, not her job. If they get offended, let them. They’re taking a mile when she gave an inch, and they need to know that.

    3. Artemesia*

      When you do something for a year, it is your job and that is how the boss probably sees it. Push back and they will redefine the job to include this.

      Only two options I see is that the boss starts rotating people back in for a week at a time to handle these tasks as well as their own jobs OR. find a new job.

      1. serenity*

        Exactly. All the people saying “just don’t do it” or “suddenly take a two week vacation!” aren’t really grasping that.

        And from what OP describes (sorting and sending mail, occasionally needing to speak to repair people or on-site vendors) these tasks may or may not necessitate an additional full-time admin. They don’t sound adding up to enough to justify a new staff position just to deal with this.

        This is tough. OP needs to have another conversation with their boss.

    4. The Rural Juror*

      This! We were trying to open up a position back in March 2020 right when the world turned upside down. My boss asked me if I could step up and help in the interim. I had no problem with that, I knew it would only be for…well, it’s been a year now. My boss still wants to hire someone, but the budget has been an issue since we haven’t been as profitable during the pandemic (for a lot of reasons out of our hands).

      I was talking to my coworker the other day and said something about needing to work on X task, which is my least favorite thing to do. My brain is not wired well for working on that task, so it takes a lot of concentration and I don’t enjoy it AT ALL. Then my coworker said in a snarky tone, “Well I don’t LIKE doing Y task, but I still do it.” I just sat there for a moment speechless, then calmly said, “I think that you’re forgetting that X task is not part of my job description. I’ve been doing it for about a year because I was asked to fill in the gap, but it’s not supposed to be my job forever and it actually has nothing to do with my normal job duties. There’s a reason I’m not the person who is in that position permanently.” They still didn’t get it, and still felt the need to be snarky, so I just found a reason to end the conversation. They were being very dense about it.

      So this idea of, “they can do it, this is their job” seems to be alive and well over here…and it’s not cool. Luckily that attitude has not come from my boss (who regularly buys me lunch delivery to thank me for stepping up!).

      1. Your Local Password Resetter*

        Gosh, that sounds absolutely infuriating.
        Kudo’s for not judo-flipping that coworker after they kept being snarky at you like that.

  10. Exhausted Trope*

    Maybe just stop doing all this. If the boss complains, reiterate the previous points and remind them that your work is suffering due to the admin stuff. You have to focus on the job you were hired to do. Make it the boss’s problem.

      1. Rusty Shackelford*

        But she could slow it down. “Oh, I’ll get to that when I have a chance. But right now I have to finish my TPS reports. Maybe tomorrow or the next day.”

        1. Exhausted Trope*

          Exactly. If the boss notices, she could say that it was not possible to get the admin stuff done along with her actual job. Not enough hours in the day.

          1. Rusty Shackelford*

            And stop taking other peoples’ meetings. I mean, that’s probably the easiest one to get out of, isn’t it? “I’m sorry, Jane isn’t here today. Do you have her phone number?”

            1. Weekend Please*

              Yep. “I’m sorry, it looks like there has been a mix up. Jane actually isn’t in today. I’m afraid the meeting will have to be rescheduled.”

              When someone sends you something to print and mail to them while they are still in the office, tell them you are busy and while they are at it can they print and mail these other things to coworkers?

              Also, let the mail pile up. Keep doing what you are directly asked to do (possibly with a delay) but don’t keep on top of anything else. Put it on the bottom of your to do list so that you can do what your actual job is and then if there is still time tackle some of the office stuff.

            2. Willis*

              Yeah, stuff like re-addressing a letter is one thing. But, taking meetings, handling repair people, dealing with clients (why are clients walking in if the office is closed other than one person!?!) is ridiculous! Can the OP just let her co-workers know in a blanket statement that she won’t be able to handle their meetings anymore? It may take some talking with the boss to deal w/ the other stuff (and hopefully hire an admin) but it seems like the meetings they set up should fall squarely back on co-workers’ plates.

              1. t*

                >Can the OP just let her co-workers know in a blanket statement that she won’t be able to handle their meetings anymore?

                To me, this is something the boss should be doing. In fact, a long time ago, boss should have sent a blanket email telling everyone that they, not the OP, are responsible for their own work, regardless of OP’s proximity to the office.

                But as we see, boss is just as bad as the co-workers are…

            3. Your Local Password Resetter*

              That does seem the easiest to drop without repercussions.
              Your coworkers can’t really complain about that without looking really bad themselves.

  11. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    You mention having to print things out and mail them, and slapped-together untested procedures.

    Have your coworkers and bosses realized that plenty of other people are working from home too, and that physical mail to your vendors and customers ought to be shifted over to email?

    Maybe this is your wedge to discuss all those procedures, and get the bosses working on procedures that are efficient for the new normal. Move to email wherever you can, provide or require printers for home offices, etc.

    1. WellRed*

      Or at least have the option for people to print remotely to the office. But yeah, OP. Time to be less available. I echo others’ confusion about meetings.

      1. Jackalope*

        The problem with people printing remotely to the office is that it still has to get processed and/or mailed once that happens and that will probably still be the OP.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          My office is doing this for the few people still at home (80% of us are spaced out but physically back in the office – the few still home have health conditions, and the plan is by start of next school year to get everyone back in office – pending no massive flares due to variant strains), but the shift managers have been the ones folding, stuffing, sealing, and stamping. It’s small, but it shows that we have value to our managers.

      2. Meep*

        If I have my work laptop at home and connected to wifi, I can send documents to the printers at work just like them I am at work. It is very easy to print out items remotely and the person just needs to find a good time to pick up the items. It’s not a difficult thing to do and requires some planning on the staff that works remotely, which seems to be an issue.

    2. SoloKid*

      “Great idea! Do you mind doing more work to set up meetings with our vendors to discuss this change? Thanks OP!”

  12. Clorinda*

    This office so badly needs to hire an actual admin for all that work. But I’m not holding my breath and OP shouldn’t either.

    1. Lacey*

      That was my thought too. I’ve worked for a company where my department would randomly get stuck with things for other departments “for a bit” but the end never came. Once they had us doing it, they didn’t want us to stop.

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        Yeah, maybe a couple days a week or three mornings a week. Print out all the things in the queue and mail them out. Pull the voicemail and forward messages. Sort the incoming mail, if any. Water plants, if building facilities doesn’t do that. If possible, schedule deliveries and maintenance while the admin’s there.
        Might be a good job for a college student, someone who’s retired but bored, that kind of thing.

  13. Eff That!*

    Oh no! I would definitely take this opportunity to announce that you’re going to switch to working from home now, so they have to scramble to figure out who will be handling the office. If there isn’t already an Office Manager, they should hire one. It’s literally not your job, and whoever IS in charge of this office needs to step up and find the solution.

  14. Helen*

    There appears to be a real need for admin support – perhaps this is something the boss should look into! I feel that OP would have mentioned if there was an existing admin person. Even if it’s someone part-time who would be willing to work in the office and deal with all these extra annoyances that OP rightfully shouldn’t have to still be dealing with.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      Or they could insist that everyone rotate in-office days. Still only 1-2 people in the office at a time to limit exposure, but ensuring that one person isn’t always stuck with all of it. (My department rotates in-office days. It’s worked fine.)

      1. FisherCat*

        Yep we have a rotating office day. It makes for a miserable, chaotic day (different gripe for a different post) but at least its only ~1 day/month for each of us.

    2. meyer lemon*

      If they’re going to make working at home a permanent benefit, it seems like they’ll have to look at some combination of having a dedicated person in the office to handle this stuff and rethinking how much of it really needs to be done in person. I know that my office has seriously decreased the amount of physical mailing and filing over the last year because it just wasn’t feasible to keep it up.

  15. Butters*

    I would recommend being more direct and explicitly telling people that something they are responsible for needs to be completed. Everyone is eligible for vaccinations now and it should not be an issue to stop in the office once a week. You can even go in the late morning/early afternoon so your commute is part of working hours. Our department experienced this and gradually the “in office” person started letting people know that they had something that required their attention at the office and the responsibility was finally shifted. She also started prioritizing other people’s tasks at the very end of her to do list. Before that she was probably spending all of her in office time on “favors” for others.

  16. Kitano*

    It’s possible that your coworkers just genuinely forgot that you weren’t meant to handle these jobs long-term, and need a good kick in the butt to remember that. Assuming your boss doesn’t take a hardline stance on whether the admin duties are something you HAVE to do, something like this email text could be an option:

    “Starting on June 1st, I will no longer be covering XYZ administrative tasks. As you all remember, I volunteered to take on these duties during the initial outbreak of this crisis last March, even though I already had a full plate with my own portfolio. I was happy to do it then, and I’m still glad that my efforts enabled everyone to stay safe during a difficult time. However, the natural consequence of taking on so many additional tasks is that my workload has doubled, and it isn’t sustainable for me to continue doing this long-term. Now that we are planning to permanently incorporate work-from-home to our workflow, I will no longer be covering these duties in order to return my focus to XYZ large projects that have been pushed to the back burner during this past year.

    If you find that returning these tasks to your plates causes you hardship, then we should devote some time at the next staff meeting to discuss bringing on a part-time administrative assistant (or substitute in whatever solution you like). Thanks for your understanding!”

    1. Bagpuss*

      I think the issue is that OP doesn’t have the authority todo this – she needs to clear it with her boss – so I think maybe a draft along those lines but word it as coming from her boss and ask boss to approve and circulate it – perhaps suggest that a rotating arrangement of people coming into the office one day a week would be the way forward, with a clear expectation that everyone does all of the printing /mailing / admin tasks on the days they are in, or that you do all of your own on the days you are in and ensure that you are in to deal with anything urgent or time sensitive.

      1. Maggie*

        Of course she has the authority to do this! This is the magic of making a management problem your **manager’s problem**. Right now OP’s boss is flinching. Flinching = not wanting to do her management job. But OP can call that bluff. If she just works from home/takes PTO and says take it up with manager in my absence, people will, and manager will have to fix it.

        1. Your Local Password Resetter*

          Except your manager can decide to make it your problem anyway, by demanding you come into the office to do these tasks. And you can’t really throw that back to them.

      2. Kitano*

        In this case, I genuinely think OP would be better off asking for forgiveness rather than permission. They won’t get fired over this unless their boss is completely unhinged, and it’s clear that the OP won’t get anywhere by asking nicely or expecting their manager to do right by them. TBH I think this kind of letter should’ve been their first line of attack rather than going straight to the manager – there’s nothing unreasonable about telling your teammates to start picking up their own slack.

    2. No Name #1*

      This template is great, but the last sentence about bringing on a part-time administrative assistant might cause some tension with the LW’s boss because ultimately, the decision as to whether the department hires an administrative assistant is not in the LW’s hands. To be clear, I don’t think that that is a bad idea to bring up during a meeting if the topic of needing help with administrative tasks comes up, but putting it in a staff-wide email could backfire. Ultimately, it is not on the LW to solve their teammates’ issues with performing administrative tasks and she does not need to take that on. The rest of the email template is a great way to set the boundary and assert that there will be changes going forward, which is the ultimate goal here.

  17. Meep*

    It’s very reasonable to stand up for yourself and speak honestly and directly about your issues. Push back!! It’s too much and it’s not fair for your coworkers to be dumping their work on you.

    It’s also reasonable to implement a “coworkers come into the office to do their printing/mailing/etc.” for everyone. Say it’s a one hour or four hour stretch for each employee, once a week or whatever. This is something that could be implemented with some planning and can be adhered to by anyone.

    Stick to your guns!!

    1. The Starsong Princess*

      I recommend having a covid exposure that requires you to work from home for two weeks. They will figure out how to get things done in your absence. Then speak to your boss about continuing that arrangement when you return.

  18. It's me*

    So I was in a similar situation. When COVID first happened I was not super high risk and offered to go in and handle our mail/administrative functions. We get a lot of mail and lots of stuff to mail out in the tax department, we honestly could use a full time admin but I don’t see it happening. It got to be a lot of work as you can imagine and I was not able to give enough attention to my other duties. I brought it up with my boss and just said look the mail and admin stuff is taking a lot of my time and I need help doing it all, I suggested one other person in a rotation until things went back to normal. She said she understood but she wanted everyone to do a rotation in the office so everyone could handle their own admin. The other members of my team come in on a certain day, either all day or at times that work for their tolerance of COVID and handle their own admin. I am better able to focus on my job, and we are all flexible in that if someone needs to switch days or can’t come in we make it work. I really feel for you OP, and I hope if you bring up Alison’s script and be firm that your boss will realize how much of a burden this is on you alone. You deserve the same WFH privileges your coworkers have and quite frankly they have been taking advantage of your offer to cover this stuff temporarily. The best case scenario would be they hire an admin but maybe they can force an in office rotation so everyone can handle their own administrative tasks. Best of luck OP

  19. AnonEmployee*

    Your boss and coworkers are asses. I love management styles that think by telling someone how appreciated they are that’s enough, especially because the work is BEING DONE. Yes, you chose to work in the office but you should have ever been expected to take on the additional responsibilities for others for this length of time. I *finally* have a manager who actually supports me when I am being asked to take on (at the last minute no less!) tasks that were never discussed which could take from a few minutes to hours/days to complete. I have never been able to speak so frankly and be so transparent with a manager and it’s incredibly refreshing.

    I call it management by expectations based on assumptions. Spell it out clearly for your manager, no matter what kinds of faces or noises she makes in response. And start not only pushing back, but saying No, which, as I’ve learned from AAM, is a complete sentence.

  20. Mostly managed*

    I know we don’t support pettiness here, but I’d find a new job and quit, possibly without notice. You shouldn’t do this, I’m just saying that’d be my temptation– so that the company would figure out they need to fill two positions when you leave.

  21. Antilles*

    “While they’re still in the office. I deal with angry clients, new clients, vendors wanting payments, delivery people, repairmen, salesmen, and scheduled meetings that my coworkers don’t bother coming in for. ”
    The most ridiculous part is that half of these tasks have *zero* reason why they’d even require physical presence in the first place.
    Delivery people and repairmen, fine, but…like…why would a vendor payment require physical presence? I work with tons of vendors and every single one of them is happy to use email.

    1. DivineMissL*

      I’m guessing that the vendors are calling the office because they have questions about their accounts, not that they are coming in person. It is still a distraction, especially if OP doesn’t have access to the accounting.

    2. Aquawoman*

      Agree– a lot of these sound like they could be dealt with by assigning everyone a week of phone duty and forwarding the office number to them.

  22. Vox Experientia*

    my solution if i was the OP or if i was their manager would be to turn the work from office responsibility into a rotation. Each person would be scheduled to report to the office and manage those tasks on a weekly or monthly rotation, and the OP would get the same perk to work from home the rest of the time. demanding exactly equal treatment is perfectly reasonable and fair and hard to argue against when you present it to the boss. i caution the OP though, it might not be perceived as reasonable if they’re going to want to continue to come into the office AND have another coworker come in. that may look petty (“geez i have to come in even though Pat is already in the office just to deal with mail and stuff because they can’t be bothered…”). say that you want to be treated exactly as your peers – work from home except when it’s your turn (frankly i’d ask to be excused for a year because i carried the responsibility alone, but that may not be the best approach).

  23. TSP*

    Thanks Alison, for answering this question. I’m not the OP, but something very similar has happened in my office. Our dedicated admin has not fared well with her mental health during the pandemic and though she hasn’t announced she will be teleworking permanently going forward, we’re all assuming that is going to be the case.

    About 80% of her work needs to be done from the office and the one or two people who ARE in the office have picked up the slack. God bless them. I dont know if their patience will hold much longer. I’ll share some of your suggested language with them.

    1. mf*

      “though she hasn’t announced she will be teleworking permanently going forward, we’re all assuming that is going to be the case. About 80% of her work needs to be done from the office…”

      Yikes, it sounds like WFH is not really compatible with her role. Hope someone on high is dealing with this. While I feel for the admin whose mental health has suffered, that doesn’t mean she should be able to offload 80% of her job to other team members.

      1. TSP*

        You’re absolutely correct that her position isn’t coded for telework, but like everyone else she was (rightly) sent home when COVID started. Now our whole office is vaccinated and people are starting to trickle in one or two days a week. She is the only one who who refuses to come in at all because her mental health seems better when she can just stay home. So her duties are covered by others.

        I think that is one thing I haven’t seen come up on the comments on this question, especially with regards to the very reasonable suggestion of setting up a rotating schedule. If you recall the many comments on Alison’s article of a week ago about folks not wanting to return to the office, what do you do with the people who refuse to come back to the office (or can’t come back for the many reasonable reasons people are still wfh) and therefore won’t participate in the rotating schedule? Do their admin duties still fall to others? Can employers make them come in?

        1. Ashley*

          At some point I think becomes an ADA accommodation. If there mental health suffers to the point of panic attacks and the like making them come in is just cruel. A good manager and company will deal with these on a case by case basis.

          1. Gan Ainm*

            Agree. In this particular case though it sounds like even an ada accommodation wouldn’t suffice because the very nature of the job is to require in person presence. NAL but 80% of a job being offloaded to others doesn’t sound like a reasonable accommodation. Accommodations are things that allow you to be able to DO your job, not avoid doing it.

          2. No Name #1*

            Yeah, there have been letters to AAM from people who ended up taking on unsustainable workloads because management accommodated a coworker by assigning a lot of the coworker’s work to their colleagues and acting like their hands are tied because of the ADA. This is, of course, not the fault of the person who needs the accommodations, but the accommodations can’t be made at the expense of the two employees who have now taken on 80% of their colleague’s work (so each of them is performing 40% of another person’s job on top of their own!). Hopefully there’s a way to accommodate the admin assistant or find a different role for her that she can do from home while delegating the in-office duties equally amongst colleagues or hiring a new admin.

  24. RubyJackson*

    Suggest going on rotation with all the employees, since everyone has work to do in the office. Each person comes in for one week, taking care of their work and all the admin duties. The next week it’s someone else’s turn, etc.

    1. Persephone Mongoose*

      I actually really like this idea, though I’m afraid it would fall to OP to create and manage that schedule, making yet another admin duty she’s now “responsible” for. Maybe suggest this as a last resort if the other conversations Alison suggested don’t work?

      1. Ellie*

        You don’t need a schedule, just have everyone pick one day a week to come in on. With the staff reduced by 80%, there should be plenty of space for social distancing.

        OP – stand your ground, this is blatantly unfair, and since they can’t afford to lose you, you can push back hard. Even if your boss won’t support you, I suggest pushing back hard on all admin requests. You have your own work to do.

  25. mf*

    OP, you’re going to have to be the squeaky wheel here.

    As someone who transitioned from an admin to a non-admin role, I can assure you that as long as you keep doing these tasks, people will take advantage of you to offload their work. You have been making everyone’s life easier by doing the admin work and as far as they’re concerned, the easiest way forward is for you to keep doing them! The only way to change this pattern is to stop making their lives easier.

  26. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

    My hunch is that the ultimate solution is going to involve creating an admin position dedicated to and specifically for these tasks.

    1. Aggretsuko*

      I would hope so, but I’m pretty sure cheapness and “why should we do that when we have OP” would come up.

  27. NotMyRealName*

    We never completely closed our offices but the county health department gave us strict limits on the number of people who could be in our building at any time. The senior execs figured out who had to be in the building to do their jobs and the rest of us did work from home. If we needed office time, we emailed the CFO who was coordinating keeping us under the limit. Seems like OP’s coworkers need to be scheduling office time to take care of their own admin work at this point.

  28. Former Employee*

    It sounds like what they could use is a part time administrative assistant. They should hire someone like the OP from yesterday who can only work part time for health reasons.

    Normally, I would not suggest creating a new position for something that was taken care of collectively in the past except for the fact that it appears as if all the employees are now working from home long term other than the OP.

    1. nonegiven*

      The OP from yesterday has a specialized skill and doesn’t want to take a pay cut to do something else, like admin work.

    2. Aggretsuko*

      Having a part time employee would be good, but I doubt anyone with health issues wants to physically come into an office now if they can avoid it….

      1. New Jack Karyn*

        Depends on the issue! Someone with back problems isn’t any more susceptible to COVID, but may not be able to manage a full time office job.

  29. BRR*

    Alison’s wording is great but I would possibly make one adjustment. I’m not sure if you actually want to work from home or if you just want these extra tasks to end. If you just want the work to stop coming to you, I wouldn’t bring up work from home. But I wouldn’t say you want to work from home as a way of not always having to do this work.

    Other than that, it might come down to your ability to stop doing these things and not feeling bad about it anymore. If their attitude is they can’t believe you’re making a big deal out of something so silly, your attitude/response should be “great I”m glad it’s easy so you’ll be able to handle it.” And if your bosses flinch again, let them flinch. They need to figure this out. Going by only your letter, you sound very nice and others are taking advantage of you. But it’s clear your coworker/bosses are not going to extend this same generosity back and stop unless you advocate more for yourself. And I would keep your replies to them as short as possible, don’t engage in a back and forth.

  30. Aggretsuko*

    This pretty much happened in our office. We have so much mail that a few people have to go in twice a week (which, lemme tell ya, is not enough) to deal with it and ALL they do is just the mail all day long, from what I hear. I have to have them mail things for me and they only get around to it about once a week, and then I get angry emails from people needing it all mailed ASAP. It doesn’t help either that thanks to Covid, it takes several days just for them to receive mail and if the mail doesn’t show up on one of the designated days this week…

    Anyway, as someone else said, they need someone in there JUST to do admin mail, but I wouldn’t hold my breath that they’d hire someone to do that. It’s probably easier to just turn OP’s job into admin and mail only for them.

  31. PeteyKat*

    I have a different take on this. I think the boss knows that everyone is taking advantage of the OP (the flinching when the OP asked to WFH) but won’t do anything about it because it makes life easier for everyone else. I think the boss is hoping that the situation with the OP will just continue as is. If I were the OP, I would keep pushing back at the employees who keep giving me admin work, etc. If someone says anything tell them you are not their admin. Repeat as necessary.

    1. irene adler*

      Exactly! It’s way easier for the boss to ignore LW’s situation than it would be if all had to go into work and perform their own admin tasks.

      Need to “up the ante” here. I know there’s push back when LW is given these tasks, so why not negotiate a bit here?
      Something like:
      “Sure I’ll take care of printing/mailing that letter for you, but you’ll need to take my task X and complete it by noon tomorrow in order for me to have time enough to attend to your letter. Can you do that for me? Let me know when task X is complete so that I can then mail your letter. Thanks!”

      “Sure I’ll pay that vendor for you, but I won’t be able to attend to this until next week. Meanwhile, I’ll give vendor your contact info to manage any issues vendor has with my time table.”

      “The repair person is due in on Tuesday morning? I have a doctor’s appointment so you’ll have to make other arrangements to let them in.”

    2. mf*

      Absolutely. The boss knows (the flinching is a dead giveaway), but he/she is taking the easy way out by letting the OP continue to do all the admin work.

      I think it’s highly likely the OP has a boss problem: her manager is trying to avoid managing her team or the division of labor for admin work.

      1. irene adler*

        Not disagreeing.
        It does bother me that not one co-worker has recognized that asking LW to perform these admin tasks is likely to be impacting LW’s ability to complete their own work. Especially after this has gone on for many months.

        No one has offered to complete a task for LW in exchange for the work LW is doing for them? Or, indicate a specified day/time when they will be in the office to handle their own admin tasks? Or asked if their admin task is too much to ask LW to complete, given LW has their own work to do?

        It’s almost like the boss gave an order to the employees to hand off their admin tasks to LW. Only, LW wasn’t clued into this. For obvious reasons.

    3. Maggie*

      That’s absolutely what’s happening here. LW is making it possible for manager to exploit her. Her only way out is to stop volunteering and make it her boss’s problem.

    4. Your Local Password Resetter*

      Agreed. AAM has a lot of letters about bosses who do that, and the employees who get overworked and burned out by it.

  32. BTSB*

    Letter Writer, I feel for you! I am the coordinator for our program, which somehow switched to being office manager and boss’ administrative assistant. I’m expected to be in the office building throughout the week while others come in when they feel like. I like working from home and feel my mental wellness doesn’t suffer as it would working all those long hours in an office. I asked my boss for at least one day working from home, and she FLINCHED too! I would try to WFH when I can, when there’s nothing I need to do at the office and that had been fine somewhat, but the minute I ask for an official WFH day, it’s so taboo. You can use Alison’s script. I think it is worth bringing up. They need to do their job and plan ahead, you don’t get paid extra for their tasks, and it all adds up when multiple people ask. Please remind them each time and don’t help them at times because… you got your own thing like your job to do! Your boss has to back you up and see your side too, you don’t need appreciation, you need to be heard and supported.

  33. Anonymouse*

    I can relate to this. First some background in our office structure:
    We hire someone at the entry level (level A for example) then the person who last used to be an A trains that person. Overall we have A (entry level), B (middle level), C (leads) and manager, and head dept boss. There were a handful of us who were kind of the backups for the A person because we had all held the A position within the last few years.

    Now to quarantine:
    The A person and the backups to A stepped up to handle the “customer service” stuff – answering questions at our zoom front desk, handling phone calls and voicemails. Well now A has left, the other A backup was promoted and now it’s me. I’ve tried saying I don’t want to do this customer service stuff anymore but I don’t really have any power to move it off my plate. I guess my only power play is to not do it. We incorporated other members of the team into handling our zoom front desk but there have also been messages about “everyone” responding to those requests. But I’m like I’ve done it for the past year, no thanks. Plus I feel like customer service is something you sign up for/ want in a job or you know you take it on as the lowest member to move up the ladder eventually. But I am now a B not an A and I absolutely hate dealing with customer stuff. In looking at other jobs I’m specifically looking at non customer facing. I think it would be better to find out who is good at/ enjoys doing the customer stuff instead of feeling like “everyone” should do it.

    TLDR: I feel your pain LW, I know how it feels to be stuck if they won’t listen to you and the only power you have is to not do the task. Which is kind of a dicey gamble.
    Plus: offices really need to start looking at their quarantine procedures that were not intended to last more than few months.

    1. Aggretsuko*

      I had customer service forced upon me. I categorically did not volunteer or sign up for it and I would not have applied for the job I have now. But it was this or unemployment. “Duties as assigned” and all that.

  34. foolofgrace*

    You could say, to a request to do something, “I’ll get to that if I have time, but it isn’t likely and you might want to come up with a Plan B.” That way you’re being polite and “helpful” yet not killing yourself with these extra jobs. You’d have to say this to everyone. It would be a hard thing to say, I know, and might go over like a lead balloon. Best bet is to tell your manager, as the other suggestions do. But it would feel so good to say that…

  35. Texachusetts*

    The company needs to hire an admin, period. Can the OP keep a log of her work tasks for a week to demonstrate how inefficient this is?

    1. SomebodyElse*

      Only if the OP adds the cost to do the admin work at a non-admin salary + the work of the OP’s that isn’t getting done.

      “Gee boss, did you realize that you’re spending $X for me to do Y, while not getting Z completed? Seems to me it might be a better idea to bring a pt temp in at $W to do Y so that I can concentrate on Z. Think of the savings and additional revenue opportunity”

      1. DireRaven*

        What I see will end up happening is that when it comes time for the periodic “how things are going with the job” review, the work of the OP that is not getting done will be used as an excuse to either: deny a raise or bonus or progression within the career path (“well, if you can’t get your job done…”) or even be used to justify getting rid of OP for failure to meet expectations (because OP is too busy doing their admin work, which does add up)

  36. Elbe*

    This is so awful. Everyone ends up losing out when people end up being punished for doing a good deed.

    The people on the ground who are asking for a favor here and there likely don’t know how much it is adding up for the LW. She (it’s a woman, right?) should mention to her coworkers how much this is burdening her and why she can’t always complete their tasks. If people understood how a drop becomes a tidal wave, they may ask her to take on fewer of their tasks. And if they balk, “I’m not an admin. I have a full time job doing X. I can’t continue to do these favors. ” is a reasonable thing to point out to these people. She should constantly, explicitly refer to these tasks as favors.

    “It’s possible your boss will say that the nature of your job has changed and this is now the role, take it or leave it.”
    If this is the position that they take, the LW should quit as soon as she is able, just on principle. What an atrocious attitude to have toward an employee who has gone above and beyond for a YEAR.

  37. Renee Remains the Same*

    Ugh, I hate all your coworkers and your boss. I gotta be honest, I’m wondering whether or not there were issues prior to the pandemic, because the way folks have nonchalantly made you their admin feels like there may have been some issues with boundaries previously. The way your work people are treating you is not cool. The fact that your boss or senior staff have not created a more official procedure for in-office work is even more uncool. They’ve all certainly had time to do it. And I’m sorry, if your job requires you to be in the office, one could say that your boss should be in the office as well (or at least make an appearance every so often). I’m also sorry that I’m venting to you about your situation. It’s riled me up. I’m hoping that my admonition makes you feel heard and seen and understood. And doesn’t make you feel worse. Because this situation sucks and you’re a rockstar for putting up with it for as long as you have and deserve a comment that feels like a hug. So this is my big virtual bear hug to you.

    1. Elbe*

      Agreed. I’ve worked in some pretty dysfunctional environments, but even then I can’t imagine this many people behaving so unreasonably, so blatantly.

      The LW should communicate directly – to anyone that will listen – that this is a burden for her. Once that’s been made perfectly clear, then there will be no confusion about if they’re intentionally trying to take advantage of her kindness or not.

      It depends on where she lives and what her role is, but I think that in a lot of cases she would be able to find a decent job where people have more respect for her.

  38. Pocket Mouse*

    Your employer made a business decision to let anyone work from home who wanted to… except you. It didn’t start that way, but it ended up that way, and is a problem worth bringing up alongside the main issues and ideas for resolving them. You need to be able to take your employer at its word when it adopts a business-wide policy, and under that policy, you do not need to ask for permission to work from home when you want to.

  39. Nom*

    I feel this… before COVID, I was the only one on my team working from the office so it was a lot of “can you stop by X’s desk for me, can you get X’s signature…”. If it was once in awhile fine, but getting tasks daily that are not part of my job, even if they don’t take much time, is not fair.

  40. Coffee Bean*

    What happens when the lw is out of the office – either on PTO or sick? I am guessing the work doesn’t get done. Which should help fuel an argument that lw shouldn’t be the only doing the admin work. This process is both unfair and very flawed.

    1. Pocket Mouse*

      Yes- what would have happened if she hadn’t chosen to continue going to the office a year ago? Whatever would have happened then should start happening now.

  41. Bookworm*

    OP: Oooof. I don’t really have much advice that wasn’t already stated, so really just a show of support and sympathy and emphasizing that yes: you have every right to speak up.

    I’m seeing a variation of this where it’s not someone required to go into the office (which we got rid of for the time being anyway) but similar situation where work is being increasingly given to one person without the acknowledgement or move to, uh, stop doing that (they’re not being paid extra in compensation for the work and have not received a title bump). Like you, we have been hoping it would be temporary but like you it hasn’t. So you’re not alone, as not very comforting as that is.

    You deserve better. Good luck.

  42. Morticia*

    Is there a business that offers printing and mailing single letters? Like a depot where you would provide the file, and the address, and they would print it, address it, and mail it for a fee? It seems that in our pandemic world, this is a gap which could be filled by some entrepreneur.

  43. WDCZombie*

    I feel this so hard.
    While I’m more of a senior admin, I too volunteered last year to come in occasionally to assist with office needs – our office copy person is usually here every day to keep things running, generally (as everyone else has family/children/etc) but I never imagined we’d still be here a year later! No other admin, NOR our office manager — who has been vaccinated for a couple of months already — has come in to assist at all. No one has offered. If I can’t do it, then there is just no office services that day. Usually it’s okay but I’m starting to really resent being the one to always go in and handle things — and when I bring up the fact that we do have other assistants, could they come in one day instead, it’s “Oh, but you do SUCH a seamless job of running things, you’re the best one and we don’t have to worry about anything while you are here”
    And then I get phone calls from assistants saying “Oh, I’m just sitting out on my balcony, working in the sunshine, and it’s so relaxing. Hey, can you please print out and scan in this 100 page document for me?” It makes me slightly stabby.

    1. SMH*

      I would talk to your boss about being burnt out and that you need a break and others need to step up. If they worry that others won’t do things as well then they have hired the wrong people and that’s on them. Explain that you are headed towards needing several weeks out so WFH is necessary to avoid being gone for weeks. Take time off if needed up to two weeks. When you return explain that your stress level of being in the office constantly and the go to person is too much. You need the work evenly divided Period.
      Hope it works out!

    2. AnonEmployee*

      “Oh, but you do SUCH a seamless job of running things, you’re the best one and we don’t have to worry about anything while you are here” that is outright manipulation, my ex boss used to do that to me all the time, flatter me so I would handle pretty much everything though she had a team of 5 (“You’re the ONLY one I trust to do a good job with this.”) I would love to know how to respond when/if this comes up again because I’m usually just struck dumb.

    3. Workerbee*

      Can your “occasionally” drop down to almost nonexistent? Those balcony sitters can come in to print their own documents, and they can stuff their manipulative flattery elsewhere.

    4. Your Local Password Resetter*

      Ah, the old tactic of drowning your complaints with compliments, but not actually helping you or adressing anything.

  44. Pobody’s Nerfect*

    Why in the world are people still physically printing and mailing pieces of paper? It’s just not necessary anymore with the technology tools that are available to everyone. That’s one piece of the problem that could be solved with a simple training session for all the employees re: PDFs, digital signatures, etc. Don’t take the “we’ve always done it that way” excuse.

    1. KAT*

      Maybe because digital isn’t an option? I work for a law firm. We send and receive an obscene amount of mail. Many courts do not do e-filing, and people have to be physically served with a physical copy. I’m sure there are plenty of other places where materials actually need to be printed.

        1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

          I work in the print industry. Digital delivery is still a small (albeit growing) portion of our business; paper is still king.

      1. TGFAdmins*

        I used to be a paralegal — the number of things that were done in a terribly inefficient old-school way in the legal world drove me absolutely bananas.

        So. Much. Mail.

      2. Green*

        But in that case you need to hire an admin to manage this important task or get people printers at home and company letterhead.

        1. KAT*

          This is why my office never fully closed. I was simply providing examples as to why people would still need to print and mail, since Pobody’s Nerfect suggested that such things shouldn’t be needed.

      3. Cough cough hack hack*

        I work in a law firm, too, and it’s not just the courts that don’t do e-filing. The area of law I work in is primarily administrative, and the relevant government agencies don’t accept e-filing for the vast majority of filing types, either. And the vast majority of correspondence from those same agencies only exists in hard copy.

    2. comityoferrors*

      I work in healthcare administration. It’s a legal requirement to send print copies of referral and claims decisions to members who haven’t opted in to our online portal (which is a lot of them). It’s also a legal requirement to send referral decisions to certain providers, and if they aren’t in our network/using our EMR then we have to send paper copies (we try to fax, but mail is more reliable for us). And then we have paper checks and RAs, and one-off mailings that we can’t code into our EMR, and etc….

      1. Jackalope*

        Yes, I’ve also had jobs where it’s a legal requirement to store or process some things as paper.

    3. Aggretsuko*

      I would love to have that argument work with clientele from other countries.

      Not everyone accepts electronic things, unfortunately.

  45. Katrinka*

    I ran into this problem when I worked at the school. We had about 100 educational staff. What worked for me was having all of the secretaries keep track of these little “favors” they were doing that were not their responsibility and how long each one took. After a week, I totaled up the time and had a meeting with my boss. Once he realized the extent of time that was being taken away from what we were SUPPOSED to be doing, he was on board with me asking the teachers to be more mindful and then pushing back on individual repeat offenders.

    I think being able to show your boss and/or HR the actual impact on your work is key. I don’t think she is realizing just how much work you’re being asked to do. Maybe ask if she’d be willing to institute a rotation so that you’re not in the office every day – she is probably looking at your request to WFH as meaning no one will be in the office. If she’s not willing to even do that, then I would push strongly for a raise – these are extra duties that were not included when you negotiated your salary, you’ve been doing them for close to a year now and, apparently, they plan on having you do them permanently.

    If they refuse either option, then I think the only thing you can do is decide if you want to continue to work like this or look for something else.

    1. Tara*

      My manager does this when another manager gives one of us (his 3 direct reports) some work to do that we can’t really say no to. We do it for a few weeks, log exactly how long we’ve spent on it, and then he goes to the other manager saying we can’t spend X amount of time away from our actual roles anymore. It’s so good having a manager who will do this, it’s hard to advocate for yourself to senior people!

  46. MissBaudelaire*

    I feel for you, LW. I agreed to a temporary position. It was meant to last a month. And that was five months ago. Every month I touch base with my temporary manager about how long this will last. I got a lot of ums and ahs and well, maybes and I’m not sures. And the refusal to make me permanent in the position, so every month was a big question mark about what I would and would not be doing. I really, really wanted something a little more solid so that I could do things like arrange childcare.

    But then my schedule changed and I wasn’t available one day a week for it. Period. No buts, no cuts, no coconuts. And I said I wasn’t available.

    “But what can I do?” the manager cried. Well, golly, that’s rough, but I don’t know either. Good luck! Most people are not as fortunate as I am to be able to say no. If I had been made permanent, I wouldn’t have been able to say no. But since it was temporary well, they cooked their own goose. I don’t know how they’re managing it, but they had five months to sort the mess out.

    I’m pulling for ya, LW.

  47. Domane*

    If companies allow for WFH after the pandemic, this is going to happen more and more I am afraid.

    1. TSP*

      I mentioned this above, but I’ll ask It again because I think it gets to your point.

      When Alison posted an article about people not wanting to return to the office, even when COVID is more controlled, many responded that they would look for another job before they agreed to return to the office.

      Could the employer force them to come in once a week or once a month as a part of a rotation to address admin work? Would those people even agree to such a rotation?

  48. Mystery lady*

    All the advice given here is great, and I hope it works. But I recommend you start your job search now. I fear you’ll get all kind of promises when you push back snd nothing will change.
    PS they’ll be shocked and annoyed when you give notice.
    Good luck

  49. TGFAdmins*

    It’s funny how admin work a seems to always be “not that big a deal” and yet at the same time nobody wants to do it.

    1. Rusty Shackelford*

      AND the world will end if nobody does it. Which seems like the definition of a big deal.

      1. Aggretsuko*

        Yes, exactly. Same with, I dunno, food service, janitorial staff, child care, etc.

        Nobody wants to do it because it’s hard work for peanut pay.

    2. Lana Kane*

      I’d give up bacon if I could have someone to help with admin work. Because it IS important, it HAS to be done, and it takes someone with an aptitude for it and the dedicated time.

  50. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

    Is it passive aggressive to reply to all requests with a list of all the requests you have received that day, with the recipient’s task at the bottom? As in, “All right, once I finish all of this I’ll get to you?” And to possibly incorporating time-billing into this list? It’s probably pass agg. I’d want to do it though.

  51. theletter*

    In your shoes, I’d make my work a priority. Everything else gets done after, if there is time. If someone mumbles “if you want something done, you have to do it yourself!” then the response is yes, agreed, that’s how this office stuff is done.

    I’m a bit of a safety head, so any surprise visitors to the office are a threat in my eyes, and would get turned away immediately.

    Also, phones? In 2021? Why has this not migrated to a VOIP-type system connected to people’s laptop/desktops?

  52. I am on a quick break lol*

    My first instinct for you is to find a position that pays better with a company that values you and bounce.

  53. Me (I think)*

    I think in the next six months we’ll see a large number of good jobs open up. OP, you should start looking for one of them now.

  54. Chickaletta*

    Well, the irony is that today is Administrative Assistant’s Day. I suppose that if your boss sends you flowers or a new mouse pad today, you know where you stand LOL!

    In all seriousness, I think just having a discussion with your boss about what your job duties are going forward will help clear some of the air.

  55. Tara*

    What I would do (but then, I’m not a manager, this is more what your friend would tell you over a glass of wine after yelling about how much she hates your company for treating you this way). I would suggest having a plumbing or similar style “emergency” that means you have people working in your home that you need to be around to supervise. Don’t give any warning you won’t be in, just on Monday be at home, and if someone asks “oh we’ve had a plumbing nightmare over the weekend, had to get the workmen in and from the sounds of it they’ll be here all week, what a disaster”. And then the next week (maybe a Tuesday or Wednesday they could “finish up”), when people ask again, just say you’ve really settled into working from home last week and understand why everyone else has enjoyed it so much, and that you’re being so much more productive, so will be doing this for the time being.

  56. Jerusha*

    I’m sure this wouldn’t work or be particularly helpful, but I keep coming back to this idea.

    So if your boss doesn’t budge, sum up with “So, just so I understand this clearly, you’re telling me that, in addition to my own original job duties, 5% of everyone else’s job duties are being permanently transferred to me because I’m the one in the office. OK, so of course you’ll be transferring 5% of everyone else’s salary to me as well, in addition to my original salary, to go with the job duties. Right?”

  57. Quickbeam*

    A colleague of mine was the lone volunteer to stay at the office….and 14 months later she’s still the only one. To me it’s a big red flag to the company about worker desires to WFH. We’re all mandated back later this year but I know she really felt taken advantage of.

  58. DJ*

    Sounds like the workplace needs to employ an admin person to work in the office. And I’m sure there would be many capable unemployed jobseekers who would be suitable. So a win win!
    So typical especially as employers and colleagues undervalue admin staff. But latch onto someone to push this work on to.
    This happened to me and it led to me nearly losing my job due to a structure as it was then my job that was deleted. This was despite raising my concerns several times about not using my skills and becoming uncompetitive. Had an acting female supposedly I support the advancement of women manager tell me I should do the admin and treat it as business. I expressed concern around the lack of value placed on that type of work, I’d given up time and earnings to obtain a second degree later in life to do work in that field which I had been employed to do. But apparently “advancement of women” only apply to some. Thankfully a few months before I was able to get a secondment to another section and look like I’ll be redeployed there.
    So sorry to see you on this situation!

  59. LQ*

    I think it’s likely too late for this but at some point in like October I started to feel like I should create a signature block that said something like.


    This work has been brought to you by helping keep everyone safe during the pandemic. Thank you for staying home and you’re welcome for coming in!”

    I didn’t but I did start mentioning that “oh we are definitely going to need a better long term solution” round about December. I’m not sure if it’s too later for that, but I still give a similar response to a thank you, and have managed to re-unload a few. I did get someone who said I was being passive aggressive but I don’t know that I care?

  60. Kc_24*

    The comments seem to assume the employee is a woman and that’s likely true. We know this because…men wouldn’t be expected to just pick up the slack on this and most, just wouldn’t. This needs to be raised as a gender discrimination issue (if I’m on the right track here). All too often, women automatically get assigned caretaker and “home” duties and what’s considered “low level admin” work in the workplace, regardless of their qualifications and experience. Make it about gender and see if that gets you a different result. ESPECIALLY if a lot of the WFH staff asking you to pick up their office based admin work are male.

    1. Mr. Obstinate*

      I full agree that in a systemic way and at an aggregate level and in most individual cases, this is a gender discrimination issue and it happens far more often to women. That said, I am a man who has ended up in similar situations (being expected to pick up slack endlessly once it was discovered that I had diverse skills) at two different jobs.
      In my case, it wasn’t just the caretaker/admin/home duties, though, so it didn’t have that sexism angle to it. It was simply everything that other people didn’t want to do: low-level admin duties and office-keeping duties they found tedious, and complex/technical tasks that they found too challenging and didn’t want to bother learning.
      My problem was, similarly, that my bosses were in on it and didn’t want to tell my coworkers to lay off.

  61. Workerbee*

    “ I frequently get looks like they can’t believe I’m making a big deal out of something so silly.”

    Ugh. I consider this sentiment as egregious as when people say, “It’s ONLY $20, not a big deal!”

    If it’s such a small deal, then THEY can do whatever it is themselves, surely!

    Your colleagues and boss suck. What would happen if you announced, rather than asked, that you will be working from home a couple days a week (to start with)?

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

    I also think it’s important just how different your real job is from administration. For instance, if you are really an engineer and now being tasked with admin work, I would push back really hard, and maybe throw in something like, “I realize that this isn’t what you intend, but women engineers seem to be particularly susceptible to having their careers sidelined by being relegated to administrative work, rather than given opportunities to excel on high level projects. Let’s come up with a timeline that either these favors are returned to their proper owners, or an administrative professional is put in place to take them over.” This won’t work as well if your real job is very similar to an administrative professional of course.

    Based on a lot of these comments, I think the jobs that will be opening up in the near future are the ones people quit because they no longer allow WFH or will require some sort of hybrid going forward. That said, if the OP is looking to get away from specifically administrative tasks and back to her original job, and this place still flinches when she makes it clear she expects them to do just that, she should definitely see what other jobs open up — just don’t be surprised if they also require in-office work.

    1. Jackalope*

      I’ve definitely heard from people who want to stay w/ WFH, and I get it. Some people are not willing to go into the office again ever. But I’ve also heard from a lot of people who are wanting to be mostly WFH, but would probably be fine with the suggestions on this thread that everyone take an admin day in the office once a week, or every other week, or whatever is needed.

  63. Dragon_Dreamer*

    Ugh, I’m having bent fastener flashbacks. Whenever I went on vacation, any machine already on the repair bench was IGNORED by my coworkers! The only time one got sent home was if the customer complained, but it was sent home as is. And I got blamed for not being there. >..< The record was a machine they neglected for a full 2 weeks while I was in Arizona helping my family arrange my grandmother's funeral.

    Everyone else got to go on vacation, or even just go HOME, while I got called at all hours. I lived 40 minutes away! I was even once berated on my birthday, while I was at a festival, because the new hire had forgotten the combination to the laptop locks! The combination even managers were supposed to know, because it was set by corporate!

    OP, I feel you. I never signed up to be the on-call tech, the onsite tech after ours quit, the nominal tech supervisor (without the pay OR the title OR the management support) but if I didn't perform those duties when no one else was hired to do them, there was hell to pay.

  64. J3*

    OP, I think this is what I would do in your situation–

    I’d first draft an email (breezy but clear) summarizing the situation and how things are going to have to change, i.e. I offered to help with things at the beginning of the pandemic, at this point others’ admin work has begun affecting my own workload, moving forward I will only be able to XYZ, etc.

    Then I would run the email by my boss– ostensibly as a heads-up that I was going to send it out, but really it’s bait for them to realize that they’ve been out to lunch on this and need to step in and use their authority to fix it for you. If they say “Okay, sounds good, thanks for letting me know”, that’s a little pathetic but at least you’re beginning to move in the right direction. If they don’t want you to send the email nor will they fix it for you…… start applying to jobs.

    Depends a bit on your office culture, but this is how I’d go about it!

  65. TGFAdmins*

    I wasn’t sure about posting this since I’m not sure how many on AAM would appreciate the reference, but I’ve been thinking all day about how my imagined response to this situation is the famous Franklin line from GTAV:

    “Man, f*** you I’ll see you at work.”

  66. KR*

    This letter hit home for me as a former admin. When the team went remote it was like everyone, who didn’t have an admin at their location all the time even pre-pandemic, forgot how to maintain an office. Packages sat for weeks without even being opened or sent on to their respective places, it was like everyone suddenly became incapable of checking the mail or opening envelopes if they remembered to check the mail, and nothing got cleaned up or put back where it went. So I was responsible for traveling and handling it all in the midst of a pandemic like my own safety wasn’t a concern and like of course I wouldn’t mind driving to a satellite office, staying in a hotel, and risking my health just to check the mail and do the tasks everyone who lived within a half an hour of the office couldn’t be bothered to do. It was a big factor in why I became BEC at that job. I hope LW is able to find a resolution because this is even more egregious because – well – they aren’t an admin! They didn’t sign up for a job to do admin work!

    1. Anon For Today*

      And even as an admin, you didn’t sign up to risk your health to open mail. Yes, you provide administrative support but not at risk to yourself.

      As someone who sat alone in an office today for a single piece of mail, I’ll be giving notice shortly. No one really signed up for this during a pandemic and rather than putting it on a single person, workplaces have to think creatively either how to spin this for a new admin or think about staggering bringing people in.

      It’s also . . . so unkind. This particular OP did their workplace a year-long favor. In the beginning, they didn’t even mind helping. What a special person to do that for them. And now, it’s like people forgot they are there. Reading this makes me never want to do a favor at work, because once you do it, you’re just doin’ it indefinitely. It really is so hard on the real admins, the de facto admins, anyone who did this work officially or unofficially during this time and with none of the thanks (or early vaccination status) like essential workers received. If you have an admin doing this, tomorrow please e-mail them and say thank you.

  67. Susana*

    If you can leave, do so. That’s a pretty extreme thing to say, but really, they’re being so disrespectful of your time and your job, what are you losing? And it would be pretty satisfying to see them scramble, trying to get their “in office” work done without you in the office.
    In the meantime… can you just get overwhelmed and really bad at your extra job? Like, telling people who are there for meetings with others that those folks aren’t there, you’re so sorry, you don’t know why they didn’t show up, and gosh, you wish you could help but you’re in the middle of whatever?
    And the mail – oh, so sorry! I was so busy with ACTUAL JOB I forgot about it.

    1. Not Legal Tender*

      The trick is to appear helpful but not actually do the stuff.

      The LW should do their own work throughout the day, as they did Before Times. Not even looking at ‘admin task’ emails. Anyone chases the LW to print a letter, mail something, they reply “I’m working on my own projects, but I’ll see if I have time at the end of the day to check your email.” If the coworker claims it’s urgent, the LW says “Oh dear. In that case you should probably come in to do it because I can’t promise I’ll get to it.” The idea is that if it is really an urgent matter, the coworker deals with it, and if it’s not an urgent matter it can wait for when the LW ‘might’ have time to do it (always tomorrow) but often the coworker does it themself because… less hassle.

      As for the missed meetings, the LW gets the coworker on the phone, in front of the other party, and says (breezily): “Hi TJ, your 2:30 meeting is here. I’ll put them on.” And hand the phone over. Any fallout is on the coworker for not being there/not cancelling.

      They’ve had a year to get things figured out. They’ve chosen not to. Time to ‘encourage’ them to so now.

  68. Boof*

    Why don’t they hire an actual admin assistant to do all this now since they are wanting to allow everyone to work from home long term?

  69. Lettuce and spinach*

    I’m in a similar situation, except the admin work is only about 2 hours per week. (But it’s still 2 hours that I could spend on my “real” job.) The others are scheduled to return to the office soon.

    I think you’re right that the others don’t realize just how much time you’re spending on these tasks. Yes, printing and mailing one letter takes about 5-10 minutes. But, you’re doing it for EVERYONE in the office and it’s now taking up a lot of time. (And they probably underestimate the amount of time each task takes.)

    I agree with tracking the amount of time you’re spending on these tasks and asking the manager to set up a rotating system to have the other employees come in and take their turns doing the administrative tasks. You can point out that this means that they will know how to do the tasks if you were to go on vacation or get sick. (Back-up coverage is important.)

    If there is any intention to bring people back to the office, having a rotation can be a good way to transition.

    Good luck with this.

  70. CircleBack*

    When we first went to WFH a year ago, one of the company owners decided he’d be the one in the office every day since he lived within walking distance and didn’t have a home office. At the time I thought it was really odd to send little admin tasks to one of our executives, like forwarding mail to home addresses, but I’m starting to realize what a great decision it turned out to be because people only reached out to him out of urgency and started to find other long-term solutions for doing things at home instead of asking the owner to do it.
    I’m really hoping for an update from this letter writer, and my fingers are crossed that her coworkers will learn how to treat her availability like my office treats our co-owner.

  71. Anonanonanon*

    Is there any particular reason the people working from home can’t just mail their own documents from home? I work in a small office that is still primarily remote, and we simply brought home letterhead and branded envelopes and started up a account and I regularly send out necessary office mail by just…printing it at home and walking 100 yards to a mailbox. I already had a laser printer, but my office ships me replacement toner (or reimburses me for it) and I grab a few reams of paper when I’m occasionally in the office, but it would be easy enough to have a box of paper shipped out to me, as well. Obviously not everyone has a laser printer at home, but that doesn’t seem like an insurmountable hurdle – there must be some at the office that are going unused, or they could be purchased for employees that routinely handle a lot of paper even at home. If you’re the only person in the office, it seems like there will be certain tasks that fall to you by default, and that’s its own problem, but there are a lot of things that are pretty easily transferred back to people still working from home.

  72. Persephone Mongoose*

    I don’t suppose you can utilise the sentiment that “no” is a complete sentence?

    Coworker: Can you do (task) for me?
    OP: (cheerfully) No!

Comments are closed.