people who have been at work all along are exhausted

We’ve talked a lot lately about how anxious many people feel over returning to their offices later this year — and how much of that stems from a break in trust in the people and institutions that have shown they can’t be counted on to protect us.

But plenty of people won’t be returning to their workplaces, because they’ve been there all along — essential workers, workers whose jobs can’t be done remotely, and many people whose employers brought them back early on even though they didn’t need to.

They’ve been dealing not only with the risks of being on-site, but also with colleagues who refuse to wear masks, members of the public who throw tantrums (and worse) when asked to, and employers that don’t enforce safety measures. And some of them are frustrated when people who have been able to stay at home — and who were able to do that thanks to others who took on more of the risks so they didn’t have to — complain about having to return, when they’re not hearing much about their own experiences in that conversation.

Here’s what one person wrote to me:

“I have to say that some of the more recent letters about people reluctant to return to work despite being vaccinated, drops in positivity rates, and improved safety measures are really getting to me.

I know that each of us has experienced trauma this past year. But can we please stop pretending that the trauma of working from home and not wanting to go back is the same as the trauma of never being able to be home in the first place? It is defeating at best to hear from people who have been safe at home for an entire year talk about how nervous they are to go back and the level of unawareness in some of the responses is dumbfounding. These are people who have asked others to sacrifice their health and safety so that they could have access to food, healthcare, and essential services. And now that the tide is shifting and returning to the office is possible, the narrative is focused on them again.

Essential workers have spent the last year exposed to hate and anger and the fear of dying. People not wanting to leave their home offices is not the same and the more that we pretend that it is, the more we ignore the burden put upon those out and working every single day.

There are no winners in this pandemic, but there are certainly those who have paid a bigger price. Please stop pretending we are all in the same boat. Some people never had a boat to weather the storm and are barely hanging on.”

So, people who have already been back at work for a while or never left, let’s talk about how you’re doing. What’s your workplace getting right and what’s it getting wrong? How is this moment in the pandemic — where there’s so much cause for hope, but also so much anxiety — playing out for you?

{ 1,117 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Hi all. This post is for people who have been working on-site. If that’s not you, please hang back on this one.

    Updated to add: I’ve removed a bunch of posts ignoring that request. Please respect it!

    Updated again to add: I am having to do a ton of moderation on this post, removing comments that violate the rule above — really proving the OP’s point! Let me reiterate: If you have not been working on-site, please do not comment on this post.

    1. Frustrated teacher*

      Thank you! I am really frustrated that a post specifically addressed to in-person workers was immediately jumped on by people who work from home. Like the LW, I’ve noticed the tendency of recent letters to center the experience of office workers who have been WFH. Sure, it’s not a competition—but that doesn’t mean everyone is on the same footing. And to be blunt, it’s hard to hear concerns from people who will presumably be returning to the office in the age of vaccination and reduced case numbers. Now that my co-workers and I are vaccinated, being at work is so much less stressful—I understand others’ anxiety but it’s really not comparable to working in person 6 months ago.

  2. Anon for this*

    Right: at the beginning of COVID, we shifted a lot of things that were not ideally remote to remote, and as the pandemic has gone on I feel like management has been thoughtful about what is truly essential. We don’t have anyone on site who doesn’t need to be there. They also purchased air purifiers, PPE, thermometers, and hand sanitizer for those in the office
    Wrong: management has been wishy-washy about vaccination. Some supervisors have spread misinformation about efficacy and safety. Management has also talked about holding in person fundraising events in the near future without enforcing masks. In my view, asking employees to do fundraising events but not empowering them to ask people to wear masks is poor leadership.

  3. Anon for Now*

    I never left work. I’m not essential but I do work that is classified and can’t be done at home. Because we’re not considered essential, we’re not prioritized for vaccine. People are slowly getting vaccinated, which is great and is beginning to reduce the level of anxiety. But since last March, we’ve worn our masks, washed our hands, and hoped for the best. And hoped that our coworkers were following the rules and not, say, coming to work with COVID because they they didn’t want to use sick leave. Our company did ok, particularly in tracking infections and letting people who could work at home do so. But being in the office adds a layer of stress and anxiety on top of everything that people who are home are experiencing and it’s exhausting.

    And, yeah – I’m pretty much over hearing people complaining about going back into the office.

    1. Lunch Eating Mid Manager*

      Exactly the same here. I’ve consistently been in the office 2 full days/week since March while the vast majority of our workforce has been remote, because those of us in-office have supported them with functions that can only be done on site. No vaccine priority despite working for a different branch of the local government in charge of vaccines. The worst has been on site management wishy washy about enforcing mask wearing (passive aggressive), and higher up management flip flopping on policies such as sick leave and long term WFH. I am 100% over my colleagues dragging their feet about coming in, or wanting to work half days, or whatever. Are we a team or aren’t we?

      1. pancakes*

        It seems pretty understandable that people would drag their feet on returning to a workplace where policies are inconsistent and not keeping people safe. The idea that it’s better for more people to be present in an unsafe office isn’t my idea of teamwork, and I’m not sure I understand what appeals to you about it.

        1. S*

          The appeal is equality of risk/perceived fairness. It’s not fair for some coworkers to be able to opt out while Lunch Eating Mid Manager can’t. And yeah, life isn’t fair, but that doesn’t mean you can’t feel some kind of way about it.

    2. merp*

      Pretty similar though for different reasons. I’m in government and the governor opened us back up with very little warning a year ago, for more or less no reason. The rest of my agency was able to stay home because of the areas they work in, and I’ve been rolling my eyes a little bit at the agency-wide meetings where the director talks about “phasing back in” when many of us were phased back in ages ago. I’m not thrilled with the way the agency handled things – it certainly could have been worse but it has all been infused with this “you’re lucky you have a job, we’re being careful so you don’t need to worry” kind of tone, and any mention of safety concerns has been met with personal offense.

      We also weren’t deemed essential so most of us have been vaccinated through volunteering at clinics and other things if possible. When I asked if the agency was advocating for us (you know, as the leaders of a state agency) we were told there was nothing they could do. Maybe they really did try and that’s true, but I have started to resent the idea that the director of a state agency has no control over taking care of their staff. The people who really truly have nothing they can do are the workers lower down, and it feels like our leadership just hasn’t been willing to take any risk of pushback at all to take care of us.

      1. LemonLime*

        Are you me? A part of my agency is still working from home where the group of us had to get back to work nearly immediately. A message from the Governer talking about transitioning back made me want to scream. What’s almost worst is now that there are vaccines, many people around me have stopped wearing masks/distancing/ staying away from large groups and thus I feel almost more vulnerable now.

        1. Yvette*

          “What’s almost worst is now that there are vaccines, many people around me have stopped wearing masks/distancing/ staying away from large groups ” That is the issue I have with the vaccines, they need to be treated as another tool in the arsenal, not some sort of bullet proof cape. So I guess my issue isn’t really with the vaccines, but with how people are using them.

        2. Retail Manager*

          The worst part of working during the pandemic was retail. Our company required us to wear masks not customers. So what they basically said was we only care if our customers get sick and the perception of being safe and not actually if our employees are safe.

          It’s just us out dramatically and then my boss would then get upset if anybody asked a customer to wear a mask. I am shocked by how inconsiderate most people were.

    3. MsClaw*

      It can feel a bit precious to hear people worrying about the …. very things we’ve been dealing with for 14 months. It’s not that their concerns aren’t valid, and as I said below I would hope that one of the long-term wins for employees coming out of this is fewer people making horrible commutes, toiling in tiny cubicles, and having pointless in-person meetings that could have been an email.

      I completely understand the argument of ‘I can competently do my job from home, I don’t see a need for me at waste an hour and a half every day hating my life in traffic, and the idea of having to smell George’s lunch from the next cubicle every day makes me less productive just remembering it, so do I really need to come back to the office.’ And the health-measured based arguments make sense for people who are high risk. But if you are reasonably healthy and vaccinated, you’re going back to a safer work situation than many of us who have been working in person the past 14 months.

      1. E*

        “It can feel a bit precious to hear people worrying about the …. very things we’ve been dealing with for 14 months. ”


          1. Kdog94*

            I’ve been considered essential the whole time (I work in academic research science). Initially I split days with our lab manager to avoid coming in at the same time but was quickly back to full time in the lab. The university I work for has been great about masking and distancing. My boss specifically went to bat for me (and the two other people who had to be in person the whole time) for raises this year since we had a wage/hiring freeze in 2020. That went a LONG way towards making me feel seen/understood in a time when most if not all of my colleagues have been able to WFH to a MUCH greater extent than I have (including my boss who has not worked in person outside of maybe a meeting or two since March 2020)

          2. JRE*

            As a RN who is so sick of people in my medical field who give rise to being flippant about precautions, doing what they have to do cause management tells them but about 1/2 were on the believing the bull… so I kind of didn’t feel safe, anxiety, over 65 and even took some time off when the numbers in our area blew up. So then you have anger towards you coworkers including some in management. Guilt when I pulled out a bit then anxiety when back. Thank god after both vaccines there’s more feeling of safety but anger and resentment are hard for me. I lost wages and work cause I didn’t trust my colleagues. This was not out on the floor but in break rooms etc. Note I work in a psychiatric hospital so not directly for the most part not acute Covid. Frontline nurses are struggling, I have two RN daughters, one ICU. Sorry, worries about returning to an office seems I have a lack of sympathy and especially as I psych nurse that’s not right. But we’ve been wading in the trenches here for awhile. Sorry you all have no clue what being out/essential has been like this past year. Just looking down the same highway from opposite directions. I’m not really happy with this new not that nice me. Jo

      2. ThatAnonGirl*

        I don’t really get the crab mentality. It sucks that people have had to deal with this for 14 months. I’m confused as to why the solution isn’t pushing for safer offices and policies and instead go back to a work style that felt antiquated even before the pandemic or put even more people in unsafe situations.

        1. merp*

          I mean, I can’t speak for others, but we’ve been trying. Trying to advocate for safer workplaces, trying to advocate for working from home when we can, and trying to keep ourselves as safe as possible. It’s like banging our heads against the wall. This frustration isn’t coming from nowhere – it’s been an exhausting, horrible process and then we see many, many media sources all talking about the challenges of working from home and saying things like “when we all go back to work.” That’s what these comments are about.

          1. Clemgo3165*

            Amen to that! I’d love to know how many people are WFH vs. actually working from a workplace. It’s a real privilege to be able to stay home during a pandemic – though I understand it may not always feel that way. But I’d love to the media to acknowledge what is the reality for so many of us.

            1. Ismonie*

              I agree. That is something that has really bothered me about media coverage during the pandemic. Almost no stories about people who can’t work from home or lost their jobs.

        2. Observer*

          I honestly don’t get this at all. Are you actually reading what people are saying?

          For a lot of people who are working in person, their job IS being made harder by the people who are working from home. Anyone in that position hearing the freak out from co-workers who STILL don’t want to come back under MUCH safer conditions has a legitimate issue. This is not “crab mentality”. It’s “look, I’ve been shouldering a burden that’s been made harder by the accommodations that have been made for you. Now that it’s gotten reasonably safe, stop kvetching and pitch in!”

          In many more cases, wfh is NOT quite the same as being in the office, for all sorts of reasons. And if someone is in one of those positions, it’s very galling to hear them complaining about being asked to step back up to full productivity at now that the risk has been so significantly reduced. At best it’s tone deaf. At worse it’s dismissive and disrespectful. Because this is what it says “I should not have to take ANY risk, even as this risk mitigation affects my ability to my job fully. Even though it’s been fine for you to have taken REAL risks for the last year.”

          I don’t blame people for being tired of hearing that. It troubles me how many people simply do not get it.

          1. Miss V*

            This, 1000%.

            I’ve had to come into the office everyday because of the nature of my job, but about 95% of our office has been WFH since the pandemic started. Which is great! It really is, I appreciate that my company did that, because it decreased their risk and less people means less risk for me.

            But, even if most of your job can be done from home, very few people have a job that can actually completely be done from home. So those of us who have to come in have been picking up that slack. And now that things are safer the idea that I’m suppose to continue doing that extra work ontop of my job because people don’t want to deal with it? Makes me want to scream and while I’m staying professional my opinion of people who have been complaining about having to come back in has gone down.

            The entire pandemic I’ve gotten to hear about coworkers WFH who would quarantine for two weeks, go visit family, the quarantine for two weeks when they got back. I never had that option. I haven’t gotten to hug my mom in over a year, and while I don’t want to make this the suffering Olympics I do want some acknowledgment that the people who were able to take advantage of working from home were able to do so because I made that sacrifice.

            1. Regina Philange*

              For context, I work at a public library. We’ve been working on site doing pickups, but haven’t been open to the public until this week.

              Things they got right: having available PPE, doing all the right things for staff covid safety. Making our services still as available as we can, all online. Drawing a hard line about patrons wearing masks and following the rules.

              Things they got wrong: management was soooo focused on being in crisis mode for a whole year that we felt we weren’t getting the support we needed to do our day to day tasks.

            2. abcd*

              Yes, having staff WHF and others who don’t has shifted a lot of tasks in ways I wouldn’t have opted for. Originally, my department divided into two groups in different offices. We spent months managing two different areas and meeting periodically to exchange documents. But then we sent some people home. Now the people in the office have certain tasks only they can complete including printed for WHF folks (100-150 pages per day), copying letters, mailing letters, scanning documents, etc. My team has done exceptionally well, but I work to remind myself that those in the office have taken on two to three times the amount of clerical type work they wouldn’t normally be doing due to others being WFH.

              1. Librat*

                Yes, so many people who are wfh asking , can you just – insert task they can’t do from home and since I’m the only member of management in that day must be willing to pick up the slack. Or with only limited number of wfh allowed in receiving multiple requests per day to be in branch and getting rather snappy with me when I have to say no because it’s my ass on the line if there are too many people in the office. But I’m the lucky one who gets to work in the office so shut up about it. I was wfh for 2 weeks last spring, I a tired of staff and the public complaints.

          2. ChildTherapist*

            This. I work a hard job. A lot of my fellow workers noped their way out of the harder, in-person parts of the job and stopped working with clients who needed that type of help, which means I dealt with all that for a year (I choose not to opt out as I wanted to support my clients.) Now many of them are complaining about the return to in person and I’m like….I literally volunteered for a vaccine study to feel safer and contribute to ending this thing sooner, while working in person. I’m sorry, I don’t want to hear it.

            1. J. Montoya*

              I am an essential worker at Amazon. Although it can be annoying, I appreciate all the safety precautions they have put in place in the last year. I get wanting to work from home, but the reality is most people didn’t hire on to work from home and need to get back tonwhat they were hired to do. I understand the world has become a scarier place, but we can’t live in fear. Advocate for safe practices at your job.

        3. hbc*

          It’s not “Oh, you need to all come sick and suffer with us.” It’s “Are you seriously whining about how long it’s taking me to scan the paperwork that you used to handle because you’re too scared to even come pick this up at the door?”

          1. MommyMD*

            And I’m thinking some people are not really afraid. They simply don’t want to do it. It’s getting old.

            1. Sasha*

              I do think that this is 90% of it. In the UK, a lot of people had a very nice year on furlough, on full pay (there was a government scheme which paid 80%, and many employers topped that up). Who wouldn’t want that to continue?

          2. cacwgrl*

            Or… you can stop complaining about me asking you to do the research needed to tell me how to take care of X since I am here onsite and you can’t aka don’t want to come in. I am a team player and I know a lot about the organization, but I only know enough about YOUR job to appreciate what you do and maybe help myself out as much as possible when I know you’re super busy. However, that does not mean that I need to check on 1, call 2, google website 3 and figure out who needs to sign what on a form just because you’re not here to do yourself, which is your job. I am fine helping out on a quick thing for a customer because I’m here, but tell me exactly what to do and make it easy for me for crying out loud. I have my own job to do and limited hours on site to do it. I can’t and won’t do yours as well.

        4. Insert Something Witty*

          I mean, that’s great if you have the sort of office where you can collectively bring up issues and have your suggestions considered. I’ve been the sole person in the office for the majority of the pandemic (I had a brief stint at home) and any time I brought up an issue of safety it was immediately seen as a mark against my character and work performance. So yeah, my sympathy for the WFH folks is limited.

        5. RagingADHD*

          Because if any work is being done on site, those folks are picking up slack for the ones who WFH.

          There is always slack to pick up. There is always going to be some portion of the job that gets shifted to the person who showed up.

          And if the WFH folks don’t see it, or are in denial about it, that just underlines the disparity.

        6. Ace in the Hole*

          But that’s just the thing – it’s not the same situation at all. What wears on me is hearing people talk about how afraid they are AFTER the offices are safer. When the safety measures ARE in place. When we have tests and vaccines. I’ve spent all year pushing for and developing safety measures, it’s been a lot of hard work, but there’s no level of safety that will satisfy some people.

          This is particularly grating when it’s a type of work that can’t actually be done remotely. There are an awful lot of jobs that have been made remote during the pandemic only by postponing or suspending certain tasks, or by taking a hit to efficiency. Schools are an excellent example. We technically “can” make elementary school remote… but not without consequences. Sooner or later these jobs need to come back in person.

          1. Laura*

            Yes! Especially for schools. My daughter’s school has half the kids hybrid/mostly back, and half virtual. The half virtual are taught by virtual teachers. One of the on-site teachers or staff has to make weekly work packets for all those kids to pick up and do. That’s not nothing for 30-60 kids per grade across 6 grades for an entire year.

            1. Jennifer*

              I teach high school and have been running in-person class and live Zoom simultaneously almost the entire year. I am limping to the end of the year at this point and not sure summer break will be long enough to recharge. What’s driving me nuts is the community refusing to acknowledge that this method of teaching is 10x harder than fully in-person teaching and then complaining that we’re “lazy” because we fought for (and won) an asynchronous day most weeks. They think we don’t work on that day…..nope. That’s when we’re meeting with the kid who had tech issues, the one who was quarantined unexpectedly and can’t function in Zoom class, calling parents, etc.

              Thankfully my state prioritized teachers for vaccines, so most of us got our shots in Feb/early March. I’m hoping that we can get the younger teens vaccinated soon so we can have fewer quarantines and more continuity.

        7. Frankie Derwent*

          It’s not crab mentality to call out to be tired of the sudden concern for workplace safety by people who had to privilege of working from home.
          Additionally, for many workplaces, people on site had to carry out extra admin tasks for those working from home, as discussed by an LW earlier this week. We’ve been enduring the risks all year so hearing the work from home people describing the risks to us seem realllllllllly condescending.

      3. Anon for this*

        Honestly, I’m fully vaccinated and while I know they don’t pose much risk to me, it really, really bothers me that my employer isn’t willing to tell WFH coworkers that they need to be vaccinated before coming back. It just feels really disrespectful to those of us who have been doing in person work. I’m not sure it’s strictly rational of me, but it does sort of bother me as a vaccinated in person worker to have management assume I’m okay with non-vaccinated folks (coworkers, donors, clients) not masking/distancing just because I’m now protected. I know I’ll have to get over that at some point…

        1. Chantel*

          “…it does sort of bother me as a vaccinated in person worker to have management assume I’m okay with non-vaccinated folks (coworkers, donors, clients) not masking/distancing just because I’m now protected.”

          Yeah, that’s terrible. I really hope things turn around ASAP for you where you are.

        2. Jen*

          “it really, really bothers me that my employer isn’t willing to tell WFH coworkers that they need to be vaccinated before coming back.”

          You want your employer to require vaccinations? That’s a little ridiculous. I’m vaccinated and support vaccination but as a work requirement? That’s a bit invasive.

          1. Not A Girl Boss*

            I think my work has handled it quite amazingly – mandatory COVID tests every 2 weeks, or vaccination. Plus strict mask requirements.
            I gotta tell you, getting a swab up the nose is great vaccine motivation. But it does leave the choice open. (Although, I do have to imagine that at some point, there will be a ton of pressure from the company if you’re the last person left making them pay for COVID tests).

          2. Pickled Limes*

            I was required to be tested for tuberculosis in order to have my job. Why should a covid vaccine requirement be different?

          3. Heather*

            Why shouldn’t it be required? I’m required to have a driver’s license, I’m required to do a drug test if I’m on certain project sites, I’m required to wear pants every day. If my employer were to add “unless medically prohibited, employees must be vaccinated against Covid and/or the flu” that would be less invasive than all of the above IMO.

            1. Marika*

              See, I’m there. I’m a substitute teacher, so the last year has been REALLY weird for me – am I online, am I in-person, can I BE in-person, what about moving sites? It’s been a rollercoaster, honestly.

              To do my job, I have to be fingerprinted. I have to have a background check. I have to have a negative CHEST X-RAY, not just a negative TB test (and let me tell you, one of those every two years is a lot – I actually had to have a conversation with a radiologist last time I was in, because between a chest X-ray every two years and yearly mammograms – yay high risk boobs – I’m actually getting towards the high end of ‘this isn’t great radiation exposure for your chest’) . I have to have a full set of up-to-date immunizations, and now I have to have a COVID vaccination as well to work in-person, because I DO move between schools, and that means I’m a ‘transmission risk’. I also have to do yearly classes on child abuse and recognizing the signs – and honestly, I’d MUCH rather have a shot than have to sit through another three hours of videos of abused children and photos of traumas and how to spot the signs of molestation – I have nightmares for days after that yearly class.

              I don’t have an issue with an organization saying “Look, there are 20/50/200/1000/5000 people here, and we all need to do our part to keep everyone well, and that means everyone who can gets a shot, because some small percentage WON’T be able to” (I’ve got a cousin who CAN’T get the shot – he’s allergic to all five of the most common preservatives used in vaccines – like ‘get a needle of adrenalin straight into his heart or he dies – an epipen may not be fast enough’ allergic. The day they found that out was …not good. He can get SOME of his shots, since there are a couple that are now manufactured with a super-expensive alternate preservative, but it’s unlikely there will be a COVID shot with it for years yet – it’s just not viable in terms of mass production).

              If I can’t work if I’m a carrier of TB, because that puts everyone around me at risk, then why the hell shouldn’t we say “You could be a carrier of COVID, you can’t work”?

          4. Sarah in Boston*

            It’s often required for other diseases (measles, TB) by many companies – why not COVID? We had a measles exposure a few years ago and everyone who was a potential contact had to show vaccination records or titer levels to return to work.

            1. Pdweasel*

              Doctor here. When I started medical school I was required to get shots for tetanus, pertussis, flu, Hepatitis A, and meningococcal meningitis. I had to show proof of immunity (actual antibody titres, not just records) for chickenpox, measles, mumps, and rubella, hepatitis B, and probably some other stuff I’m forgetting. I had to get a booster MMR and chickenpox shot. Every year we’re required to get a flu shot and tuberculosis testing (the options being get the jab or get expelled/fired). It’s a matter of public health and safety for me, for my colleagues, for patients, and for the general public.

              1. MommyMD*

                Yep. Same field. I’ll take any vax. I’ve been around it for a year plus up close and personal. Workers using common sense precautions can return to the office. I know people who are just used to WFH now and simply do not want to go back. I don’t even want to hear any more excuses. Get vaccinated, wear a mask, go to work.

              2. Sasha*

                Same! In the UK this requirement can’t be retrospective (well it can, but both sides have to agree to a change in employment contract), but you can require it for all new hires.

          5. Natalie*

            Granted I’m in healthcare, but we already require flu vaccines (absent a *medical* exemption and no your naturopath doesn’t count). Once the covid vaccine is fully approved I don’t see why it should be any different. And in the meantime, while it’s still in the emergency authorization, requiring people who haven’t gotten vaccinated to continue working from home seems completely reasonable.

            1. Ellie*

              That seems like a nice loophole though for those who’d prefer to keep working from home… just don’t get vaccinated. Which isn’t a great outcome.

              1. Flora*

                Sure, but most likely various conveniences that have been pumped up for the last year to allow businesses to continue to operate (curbside pickup, ordering ahead in spaces that previously didn’t do that, etc) will start to peter out — I doubt the local froyo shop is going to keep making your extremely-specific to-order snack and bringing it to your car in a sealed up bag indefinitely — and so it will start to be super inconvenient to be the person who is refusing to get the vaccine so they “can’t” come back to work. If they have kids they might find that even though the broad support (and broad*band* support from the various providers who are not charging through the nose for data overage) for home learning dries up, they still have to manage school and work from home because their kids will be a risk factor. Etc. I expect it will level itself pretty quickly.

              2. JM60*

                If the job is one that can be done effectively from home, then it would probably be best to allow everyone in that particular job to continue to WFH. If it can’t be done fully effectively from home, I’d rather my non vaccinated co-workers WFH while I’m stuck in the office with a higher workload than be exposed to them.

          6. Foof*

            It’s not redic; it’s required at a lot of work places. In health card we’ve been required to get the flu shot or else mask all flu season. (Now we mask all the time of course). Vaccinate or stay home is a perfectly acceptable employer policy who wants to minimize sick days and risk

      4. PT*

        I am really glad the LW wrote in and brought this up. I thankfully wasn’t affected, but my whole industry was: my heart was right there along with the front line people because I was one of them for so long. I worried about my colleagues and friends who couldn’t stay home.

        1. Chantel*

          Good call, and I think most of us feel that same worry, whether working in person or FH. I’m concerned that the support a lot of us have shown for those who had to remain on-site gets lost behind the few who haven’t.

      5. meems*

        SO true. It’s a completely different experience and outlook, and it triggers my anxiety WILDLY to hear my friends who are still working from home talking about risk assessment and their worries, when I’ve been back at work part time since May and full time since September, with inconsistent safety measures (our state’s mask mandate has expired, among other more specific issues) and no vaccine priority (some staff who want it haven’t even had dose 1 yet). It’s been tough (although it’s getting better), and I’ve felt completely left out of a lot of pandemic conversations while under the greatest stress of my life since coming back to the office. I’m grateful to see Alison acknowledge that.

      6. Anon for this*

        While I REALLY hope that what you’re saying is true (less “meetings that should have been an email”) currently what’s happening where I worke is those of us who are working on site are getting bombarded with Teams meetings that should have been emails that are heavily “attended” by people working remotely, who have no business being on the call in order to try to pad what it looks like they’re doing (think a meeting with 26 attendees where only 6 people ever speak, and when the meeting ends after 15 minutes, those 20 people stay “signed in” until the end of the meeting time. And if one of them gets called on, there is no answer).

      7. Essential since day 1*

        Yes! I have not read this column as regularly because it is so frustrating to hear this.

    4. Lunch Eating Mid Manager*

      I didn’t say my workplace was unsafe (we have reduced building capacity, social distance, closed to the public). All I said was masking enforcement was poor. As S notes, it’s a perceived risk issue with some employees feeling like THEIR risk should be zero, while for those of us who have had to come in regularly, our risk is our problem I guess. We are doing elements of their work, in addition to our own full load, so they can stay home.

    5. CatLadyInTraining*

      I’ve heard people complaining about going back into the office and it does get annoying. I’ve worked in office during the whole pandemic…and it’s like “cry me a river.”

    6. Turboshot coffee*

      Where I work, It has been deemed by the federal government that I am essential. I have had a gun pulled one twice for following my company’s and the cdc’s covid policy. I have had items thrown at me, I have been spite on, sworn at, yelled at and I have a customer waiting for me in the parking lot because they didn’t like how I asked them to stop yelling at me.
      I have never been an anxious person or had experiences with anxiety. I am terrified to go into work. I am a manager and I try to hold it together but I have seen the ugly side of the general public and it is scary. I try to tell myself that it will get better but it hasn’t. People are cruel and they are taking their entitlement out on essential workers.
      Thank you for this blog / article.

      1. Tyche*

        I’m so sorry you’ve had to experience this. My heart goes out to you and I truly appreciate whatever work you do that put you into these unacceptable situations. :(

      2. More anon today*

        Wow, you have had it even worse than I have. Customers have gradually become grumpier over the past year. It got worst right after the election. I live in a fairly red state and I guess people were mad that their guy didn’t win, which, fine, you’re allowed to be mad, but must you take it out on innocent grocery store workers?

        Also, I wear a mask 8 hours a day, and healthcare workers wear less comfortable ones for even longer, so I have zero sympathy for you having to put one on for your 30 minute shopping trip, so stop yelling at us about that.

      3. Ellie*

        I’m so sorry. I live in Australia, where the risk of catching Covid has been very low from the beginning, and even here people are so much quicker to anger than they used to be. There were fights in grocery stores and people getting yelled at on the street for not wearing a mask, or for wearing a mask, or for not wearing the right kind of mask, or for not being open, or for being open, or for being too far from home… its ridiculous. I know so many people who’ve had blowouts with friends and cut people off… it makes me so sad that this weakness has been exposed, that so many people are completely incapable of dealing with their own stress instead of inflicting it on others.

        And now the figures are starting to come out about the increases in violence, and domestic violence – its harrowing. These people who scream at you as you’re trying to help them at work, are then going home and abusing their families as well. The vaccinations are starting to roll out now, but I really worry about what this has done to people, long term, and whether we’re ever going to be able to come back.

    7. MommyMD*

      I agree so much. I’ve been in extremely close proximity since before Covid was general knowledge in the US. We already knew something was happening because of an avalanche of flu-type patients who were presenting with fever, pneumonia and testing negative for influenza A/B.
      We quickly ran out of PPE. For more than a year I’ve been outfitted like a Mandalorian, had to disinfect myself when coming home so I don’t infect my family, and am wearing a mask 12 to 14 hours a day. I run around like a headless chicken all shift long, exist on little sleep. I’m happy to do it because it’s my job. The letters whining about having to go back to work after vaccination are really getting to me. Wear a mask. Go to work. Use common sense. You will be fine. You can’t stay home forever. Rant over.

      1. Stopcomplaining!*

        Thank you! I work a job that is partially client facing (social services) I have been lucky to work part from home, part visit, part in office (this was common pre COVID). My risk isn’t zero but it certainly is MUCH lower than those in the medical field (of which most of my family is in). I can’t STAND people whining about going back to their office job, their rate of exposure is so low and seems like such a slap in the face to those that spent the last year working 12s in hazmat gear saving people’s lives. I have been exposed to COVID in client’s homes and wouldn’t think to complain knowing what other’s have been through. Thank you for all you do!

    8. Sara*

      I work retail at a drug/grocery store in a prosperous college town. At the beginning of the pandemic I was around 6 months pregnant with a 1 year old at home. We were only offered leave if we tested positive and even then it was at 60%. I was terrified. When people were emptying out stores was the worst- the awful way people thought they could treat us because they felt entitled. I was screamed at for wearing a mask- for stepping back when people were too close (and they always are)- for not having toilet paper or soap or hand sanitizer in stock when their fellow customers were gladly filling their carts and not think about the next person in need. We powered on when entire shops called out because of exposure, we cleaned scrubbed and sanitized until our hands cracked and bled- then people started flushing masks and gloves down our toilets.
      My son was born and I had 2 months maternity leave before I was right back in the thick of things. When the vaccine became available my husband and I got it- BUT before we could get the second dose my Covid denier brother in law was exposed- he then knowingly exposed my mother in law which then, unknowingly exposed the whole family- two days later my entire household and every one of my husband’s tested positive (except for my children thank goodness) At the moment I am deciding how the relationship with my brother in law will end, he made it clear that he doesn’t respect me, my husband, my children or the safety of our family. My father in law was hospitalized, is currently on oxygen and the brother in law wants him mowing lawns. My mother in law, who watches his son for weeks at a time in the summer, coughed so hard as a result of covid she messed up her eyes.
      Now the company I work for is cutting payroll and not replacing people who quit. My managers complain about lazy people on unemployment when they don’t offer competitive wages or opportunities to work your way up in the company. There were small events around the holidays- a dollar extra an hour for a few months, $15 gift cards for christmas, free water bottles in the fridge, incentives for getting vaccinated, they called us super heros for awhile, put up billboards around town saying how great we are, but when the big wigs come to visit they still have nothing good to say to us workers on the floor. I feel unseen and unheard- thank you for this, reading about other like me offers much comfort.

      1. Jennie*

        Thanks for sharing this and I’m so sorry and I see you and good luck. Sending strength and peace to you and your family.

    9. In April it Snows*

      I work for a defense contractor and have been on site this whole time for the same reason. We’re part of the “defense industrial base” (I prefer a different term) so we’re essential. Our company has been very good about safety protocols and compliance has been very good at my site but it’s still tiring. Plus all our GPOCS were on week-on/week-off schedules that made getting a hold of them a bear.

      If the world was going to upend itself, the least it could do is change up my routine a little bit no dice. I find I have stupid FOMO about having to continue the daily grind. Like the FOMO of a goat thinking “I know the weeds over the fence are poisonous, but they look so green….!”

    10. Resentful RN*

      I’m not having this issue with co-workers so much as our accrediting bodies who took last year off and now seem to want to double down. If it was safe for us to continue to work without their oversight last year when we were reusing single use PPE and risking our lives while they stayed home then it should be safe for me to have my drink near my workstation this year.

      1. raktajino*

        A friend works in a research lab at a university with a hospital. When they asked about ways to eat lunch safely, the *HR of a hospital* said “well some companies don’t even give lunch breaks.”

        Some companies are just trying to absolve themselves of any responsibility.

      2. On the struggle bus*

        Yes! If the safety regulation groups and abandon us in a pandemic, we surely don’t need them now!

        Also nurse here – there was plenty of money for “Heros Work Here”signs (note – just frontline staff, admin was WFH). Meanwhile, they froze our raises and cut our retirement match due to budget issues. But, parking was free.

        Thankfully, we did get retroactive COLA but retirement is just lost. And, much like the others, entitled customer (patients and family) who think masks and visiting regulations shouldn’t apply to them.

        It’s been a year! Thankfully the people who were essential stepped up and we’ve mostly been ok. But, it leaves little sympathy for office folks who have been safe at home and not expected to complete their workloads.

  4. nice is different than good*

    I feel this so hard. I’ve been at work the whole time, while all of my coworkers with kids are at home. They’re now freaking out about coming back and it’s incredibly frustrating.

    1. No Name Today*

      One thought I had this whole time about WFH people returning to offices where there was a contingent of people who’d been there the whole time was: those people have their routine, their systems for safely functioning…what will it be like for them when a rush of returning colleagues roll in. Like how to show/tell them the new normal. Like, “we don’t pop over to each other’s desks anymore.”
      “We don’t sit in the kitchen to eat so that people can get their food safely/comfortably”
      We don’t stop between cubes and socialize “

      Anyone have ideas for that?

      1. Lana Kane*

        At our hospital, even from the start of the pandemic it was a huge uphill battle getting people to stop congregating in break rooms. It took flyers on the breakroom doors and inside as well, constant org-wide emails, and eventually a small outbreak in a department that was traced to a break room. I would say that it has to come from the top, and the top has to both be willing to enforce that, and empower employees to remind others who are not following the rules.

        1. More anon today*

          That’s one thing my employer hasn’t done anything about – break rooms. I work retail. Our break room is small and people don’t even try to social distance, but if there are more than 3 people in there, there isn’t room to do it anyway. Everyone seems to view it as “awesome, I can leave my mask off for a while” so even when not eating, no one is staying masked. As a result, I have been eating lunch in my car for the last 14 months (except a couple of days in February when it was too damn cold even with the car heater on full blast).

          We used to have a couple of benches outside where I’d sit on nice days, but then they removed them because (according to rumor) they were encouraging people to sit too close together. Excuse me, person who decided that, have you been in our break room? At least the benches were outside!

          1. Yvette*

            Our break room is huge, 6 small tables each with a 48 inch plexiglass divider running down the middle. It is never crowded. Those people who I have seen eat there put the mask back on if they get up and walk around. I never see more than 2 to a table (on opposite sides of the divider). So I do feel safe.

          2. Ace in the Hole*


            One of our earliest covid safety changes was to create an extra break room (we now have 1 for every 4 people on site) and a modified schedule so only one person was in each break area at a time.

            The new break room isn’t the nicest… it was previously a supply closet, we cleared it out and added a folding table/chair and a microwave. But at least it’s not overcrowded.

          3. michelenyc*

            We are only allowed in our office kitchen to get our food out of the fridge, heat it up if needed, and fill the water bottles that the company passed out to everyone. Thankfully they are the big 32oz ones so you aren’t having to run for water every 5 minutes. We have to eat our lunch outside or at our desks; no eating in the kitchen, and we can’t use any of the dishes or cutlery it all has to brought from home. We also have to use the back entrance and sign in when we are in the office. Masks are required; no exceptions.

            1. Chantel*

              Do we work together? Because this is my workplace to a TEE, right down to the 32 oz. bottles!

        2. Anonymous Medical Librarian*

          I also work at a hospital. Since the beginning we have had so much signage and multiple emails about 6 feet apart while eating, but still had people sitting together at lunch every day. They literally had to remove the seats of built-in benches in the cafeteria and dismantle outdoor chairs because HEALTHCARE WORKERS were not able to abide by this simple rule. It boggles the mind.

          1. Cheesesteak in Paradise*

            Although at this point dismantling the outdoor chairs may have been counterproductive….

        3. Gumby*

          I am really grateful for my work now then. At the start of this they said “no eating in the break room” and so… no one eats in the break room. Mostly we do so outside. I admit that I sometimes eat in my office with the door closed (full walls and door, not a cubicle).

          As an office, we have been really quite observant of the rules from the start. While the company definitely does their part to support it – new charge numbers for covid-related absences, HEPA filters in conference rooms for the rare occasions when more than one person has to be in a 450 sq. ft. room, etc. – most of it has been individual employees making good decisions every day. Altering work hours so that no two people have to be in the same lab at the same time if at all possible. Masking up in private offices if someone pauses – 10 feet away – in the hallway by your door to talk. Frankly, my co-workers have been so careful I do not feel endangered at work. I still go to the office as infrequently as possible, as do others, since we are still operating under directions to maximize WFH. But when I do have to go in, I am not nervous about it. It makes me so, so happy to work with the people that I work with. Sure, there are plenty of annoyances, but at least no one is being cavalier with my health.

        4. LifeBeforeCorona*

          My workplace removed chairs in the breakroom so that only 2 people can use them at the same. But they also created another smaller 1 person break room which is popular because there is now a space to make private calls. We have our meals provided but now we can have them in a takeout container to take home if we don’t feel comfortable eating with other colleagues.

      2. Another Jen*

        This sounds like it would be a great letter to Alison. Our office has formalized a bunch of rules regarding distancing and mask usage, but it would be great to hear about informal policies like this.

        And now you’ve got me wondering: where do you end up eating? We’ve got an open floor plan with desks pretty close together, and we’re in a tall urban office building with little outside space. So it seems to me like it would be ideal if some people did eat in the kitchen, just to give more space to those who have to eat at their desks.

      3. Hillary*

        My work is making this very explicit – they’ve been holding webinars about new rules/expectations as people come start to back to the office. The webinars are led by senior people and managers are expected to hold their teams accountable when we go back.

        They’ve also made physical reminders – they’ve taken away furniture, closed conference rooms, and posted a ton of signs. The kitchen has the most new processes/rules – there’s a process doc for safely making/taking coffee and they’re asking people to not do food prep at the office (i.e. make your sandwich at home, don’t bring a whole loaf of bread and jars of pb&& to make your sandwich at work each day. yes, that was a thing)

      4. the one who got away*

        I hope it is okay for me to respond to this one since it seems to be a specific question — Alison, please forgive me and feel free to delete if you need to.

        I work in a school and was one of only a very few people WFH on an ADA accommodation until just a couple of weeks ago. My coworkers were truly wonderful as I planned to return; they literally rearranged the office space (we had some to spare) so that I could be in a more private area (making it possible to take off my mask once in a while), and before and in my first several days back, very kindly helped explain to me what protocols were still in place, what had changed, what extra duties we were helping with as staff, all kinds of things. They had gotten together beforehand to make sure they were covering everything, and I asked a lot of questions too. It was pretty weird, like being new in a job where I already knew everyone.

        Their compassion and thoughtfulness were incredibly helpful as I navigated the transition. I think an approach like that — almost like an orientation — might be helpful to others as well.

      5. Tyche*

        At my office we’ve only really done wfh some of the time, and usually with a hybrid schedule of coming in several times each week (barring special circumstances like feeling sick, actually having covid, etc). We have an entire protocol setup and a couple of people were actually fired for not complying.

        Among these is our break room is closed for eating in. We have the choice of eating in our cars, outside or at our desks (mix of offices and cubicles with the cubicles being fairly enclosed). We aren’t allowed to go into other departments and must wear a mask when outside of our work station. Our shipping department has to wear masks for their entire shift. If we do need to have a conversation with someone and it can’t be on the phone, it should be at least 6 feet apart and of course the masks.

        None of this works without coming from the top though. People are definitely being forced to do this and have to be reminded of some of it regularly. Some of what we need to do has been proven to be unnecessary (all outside items have to be put through a uv light box for 20 mins for instance). But it’s kept us safe. Anyone who got covid didn’t get it here and they didn’t give it to anyone here. When people have felt like they’re sick, they never came in and risked exposing the rest of us. I feel very fortunate that it worked out this way for us.

      6. Ellie*

        Well, since we can’t linger in the canteens, and we’re not allowed to eat in the kitchen anymore, people at my work got used to eating at their desks. And now we have a mouse plague to deal with. Fun times. I’m just glad this is happening as the weather is getting cooler, because where I live, when mice come, snakes follow.

  5. MsClaw*

    I do hope that many people will be allowed to continue working from home because it means less traffic, less need for energy-intensive high rises downtown, etc. I also sympathize with people who are worried about going back into the office. I’m sure it’ll be a huge adjustment.

    But I sympathize with the LW, as I’ve also been working in person (my work cannot be done from home). It can be exhausting to see people talk about how being locked down was no big deal, without acknowledging that their ability to never leave their house is supported by all the people who are still going to work to pack their amazon packages, cook their food, deliver their groceries, etc.

    1. English, not American*

      The lack of traffic is something my partner has been very pleased with. He took a new can’t-be-done-from-home job right when the first lockdown went into effect, with a fairly lengthy commute. The difference between how long he takes to get home when everything is locked down compared to the various easings of rules is quite significant, and a lot to do with him thinking about job hunting again once everything feels more “past” than “present”.

      1. Not A Girl Boss*

        I have benefited from the reduced traffic as well. Although, I have to say, as more people start to venture back out, I think people have plum forgotten how to drive. The last few weeks my commute has been downright terrifying with people wandering in and out of lanes and forgetting how to drive.

        1. Natalie*

          I think the stats back you up on that, there have been upticks in speeding, distracted driving, etc. Traffic deaths are actually up in some places even though total travel miles has dropped.

        2. EchoGirl*

          I think part of this may be not that people who used to drive forgot how, but that people who normally take public transit have started driving more because it’s safer and because public transit isn’t as available due to schedule reductions, capacity restrictions, and so on. So that means more cars on the road and many of them being driven by people who weren’t in the habit of daily driving prior to the pandemic. I know that my husband says that traffic density is worse than it was pre-Covid, which suggests more people on the road now, and we live in an area that had pretty high rates of public transit use pre-pandemic, so that’s my theory anyway.

        3. Anon for this*

          FACT!! When we were driving by a car yesterday, I saw someone (I’m in the passenger seat, ride-sharing) writing on a tablet of paper while driving. Literally, one hand holding the wheel and the left side of the tablet, the other hand WRITING ON THE TABLET, while having a phone held between his head and his shoulder. As you can imagine the guy was weaving all over, while doing 80 mph in traffic where cars were about 8 feet from each other.

      2. DJ Abbott*

        What all this means is America is way, way too car-dependent. Less cars and more trains! Sadly, that’s not likely to happen very fast.

      3. Rayray*

        I started a new job in July and due to the nature of my job which involves many sensitive documents in an industry that still likes using paper, my commute was a dream in the beginning. It’s about 15 miles from home. I go in early and leave early, so my morning commute is still breezy but the afternoon is pretty bad some days.

      4. lailaaaaah*

        Same here – we’re opening back up now, and the commute is much, much worse with all the school run/worker traffic, and the buses are packed. I think for my next job, I’ll be looking at something ideally within walking distance (even if that walk is 45-60 minutes).

    2. The Rural Juror*

      Yessss! The reduced traffic has been amazing. I may have to get up and go to the office every morning, but at least my commute has been cut down by a THIRD.

    3. Anon for this*

      I always get the good parking spots now…obviously a small thing, but I wish I could keep it!

    4. ErinWV*

      OMG, no, do not remind me! I have been working 3 days a week in-office since July. Roads were practically empty last summer/fall. Less empty now, but commute is still a breeze, compared to pre-pandemic.

      Also, parking–which was a HUGE problem for my institution–has been plentiful this whole time, but when everyone returns, it’ll be back to valets and satellite lots. UGH UGH UGH.

      1. Melody*

        If you’ve been in the office this entire time, ErinWV, might you consider asking the powers-that-be in your office to allow you a reserved parking spot as acknowledgment (and reward) for your dedication over the past year?

        1. ErinWV*

          Nice thought, but it will never happen. Literally only our president has a reserved parking spot.

      2. lailaaaaah*

        URGH i feel you. We have reserved parking spots – but most of the people who have one have been WFH all year, and now they’re back, all the ‘essential’ staff have nowhere to park and keep getting chased out midmorning by whoever’s just arrived. It’s really frustrating.

    5. Minerva*

      The way shifting risk to others has been so invisible is my pet peeve among pet peeves. You get deliveries? At least support what makes those delivery people and warehouse workers safer, rather than just worrying about your tiny exposure from them.

      (only partial on site and actually well managed, but glad I can defer during this latest local peak, and well aware of the luxury of that)

      1. Chantel*

        I tip extremely well when tipping is possible, and, in the ‘directions’ part of the delivery app, let delivery workers know they can just leave the stuff at my front door, give a quick knock, and be on their way. My parents do, as well, and they put out a bottle of hand sanitizer with a note inviting workers to take it. (I do this when I remember to).

        I’d say there are many people who do the same things, at least where I live. I hope that gives you some comfort.

  6. JRR*

    If you walked into my workplace, you’d have no idea a pandemic was going on–no masks, no social distancing, nothing. Over the last year those things have fallen by the wayside as we struggle to keep up with the workload.

    It’s cemented my decision to seek work elsewhere.

    1. kittymommy*

      Same. I work in local government (in a very red area) and most of our offices had to stay open. Code enforcement, building permits, zoning changes, utility applications, and just the main overall task of running a local municipality (required meetings, etc.) had to go on and we can’t require people to wear masks (again red state) without “violating their rights”. Luckily I got vaccinated early due to a fluke, but a lot of my colleagues are just now getting it.

      I’m just tired.

      1. drinking Mello Yello*

        That’s what work my dad is in (and in the same sort of Very Red Area), so he’s also had to be at the office almost the entire pandemic. About two weeks of WFH at the beginning and the public meetings are over Zoom now, but still crappy masking and social distancing overall in the office. :/ And he has a compromised immune system. :/// He’s lucky and is fully immunized now, but the past year has been Very Worrisome at best… :////////

        1. Lunch Eating Mid Manager*

          My line of work as well. Very frustrating but the work does have to go on (building inspections etc.).

          1. Anon Recruiter*

            I’m very grateful to the people who have kept local government offices running! My partner and I decided to get married during the pandemic – we’d been talking about it for a while, but the urgency to do so increased for pandemic and health insurance reasons – and we were so appreciative of the team at the city clerk’s office who helped us get the legal stuff taken care of. This is also thankfully in an area where masks are required indoors, so everyone was masked up for the duration of our “ceremony,” which took less than 5 minutes. I know couples in other areas who wanted to get married for similar reasons but really struggled to get an appointment for the paperwork and I am glad that was not our experience. Thank you to all the public servants out there!

            1. DeweyDecibal*

              We did a covid wedding too! Got our license over zoom, then live streamed a ceremony with an officiant 6 feet away. I’m so grateful for everyone who made it happen!

      2. Lily Puddle*

        Same! Local government, red area, offices stayed open. Most customers coming in wear their masks, but many of my coworkers (and elected officials!) do not. I’ve spent a year being the overly cautious coworker who always wears a mask and insists that others wear one when they come to my office. Luckily my coworkers have all been good about respecting that, but I know they think I’m making a big deal out of nothing, and I’m so tired of it.

      3. localgov*

        I’m so sorry you’ve had that experience. I also work in local government and the majority of our staff work from home and have. We’ve allowed the community to receive in-person services through appointments. and our community development department has been physically open a few days a week for the duration of the pandemic, but there are definitely ways to provide municipal services online/over the phone.

        I have primarily worked in person for the duration of the pandemic due to the nature of my job, but I’ve felt pretty safe with regard to protocols (and have been fully vaccinated since February).

      4. Kali*

        Exact same here, although I am technically an essential worker. We got offered vaccines so early (I literally sat and watched the insurrection on the news while I waited that requisite 15 minutes after my first shot), and I know that only half of my coworkers took that chance. As I type this, I am one of 3 people wearing a mask in the office of 30+, and you can imagine the political bent that the 3 of us have in comparison to the rest.

        Every day I feel like I’m under attack by my own coworkers. If they’re not staying back from me and wearing a mask, they’re talking about politics and the pandemic in ways with such vitriol that I have to hide from for my sanity and for the sake of my working relationships. We had a massive outbreak in the office, and I was one of the few that could respond to emergencies for weeks. (We very temporarily did WFH but it’s really not possible for more than a couple weeks because of our work.) I was the acting supervisor for weeks more.

        I desperately want to get out, but my career is insular and very “we are family”. I don’t know what else I could do without taking a *massive* pay cut. I might do it anyway, because this is really untenable. I knew that my coworkers and I weren’t on the same page in so many ways, but the last year has opened my eyes to the extent of their callousness. I keep saying it in my head – “I don’t know how to explain that you should care about other people”.

        1. DJ Abbott*

          I was a bit surprised to be called for an interview at a grocery store (a large chain) after I applied on a whim and fear I couldn’t find anything else, even though I’ve done only office work since the 90’s. They offered me a part-time job.
          If you decide to change jobs and take a pay cut, maybe something like that would help you financially. The manager told me they were crazy busy all last year and the people he hired have gone back to their former jobs now. It’s apparently easy to get jobs in stores now.
          Good luck! I grew up in an area like yours and GTFO when I was 22. I know exactly what you’re dealing with.

          1. LifeBeforeCorona*

            My field is working with seniors and jobs are posted daily for every role. Apparently, people believe that senior homes = Covid. Right now with stepped up and enforced safety protocols plus vaccinations these jobs are among the safest right now.

    2. Orca*

      SAME, I’m an admin in manufacturing in a red state, never stopped work at all, and there have been few requirements and no requirements enforced. I have been distancing to the best of my ability and masking obsessively but it’s just been a year of being gaslit by hardly anyone else taking precautions.

    3. youknowmestephieb*

      Ditto. We are “essential” in that we are needed but the world will not collapse if we don’t work. We are a small office (less than 15 people) so we fall under the radar for MANY requirements. Larger offices and corporations in our field have transitioned to 100% remote so it is very very possible but my boss refuses to put in the time or capital to get the software needed for us to do so.

      Three of us were vaccinated as soon as we were eligible and everyone else is not interested. I started feeling like maybe wearing a mask was not as necessary but then TODAY found out that my bosses’ kid, who works remotely at her firm and comes to OUR office to socialize and “work”, tested positive.

      The cavalier way that people are treating this whole pandemic has worn me out.

      1. JRR*

        It is ironic how the “essential worker” designation morphs as needed.

        I was recalled to the office in May last year because as an employee of a business that supports the construction industry, I was “essential.” Makes sense–people need houses to live in now more than ever. I wasn’t thrilled, but I consider it my duty.

        Yet when it came the vaccine, I was in the last group of adults in my state to become eligible on the April 15.

        1. insertusernamehere*

          My state has done everything terrible, but that is one thing I did like about how they did the vaccine rollouts here. While they initially said that phase 1b was for “essential workers” they decided to change that to anyone who was required to work in person within 15 feet of other people. That made so much more sense to me. Or else someone’s job or industry may be essential, but if you can do that job entirely from home or in an office by yourself, that is a lot lower risk than a “non-essential” but in person job – like a personal trainer or someone who works at the front desk of a yoga studio or who waxes eyebrows (that the state has said is OPEN or lose unemployment) or something like that.

        2. The Rural Juror*

          Same! I work for a builder and we came to a screeching halt for about 2 weeks, but then were deemed “essential” pretty early on. We kept working because the subs that work for us are mostly teeny tiny companies and NEEDED to be able to work so they could feed their families. PPP was a mess, so it’s not like they could just file for help and be fine in a week.

          We scrambled to get cleaning supplies, hand-washing stations we could set up outside, RUNNING WATER for those hand-washing stations, the whole gambit. We have a single-stall bathhouse, but don’t usually use it on sites because you have to tap it into the sewer. We got that thing delivered instead of having a port-o-john like usual, then had to go through hoops to get the permit for the water tap. That office was closed and no one was answering the phone!

          Our city is in a housing shortage/crisis, so I can see why they would want us to keep going. Not to mention, we are in a red state. The hardest part was that i was up to use to figure out how to keep everyone safe. Very little guidance. I think we did OK for what we had to work with, though.

      2. Krabby*

        “I started feeling like maybe wearing a mask was not as necessary but then TODAY found out that my bosses’ kid, who works remotely at her firm and comes to OUR office to socialize and “work”, tested positive.”

        WOAH! How incredibly shitty and irresponsible of your boss and his family. I’m so sorry you’re having to deal with that.

        1. youknowmestephieb*

          Thank you. Sometimes I need verification that I am not, in fact, crazy for thinking this inappropriate behavior. Recently Alison admitted to thinking that most (all?) small businesses are dysfunctional and I cannot agree more.

      3. CatLadyInTraining*

        Why does the bosses’ kid come to your office to socialize and “work?” Sounds disruptive…

        1. youknowmestephieb*

          On so many levels….like wearing yoga pants while we’re in our business casual attire because a client might see us. But I’m the a**hole for pointing out the disruption.

    4. Lentils*

      God, so much sympathy to you. I really hope you’re able to find another job, it’s MADDENING.

      I recently left a private security company that was objectively questionable even before Covid, but during the pandemic everyone there really went mask-off, pun very much intended. They refused to enact mask mandates at all, almost nobody wore them, and the CEO had to issue the most pathetic “uwu we’re a family pls don’t bully ppl for wearing masks ^_^” email I’ve ever seen. They also refused to stop having in-person employee gatherings up to last October, or allow employees WFH unless they or their families were documentedly high risk, or they had no childcare. A bunch of us reported them to L&I and in response they took away all onsite drinks and snacks and the coffee machines, and closed the top floor bar/rooftop outdoor seating (one of the safest places to be in the whole building!!). When my coworker who sat next to me inevitably got Covid, they did “contact tracing” by checking which floors he badged into when he moved around the building and telling all of those people they were close contact – but not me, who sat next to him! The CEO literally told us via a Zoom call “if you don’t like how we’re handling this, you can leave. You are all replaceable.”

  7. Educator*

    I’m a teacher who went back to campus in August. No one felt safe, but we weren’t allowed to teach from home unless we could prove a medical condition or were over 65.

    I would by no means compare it to retail, healthcare, or food service professions, but it’s been hard. I am TIRED of being the mask police for our students. (“Oh, I already had Covid.”) I am TIRED of teaching students in my classroom and students at home simultaneously. I am TIRED of giving all of my assignments digitally and not knowing if my students are cheating. (Even cheat-proof assessments can be gamed.)

    Things my school has done right: Teachers who have medical issues can still teach from home. Students eat lunch outside–the school bought a bunch of heaters for the winter. Staff has stepped up to help with subbing. AND our campus got certified as a vaccine site, so they were able to vaccinate us at work. In two weeks, most of our faculty and staff will be 100% vaccinated. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel.

    1. Baffled Teacher*

      We’ve been back in person since the beginning of the year as well. I am so tired of hybrid teaching. Most of my kids are back now and it’s at the point where I’ve only got one or two kids in each class online, and I’ve shifted from “well whatever you need to do to keep safe” to “everyone’s wearing masks and we’ve been here all year, just send your kid to school for bob’s sake.” The only time we had problems was between thanksgiving and winter break because everyone went on vacation (eyeroll) and it’s going to happen again when we go back on Monday from spring vacation (mega eyeroll because it now includes MY COWORKERS who went to Disney and Florida and South Carolina for fun).

      1. Profe*

        Ooof, yes, the number of out of touch students/families and coworkers who have gone on vacations. Two of my students who had covid only got diagnosed when they were required to get tested by whatever tropical island they were trying to fly to.

        1. Midwest writer*

          I just heard that two teams at my high school (in a state where I no longer live) are quarantined because of kids who went out of state for spring break. Like, guys, you made it to April! Just keep it up so you can keep playing baseball and running track. But nope, gotta get that spring break trip in. :(

        2. Elizabeth the Ginger*

          I am STILL incandescent with rage when I think about my student whose family went to Hawaii for Thanksgiving and decided they just wouldn’t tell the school so their kid could come back to campus immediately after. Fortunately, first graders are awful at keeping secrets. She told her teachers, “I’m going to Hawaii but it’s a secret and I’m not supposed to talk about it at school!”

          1. Marika*

            Oh thank goodness for grade ones!

            My kiddo’s school did an anonymous survey before every break – all you had to indicate was were you ‘primary’ or ‘middle’ grades – and asked about everyone’s travel plans, eating plans (were you eating with anyone outside of your IMMEDIATE household) and a couple of other things. Once they had more than about dozen families who were doing that in each group, they put the whole school remote for the week after the breaks and required a negative test to come back – and talked the county into running a testing site at the school for the week we were on ‘remote’ learning. It worked – we caught eight cases between the Thanksgiving/Winter/February breaks, and we had zero spread. I guess people are more willing to be honest when the survey is actually anonymous.

      2. lailaaaaah*

        We’ve got one student who’s still doing online classes, because her family decided to fly to a COVID hotspot for their holidays and now they’re stuck there. So every one of her teachers has to do hybrid lessons specifically for her. And it’s just like…why? Why did you think that was a good idea?

    2. Heather*

      Amen to all that. And three cheers for vaccinations! I think my least favorite aspect of the handwriting in this forum is all the people who now claim being vaccinated isn’t enough. We were never going to get to the point where all Covid variants are 100% wiped out and we’ll never have to worry about it again. You get vaccinated and move on with getting life back to normal, and there will always be a minor risk, like from complications of the flu, which we have always dealt with. People have been out there in the trenches without vaccines for over a year, literally risking their lives to keep society going. It’s about time the privileged work-from-home class accept the much smaller risk they face post vaccination.

      1. JRR*

        I feel like the “vaccine isn’t enough” argument is an example of moving the goal posts (I know that’s a loaded phrase).

        When “I don’t want to return to the office until I’ve been vaccinate” shifts to “I don’t want to return until everyone in my office has been vaccinated” and perhaps shifts again to “I don’t want return until the population has herd immunity”, at some point you might as well drop the pretense and just say, “I just like working from home.”

        1. Heather*

          Yup. I also keep seeing “even though I and everyone I interact with at work are vaccinated, my kids aren’t, so I could hypothetically catch the virus and bring it back to them”, which…unless you keep your kids in a bubble every flu season and never allow them to play sports or get into a car just shows you don’t understand risk IMO.

        2. Blackcat*

          “When “I don’t want to return to the office until I’ve been vaccinate” shifts to “I don’t want to return until everyone in my office has been vaccinated” and perhaps shifts again to “I don’t want return until the population has herd immunity”, at some point you might as well drop the pretense and just say, “I just like working from home.””

          My husband’s workplace requires people to be in person, but a fair bit of work can be done from home. People like working from home. The company has not renewed a lease and is formally instituting it’s permanent “teams” approach. Team A is in office Mon/Tues. Team B Wed/Thurs. Team C is people who really have to be there every day. People can and do get moved between the teams, but not that often (mostly from A/B to C or vice versa, depending on assignments). They’ve said fully vaccinated people can “petition” to join team C if they want to. There are lots of jokes about “the B team” but otherwise, this permanent transition is allowing them to save money and is keeping everyone happier. I think it’s been easier since the vast majority of people have been doing some on-site work the entire time.

        3. Anne Elliot*

          This! Obviously I only speak for myself, but I am having trouble being as respectful as I should be of the public health concerns of people who don’t want to come back, in large part because I very much suspect that they they are not so concerned about COVID as they are in avoiding having to come back to the office because they prefer to work from home. Vaccine accessibility has made me less sympathetic. Vaccines are available to everyone in my state now, and in the office we do a daily symptom screen, have our temperature checked before being permitted to enter, wear our masks in all common areas, and continue with virtual meetings unless social distancing can be guaranteed. I admit I’m getting pretty impatient with people objecting to working in an environment that is now reasonably safe, when some of us have been doing so all along — including when it wasn’t.

        4. DataSci*

          I think some people really do have crippling COVID anxiety, that’s coming out as “I don’t want to leave the house ever again until there are zero cases”. Now, if people are happily going to friends’ houses and eating at restaurants and everything but still refuse to go to the office until everyone is vaccinated, yeah, they just want to WFH. But some people are honestly so terrified that, even after everyone in their house is vaccinated, they still won’t even do outdoor, masked socializing with friends. I know people like that.

          (And of course it’s not rational. They don’t apply the zero-risk calculation to anything else in their lives – but it’s anxiety, nobody expects it to be rational.)

          1. Heather*

            That’s fair enough, but then we as a society (and especially this forum) should perhaps start gently nudging those people toward recognizing that that is irrational instead of acting like an echo chamber.

      2. Double A*

        Yes, I really have a hard time with people who say “The risk is not zero.” While I do think it’s probably a good idea that we all assess some of our risk analysis in our lives (speeding! It’s super dangerous!), literally nothing is zero risk. Making dinner tonight is risky (food borne-illness kills thousands of people each year).

        If the baseline needs to be 0 risk then there’s really no conversation to be had with that person, and I really don’t know what to say to them.

      3. More anon today*

        I get what you’re saying (been working at the grocery store unvaccinated all this time). But I hope we don’t go too far too fast in the other direction – “oh, half the people in the office have been vaccinated so forget about any risk!” We will need to continue masks indoors and other precautions when people do come back, until spread is lower and vaccination rate is higher.

    3. Anothereducator*

      Very similar situation here. I work in K-12 education and have been on campus all year (with kids here full-time except the small number who chose remote). The policing of distance and masks has been Sisyphean, and that’s with kids who are really trying hard. On the other hand, my spouse is teaching completely remote, and that’s not great either. I think I have it better than they do, just because I get human interaction under conditions that are at least attempting to be safe (and we have had no transmission on campus and a very low number of cases, period). But our faculty are sometimes teaching in-person kids in one room, Zooming into a room across the hall (proctored by another teacher), and also kids at home. Which is exhausting! And the proctoring needs mean that teachers have few breaks.

      The start of the year was terrifying because it felt like we were taking a huge gamble. It has turned out okay, but it was incredibly nervewracking, particularly with a high-risk spouse at home. And I had no choice–I couldn’t afford to just walk away. People who are nervous now are likely feeling a lot of what we felt, and I have a lot of empathy (my spouse, now fully vaccinated, just this week had their first outing in over a year that wasn’t a grocery pick-up). So I don’t judge those feelings, but I agree that it’s important to recognize that it’s a privilege to have been able to be safe.

      1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        “The start of the year was terrifying because it felt like we were taking a huge gamble. It has turned out okay, but it was incredibly nervewracking”. Yes. Sometimes I feel like, because my school never had an outbreak (and schools in general turned out to have not been big spreaders), that it’s like it wasn’t a gamble – but we really DIDN’T know for sure that was how it would be. We know that now because we all were the guinea pigs.

        1. Profe*

          Same. Although I don’t appreciate the told-ya-so attitude from leadership. My anxiety was very valid! Our success has been largely luck.

      2. JustHadtoSayThis*

        Well said. Do I roll my eyes at some of the comments here and on social media about venturing out for the first time in more than a year? Yes. But they probably feel the way I felt over the summer when I returned to work…and people who never stopped working last March could have rolled their eyes at me too.

      3. lailaaaaah*

        We ended up having several outbreaks at our school, and two of the teachers who were in during the first lockdown easing now have long COVID. So I’m trying to be empathetic to the ones who are anxious, because they have every reason to be, but I’m also sitting here like ‘I’ve been here this whole time though? through every outbreak and risk?’ Like, one of my colleagues has COPD and he still had to come in throughout the year – what are these guys so upset about?

    4. singularity*

      I am also a teacher and we returned back in August as well. We were not permitted to work from home for any reason. Teachers who requested it through ADA were denied unilaterally and told to go on FMLA or resign. Many did or retired early. I live in TX, we do not have unions and we weren’t prioritized for vaccines because ‘students don’t spread Covid’ according to him. (Three staff members have died in our district because they caught it at school, from students. They were all in high risk populations and couldn’t work from home and couldn’t afford to retire early or go on FMLA.)

      We are short substitutes, so any time a staff member gets sick (or Covid) they send the students to the gym or cafeteria and teacher’s are required to donate chunks of their conference periods on a cyclical basis to supervise. This is allowed because it’s a ‘special circumstance.’

      On top of that, dealing with students who refuse to wear masks (I teach high school) or who argue that it’s their right not to wear one (since our governor ended the mandate) despite the campus trying to enforce mask wearing anyway. There’s no teeth behind their threats, they don’t punish kids without masks.

      I got rated poorly in my evals because I wasn’t paying the correct amount of attention to students on Zoom versus students in-person because I’ve been doing both since the beginning. If I could quit, I would, but I have no other professional experience in another field and don’t know how to transition to a different career at this point.

      I’m tired of feeling like I have to be a martyr for my career.

      1. inpersonschool*

        “I’m tired of feeling like I have to be a martyr for my career.” x1000

        I feel so much of this. It’s hard to complain as much as I want to about this school year, because at least I’m still alive? very low bar indeed. I hope it gets better for you and for all of us.

        1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

          Absolutely. “This is so much better for the kids.” “You signed up to be a teacher; you knew it could be hard sometimes.” I didn’t sign up to teach during a pandemic. None of us signed up to exist during a pandemic.

          1. Marika*

            I’m so farking sick of that attitude. NO we DIDN’T sign up for this you idiots! I mean, we signed up for crappy pay, way too many hours of work, being insulted and derided and having politicians use us like farking punching bags, but ACTUALLY? We didn’t sign up to put our LIVES AT RISK because you can’t be bothered to put on a farking mask and tell your kids it’s ok if they ignore us about them.

            You want me to put my life on the line for your politics? Honey, you can come do my job – let’s see how you like it.

      2. Maggie*

        I am a public high school teacher and also have a coworker who died, right around New Year’s. Emptying out her classroom was devastating to all the teachers in the math department and I just don’t even know. The tired goes all the way down to my bones. I am taking a leave of absence for the fall 2021 semester. I don’t know how people who don’t have that luxury to just be broke for a while and have the guarantee of coming back to their job even function. But my husband is also an essential construction worker who has not had a day off this whole time and does not have that luxury, and if one of the two of us doesn’t take some time off, we’re going to fall apart.

      3. Teacher in TX*

        Also a high school teacher in TX who has been back since August. +1000 to everyone above, and I am tired of hearing the teacher jabs about how they are so lazy/entitled because they’ve been home all year. First, those teachers have been working harder this year than ever, but also, a lot of us have not been at home at all, trying to teach both online kids and in-person simultaneously. And the cheating? Oh the cheating! I might as well not have a curriculum for as well as the kids are learning it.

      4. Stacy*

        I’m a teacher too, and honestly, I’m not sure that having a union really helped me at all. While 95% of the school staff was allowed to teach remotely, there was a small number of us who were forced to come in because we work with children with severe disabilities (which also means they couldn’t wear masks). The union just shrugged their shoulders about it. When it was time for the rest of the staff to return to in person learning, the union and all its members started a whole crusade over how it was unacceptable to risk educators’ lives, even though they had no problems with the small number of us doing so. Also the fact that my district NEVER ONCE even acknowledged that there were staff who were in person putting their lives at risk this whole year. All the language was about how “teachers have been remote all year.” It’s been an incredibly demoralizing year.

        1. Flower necklace*

          I can sympathize. I’m a teacher that has been in person pretty much all year, even while we were virtual. My whole department came in, long before we could vaccinated, to supervise a small group of students during our planning.

          It was hard to watch the school board meetings, where everyone was complaining about how teachers are so lazy. I think one person literally said teachers want to sit around all day in their underwear. My department, along with SPED, was working in person. We were NOT sitting at home.

      5. KAZ2Y5*

        God bless you, singularity. I live in TX also and have been appalled at how most school districts have acted (and I say this as a hospital worker who has had to live through a lot myself). My 5 yr old grandson is non-verbal and has autism. His parents kept him home (their school district had both in-person and on-line learning) even though it was horrible for him to try to learn anything on-line. But what can you do – they had the choice between decreased learning and less exposure to Covid or better learning with an increased risk of Covid.
        If TX was serious about all this, then teachers should have been eligible for the vaccine right after hospital workers/first responders. There is no social distancing if you have one teacher with 20-30 students.

    5. Profe*

      Teacher in the same boat here. The fall was pure hell. Adding “digital teacher”, “custodian”, “mask police” and “contact tracer” to our normal duties was asking far too much. My school did… a mediocre job with pandemic policies. They were far more interested in APPEARING to be doing a good job than actually doing it. I lost faith in a lot of people I work with. My classes were full and they did not wear masks or distance properly. My partner is also a teacher at a different school so our exposure was effectively 100s of people every day. I was exhausted and stressed to the max all the time. We had a fairly low case load due to luck and a relatively privileged student body.

      I personally had a particularly bad time just because last minute changes to the schedule landed me with a much higher teaching load than normal. I use past tense, because it’s now been balanced out by a lighter teaching load this semester, which has allowed me to slowly get my sanity back. I managed to avoid infection despite having numerous cases in my classroom.

      I’m fully vaccinated now and since then I’ve been able to let go of all my anxiety… mainly because the anxiety was already 90% ground out of me by sheer exhaustion. We still feel the exhaustion every day, even though my days are now much easier. I don’t know when I’ll feel physically or mentally recovered.

      Those of us in this situation logically know that it has also been hard on people working from home. We logically know it’s not those people’s fault. We know hardship isn’t a zero sum game. But it chafes to hear from the other side sometimes. Just like I know it’s the fault of my inept state government that it took me so long to get vaccinated, but it still chafed to see others get it first. It’s possible to know things rationally and still have contradictory feelings!

      On the rational side, we know much, much more about the coronavirus than we did a year ago! I started out on the most cautious end of the spectrum and now I’m more relaxed. Yes, because it was beaten out of me, but also because it has largely worked out okay to be teaching in person (Covid-wise). So while I know you can’t just let go of anxiety at the drop of a hat, I do also feel like I was wrong about some things last August, and some people have a level of anxiety that really isn’t justified anymore. So maybe my experience can help ease that a little?

      I don’t know… obviously we have all gone through a lot of pretty extreme stress and there’s no right way to feel. Thanks Alison for giving us non-WFH people some space to share.

      1. Midwest writer*

        Our district had a new superintendent start this year and I have been so unimpressed with his leadership. I didn’t have much trust in him to lose, but there’s zero there now. So much safety theater over safety substance.

        1. Profe*

          Mine found a way to make an anti-union pot shot every time he addressed faculty and it was really grating, to put it kindly. (Private school so no union, but public doesn’t have one either in my state)

      2. Anonymous Teacher*

        So much of this hits home. We have been back in school since August, with a handful of classes that are virtual. None of our grade-level teachers have to hybrid-teach; their classes are either fully in-person or fully virtual, which is a huge help for them. However, anyone in the school who is not a grade-level teacher (specialists, ESL, special education, counselors) all have to do both and are basically either hybrid-teaching or doing everything in duplicate. Those of us that don’t have the luxury of a curriculum purchased by the district have to create or buy one ourselves, and then find a way to make it accessible for our virtual students. It is utterly exhausting.
        Our district’s Covid protocols are very much all about the perception of safety at our schools. Staff are not informed when a student they came into contact with has tested positive for Covid, contact tracing is not done, and social distancing is not enforced. There is definitely an aura of toxic positivity and denial in our district. Our students are absolutely lovely and at the beginning of the year tried very hard to keep their masks up. But it has become apparent throughout the year which teachers don’t take Covid seriously (we have some straight-up Covid-deniers on our staff, even among staff who were hospitalized with Covid) and those teachers’ classes rarely wear masks or always pull them down to speak (nooooo!). It is frustrating that during this time of trauma and uncertainty, instead of building a sense of safety and support I have to be the mask police. Many of our staff have also taken out-of-state vacations starting during our Fall Break.
        It’s been a little disorienting how the perception of educators has shifted in the last year. A year ago, teachers were “heroes” and were applauded for what we do for our students. But when we started asking for things like PPE or to be able to WFH, we were labeled “selfish.” Our parents were up in arms when our district planned an inservice day for staff covid vaccinations, with parents saying that we didn’t care about the children, we were just in [teaching jobs] for the money and the long summer vacations.”
        It’s been so hard talking with family and friends who are still working from home. I feel as though I can’t talk about my anxiety and frustration about working in-person because it’s “just complaining.” One family member to me that it was too overwhelming for her to hear about it.

        1. Profe*

          That’s sounds so very frustrating, I’m sorry. I have heard of a few schools that are actually walking the walk for safety protocols, but the majority are doing as yours has. My partner’s admin has been great, but then fewer than 50% of staff chose to get vaccinated. It’s maddening, especially living in a reddish state where covid denial is high.
          And goodness, the whiplash change in public opinion! Sorry for selfishly not wanting to die…

      3. PJ*

        Teacher here also…. we’ve been back since August and I think we see the end in sight. One thing I appreciated about our school is that the school board told our students “we’re in-person – you either come to school or homeschool”. We obviously taught quarantined students virtually but I can’t imagine having class split daily between in-person and virtual. Almost impossible IMO. Our admin. also told us to lower our expectations and just do our best. It was nice to not have the pressure to pretend it was business as usual.

    6. Loves libraries*

      Also at a school. Doing virtual as well as in person is exhausting. Fortunately the virtual numbers have decreased. So many have had Covid and in our state 16 year olds have been able to be vaccinated for over a month. But that’s still not the entire campus so I still have to be the mask police on top of everything else.

      1. TexasTeacher*

        Yes, teaching this way has been awfully hard. I have gladly taken on the idea that I am an essential worker in some ways and have been happy to be teaching in person, but the toll it’s taken on the kids is tough. Pre-K with no centers, staying at desks for 8 hours a day, it’s terrible. Hopefully next year will allow for more developmentally appropriate learning. My evals have been sub par this year, too. :(

        1. Ms Frizzle*

          One of the things my district/school did right was de-emphasizing evils this year. We couldn’t get out of them, but we’ve been doing things like scheduling them with teachers in advance and, honestly, being pretty generous with scores. I’m so sorry that hasn’t been your experience, what a lack of empathy during a pandemic.

        2. J*

          I’m a k/ pre k teacher for special ed kiddos and I couldnt agree more! We went back in October after a virtual start to the year (private school). We’ve lost most of the things that brought joy to my teaching experience and added plenty of things that suck but the kids are still somehow learning and making progress. I feel very glad for them that they were able to have in person learning but the flexibility fatigue is so so real right now. Just hearing about a minor change in the schedule frustrates me now because it’s just one more thing; even the most patient, positive and animated educators are struggling to stay upbeat and keep the praise:correction ratios up. My private school however has done a tremendous job with safety and making teachers feel heard, and they gave us our retention bonus early this year, which was nice too.

    7. Midwest writer*

      My husband is a teacher and the mask police thing is the worst. He had a student (grandchild of the school board president, no less) who would go out of her way to walk up to his office window (he’s the library study hall monitor part of the day) and pull her mask off to taunt him. The administration won’t discipline this particular kid … and so it went on and on. Then, the board decided a few weeks ago to ditch mask requirements entirely. Mask optional! So much fun for everyone. :/
      Hugs to you for doing the jobs of two people at once this year. It’s so hard.

    8. Provolone Piranha*

      THANK YOU. I’m a high school teacher who is lucky enough to be in a district that was all remote until February. We’re now back on hybrid, and I feel like I’ve only been able to appreciate the biggest perk (seeing the kids) because I am vaccinated. My students and coworkers are awesome about following masking and distancing protocols.

      For me, when we were remote, it was so draining to listen to school board members talk about sending kids back as if teachers’ opinions didn’t matter. It was even harder to see the horrific things people were posting about teachers on social media. People went from hailing us for doing impossible jobs and saying we need to make a million dollars to calling us lazy and entitled in a matter of months. We were blamed for the rise in teen mental health issues. In the coming months, we will be blamed for “learning loss” based on standardized tests that shouldn’t be given (well, ever, but this year especially).

      My sister is super anxious about going back to her corporate office this month. She’s fully vaccinated and has her own room to work in. I remember being in her shoes, but sometimes I struggle to empathize because I went back under far less agreeable circumstances.

      1. rosaz*

        Provolone Piranha – I definitely hear you about the teacher-bashing, there’s been a lot of that and it was totally out-of-line.

        In the spirit of this thread, though, I do just want to offer a *remote hug* for all those parents who have been juggling working in the office (or store, restaurant, etc.) and simultaneously managing their kids’ remote learning (and yes, mental health issues). And dealing with parent-bashing from those who insisted we just don’t like spending time with our children whenever we sent up “Please help! This isn’t working!” flares.

    9. Elizabeth the Ginger*

      Also a teacher; we came back to in-person (four days a week) at the start of October. I was terrified. One of the hardest parts was that the administration was trying to be really positive about it, celebrating how good it’d be for the kids to be back in person. Which, I agree with, but while I did know that teaching was a career that partly involved some personal sacrifice, I hadn’t ever thought that putting my health at risk would be part of that. (Beyond, you know, the increased chance of getting a cold or strep or head lice compared to the average office worker.)

      My school has done a LOT of things right. Distancing, masking, hiring extra people to supervise all the spread-out outdoor lunches so cohorts stay distanced, modified schedules so even though I normally teach five grades every week this year I’ve been teaching one grade at a time. Even so, it’s exhausting. I’ve had to continue teaching remote learners along with in-person learners until just the past week. I have had to redesign my whole curriculum; I’m a science teacher and my hands-on collaborative activities have all been shoved in the mental closet for a year. I spend an hour a day just supervising recesses and lunches. I have had to be flexible and adapt in so many ways.

      Never in my 15 years of teaching have I known how many days of school were left this early… but I really am counting down the days until summer vacation, because I am hoping so hard that by the fall things will be somewhat more normal. Or even if not, that just having time off will let me catch my breath.

      1. Medievalist*

        All of this. I teach at a private college, but everything you say speaks to my year too. I’m lucky to have a good workplace that (a) takes precautions seriously and (b) has/gives the autonomy actually enforce these, but that doesn’t solve the fundamental problem that the job of teaching + the additional responsibilities of making school logistics work under pandemic circumstances have changed our work. I too am counting down the days to this year, hoping that at least teaching will be *more* normal in the Fall.

        First there’s the simultaneous in-person and virtual students, which others have already highlighted is just impossible, especially during low mental bandwidth. Then there’s the fact that the uncertainty of who will even be in the room any given day is so much more uncertain than in the past, making planning almost impossible. Third, my favorite active-learning activities have had to be shelved, like Elizabeth’s collaborative ones—leaving a much narrower range of replacements, most of which don’t lead the same pedagogical results.

        But also it’s worth noting that even schools that take the pandemic seriously don’t seem to think through the ways their precautions might not all work together, and this can create unexpected problems for everyone. For example, our Admissions office has been hosting size-reduced tours and events on campus. They’re great about masking, they’re great about keeping groups small and distanced. But they’re surprisingly thoughtless about things like not stopping their groups from walking through my (makeshift due to Covid-spacing requirements) classroom to get to the restrooms.

        On-site work is a LOT of moving pieces right now, so even good workplaces frequently miss dangers. And the job itself has just become so much harder too. I have friends at other schools who are 100% online, and while that obviously does have its own challenges (I do sympathize!), it’s just a different experience from on-site work.

        1. Libervermis*

          Yes, I also teach at a college that has been in-person since August and very good about enforcing things like masking, but it’s all exhausting. I don’t have the language to express how much I hate and dread flex teaching, particularly when I don’t know who will even be in the classroom vs. online on a given day. I’m working with a lot of first-year students, a sizable minority of whom are on the brink of giving up and just can’t make it the final 2-3 weeks. I’ll be working with a lot of first-year students again next year, and I’m very worried about their “college readiness” both from an academic and an emotional health standpoint after the past year and a half.

          My institution has also made choices that I can understand but which are still frustrating, like forbidding current students from traveling off-campus but hosting prospective student groups. I get that Admissions is in a tough place and the risk of an prospective student group on campus for a couple of hours is different from that of a student living in the dorms with hundreds of others, but it’s hard to me to defend that choice to upset students when I feel the same frustration.

          I’ve never seen students so burnt out. I’ve never seen my colleagues so burnt out. I’ve never been so burnt out. We’re all hoping desperately that fall will be “better”, but who even knows what that means.

          1. Libervermis*

            I should also add, my residential life colleagues are in a much more difficult place then I am, because I know students haven’t been following masking/distancing in the dorms and most transmission is happening outside of classrooms. I might be in-person, but I can go home. They never get to relax.

          2. Physics Tech*

            What I also hate, is that there are already talks about us flex-teaching in the fall as well and omg. I cannot imagine a worse thing to bring forward from the pandemic. Sure have us record our lectures going forward but
            1. let sick students stay home and actually rest, not have to sit up in bed when they should be sleeping
            2. We can record the lectures or send out the slides but zooming students into a real classroom just works so badly and is so exhausting

    10. Tired Bubble Teacher*

      I’ve been fully in person since September (where I am didn’t allow anyone- staff or students- to be remote).
      I was terrified to go back, so I have sympathy for the people who are going back now and scared of the unknown, but have grown less scared and more burnt out as the months went by. Unfortunately, things are changing now and we have 7 schools in my region with cases. There has been a big push since January for everyone to get tested regularly for Covid, so some of my still WFH friends are responding to my rising anxiety with a cheery “Get tested, it’ll make you feel better!” They don’t understand that a negative test doesn’t help much when you have to go see the same 150 kids with all of there potential germs again tomorrow.

      The good:
      My region in general. Public health has taken a hard line, the politicians have followed their guidance and it turns out that folks around here are very compliant. That, plus some fortuitous geography, has kept the cases low for almost a year (until now anyway). The schools have stayed safe because the community has done their bit.

      The bad:
      Because the schools have stayed safe, no one on a higher level seems to see much need to offer us support of any kind. The education system was given an impressive sum of money to help with covid safety and I have no idea where it’s been spent. Certainly not in my building. My class of 28 is one of the many “No air circulation system? That’s ok, just open a window!” rooms (thank goodness it was a mild winter). No efforts were made to reduce class sizes and for all of the “We have to go back because of the mental health!” arguments, we didn’t get so much as a pamphlet to help support these kids in crisis once they got back. I teach middle school, so there are a higher than average number of kids in a “No, I won’t (wear a mask) and you can’t make me” stage so being mask police is no fun and the promised consequences for said repeat offenders are threatened but never materialize. My region also hasn’t prioritizes teacher vaccinations, so I estimate it’s another 6-8 weeks before my turn comes.

      1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        Yes, my school was testing all adults on campus biweekly or more, and all the kids after breaks. It’s some comfort but it’s certainly not some kind of magic protection. Especially because it usually took about 4-5 days to get test results back! “Great, as of last Tuesday I didn’t have COVID. Since then I’ve spent about 20 hours around groups of students.”

      2. IndependentSchool*

        I kept the windows open in my classes most of the winter, but unfortunately the weather here was horrible. I kept telling kids to dress warmly (and my mom bought me heated socks for Christmas).

        I hope your area can get vaccinations soon! I have the utmost respect for middle school teachers. Those kids are terrifying.

    11. Napster*

      My partner teaches high school, and I sub (in addition to my “real job”). It’s exhausting. The schedule has changed countless times. We struggle to cover the material. We have to divide our attention between kids in the classroom and kids online. We have little idea how much they are learning. We have no idea how prepared the incoming freshmen will be next year, or how prepared the seniors will be when they head to college. It’s also really hard to tolerate the rah-rah positivity. I know that sounds awful, but some of us just want to be done.

    12. GothicBee*

      Yup. I work on a college campus (library) and those of us who were able to WFH were only allowed to do so until mid-June. It’s been tiresome. And we had some vaccinations at work, but they didn’t really tell anyone about it, so I’m not sure if it was open to everyone. I’m finally about to get my 2nd vaccine next week, but I don’t have high hopes for how many staff/students will be vaccinated because we’re in a fairly red area of the state.

    13. Anon Admin*

      Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! To all the teachers, administrators, custodial staff, cafeteria staff, SRO officers (really anyone involved in the school system)!!! My daughter is a senior this year. She did not do well at all with virtual learning last spring. She NEEDS in person school. You deserve a special medal for what you’ve managed to accomplish since last March. You have my respect, and the respect of my family for how you’ve bent over backwards to help these students. So, again, thank you for putting yourselves out there! (I’m not discrediting any of the other essential service workers at all. I am one myself. It’s been a tough year for everyone.)

    14. Anenemous*

      I work at a school too and we’ve been back since August. A lot of schools just reopened after spring break or didn’t open at all. I honestly think my school did a really bad job. The only reason we were able to open is because we didn’t have any distancing. I was terrified for the first half of the year that I would get sick or I would get someone else sick. My school didn’t give us any cleaning supplies or wipes and I couldn’t find any to buy with my own money. I was taking toys home at night to wash in my sink with soap. I got diagnosed with depression in January and I think a big factor in that was my work this year. Distance teaching has also been so hard and I feel awful about how little progress some of my digital students have made this year. When I see teachers unions fighting districts that not have to reopen because people are scared… I don’t know. I feel like the schools that have been open operating basically as normal this year have been forgotten. I’m grateful in my state that teachers were prioritized for vaccines. It’s the only time I’ve felt appreciated or noticed since this all began.

    15. Ms Frizzle*

      We’ve been in person since October. It was a really scary transition back, and I really found the only way to deal with it was time.

      Things my district did well: PPE, district-wide supports for remote learning. They also assigned all central office folks a day a week to support in a school (from the superintendent down), to help with coverage. It’s been rough on them sometimes, but I think it helped with morale as well as with the logistics of keeping cohorts safe.

      Things that did not go well: Live-streaming kindergarten is doomed to failure. Live-streaming kindergarten without a para is even worse. Never again. They initially promised teachers wouldn’t be asked to livestream and went back on it later.

      Also, I really struggled with the district messaging around safety. They kept insisting there was no risk at times when it felt very, very unsafe. I don’t know how much they were right, but it would have been nice to have some empathy instead of just repeating that there was no reason to be scared.

      1. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        “it would have been nice to have some empathy instead of just repeating that there was no reason to be scared”

        AMEN. When we came back, every talk about safety always ended with “…and most of all, we feel like this is really important for the children.” Which… yes, in-person school does have a lot of benefits for the kids, undeniably. But… that’s not an argument about whether or not it’s safe. Everything has turned out all right at my school, pretty much, but we didn’t know that it would.

    16. Imjustme*

      As a parent of two young school aged kids, I do not envy teachers at all during this :/ My spouse and I have both been in person (travel and logistics) this entire time and tried to do the online learning but it just didn’t work so ours both went back in person…seeing the stuff teachers have been dealing with even second is just horrifying.

    17. Dr.Wise*

      I’m working in education in the UK, and the most maddening thing is the flip flop between onsite learning and remote learning. Last August, I was in person, doing the standard reminders of mask minding, and making sure everyone was far enough apart. Then they switched to remote learning in December. Fine. Then they decided to bring students back on campus this semester, but half-remote to provide more space for distancing. Each time its organisational chaos, with no one, not even the instructors, knowing where or when their lessons will be. And we basically have no say in any of this.

    18. IndependentSchool*

      I am so freaking tired of hybrid education. Honestly it’s not working for anyone. We still might have hybrid next year, as we have a substantial international student population (I work at an independent school with a mix of boarding and day students), but I have tried to push for creating all-online classes. We have tried to use OWL cameras to help bring the remote students in, but it’s really difficult and I don’t feel like they are getting a great experience. And it is exhausting trying to keep track of who is here, who is online because they were potentially exposed, who is online because they are traveling, who is online but isn’t supposed to be (because our policy is that students can’t do an online day if they are just regular sick).

      My school will not tell me if a student in my class tests positive. Two teachers in my department tested positive before spring break and the school did not deem me a “close contact”, even though my desk in our shared office is less than 6 ft from one of them (I fortunately was negative). The administration is still claiming there is “no evidence of transmission on campus”, even though my one friend who was positive doesn’t go anywhere besides work and the grocery store.

      But we did sports all year, even though no one (especially kids from other schools) followed the mask policy. No idea how the basketball and hockey teams escaped an outbreak.

      I am also extremely tired of being the mask police, especially now that some kids are vaccinated.

      Good things: We did test all students after winter break and after spring break, and had a week of online learning while waiting for results. We have the money and space to create larger classrooms and provide some distancing, and our student body is pretty small (only about 500 students on the high school campus).

      Best thing: Our administration set up a vaccination clinic on campus and gave us a day off to get the first shot. I will be fully vaccinated (two weeks from my 2nd shot) tomorrow!

  8. Lucious*

    Covid-19 shined a big -and perhaps overdue- spotlight on the class divides in the modern working world. Even from the beginning monied cruise ship passengers on the “Diamond Princess” were isolated and cared for as best could be arranged .At the cost of the health and safety of the international ,substantially poorer crew members. This pattern repeated itself in each country during the later outbreaks.

    I didn’t think of myself as privileged before the outbreak. After seeing people over the last year get ignored, exploited, treated like disposable assets or even seeing their stimulus checks docked by their employer I’ve come to understand different. Working for a good wage & a reasonable employer are privileged luxuries in America, and they shouldn’t be.

    1. Sylvan*

      I feel the same way. It’s like there are two separate worlds that people can live in, one in which we’re privileged to be able to protect ourselves and one in which they’re just not expected to protect themselves or need safe workplaces.

    2. Lana Kane*

      100% agree. And it really drives home that all the arguments against a $15 minimun wage because “those people should have planned their lives better” are just as disgusting as they seem. People are out there performing functions we look down on as a means to make a living, but they are also considered essential and put themselves in harm’s way so that society can continue to function. That absolutely deserves more than just a basic living wage.

      1. More anon today*

        Who do those people think would do all those jobs if everyone “planned their lives better”? Even ignoring all the other things wrong with that idea, are they saying, people should plan their lives better, but we know some people won’t, so it’s fine, those jobs will get done, and having to be exposed to the plague (and many other disadvantages, but that’s the one we’re discussing today) for too little pay is fair punishment for that lack of planning? I just don’t understand the logic there – again, accepting the idea at face value for the sake of argument.

        1. EmmaPoet*

          Exactly. If you want to be able to walk into a fast food place and get lunch or go to a grocery store or Target, you still need people who can make burgers and check out your groceries and stock the shelves. Why should they be treated as lesser? It’s such a horrible attitude.

    3. Anon for this*

      Even within just my company, I’ve seen a big difference in how my WFH peers treat me (and the WFH/in person difference generally) versus how higher up better paid employees approach it. The other people at my level seem to really get that some of the things I do enable them to WFH and are grateful/helpful/not pushy. Managers who are two levels up aren’t as bad as some of the stories on here, but they don’t seem to have quite grasped that a lot of us are still on site and providing most of our regular services to clients. It comes off as a bit tone deaf when they talk about the need to get back to normal etc.

    4. Exhausted (no longer) Frontline Worker*

      Yup. While I happened to be a relatively higher earning essential worker who got benefits through their job (social worker), a much higher proportion of people in lower income brackets who are employed can’t WFH. And many lack health insurance and paid sick leave. I’m fortunate I never had to choose between potentially coming into work with COVID or stay home, not get paid and not be able to eat and potentially even lose my job for absenteeism. But that’s been the reality for so many essential workers. Also worth noting that none of the US relief bills included mandatory hazard pay for essential workers, although I think businesses who received PPP loans were able to use money that way.

  9. Hula-la*

    I’m a teacher, and we’ve been back in person since June (but with students since September). I can say that at my school, students are awesome at wearing masks. They can’t socially distance to save their lives, but at least they wear masks and try their best to follow the protocols in place (including separated seating, sanitizer when they come into the school, and a schedule that confuses all of us). I know that there’s increasing calls for us to go remote, but I recognise that while we’re not daycare, parents need a safe place for their children to be while they are at work (I see you essential workers). So, we come and in and show up and do our best.

    1. Tearful with gratitude*

      At the risk of hijacking: please tell me what a parent can get you as a gift this year! Our school had only 2 cases and zero transmissions all year. How can parents thank you? I know a heartfelt note from a child is more welcome than a coffee mug, but it doesn’t seem enough. I am already writing letters to school board members and civic leaders about raises, lower class sizes, anything they want. Teachers who have been present in person in addition to coping with remote learning requirements have literally saved lives. What gift would show a little bit of personal appreciation?

      1. Hula-la*

        This is a great hijack! Honestly, a heartfelt thank you goes a long way. I have a physical and digital folder of the thank yous that I get from students and parents. There are days when I need to reach into those folders. Our parent group held the equivalent of a 7:00 cheer for us at the front of the school. It meant so much (it’s bringing tears to my eyes as I type it).
        On a more institutional level, continue to be advocates for education. I don’t live in the US, but if there are propositions passed that could negatively affect the education system, loudly push back and vote against them. Vote in your school board elections.

        1. Susie*

          Yes to all of this! And if your teachers are unionized, publicly support teachers when their contract is up for renewal. Right now the loudest voices in the room are those proclaiming the laziness of teachers.

          I also have a file of thank you notes that I always love stumbling upon. And that student who apologized for how she treated me when school first shut down as thanked me for continuing to try to reach her—I’ll have that memory forever

      2. Another Teacher*

        Not the original teacher here, but as another teacher…

        The things you are already doing—note from a student + letters to school board/civic leaders—are definitely my #1. A note to my principal about me is also worth its weight in gold, especially since schools in my area are looking at budget cutbacks and we don’t know what that means for existing positions (and at the same time they’re talking teacher shortages… it’s all very confusing.)

        But if you are looking for a tangible item: Target gift card. (Or equivalent store in your area.) If I need supplies for my classroom, I can get them. But if I’m all set for the year and want to treat myself to fancy chocolate or new slippers or a book to read this summer, I can also do that.

      3. Elizabeth the Ginger*

        Agreed with the others – the things you are doing are the best. You might also write an email of thanks to the teacher and cc the principal – it definitely feels good to know that my boss is seeing/hearing good things about me.

        If you want to give a tangible gift: If your child is old enough, you could get them to do some recon about their teacher’s tastes. Do they wear kooky socks? Keep chocolate in their desk? Have seven potted plants around the room? Talk about their dog? If there’s anything like that, you could build off it – get another pair of fun socks, some fancy truffles, a pretty ceramic planter, a dog toy. But if your kid is too young to pick up on that kind of thing, or nothing seems obvious, then a gift card to somewhere broad (Amazon, Target, etc.) is always welcome.

      4. Y'all Come Back Now, Ya Hear?*

        Not the original OP but here to amplify “Another Teacher”

        YES, YES, YES to a- heartfelt note to me, heartfelt note to my principal about me, writing letters to the Board, etc. I keep these for hard days. Like yesterday.

        Also, YES, YES, YES to Target, Walmart, or Amazon giftcards that I can treat myself now, or treat my students at the end of the school year, or treat my classroom in August!

      5. Anonnny*

        Vote in your local elections and especially for school boards! We have some alarming people running this year in my location.

    2. EchoGirl*

      My brother also teaches (elementary level) and he says the same thing. He says occasionally the teachers have to remind them to keep distance or pull their mask back up over their nose (because they’re little kids and don’t always keep track of these things), but the kids don’t give them any trouble about it. I think it’s going to depend a lot on the particular culture and attitude of a given school; the area his school is in was hit hard by the first wave of COVID, so the kids understand why the rules are important. I could imagine it’s much different in an area where the overall culture is lax (or in total denial) over the situation.

    3. Middle School Teacher*

      I’m also a teacher, on campus since august, fully masked, teaching in class and online. Anyone who thinks online school is a holiday for teachers is insane. I’ve been teaching almost 20 years and I’ve never worked so hard or been so tired in my life. And the lack of appreciation is awful. I like my kids but boy do I hate my job right now.

    4. rosaz*

      Thank you Hula-la! As a parent, I am super appreciative of and grateful for your dedication!!

  10. Quickbeam*

    Thank you for posting this. My husband is a Correctional Officer who has spent the last year working 16 hour shifts, sleeping in his car between them, having only the protection that I (as a nurse and medical product tester, an accidental benefit) was able to give him. He lost to Covid multiple otherwise healthy co-workers. He had to deal with deniers, people who abandoned the job out of fear and extremely anxious inmates.

    While he was glad I was able to work from home, our experiences are not even close to the same.

    1. WFH Partner*

      My partner works in a specialty grocery store. It’s not nearly the same situation as your husband is in (since his grocery store is in one of the smuggest, wealthiest zip codes in our area and people have been absolutely self-righteous about masking) but it’s been scary, knowing that his employer isn’t enforcing the occupancy limits for their very small store, along with the fact that they do counter service so the employees aren’t able, as a practical matter, to distance from each other. On top of that, the rush of people who would normally eat at restaurants wanting to explore specialty cooking has meant they’ve been doing Christmas-season numbers for a year and a half. We’re talking 200 a day when normally they’d be doing 50 in the off-season. Not that any of that has turned into raises or hazard pay; the store’s owner is a Trump-lite supporter. My partner is so burned out, and I don’t know how to fix it. I’m hoping to take him on at least a long weekend soon, since he only gets one week of vacation a year, but that won’t happen before the end of May due to my work commitments.

      I am profoundly grateful that one of the things my state got right was making grocery workers eligible for the vaccine ahead of the general public. As of yesterday, he’s had his second dose.

    2. Msnotmrs*

      Yes. Corrections is a nightmare right now. The NYT wrote the other day that 34% of inmates have contracted COVID, which means that staff numbers are probably only slightly lower.

    3. youknowmestephieb*

      I live in a prison town but don’t work at the prison and I am appalled at how things were handled. At the beginning, they were busing positive inmates to other parts of the state until those areas were overwhelmed and refused to take anyone. Now, in month four of vaccinations, they’ve decided to divert the majority of vaccines to the prisons. It all seems like too little too late.

    4. angrypeasant*

      Absolutely. I also work in corrections, and the prison where I work is overcrowded. Social distancing is nearly impossible. Inmates are supposed to wear masks, but many staff don’t enforce this rule and I am so, so tired of telling grown men to put their masks back on. Most co-workers and inmates I’m around, plus myself, have tested positive. It’s a mess. I’m really glad that most of us have been vaccinated now, but it’s after a year of struggle and stress.

      1. anon for this*

        I have a friend in prison. On top of all the things you mentioned, his biggest complaint is he hasn’t had a hot meal in over a year since they can’t enforce social distancing in the dining hall and still have enough time for everyone to have a chance to eat.

    5. More anon today*

      I am so incensed every time I see someone who doesn’t want inmates to be vaccinated early because criminals, who cares if they get sick? Leaving aside the important point that inmates are human beings too, who were sentenced to a period of incarceration, not an unpleasant death from disease, I could list like five reasons vaccinating inmates benefits everyone else. The number one of those is that it would protect corrections workers, who already have a tough job that is very essential if you want all those criminals you don’t care about kept off the streets.

      I hope your husband gets some relief soon.

    6. Al who is that Al*

      I work in a prison too and have been there full time. In the UK we are classed as “Key Workers” and a couple of months ago we all received a box of Maltesers as a thank you, so that made everything worthwhile didn’t it!
      As well as inmates being anxious they are also suffering from the denial insanity, try telling a few 100 inmates they need to wear masks when a very vocal contingent are saying “go on, try and make us wear them then”.
      It’s been very very wearing indeed and hearing comments from people saying “my holidays over, I have to do some proper work now” is not helpful

  11. AnonEMoose*

    I’ve been working from home since March 2020. My husband works in a warehouse, so he’s been going to work the whole time, and he’s definitely had some anxiety about that, because he would be at higher risk of serious illness/complications if he caught COVID. He’s also concerned about bringing it home and infecting me. So our situation is sort of mixed, in a way.

    He does have some advantages, in that his employer is requiring masks and distancing, is screening everyone on the way in to the facility, and they don’t deal with the public. On the whole, his employer has been pretty good about it. We’re also in a liberal-leaning area, so most people are fairly good about masking in stores and such. We’ve been able to get most groceries delivered, and that helps, too.

    We’ve both had our first vaccinations shots, and are scheduled for the second ones, and that’s a big relief to both of us.

    I think it’s probably healthiest to try to acknowledge that peoples’ situations can be complex. There are all kinds of reasons someone may not be happy about returning to the office. It’s also valid for essential workers to feel like “we’ve been dealing with this all along…suck it up.” And I know that, for me, there are people I will never see the same way as I did pre-pandemic, and that’s hard, too, as is figuring out how to move forward from here.

    1. RagingADHD*

      Different industry, but my husband has been working in person while I have an always-remote job. We had to quarantine over and over and over because of his exposures at work — sometimes from people who knew they were sick, or knew they were exposed and waiting for test results, and those were always the ones refusing to wear a (supposedly required) mask. Not strangers or members of “the public.” Coworkers, board members, leaders.

      We had to calculate our risk as a household, and just do the best we could to control what we could.

      There are a lot of people I just can’t look at the same way anymore, because of the reckless disregard they displayed while seeing people they knew suffer and die. We got lucky. It makes me so sad on so many levels.

      1. AnonEMoose*

        My husband’s coworkers have been good about masking, and that’s a big help. They’ve had a few COVID cases, but only a few; I think it was mostly people getting exposed elsewhere, but it hasn’t spread beyond that small number.

        We’ve been very lucky, and we know it. But it makes both of us sad and so upset that so many people are so dedicatedly, recklessly selfish.

    2. KayDeeAye*

      I too have been working mostly from home but am married to a man who’s considered essential and can’t possibly work from home (he works for a company that makes essential heavy machinery) , and yeah, it’s been hard on him. Fortunately he never caught COVID and has been vaccinated now (yaaaay!), but it has been extremely stressful for him, wearing a mask all the time, trying to keep shared tools disinfected, coworkers catching it all around him, etc. I, meanwhile, who had been isolated for months, did catch it last winter – how I avoided infecting him considering how small our house is counts as some sort of miracle.

      But his company has taken the pandemic very seriously with all the masks and disinfecting and everything, and they’ve been very vigilant about sending people home who have symptoms or who have been exposed, and also very vigilant about quarantining. So they definitely did many things right, and it could absolutely have been much worse.

  12. Green Trees*

    Thank you for posting this. I totally understand the concerns of those who have been WFH, and agree with those concerns. But yeah, for almost a year I had no choice but to go in to an office with coworkers, none of whom believed the virus was a real concern (some really toeing the line of saying the whole thing was a hoax), and people coming in from the public who also had no real concern for the virus. I had to stop listening to the news because I was riddled with anxiety, wondering all the time if I’d get sick, but I didn’t have the option to quit my job to avoid that. I’m finally at a new position at a workplace that has protocols following CDC guidelines, and I feel soooo much safer, but, I still have to be here, can’t do fully remote.

    In general, I think one benefit for the people whose companies enforced WFH is that they are at companies obviously taking this seriously. If you go back into the office, vaccinated, it’s not going to be a free-for-all. This of course does not apply to everyone, and I know some companies are rushing or getting too lax once everyone is vaccinated.

  13. jack*

    it’s pretty demoralizing coming into the comments and the first 2 people are pushing back on the OP’s point, which as an essential worker I wholeheartedly agree with

    1. LTL*

      OP seems to be implying that people who are complaining or worried about returning to the office are doing something wrong, which is why they’re getting pushback.

      People are allowed to express fear and frustration, even if others have it worse. I completely agree that we need to give those who’ve had to be in person for the past year more room in the larger conversation so I’m glad that Alison published this. But the idea that expressing your own struggles is equivalent to not acknowledging those who have it worse is an incredibly damaging mindset.

      1. Double A*

        It’s about allowing space for a different discussion. Just because there’s one post not specifically focused on your struggles isn’t suggesting you don’t have a right to talk about them. There will a post literally later today where you can.

      2. DutchBlitz*

        There’s a time and a place to express struggles. When there is a very one sided perspective that is heavily prevalent in media or general conversation, I think it does begin to not acknowledge those who had it worse.

        1. ThatGirl*

          I love your username, are you a Mennonite? :)

          More to the point, I agree – this is very “why is this not about me?” … it’s a similar to discussions about racism at work where white people complain that they’re not being centered.

          1. DutchBlitz*

            Oh, thanks! Dutch-reformed, daughter of immigrants. :)

            You’re right…it does have a very similar tone to other discussions around privilege.

      3. Magenta Sky*

        For every person who complains about having to go back to the office, there’s someone who has been there the whole time ready to complain about having to listen to it. Let’s treat everybody’s right to complain the same.

    2. AutoEngineer57*

      Hi Jack!

      I am genuinely sorry about that. I was one of the first comments and I do realize how it came off now.

      I also want to make it clear – I actually have been in the office since the pandemic started. At least 20% of the time. So my feelings weren’t from a place of complete WFH.

      Though, I can acknowledge, that I have many family members in the medical field. And my personal experience is definitely clouded by the fact that my family is extremely supportive and cognizant of those who have been going into work.

      This has definitely been a lesson in not applying my anecdotal experience to a greater trend.

        1. AutoEngineer57*

          Thanks DutchBlitz :)

          The only thing I can do is try to be a little better, a little kinder, every day!

    3. AceLibrarian*

      Same. The LW really summed up my feelings on the matter quite well and it’s upsetting to see that people are saying it’s not a valid way to be feeling.

    4. Maggie*

      I think some people don’t want to realize there was a human out there risking their own health for every Instacart and Amazon purchase they made at home! I hate to say it but I see this attitude everywhere. “Order Instacart because the grocery stores are sooo risky” etc.

      1. SomebodyElse*

        I had another comment that was part of a nuked thread that essentially said the same thing. It’s not only the amazon delivery guy or instacart picker that was working; it was the utility workers, manufactures, food producers, internet techs, public works, shippers/receivers, and all of the people for some reason or another couldn’t do their job at home.

        1. insertusernamehere*

          It shows an incredible bias and ignorance about an entire hard working, underpaid service industry type jobs. Restaurants, hotels, museums, hospitality, gyms, janitors, property managers, handymen, trainers, physical therapists, chiropractors, nail salons, hair salons, airlines, etc – all employees who have been back in person and at the mercy of their state and local government’s mandates or lack of mandates with no regard to safety, area covid rates, vaccine eligibility or availability.

          1. SomebodyElse*

            It’s not even just the service sector jobs, it’s the jobs that nobody knows exists. Just think about engineers, anyone who works with test/diagnostic (mfg) equipment, skilled trades, the people who run your local power plants, water treatment plants, etc., people who use specialized equipment, records, animal care, lab work, and on and on

            Honestly, there are a lot of people who are highly specialized and well compensated who aren’t able to work from home. I had to arrange for one of my teams to rotate on-site work because they have to use specialized equipment to perform certain aspects of their job (think ridiculously large and expensive printer and a test board). They would be otherwise considered professional office workers, if that makes sense.

        2. Maggie*

          So, so true. You think your trash gets picked up by elves? Do you want no one to come help you when your toilet backs up and there’s poop floating down your hall? Because those are the people out there daily keeping the world running.

      2. kaycee*

        100%. I work grocery and the number of people in the store didn’t change that much – for a while there were fewer regular customers, but our in-house delivery team more than doubled. Eventually WFHers got bored and started using the store as a social spot – meeting a friend to grab a coffee (don’t ask why our coffee bar was still open) and do a little shopping, or as a place to walk laps if it was bad weather, but then our delivery team was still huge so it ended up being more people than before.

        1. I'm just here for the cats*

          Yup I have family who work at grocery store and they said the same thing. People will literally climb over him to get something. Or bend over him while he is stocking lower shelves and ask where X is, all while not wearing a mask.

        2. RagingADHD*

          That’s so disappointing. Half the reason for doing curbside or delivery was to keep people out of public spaces as much as possible, to reduce overall risk.

        3. More anon today*

          Last spring when everything was locked down, I would see whole families come in together. Like, hey, we can’t go anywhere else, let’s have a family outing to the grocery store! Madness -during lockdown conditions you should bring the minimum number of people only! (And I’m talking multiple adults and teenagers, not kids too young to be left alone, which is a whole different problem.)

      3. Loredena*

        My husband, who is a stay at home and did all the shopping and cooking in the before times, is extremely high risk. I’ve been all online, all the time (instacart, doordash, amazon) for a year now and am so very aware that I can do that only because someone else is taking on the risk (including my college age niece!). I’ve been tipping 20% and was offering masks to every driver (though none took me up on it) as a result, which I know is really just a bare minimum. It’s frustrating, because it’s probably safer for the grocery workers to have an instacart shopper who is doing the shopping for 20 rather than 20 individual households doing their own, but it’s still not exactly safe for either party, and I have no solution for that :/

        1. Maggie*

          My comment was not at all directed at you and I mean that honestly! I think some people just don’t think about it at all and it sounds like you were conscientious at least. Lets face it almost all of us were between a rock and hard place throughout this.

          1. Anon for this*

            True. And I’ve been using Instantcart because working on site for both my husband and I has been double the normal effort (he’s making components for the vaccine in his lab and my work load has increased by at least 33 percent due to others in the company working remotely).

            So I am so thankful for this.

    5. Anon at the moment*

      This was my thought as well. At least Alison tried! I appreciate her bringing attention to this, even if so many people would rather not have to reflect on their privilege.

      When I hear people say things like “this isn’t the suffering Olympics” what I actually hear them say is “I dont want to hear your perspective, in fact I’m going to immediately shut it down and remind you of MY suffering. How dare you have forgotten about it?”

      1. Maggie*

        Alison, I appreciate this whole thread so, so much. I almost went off in the comments yesterday, but I decided against it when I couldn’t get the wording right. The OP here said it so much better than I could. My husband works in high-end luxury home construction for millionaires and the 1%. He has not had a single day off this entire time. If anything, he has been working more hours than ever. The entitlement of the Haves has only increased. Now that they are working from home full time, they definitely would like their home spruced up, at their convenience. There is no demand too ridiculous, no request too obscene, and no timeline too short. No matter of the fact that it puts my husband at risk. It’s all very Veruca Salt; they want what they want and they want it now.

        The very best thing my husband’s boss has done is to give my husband complete autonomy to walk off the job any time he wants. This has been so, so, so valuable to us. It hasn’t happened often, but occasionally he will enter a home that is just not safe. Too many people on the jobsite, crews coughing, people not keeping 6+ ft distance and/or wearing masks, ignoring safety protocols, homeowners wanting to come by to “chat” because they’ve just been “so isolated and it’s nice to have someone to talk to!” Hard eye roll, ultra privileged person who thinks it’s essential all her bathrooms get repainted from eggshell to cream for a tune of $20K bc she’s anxious and bored. It’s exactly like above commenters said about people ordering from Amazon and Instacart because it’s safer–uh, yeah… safer for YOU.

        When these situations have occurred, my husband just packs up his tools and leaves (sometimes without explanation to the other people there), calls his boss and tells him the details of the job site, and comes home. His work is NOT actually essential (even though the state classifies all of construction in the same category), and it has meant so much that his boss (who is diabetic and high risk himself) totally supports my husband in saying “this is ridiculous and unsafe” when it is.

        1. youknowmestephieb*

          +1,000 – I even commented to a gf today about how important this post was to me, to get to read other people’s experiences, and not feel so alone. THANK YOU ALISON!

        2. Here we go again*

          Demand for furniture and appliances is up too. Mention that demand is up and supply is low with material and labor shortages, people will actually say “that’s not my problem, I need it now” when I mention the wait time in a sofa.

        3. Owler*

          Oh dear. I fear your husband has met my mother-in-law. Please tell him Sorry! (To be fair, my in-laws have actually taken Covid, social distancing, and masking seriously, but I think in the past, she would have been the Cream Bathroom Lady.)

      2. Observer*

        This was my thought as well. At least Alison tried! I appreciate her bringing attention to this, even if so many people would rather not have to reflect on their privilege.T

        I also appreciate the number of threads she nuked (some of which I had replied to.) It makes me so sad to see how many people pushed so hard and how many threads she had to take down.

  14. DutchBlitz*

    I usually try not to have suffering competitions, but I agree with OP. Yes, the pandemic has sucked for everyone. However I think OP draws a fair comparison that fear of coming back to the office (while it is a valid fear) is eclipsing the plight of burned out essential workers. Both my partner and I are essential workers, and we have been in the office, in front of the public, every day since the pandemic began. (With the exception of the month when we were out sick with Covid, that we contracted at work.) While opening up and returning to “the way things were” is anxiety inducing, I feel it can be tone deaf for me to hear my friends/colleagues consistently complain about having to return to work, in front of me.

    1. SomebodyElse*

      Right, I feel like some of these people are coworkers from the LW from yesterday who happily dump all their work on the one person in the office because they want to remain at home.

      1. Anon for this*

        This was something I felt like my employer handled well – it didn’t make sense to have a coworker come in to mail 3 packages, but at the same time they acknowledged that if 5 people each need 3 packages mailed, the person who handles that in person needs something else taken off their plate. Also, whether by luck or planning, we’ve mostly traded boring admin tasks so I never felt like I was losing all of my job time to package mailing/copying while still having to do all of my data entry tasks (thanks coworker!).

    2. Dust Bunny*

      This. And that’s from someone who was 100% WFH for months and is now back in the office half-time in a low-risk position (little public traffic, health-adjacent so my coworkers are dedicated mask wearers, lots of space for employees to spread out). Am I worried? Sure. Am I as worried as I’d have been if I had been checking groceries all this time? H*ll, no.

    3. ChildTherapist*

      It is so tone deaf…, you have been so lucky to not be at risk, and now you complain to me? I really want to yell at them. I’m burnt out and exhausted and have been taking on extra clients who need in person but can’t find anyone to provide it. I am annoyed.

    4. OTRex*

      Seriously. I am a healthcare worker and I am TIRED. I’m not a nurse or doctor, so I don’t save lives, but I am TIRED of how little time I have left in my day to do things like documentation, using the bathroom, or drinking water or just effing BREATHE between patients thanks to COVID protocols and how management has not adjusted productivity expectations in the slightest. I railroad myself through one day and go home, pass out and get up and do it again. Despite being continuously exhausted, I haven’t had a good nights’ sleep since March of 2020.

  15. Construction Safety*

    FWIW, I worked 2800 hours last year. Either in the office where there were no additional precautions taken (still none) or on-site where workers had to wear masks if they were within 6′ of one another or in the office where no one wore a mask. Meetings were held in conference rooms with no masks and marginal social distancing.

    We had an office meeting about WFH early on, but it was so discouraged that on one did it. No one. We had two cases in the office at separate times, both caught it elsewhere and no one else caught it at work. No one at any of our sites caught it at work (very few actually caught it at all)

    1. JRR*

      I posted elsewhere about how my office, like yours, is taking close to zero precautions. And similarly (I gather) connected to the construction industry.

      This is speculation, but I wonder if the the cavalier attitude toward COVID comes from the fact that most of my coworkers have been working dangerous jobs their entire life. When your job involves using power tools and climbing ladders, the idea that your job can kill you is nothing new. And the idea that your job will gradually destroy your body is taken for granted. Yes, you take precautions when they don’t get in the way (hard hats, glasses), but also sometimes you have to remove the guard from your saw or grinder to get the job done.

      If any good comes out of this tragedy, I hope it’s a greater appreciation among office workers that for some people their job has always been a threat to health and life. The addition of COVID makes it only marginally more dangerous.

      1. Luffi*

        This is an interesting point. I’ve noticed this attitude with a lot of plumbers, mechanics and other technicians who have still come in to work on site at our shelter.

      2. Just Another Zebra*

        It’s an interesting point, but I think it depends.

        I’m not a plumber, but I work for a plumbing company (sourcing parts and maintaining the fleet). Most of my techs have been pretty careful, but that could be because our customers demand it. A few have pushed back, but they’ll push back on everything.

      3. GS*

        Forestry here, and there seems to be a real range that I think generally maps out to what you suggest: folks who are in the more physical/dangerous positions (or just the ones that require closest contact) seem to be most cavalier about COVID protections while the more office-side folks are a mixed bag but still skew more cautious. Though I swear the transition from field job to office job is the worst thing I’ve ever done for my body.

        My heart especially goes out to folks — tree planters, camp workers — who have been sequestered in pods of previously-strangers, sometimes for months, without the ability to travel home and see friends/family, but also without the ability to control their levels of protection.

      4. Natalie*

        I’ve noticed this too but I always find it odd because, as you mention, PPE is just part of the job. I’m not in a related field anymore but when I was, I never saw a worker kicked off the job site for not wearing a hard hat. But I know of workers that have been booted for refusing to wear a mask in the last year.

        Maybe it’s something about how we process risks we can’t see? I don’t know, it’s puzzling.

      5. Imjustme*

        I work in a warehouse doing stuff that can kill you if you mess up and I’m taking precautions like masking around people pretty seriously. The fact I spend ~20 hours a week two-three stories up moving heavy things onto order pickers, and another 10ish moving big pallets of quickrete around doesn’t mean I want to mess up my lungs and heart

      6. Observer*

        This is speculation, but I wonder if the the cavalier attitude toward COVID comes from the fact that most of my coworkers have been working dangerous jobs their entire life. When your job involves using power tools and climbing ladders, the idea that your job can kill you is nothing new.

        On the other hand, I’ve found a lot of these guys are more safety conscious than most. Yes, they will skip the marginal stuff, but they know that safety precautions WORK. Not 100%, but they can be the difference between retiring mostly in one piece and . . . not getting a chance to retire. And some of these fields are also used to masks, so that doesn’t freak them out.

        A bigger problem may be how many employers skimp on safety. Anyone who has gotten used to working in a work place where safety is treated like a “wimpy extra” that the bosses refuse to “waste money” on, is going to get used to a much higher level of risk.

    2. Construction Lady*

      This has been my experience in construction in the past year as well. We had a brief month or so where most office staff worked from home, but otherwise the only impacts from the virus have been increased material costs and delays. But honestly – we’ve had the same kind of infection rates as you – four people in the office that caught it elsewhere and didn’t share it, plus maybe two in the field?

      It’s been a surreal experience to see how others are handling it. Business is absolutely booming. It’s like COVID doesn’t exist in this odd little bubble. So thankful that the vaccines are rolling out and hopeful that there will be enough incentives to convince the naysayers in the office.

    3. Mr. Shark*

      Good news!
      But given your user name is Construction Safety, and you talk about work sites, I’m guessing you are in construction.
      Just because nothing falls on your head doesn’t mean you shouldn’t wear a helmet, and just because nothing flies into your eye when you’re working doesn’t mean you shouldn’t wear safety glasses. It’s all about being smart and being safe, and trying to prevent issues.

  16. HistoryLlama*

    What’s your workplace getting right:
    Give us lots of cleaning supplies. Closed us to the public for a time and then when we did open, it’s by appointment only. We did a rotating schedule of who worked from home for a time but my entire department (there are four of us) have been back full time since April 1 (three of us have been back full time since last August). Allowed us to really enforce mask wearing because we’re in a state were a good majority of people still think Covid is a hoax.

    what’s it getting wrong?: Not much other than not making punishment for not wearing masks harsher. There’s other stuff that’s not pandemic related that’s been more “wrong”.

    1. Construction Safety*

      They put a sign at the door that tells all who pass that the company is not reponsible if they catch COVID.

      That’s all folks.

      1. SomebodyElse*

        And that’s essentially what every firefighter, cop, and EMT/Paramedic were told. Unless you could prove you caught it at work they weren’t responsible. Funny, how it’s a little tricky to prove during a pandemic where you caught a virus from.

        Even my husband who worked exclusively on a COVID response ambulance was told that if he got it, he would not be eligible for workman’s comp and paid time off because ‘he could have caught it from his family or at the grocery store’

        1. Quickbeam*

          Just FYI….that’s not universal and may not be true in your state. My state has mandated Work Comp coverage for first responders/ line health care workers for Covid claims. This is an exception to the usual “prove you got it here” policy for WC claims of disease. Please check with your state department of labor on that. Employers often tell workers misleading things to keep them from filing claims.

      2. Msnotmrs*

        Not to 1-up you, but my state is trying to pass a law that would make that true for basically any government, business, church, club, etc. You wouldn’t be able to sue if you caught COVID, as long as the organization was following our state’s DHM (which are basically nonexistent.)

        1. Annony*

          Oh wow! How atrocious!
          We had a coworker out with covid and the IRS/Fed reimbursed us some of their pay. I had no idea what the check was for! I figured it would be a deduction at the end of the year.

    2. The Time Being*

      My workplace got it really right, in my opinion.

      90% of our work can be done from home, but 10% can’t be — at least, not easily or practically, for industry regs/legal compliance reasons. So what my employer did was this: they asked for volunteers to stay in each office to handle that 10%. To volunteer, you had to commit to upholding the safety rules put in place, including:

      – Mask-wearing (properly)
      – Daily health surveys
      – Temperature checks at the door
      – Weekly covid tests
      et cetera. If you didn’t comply with these requirements, your permission to be in the office got revoked and you got sent home. If you felt that wearing a mask was a violation of your human rights… well, working in the office isn’t a right. Go the f*** home.

      They did not require people who volunteered to be low-risk, but they did encourage people with high-risk conditions not to volunteer.

      I felt it landed in a very good place — being firm about safety precautions and making sure that the only people in the office were a) willing to c0mmit to those precautions and b) actively wanted to be there.

  17. Dave*

    I personally am so grateful for all those that have not been in a WFH position that kept things operational. It is also unfortunate the number of people that might have been able to do WFH that weren’t able to because of their specific company. Thank you to all those essential workers in all sectors of the workforce that continued working outside of the home and dealing with the often the worst of human nature this past year.

    1. bookgal*

      Thank you for saying this. I am an “essential worker” (I work for a printing company) and my full time hours were cut in half, so I spend 3 days a week at work and have since last April. We wear masks, we social distance and we have the office deep cleaned once a month. That said, some of our customers, despite the sign on the door and our loud reminders – even now, a year later! – “forget” their masks, or now they “got their shots”, etc… and we tell them that they are not allowed in without the mask, no matter what. To your point, dealing with the worst of humans almost every day is just another cherry on top of the Covid stress sundae. It’s infuriating.

  18. Nope*

    I’m in HR for a non-profit mental health facility that include a residential (congregate living) component. Administrative staff and life-tenured/high risk staff were sent home immediately to work, if possible… and be paid, regardless. Those whose positions required them to come to work (including a couple of admin staff) were/are provided as much sanitizer, bleach, wipes, lysol, and PPE as we could get our hands on (which, admittedly, was not much in the beginning). Our staff has been amazing, but I know it has not been easy. We have paid staff to be off for illnesses w/o using PTO, regardless of the reason, and we’ve tried to be as flexible as possible with families, knowing that we also have children who live at our facility and require around-the-clock care. We have provided cash bonuses to staff at all levels of the organization several times (high amounts to those working directly with clients/in person and lower amounts to those of us in offices/at home), as our budget/financial position allowed.
    Masks are a challenge, as everyone knows. There are so many strong opinions, but our policy has basically been to suck it up and wear it. As long as our state has a mask mandate in place, we will too… and we’re starting to talk about how we might handle masks should our governor drop the mandate.
    It hasn’t all been perfect, for sure, but I’m proud and very grateful for the way my company has handled it. They are clearly trying to keep everyone safe.

  19. Blisskrieg*

    I worked from home even before the pandemic.

    One of the things that most disturbed me during the pandemic was that the essential workers in stores, etc., who were the “heroes” at the beginning, were not prioritized during the vaccine roll out, at least in my state. I found it so sad that those lauded as heroes for risking their lives throughout were really just receiving lip service.

    I also watched a large box store near us that fought mask enforcement every step of the way (my husband kept calling the department of health on them) and thus refused to protect their workers, has a large sign out front hailing their “heroes.”

    I agree that all of these people are heroes, I’m just sad we didn’t treat them that way when the resources became available. I’m so glad Allison published this perspective today.

    1. Emmie*

      I am frustrated that those front-line essential workers also haven’t been prioritized for medical insurance either. I could rant on large companies who do not provide affordable healthcare for lower wage workers.

      1. More anon today*

        Yeah, I work retail and we’re like stage 2c for vaccination in my state, which meant health care workers got it before us (correctly IMO) and then older people and teachers. In the end we were only eligible maybe three weeks before they opened it to everyone.

        At least my employer has decent health insurance, though we don’t really have sick days (they made an exception for COVID-19). And though many of us are part time, I’m not aware of any of that “no one can work more than 30 hours a week so we don’t have to pay benefits” nonsense here. I became benefits eligible within six months of starting even though I was classified as part time. I’m full time now but have several part time coworkers who I’m pretty sure regularly work over 30 hours a week.

    2. Justme, The OG*

      My state either. They were put in with the general public, actually. It must have been demoralizing for those working in box box stores with pharmacies where the vaccine was being given watch others come into their store to be vaccinated while they were still not eligible.

    3. learnedthehardway*

      Agree so hard with you – it’s ridiculous that frontline workers weren’t prioritized for vaccines. Teachers and essential retail workers, transportation / trucking, warehouse and food production workers SHOULD have been very high priorities. I tend to think we wouldn’t be looking at a 3rd wave, if those people had been vaccinated early (right after medical workers and at-risk elderly people in long term care homes).

    4. Double A*

      Anytime America calls anyone a “hero,” you can bet they’re being neglected in some essential way (underpaid, not provided the resources to keep themselves safe or do their jobs).

      1. Lana Kane*

        Right – because heroes do things because, you know, heroes are selfless and brave. They’d do it for free if they could! /s

    5. Lyra Silvertongue*

      Not here either (Canada). My best friend and her partner have been working throughout the pandemic. Neither has been offered the vaccine, neither have any timeline on when they’ll get it. Making the rollout age based made sense in many ways, but it has been hard for young people working in person to learn that they got totally shafted, again.

      1. Observer*

        Well, the roll out in Canada seems to be a royal mess anyway. They have a lower proportion of the population vaccinated than Brazil. (If you’ve been following what’s been going on there, you’ll know why that’s nuts. If not Google it.) At least the Canadians are using a vaccine that works. Brazil is using a small amount of AstraZanaca, but mostly it’s been SinoVax – which the Chinese have been forced to admit doesn’t work so well.

        1. Chris too*

          You say “they” so I’m assuming you’re not Canadian. We have no domestic vaccine manufacturing here and have been entirely dependent on supplies from other countries. The United States and Britain have both been pumping vaccines out as fast as possible but keeping them strictly for their own citizens, so you can’t compare. I think we’ve done a great job with what we have.

      2. GS*

        In my part of Canada — small-town British Columbia — it was handled pretty well. The First Nations/indigenous folks were vaccinated as much as they wanted at the very beginning, and then they’ve been knocking off the smaller/more remote towns in their entirety one at a time and I think based on infection %. Although I think that’s also logistics thing — no good coming up here for each age group with vaccines when there are only a couple people in each age group, and they’re tired of paying for helicopters to get people to Vancouver — it’s been knocking down infection rates in these towns pretty effectively.

        I just wish there was provision for the migratory workforce, like treeplanters, to get their vaccinations.

        1. CowWhisperer*

          That’s a huge issue here in the US, too, for professional fruit and vegetable pickers who are predominantly from Mexico and Central America. There’s some talk of mobile vaccination units going to the apple orchards around me in season – but there’s always talk and less action.

  20. Anonymousse*

    It’s a privilege to have been able to work from home for the past year. This person is clearly struggling (because who isn’t?) and seeking some more consideration for those less privileged workers who have not had these options. Being aware and showing some empathy to those who literally had no choice is probably a good reminder and I’m glad Allison published this.

  21. Another health care worker*


    I wouldn’t have put it as harshly as this LW did, but in the general sense I really feel the same way. It’s alienating to be so out of step with the majority of online writing about work during Covid. I’ve been going to work at the hospital every day for the duration, and getting vaccinated (before everyone else) changed nothing about my day to day.

    Since you asked: sh*t is rough. Things have improved in the sense that we’ve figured out a lot of the basics, such as telehealth appointments–we’re not re-inventing our jobs constantly like we were a year ago. Everyone who was willing to get the vaccine, has gotten it. Patients are no longer surprised at masking and distancing rules. We no longer have shortages of PPE and sanitizer.

    Things have worsened in the sense of wear and tear. We’ve been in emergency mode for over a year. Lots of my coworkers have health problems flaring up, causing short staffing from medical leave. People’s patience is often thin, and they snap at each other. Revenue losses have led to tighter budgets, at a time when we absolutely need more staff hours and other resources. Patients are generally faring worse or presenting with more severe conditions.

    I feel like my entire office could close for a month, just for us to rest, and it wouldn’t be too much. Yet there’s no end, or even break, in sight.

    1. Jay*

      I’m a doc who hasn’t set foot in a hospital since this started – I do full-time home visits. I know full well that my experience has been a breeze compared to my friends and colleagues who are staffing hospitals and clinics. Primary care and other office-based work was difficult and draining enough before the pandemic. Now? Off the charts. Unmeasurable. We’re going to lose people – an entire traumatized generation of clinicians and support staff who will not be able to sustain their careers.

      1. Another health care worker*

        Judging by your handle, no I am not, but maybe that speaks to a common experience across hospitals across the country.

    2. also in healthcare*

      I’m in an outpatient hospital program with adolescent patients, and we’re to the point of having to CONSTANTLY remind our patients that yes, they still need to wear their masks at all times, yes, the masks do need to cover their noses, and yes, they still need to social distance rather than all congregating in one small area. They were pretty good about it in the fall when we went back to in-person services (we were coming into work before that but providing virtual services), although we still had multiple who tested positive while they were in our program during that time and the hospital did not consider us exposed because we were wearing masks. Now at least the staff is vaccinated (other than a couple who refused it, but that’s a different story), but the stress is still there since the patients just want to act like the pandemic is over.

  22. anonymoushealthcareworker*

    I’ve tried to never to express myself as nakedly as this letter writer has, but I feel liberated reading this letter. As an RN who’s been at work this whole time, in my downtime when my family has had zoom calls, etc, it’s been hard not to roll my eyes when people who have been holed up at home and never actually needing to venture out into the pandemic talk about how hard this experience has been on them. I get that it’s not easy, but I don’t feel that my experiences as an essential worker are even remotely comparable to someone who has been able to work from home, and there is often an element of self-awareness that is badly lacking when non-essential workers talk about their experiences and anxieties.

    I would never be able to say this out loud to friends or family, in short, but I am very glad that this letter writer has delivered this reality check to people who, even if it doesn’t feel like it, have been spoiled during this time.

    1. Owlgal*

      As a RN who is high risk, I, like all my coworkers have gone to work in our hospital day in and day out. No allowances made based on risk factors. Shoulder to shoulder, with my fellow health care workers. We have reworn surgical masks for days. No N-95 masks available because the general public wanted them & literally stole them out of our Emergency rooms and clinics. Last week we finally got permission to throw our used surgical masks away after a day of use rather than keeping them & using them for 3 days. Patients can refuse to be screened for covid and can refuse to wear a mask, and we continue to treat them. Our non-covid unit has been shut down 4 separate times due to a patient becoming symptomatic & finally consenting to covid testing (yep- unsurprisingly positive), which in-turn has infected staff. Short of staff, still.

      So, yeah, the complaints from those who have been safely ensconced in their homes for the last year seem a little trivial by comparison. We’ve lost family, coworkers, and friends… took our 2 days off of bereavement leave, and then returned to take care of our community.

      I do understand your concerns, especially because you’ve been so isolated from the reality of daily risk. But, voicing this fear here, well, it’s tone deaf considering that there’s so many that have faced the risks on the daily for an entire year.

      I got vaccinated in December. During the first week the vaccines became available. And, despite the fast science & the unknowns, it has lifted a huge weight from my shoulders. Risking death in order to honor my commitment to my community was a heavy burden.

      1. Emergency Prince*

        So much this. I’m an ER nurse currently working as a ER nurse educator (I provide orientation for new nurses, and ongoing education, competency, and professional development for experienced nurses). The national narrative of “we’re all in this together” has been extremely alienating. All I hear about is people are bored at home, sick of their houses, they’ve read every book and watched every show, and I’m like, I would kill to have even a few days at home doing absolutely nothing! I am exhausted, to the point where there have been days I was writing an email and fell asleep at my desk mid-sentence. My team is exhausted. We have been working at what feels like a dead run for over a year now, and it’s only just now finally starting to settle into something resembling normal. For a while, I was doing my regular job, plus picking up shifts as a floor nurse in both the ED and the ICU. And the ICU was a nightmare. Every patient had COVID, and every patient was alone and dying. You weren’t “fixing” anyone, just trying to keep them alive another day, or make sure they didn’t die alone. When this all first started, we were “healthcare heroes” and people applauded every night and sent us truly ungodly amounts of food every day…and then suddenly something shifted and we were liars, agents of the deep state, promoters of a hoax, or just plain forgotten about. The heroes thing was weird, but the drastic end to it was even weirder.

        So yeah, the whole “we’re all stuck at home” thing just makes me feel invisible. People being scared to go back to work actually makes sense to me, but it does seem a little, well, precious.

        1. Silm*

          Yes. Quite agree.

          I understand the reluctance to return to work – and even sympathise to a degree – but it does seem a little precious to those of us who’ve been in all along.

          I also agree with your point about feeling invisible. Especially in the first wave when a lot of people I know were continuously posting their banana bread/crafts/DIY/etc homemade projects on social media, and I hadn’t been able to work on any of my hobbies for months because we were flat out at the hospital, covering for colleagues self-isolating etc, in inadequate PPE – I actually left several social media sites as this was so frustrating. I had to move out of my home to avoid exposing (even higher-risk) family members, and so it was a financial struggle too. Our hospital tried but doesn’t really have the space for adequate social distancing for breaks etc, and the official requirements for PPE kept being downgraded as supplies ran low…

          I don’t envy people who were WFH and home schooling their kids, but the cultural narrative in the press etc seems excessively centred around WFH office workers.

    2. Anon at the moment*

      Yes! Yes! My thoughts EXACTLY. A big thanks to Alison for using her platform to highlight this issue

    3. Just Another Zebra*

      Thank you for this. My BIL and SIL will brag sanctimoniously about how careful they’re being, and if everyone were that safe this would all be over. The side-eyeing and the “of course I don’t mean youuuu” when my husband and I bring up that we’re both essential and 100% in person, and our toddler is in daycare…

      I’m happy people have choices. But don’t make this my fault that I don’t.

      1. Smh RN*

        Thank you for this! I’m an RN who works with seniors (thankfully my facility has been AWESOME about procuring supplies and safety protocols) but I’ve spent a year doing risk assessments on possible exposures, telling ppl they can’t see their grandkids or have a birthday celebration and that I have no idea when life will go back to normal. Not mention the ethics of the risks of isolation versus the risk of an outbreak and …you know….death. And then I talk to friends to have been at home all year, only have themselves to worry about and who talk about how they are “done with this cause I miss going to a coffee shop without a mask” and it’s really not a big deal anyway.
        I’m like I’ve had literal mental breakdowns at work because I’m so worried about making the right call. I’m sorry you’re mildly inconvenienced.
        It’s frustrating and I know my experience is nothing compared to the ICU and acute care nurses and those who’ve had to deal with actual outbreaks in their facilities

  23. pretzelgirl*

    I have been working in a office for the entire pandemic. I work at an essential business, at a job that can’t be done remotely (or at least entirely remotely). I have honestly felt safe this entire time. My employer has done a great job at handling this. I was one of the first to receive the vaccine in my state, we are screened everyday, as are visitors. We are given extra time off if we get sick or have to care for a household member that get COVID. Other perks have come up as well.

    I do have CO-VID burnout though. I am honestly tired of hearing about how unsafe everything is still. Getting messages from friends (that I have shut down many times) about how horrible of a world the place is, side effects of the vaccine and everything else. It gets irritating after having been working all along. Yes, I understand the risks and took them anyway. I have a family to feed, and a house to pay for. I understand everyone’s fears, I truly do. But many of us (not necessarily front line workers or medical workers) have been working this whole time. So place have some sympathy for us. Please get vaccinated, please encourage friends and family to do so as well.

    1. Pantalaimon*

      your experience sounds a lot like mine. i was “essential” at the beginning, but then after restrictions very first started loosening last summer, my profession was removed from the list. i have been 60-100% in person since last May. Things are a little different: i keep my office door closed a lot more than i did before, i don’t like it anymore when the boss tries to crowd the whole staff into the conference room, and i do really miss going to offsite meetings.

      but what’s MUCH more stressful is hearing my retired family members tell me that i’m taking too many risks by taking the metro while they’re having in-person indoor book clubs and booking cruises. or friends who only work 2-3 days a week (for several years) talk about how burnt out they are. or my unemployed partner being holier-than-thou about my contact with the few people in my office (who have been great at distance and masking) while planning a third pandemic vacation across the country to see friends and family.

    2. Bostonian*

      Yup. I really feel your last paragraph. My husband has been back to work since last June (retail sales), and it’s hard to hear from family who haven’t left the house AT ALL talk about how reckless we are for going hiking (really) or getting takeout.

      It’s like, he’s risked worse every day to go to work. Passing someone masked outdoors on a hiking trail isn’t going to be what does us in! It’s going to be the guy in the store who takes his mask off to sneeze.

      1. pretzelgirl*

        Yes! Omg YES. I am so tired of the judgement about safe socially distant activities.

  24. Silly goose*

    Both my spouse and I are essential (as defined by the US government pre-pandemic).

    It has been very hard, as we both have to go to the office some times (for actual work needs for stuff that keeps us all safe) and the kids’ schools are remote. That’s been… Nearly impossible because we can’t both go in at the same time without significant difficulty.

    The part that has been emotionally hard is that the ‘essential workers’ as defined by the states in our area don’t include us! So we had to wait until we qualified for the vaccines ourselves. Meanwhile, teachers are top of the list and school is still remote. That’s been super frustrating.

    Our office had been great, to be honest, which has really helped… But coworkers who don’t follow rules (staying in a conference room after being asked to leave die to capacity rules, for instance) have been difficult.

    1. Kristina*

      Maybe we live in the same state, since I’m a public school teacher eligible for a vaccine before essential workers while school is still largely remote. I just want to say clearly that the whole situation is foul and disgusting to me, and that I have raised ruckus after ruckus about how impossible the district is making education for households where both parents have essential jobs to no avail. I am so sorry so many districts (run by people, frankly, who have never been even close to poor in their lives and just do. NOT. GET. IT) are not listening to their teachers or families. We have good ideas about how all of this could be run differently/better. It is exasperating to be ignored so completely.

    2. HelenofWhat*

      This was extremely frustrating for my husband as well. His job has put staff on an alternating week schedule, so he is in the shop (or visiting client offices) two weeks a month. While he’s lucky in some ways (he has an office to retreat to and the other person with access is only working there during his off week), he still has to work on the floor regularly and not all the staff there have been great about distance and masking. They’re also getting only paid for time in office or at a client site, including salaried workers, but he often works on off weeks remotely just so vital things get done. So far less pay, less productivity, management without any plans to get the business on track, (even now!) and health worries. He’s fixing up his resume.
      It’s been terribly frustrating and stressful for him and on top of that to not be vaccine eligible for months, despite performing in person “essential” work the entire pandemic is really distasteful.
      So yeah, my heart has been with essential workers this past year.

    3. AndreaJEP*

      I’m a teacher who has been in-person this whole school year, and we were absolutely NOT at the top of the vaccination list. Maybe you just meant teachers in your area, but every time I read comments like this, I wonder whether people don’t realize that not every district in the country is remote.

  25. insertusernamehere*

    As someone who has been back at work since last June, dealing with the public, mass crowds, employer’s holding events for 3,000+ people, being yelled at for asking people to wear masks, being yelled at by people who complain about other people not wearing masks, coworkers coming to work after being exposed to covid at unmasked weddings, bosses coming in to work while an at home family member actually has covid, losing the prospect of unemployment when you quit an unsafe environment – and a job you once loved, it has not felt like the same thing as having been safe and protected at home collecting a full salary for the past year and not feeling forced to put oneself at personal risk and harm for a paycheck.

    1. Pickled Limes*

      All of this. I used to love my job. But covid showed me how little my job actually thinks about me, and now I can’t wait to get away.

    2. More anon today*

      “being yelled at for asking people to wear masks, being yelled at by people who complain about other people not wearing masks”
      Yes, you cannot win.

      1. Here we go again*

        Being forced to enforce a health department code or law, you when you didn’t sign up for working in law enforcement or the health department is what really pisses me off. Please don’t compare enforcing the mask to wearing a shirt or shoes. When I worked part time in gas station when I was in college I only had to mention once and they guy was like “sorry but here’s my $20 for pump 3 I forgot my shirt at home and I’m outta gas.”

        1. More anon today*

          In my store we aren’t even allowed to approach people directly, we just have signs and make reminder announcements regularly. And we still get complaints.

          1. Here we go again*

            I’d rather that. Than having to stop people at the door, tell them the health departments/ governors orders. I make commission so I have to be a neutral as possible about politics. But honestly I’m more indifferent to the mask thing. It’s not my business if a stranger doesn’t wear the mask. I can only control what I do. (I find that it’s better for my mental health and blood pressure) I take my vitamins, wash my hands, watch what I eat exercise and wash my hands more.

    3. Puppernut*

      As a veterinary professional, let me say that I am so looking forward to treating your under- socialized dogs and cats for the next 10-15 years or so. Am also looking forward to dealing with their separation anxiety when you go back. We had no furloughs, are three months behind on surgeries, two staff caught it, and now almost all the food is on backorder. On top of asking people daily to wear masks properly. There are no new vets for hire and people scream at us daily because they have to wait a month to get a rabies shot. Thank god that working in of the most underpaid medical professions with the literal highest suicide rates qualifies me for a covid shot a few days before my spouse does. At least I get some sun while standing in the parking lot trying to scream at you the test results over the sound of the highway.

      Trust me, no one is happy about this, but could everyone please stop complaining about how hard it is to adjust to the office again? People who never left want to stab you in the eye with a broken clipboard. Please and thank you.

  26. learnedthehardway*

    I can only imagine how upsetting it is for people in retail roles and other roles that deal directly with the public, to hear other people complaining about working from home and then being anxious about going back to work. Well, actually, I get to hear about it, as I have family members who work in these roles. I am constantly worried for their safety and the safety of their families.

    It is a real privilege to work from home. I get that not everyone is suited to it, and that some people really suffer with their mental health by being deprived of in person interaction. But overall, it’s a huge advantage in a pandemic.

    Funny thing is – I’ve been working from home for over 10 years now, and to some extent, it’s been a bit grating that all the workarounds and accommodations that have been made over the past year were previously considered (by some) to be a huge imposition and detriment to doing business, before COVID. I have somewhat chuckled to myself some days this past year, seeing people scrambling to figure out things that I dealt with 10 years ago. (I’m keeping the amusement to myself, and am providing actionable suggestions. But there is a certain level of schadenfreude, particularly with people who used to assume I couldn’t do their project as well as if I were in their offices. The individual who once objected that I was not committed enough, because I had to ring off a conference call at 7:30 PM to feed my kids is particularly amusing to me, these days.)

    1. Magenta Sky*

      We get more customers who are upset if they see someone without a mask than who refuse to put one on. But we don’t argue with the ones who won’t (and inevitably claim an ADA exemption, knowing we can’t legally make them prove it). Our policy – as every lawyer in the country has said it should be – is that if you can’t wear a mask, give us a list of what you need and wait in your car while we shop for you. It’s amazing how many can, somehow, manage to tolerate a mask for a few minutes at that point. (The rest want to get into a fist fight. Literally. But that’s what 911 is for, and we do not hesitate.)

      1. learnedthehardway*

        My husband manages a (non-essential) retail store, and the stories he and my oldest son tell me (oldest works there occasionally) about non-mask wearers are infuriating. And this is in Canada! (Most people here take the pandemic seriously, wear their masks, and generally do their best to comply with COVID restrictions. But there are always some exceptions.)

        It’s never the people who have genuine reasons with masks who are difficult – most of them are grateful for the curbside pick up. It’s the ones who don’t really believe in masks and who are claiming a medical reason to not wear one as a way to get around the requirement, who act entitled about it. The store policy is that you either wear a mask in the store, or you don’t come in. If you can’t wear a mask, consult the online site, and someone will bring out what you want.

      2. Cabubbles*

        I got cussed at for informing a customer who refused to wear a mask that we have curbside shopping for people like her and her son. She then called corporate and then magically I can only recommended and remind not enforce. It was beyond frustrating.

    2. FundraiserNYC*

      I’m an essential worker and was back at work full-time since May and my significant other is in retail management and has been back at work since June. He is exhausted from policing customers and manning the lines at the door. He has to constantly ask people to wear their masks and they sometimes yell and get in his face. It’s such a dangerous situation, yet our governor never included retail workers on the list of priority groups to get the vaccine. He only just now qualified for a vaccine because he’s in the age 30+ group. The disregard for retail workers in our state is unreal. They were required to be at work every single day and received no protection or thanks.

    3. Exhausted (no longer) Frontline Worker*

      “It is a real privilege to work from home. I get that not everyone is suited to it, and that some people really suffer with their mental health by being deprived of in person interaction. But overall, it’s a huge advantage in a pandemic.”

      Very well said. I know that working from home has been extremely tough on many people, but having the option to prioritize and protect your physical health is a privilege essential workers don’t have.

  27. Anonyyyyy*

    My husband works as a manager at a large grocery store just outside of a city. They have over 400 people employed there. He’s dealt with anti-maskers, racism, so many people out on quarantine, staff members dying, you think of it and he’s had to handle it. They are constantly short staffed because of quarantines. They are absolutely exhausted and many probably traumatized from their experiences with the public and the virus this past year.

    Please be kind to people, tip really, really well and stay home if you don’t want to wear a mask.

    Thank you, Allison for giving others a chance to speak about their experiences.

  28. Like, Totally Anonymous, Man*

    Thank you for posting this. I’ve been mostly on-site since the first few months of the pandemic passed, given that the vast majority of my work simply cannot be done from home and I had to scramble to learn about a completely different aspect of my field in order to do anything productive from home. Coming into the building is currently still voluntary for everyone, but I expect that to begin changing over the summer as vaccination rates go up.

    One thing that I have been struggling with is people who act like I am gleefully endangering others by choosing to come into the building, or people who act superior because they are able to stay home or actively choosing to do so. I’ve seen this attitude from colleagues and in the comments here and it is incredibly disheartening. I comply with all posted regulations, I wear a mask except for the seconds when I am actively sipping a drink, I get tested weekly, I minimize potential exposures in my personal life. I understand that everyone’s risk tolerance levels are different and I am fiercely advocating for keeping WFH as an option going forward so people whose jobs seem (like mine) to have to be done on site can have flexibility around lack of childcare, mild illness, or even the simple occasional mental need to be in a different environment. Everyone should have options insofar as they are feasible, and we have learned that we have more flexibility than we thought. That’s a rare positive from this situation.

    But I am not evil for wanting to do my actual job, and it is incredibly disheartening to feel the smug superiority from people who cannot fathom why someone would want to return to an office. I hate working from home. I loathe it. I cannot do it. I have tried just about everything, and working from home is absolute agony; even when I save up simple projects for these days, I simply cannot force my brain into being cooperative when I am not at the office. Work from home days usually leave me in tears because it is so, so difficult for me. This is a me issue, sure, but working from home is taking a significant and very real toll on my mental health, one that has been lessened as I have increased my time on site. I feel like there is no room in this conversation for people like me, who take the virus seriously and yet actually need or want to be on site; there’s no middle ground.

    I am happy for people who have discovered work from home to be a bonus, I truly am. And I think companies need to carefully consider when being on-site is necessary and when it is not in ways they refused to do before the pandemic forced the issue. Forcing people to return before they are ready fails to acknowledge the trauma of this historical moment and a return to on-site work needs to be carefully thought out, with maximum understanding for those who just cannot bring themselves to do it yet.

    But it is also deeply hurtful to imply that no one should want to return to on-site work, that anyone who does is an anti-masker who is willfully endangering everyone around them. I’m just trying to survive each day like everyone else, and on-site work is one aspect of what I need to do so. I wish more people understood that.

    1. Silent support*

      So much of this is me, thank you. I don’t say anything anymore, since I am tired and it’s not worth all the attacks from all sides, but I’m here with you.

    2. pretzelgirl*

      I agree, the comments on this site over the last year have sometimes been disheartening. As well as the general consensus of the public in general.

      1. PT*

        The commenters on this site are very, very privileged. And they are often prone to privilege-splaining the plight of the less privileged. It’s very maddening.

    3. learnedthehardway*

      Some people are just judgmental idiots, regardless of what stance they take on an issue. They’re invariably people who build themselves up by tearing others down. Sorry you are dealing with those types. It’s a “them” issue, not a “you” issue, if that helps.

    4. EventPlannerGal*

      This is so well-put.

      I’ve been working on-site either part-time (1/2 days a week) or full-time since last April, being the on-site admin person supporting my team. The difference in what I can accomplish at home and what I can accomplish on-site is astounding. I am useless WFH, I mean, I genuinely feel like I’m working inside some kind of horrible smog. I can’t do it, I don’t want to do it and doing it makes my brain feel like an old wrung-out sponge. The attitude on here towards people who want to go back has been really, really shitty and disheartening.

    5. automaticdoor*

      But it is also deeply hurtful to imply that no one should want to return to on-site work, that anyone who does is an anti-masker who is willfully endangering everyone around them. I’m just trying to survive each day like everyone else, and on-site work is one aspect of what I need to do so. I wish more people understood that.

      I feel you. I’ve been back in my office full-time since December (pre-vaccine, obviously) because I could. not. take working from home any longer. I have bipolar disorder and the lack of true routine and separation were making me suicidally depressed. Before December, I still had to come in a couple of days a week to process mail and other things that couldn’t be handled from home. I’ve been hiding my in-person work from some of my friends who are privileged enough to a) WFH entirely and b) think that anyone leaving their home is a monster, even though they’re relying on Amazon and Instacart… (Don’t worry, I’m not lying in order to see them! They’re still at home, of course, so no one has been endangered by my omissions.)

  29. Escaped a Work Cult*

    I’ve been in the office for most of the pandemic and at the beginning, just being a company of 3-5 other people, it was fine. I missed the interaction. I’m more annoyed that everyone went back to WFH in November and I’m stuck here because our boss needs me to bounce ideas off of. I can absolutely do my job from home and I’m so angry about this. I would like to be mostly WFH but anything behold my day or two? Gets denied with vehemence. I’m starting to look for a different job.

  30. Magenta Sky*

    I work for an essential service retailer. We’ve been out in the trenches the entire time. The only day we’ve been closed in the last year that we would usually have been open was Easter last year, and that was because March and April were *so* busy – 2-3 times the usual amount of business for the time of year (we really *are* an essential service retailer) – we all really did need a day off. We’re still doing 20%+ more business than last year, and now we’re up against post-lockdown numbers.

    But life goes on, and our owner actually gives a damn about his employees, so we adopted a mask mandate before the state required it, put up transparent shields between cashiers and customers (and built some for neighboring stores), closed our bathrooms to the public, and learned to clean and disinfect obsessively. We’ve had a few employees who were diagnosed with COVID, and more who quarantined due to possible exposure, and one store was closed for 3 days while everyone was tested, but so far as I know, no deaths among employees.

    When other stores in our end of retail were running 20% callouts from people who were (usually rightly – most places tend to hire a lot of retirees because they require less training) afraid to come to work, we were running 5%, because we hire younger people and train them (which is expensive, but worth every penny), including a lot of students whose part time job for party money was suddenly the sole source of income for their family – and because they could see their boss actually cared.

    Meanwhile, we’re getting more five star reviews than ever, with as many comments on the friendly quality of service as on how people feel safe in our stores, and our bonus program made for about a 30% increase in pay for everybody due to the incredible level of business. We all (including the owner) would have preferred a normal year last year, but financially, we’ve done very, very well. I can’t say there hasn’t been stress, but it’s as much from the amount of work as from worry over the pandemic.

    Some companies got it very, very right. Gonna miss the big bonuses, though.

  31. AceLibrarian*

    Honestly, it’s not been great. I’ve been back to work full time with the public for nearly a year, so I can for sure feel the frustration of the person who wrote in. I’m in Florida, and in a county that decided to not have a mask mandate even the worst of the pandemic.

    It’s been frustrating to read about people who’ve been able to work from home this entire time and are now acting like returning to the office is their worst nightmare when it’s been my life for a year. I can certainly sympathize – I don’t want anyone to be in that position, but it makes me so jealous that other people have had the privilege to not feel that panic until now, with the vaccines rolling out, when for the last year I’ve been deemed essential (I’m not) and forced to work with an elderly population that can’t stop taking their masks off to hear better and won’t stand in front of the plexiglass unless forced.

    1. Lunch Eating Mid Manager*

      Virtual hugs. Saving grace for my job has been we are closed to the public.

    2. I know I sound terrible*

      “It’s been frustrating to read about people who’ve been able to work from home this entire time and are now acting like returning to the office is their worst nightmare when it’s been my life for a year. I can certainly sympathize – I don’t want anyone to be in that position, but it makes me so jealous that other people have had the privilege to not feel that panic until now, with the vaccines rolling out, when for the last year I’ve been deemed essential (I’m not) and forced to work with an elderly population that can’t stop taking their masks off to hear better and won’t stand in front of the plexiglass unless forced.”

      I’d like to second this entire quote. (I also don’t consider myself essential.)

    3. Miss Katonic*

      I also work in your profession. I don’t know what Florida is like, but where I am, we were deemed essential enough to be open this whole time but not essential enough for priority vaccine access with the educators, public transit workers, grocery workers, and corrections officers. And I’m just emotionally and spiritually exhausted. My faith in humanity no longer exists, tbh.

  32. Bookworm*

    I know this is specifically for people who have been unable to work from home, so I just wanted to give a thanks and a shout-out to all of you who have had to work on-site/in public-facing jobs, etc. Thank you for all that you’ve done and for putting yourselves at risk, even if you didn’t want to/were forced to. We do appreciate all that you’ve done.

    1. I know I sound terrible*

      thank you for this! and I’d like to suggest trying to find a way to tell the people in your community that.

      like, I’m a librarian and while a note or food wouldn’t erase the last year (or the not-nice library patrons we’ve had to deal with on the front lines who complain about in-person stuff not being back or how much it suucks to wear a mask for a couple hours to people who have to wear one for 8+), it wouldn’t hurt. obviously I can’t speak for everyone, but showing appreciation if you can is a great idea. :)

  33. R. D.*

    Pushback isn’t just coming from people working off-site. I reported in person June through August, then again from October through now, but my comments were deleted anyway. AAM, please don’t assume that gentle dissent or disagreement about where frustrations should be directed necessarily means someone is NOT reporting on site. This makes a big assumption.

    1. miro*

      If you were part of the discussions in the first comment thread or two, she deleted the whole threads, so it probably wasn’t a personal/targeted deletion/assumption.

    2. Lucious*

      As someone who rotates on site & off site, there are few to no safe areas for the on-site workers to share and vent. There were a lot of tone-deaf comments in this thread earlier . If establishing a safe space here meant Allison removed more comments than needed, the sacrifice is worth it.

  34. gingersnap*

    Thank you for this. My employer has had their head in the sand and has had us mostly on site for the duration of the pandemic. We worked from home for a few weeks early on and then were back in as soon as government regulations let us. We’re in no way essential but a religious org and leadership keeps coming at us with the “we’re a community and need to be together to do our work!” At one point we got an email saying that “anxiety about the virus was no longer an excuse to stay home full time.”

    We were allowed to work a day or two at home but last week that was ended and now we’re back full time. I’m constantly angry at our leadership’s decisions, annoyed at my coworkers who aren’t taken seriously and aghast that we have as much covid in the building and I’m required to be here. There’s about 150 people and we have had nearly 40 cases so well above where we should be percentage wise. Masking is sporadic at best, vaccinations aren’t being encouraged, and while I love my work and my boss in my department I’m just tired of feeling infantilized by the leadership. My degree is pretty specific to my job and this is the one place I can use it so its not like I can pick up and find a new job without moving to a new city. I’m burnt out and feeling crazy.

    All that to say, thanks for this post Alison and for letting me vent. Didn’t realize how much I needed to.

  35. Trout 'Waver*

    My partner and I are both essential workers and didn’t miss a day, despite all the shutdown orders and such.

    My workplace: Full of scientists and doesn’t work with the general public. We have had no issues with fully compliant (nose and mouth covered) mask wearing and social distancing. We also have a culture of believing science and a culture of not letting servicepeople and support contractors into the building without proper mask wearing and public health adherence. Due to this, despite having employees who tested positive for COVID, we have had zero transmission at work. I am really proud of my team and workplace for working safely during the pandemic.

    My partner’s workplace: A government building open to the public. No cohesive rules around masks. Poor public health decision-making by policy makers. A terrifying nightmare. Fortunately my partner isn’t in a high risk group. So the major threat is transmitting the virus and not to my partner directly. 99% of what they do could be done remotely but egos got in the way. Ugh.

    1. PostalMixup*

      My spouse and I are in a similar situation to you. We are both laboratory workers for a large international science company and have been on-site at least to some extent this whole time. From the beginning, masks have been required with virtually 100% compliance (the phrase “mask wearing is a required condition for continued employment” probably helped). Everyone who can work off-site is required to. All meetings are required to be virtual. Our manufacturing lines installed safety measures and changed up shifts to allow distancing. Our COVID quarantine policies go above and beyond the standard, in a way that might be excessive. We get sent home for two weeks if we have any COVID symptoms, including something as minor as a headache or sore throat. We are required to remain off-site if anyone in our household is in quarantine, even without symptoms (which makes a lot of sense to me, and I don’t understand why this isn’t standard). And as a result, we’ve had zero on-site transmission. It’s been a really great mix of being able to leave the house and see people other than my family, while also feeling very safe.

      1. Science Tech*

        I’m in a similar boat – I’m a tech in a academic research lab, and because I ran out of things to do at home, was brought back in several days a week. I’m lucky because our building is very new so it has great ventilation, and our department and university were very strict about masking, distancing, and so on. But I have anxiety, so going into the office (and people not sticking strictly to distancing policies/sanitizing policies, or walking in on them not wearing masks) made me incredibly anxious and stressed all the time, worrying that I would get COVID and bring it home to my husband. I had to report people several times to get the behavior to stop, and even then, I’m not convinced that they weren’t just hiding it better.

        My husband, on the other hand, has been at home the whole time. His workplace opened up the office to allow people to go back fairly early and had masking and distancing policies but they don’t enforce them at all. So as they’ve been pushing him to go back into the office, he’s been trying to avoid it in every way he can. Now that he’s vaccinated, they’re pushing really hard for him to go back to work, which makes me anxious because I’m not vaccinated yet, and I don’t trust his workplace to be safe enough! It’s been a lot on all sides, but I know that I would be way way more stressed and anxious if either of us were in public-facing positions.

        1. BaffledByOblivious*

          It’s nice to hear there are companies out there getting it right.

          Lab worker for a presumably different international science company here. In theory we did everything right, but in practice it’s mostly been lip service.

          We’re only to be on-site during our assigned shift which are all 7-3, 3-11, and 11-7 to avoid contact between shifts (since we aren’t all going to be coming and going through the same doors at the same times? (spoiler: we were all literally told to use the same entrance)). Nevermind the fact that half of us work 4 10s because some assays just don’t work in 8 hours, or that if we run the same assays and start at the same time we end up competing for the same equipment. Also no mention of how we’re supposed to take our lunch.

          We’re broken into subteams that we work closely with and shouldn’t have contact with others so if somebody gets sick they can notify and quarantine the subteam. Every other desk is to be left empty so we have at least 2 if not 3 people sharing each desk (different shifts), but half the time a person’s desk is not available when they arrive so they sit at another. The person added to my desk can’t sit at his because it is adjacent to another in use, and can’t move down one because it isnt the right subteam (tho he can use it for the first few hours of the day until his assigned desk is available). My desk is also adjacent to an assigned desk (of a subteam that is neither mine nor his), but apparently that’s not a problem.

          Early on 6 ft zones were marked to maintain social distancing. Not like you stand here and they stand 6ft away, but you get these 6 ft and they get the adjacent 6 ft. Many of these 6 ft zones were decidedly less than 5 ft.

          Masks were required about a day before local mandates went into effect. Some people wore them earlier. The only mask restriction is no N-95s without training. Gaiters, bandanas, stupid freakin’ vented masks? All a-okay apparently. I also see a lot of noses.

          Cafeteria closed so people eat at their desks and logic quickly became “I can eat at my desk therefore I don’t need to wear my mask whenever I sit at my desk”.

          In theory any symptoms mean get tested and stay home. We had someone come in with a nasty cough saying “don’t worry, the doctor said it’s probably just a virus”. Got them to leave early, but 2 days later they were back having coughing fits so severe they were pulling their mask off to get more air.

          In theory any travel means quarantine before returning to work, but the people willing to travel (for pleasure) during a pandemic are generally not particularly interested in spending extra PTO to quarantine and nobody is enforcing it. One person went to Florida right at their peak, came to work for a day, left the state for a wedding, and was back at work Monday.

          Somebody went home for Christmas, but “only for 3 days because my family is terrible about covid precautions”.

          There are definitely some things we just can’t implement (we only have so much space), but we could’ve done a much better job with enforcement.

          Fortunately we seem to be embracing vaccination, and as far as I know haven’t had workplace transmission (though that could be partially due to mediocre contact tracing and lack of testing).

    2. Exhausted (no longer) Frontline Worker*

      I appreciate you pointing out that in-person work experiences can be so different during the pandemic, and for some people it has been relatively low risk. My mom works in non-essential retail that can’t be done from home. She was furloughed for a few months last spring and received unemployment, but since the summer has been back in the store. But there’s never more than two people in the store at a time and they’ve switched to 100% contact-free curbside pickup. So in terms of risk at work, her experience was more similar to yours.

      I was a social worker in homeless services. While we moved everything outside, I saw tons of people every day, mask wearing and proper distancing were a nightmare to enforce, and in the beginning we didn’t have enough supplies like hand sanitizer. Some of my coworkers got COVID. I never had symptoms and am vaccinated now, but I wouldn’t be shocked if I had an asymptomatic case at some point and never knew, especially the first few months when it was hard to access tests. While neither my mom nor I worked from home, we had VERY different experiences and she constantly worried about me, but I didn’t really worry about her (other than her age, but that applied to my fully WFH dad as well).

  36. Rainy*

    We have both in my family: I have been home for over a year, and my spouse’s office never closed because it’s not possible to do his work from home. We experience different kinds of stress and anxiety about this, but we definitely both feel it. And in fact we both had to get tested yesterday because one of his coworkers has just tested positive and is sick with covid. (Mr Rainy is fully vaccinated, and I am scheduled for my second jab this weekend, so we are very hopeful that things will be okay.)

    I think our situation is pretty common in multiple-adult households, going by my friends’ and colleagues’ experiences.

  37. Katie*

    I work at a hospital in IT and we were required to come back in the building last May before our states stay at home order was even lifted. Masks have always been and continue to be required even though 75% of us have been vaccinated and we do virtual meetings a lot still. I do get to work from home one day a week, but I did that before the pandemic. I have also struggled like OP with this narrative of people going back to the office. Especially here in the rural county I live in, it feels like some people went through an entirely different pandemic. As one essential worker in another comment put it, we are just tired!! And the time when we were “healthcare heroes” has long passed, people don’t want to listen to our campaigns pushing for masks and vaccines and just want to go back to “normal”.

  38. nonnynon*

    Yes, thank you.

    While I haven’t had anybody say having to go back in office (or similar) is worse than those who never were able to WFH, and I don’t even necessarily think that there are a lot of people who believe that, so much of the media and blogs (including this one) have been hyper focused on “everyone needing to go back” that it does feel like your just being left on the sidelines. I feel a huge disconnect to so many people who have been WFH, almost like I’m living in a different world. I don’t think anyone is saying that it’s a competition, I think we’re/I’m just saying can there be at least one conversation where we can participate in the discussion? And to be honest these initial comments feel like the answer is no.

    1. gingersnap*

      Yes, completely agree! The general narrative is completely focused on going back and for those of us who never left it just feels a bit exhausting…

    2. JB*

      Agreed. And before then the narrative was ‘how to adjust to working from home’, ‘are we more productive working from home?’ and social media posts about how the ‘silver lining’ of the pandemic is how ‘everyone’ gets to spend more time with their family, and just asking ‘what new hobbies have you picked up during COVID?’ like everyone has a ton of extra time now.

      The new hobby I picked up for COVID is sleeping more. My sister (working overtime in medical labs to get vaccines and life-saving medical devices tested as quickly as possible, and getting called a monster for it by the general public because they need to test on animals before they just install a medical device in a human) picked up the fun new hobby of weekly therapy.

    3. Double A*

      I had a remote job before the pandemic and our life was actually set up pretty seamlessly for lockdowns.

      But I have been wondering how in-person workers have been doing. It’s been such an overlooked group. After the first few months of the pandemic, when there was talk of heroes and hazard pay, essential workers have become almost completely invisible in the media.

      I’m grateful to hear from essential and in-person workers. I want to know how you’re all doing.

  39. Concertina*

    My work cannot be done remotely but luckily is not public facing. I work in a construction materials testing lab and all my coworkers are old dudes who think the CDC is liberal hoax. Today I was training someone and he kept his mask off the whole time we were standing 2 feet apart sharing a workstation. He talks to me constantly but always TAKES HIS MASK OFF to talk to me. My other direct coworker insists that his doctor told him the mask works just as well if it doesn’t cover his nose. I… I am going to lose it. There’s a hiring freeze right now so when my coworker retires next month my lab will just be me and my supervisor and I’m just a seasonal temp. Someone send me a pizza or something before I launch myself into Neptune.

    1. Chantel*

      I’m so sorry, Concertina. It sounds unimaginably frustrating.

      Sending as many virtual pizzas as you’d like.

  40. Katie Fisher*

    The whole year has cemented how little my employer cares about me. I work in healthcare (in an outpatient specialty, none of our appointments are truly urgent). We begged for 6 months to have hand sanitizer ordered for our front desk. We sat in meetings where the ‘work from home’ coworkers were praised for their flexibility, and no comments were made thanking those of us dealing with patients who insisted on being seen in person (even if we didn’t deem it necessary) only to come in and take their masks off every 5 seconds.

    I wish my frustration and annoyance would go away now that I’m ‘vaccinated’ and safer, but I can’t help but feel continued resentment.

  41. ketchikan9*

    I work in a hospital. I’m exhausted. ALL. THE. TIME. I’m tired of being yelled at because people have to wear a mask. I’m tired of being yelled at because someone saw someone in the building not wearing a mask. I’m tired of being yelled at because we’re not vaccinating enough people. I’m tired of being yelled at because we’re “pushing poison into people’s bodies.” I’m just tired. There’s no relief to be had for me other than to get out of healthcare.

    1. Hula-la*

      I’m very sorry and sending virtual hugs. I wish that I could be at your hospital to run interference on people who yell at you. I hope that you find some sense of peace.

  42. jack*

    I’m in the food supply chain, but fortunate enough to not be working with the public. Going into work, especially over the summer before my job required masks, was absolutely brutal. I would lock myself into my office once a week and just cry. I had permanent headaches and muscle spasms in my back from the stress of being around people and hearing about people going out on quarantine. The only good thing that happened was being pretty far up on the vaccine priority list, honestly.

    1. KatieHR*

      Food supply chain here as well. Headaches, muscle pain, anxiety and panic attacks were the norm for me. Fun times.

    2. ThereAreNoRulesAndThePointsDontMatter*

      Food supply over here. I have ulcerative colitis now. And a pinched nerve in my neck. All diagnosed since going back to the office full-time in April 2020.

  43. GripesofWrath*

    I honestly really empathize with the LW. I have been in the office this whole time and it does feel like the folks who are expected to come back are carrying a cross so to speak and it isn’t very sensitive to others. I don’t know about LW but where I work we have been getting a litany of emails from the top tier of admin saying we are working hard and to make sure to take care of ourselves. But we have no idea what our schedule will be once May starts (HQ not sure what they want yet so managers had to make 2 different schedules), no performance reviews because they can’t tie a raise to it due to them not being sure about finances, working crazy hours to cover because they aren’t hiring, and still being overwhelmed with mixed messages. Self care? When?
    But my coworker who is working from home can mow their lawn, run errands, and wear pjs during the day is now complaining about how worried she is about coming back? That hits wrong but it’s mostly emotional and like an avalanche of things my managers should have addressed anyway.
    I think everyone’s bandwidth is just gone tbh. I try very hard to remember we all face different issues and my perspective is skewed from being tired, reminding members of the public to wear their masks correctly constantly, and just everything else.
    Sorry about that rant! It’s been bottled up for awhile haha! I want to be clear I believe I can be grouchy about this personally but it can never ever bleed over into how I address or treat my coworkers. Or anyone else who is anxious about returning.
    And thanks to the essential workers. People do forget who is staffing the places they are visiting to “get out of the house.”

  44. AB*

    I have some time in the office periodically to run in office things for my team, but most of my work time is from home. My partner has been in the office since day one, for all days, because they do essential government services that allow people access to health care and other benefits. I have been afraid for them this entire time, and they basically haven’t been allowed time off or sick leave because they’ve been running an office while 99% of their coworkers were allowed to work from home.

    Part of this conversation that I think a lot of WFH people miss is that people who are required to be in the office largely are there because they’re essential and therefore their coworkers who are at home are relying on in office staff to do things that take far longer. In office workers right now are having to add a lot to their jobs that they might not otherwise have on their plate, and while it may not necessarily be that WFH folks are directly responsible for the work shift, they are still benefiting from work being redistributed while their colleagues wear more hats and often with less time off available.

    No one is saying WFH hasn’t been difficult. I can acknowledge that it has, since I spent most of last year doing work from home. It’s lonely and sometimes much harder to get the work done. But: as a chronically ill person? I have hugely benefited from being able to have wfh time. My partner is also chronically ill and hasn’t had the luxury, and the toll is evident. The difference is palpable in our experiences, but the dominate conversation looks more like people talking about being fearful about their families going back into the office, when families like mine have only been able to mitigate so much risk. I think that’s the consideration people like OP are asking for:

    In office/essential staff have sacrificed a lot this year in terms of their health and well being in a way that’s not really comparable, but the focus has been largely on WFH folks. OP is simply asking for some consideration that having a large number of people returning is also difficult for them and they haven’t been able to safe guard themselves as well as those working from home during the pandemic.

  45. Miki*

    Worked from home full time March 20-June 8 2020. Went back to work June 8 2020 (full time) until November 2020, from then on mornings are on site, afternoons from WFH.

    Some coworkers have been WFH all this time, never once set foot in the office. That’s about to change as they have to start coming to work at least twice a week, part time.
    All this to get them to slowly get used to it being back in office.

    And to be honest, I like working in office (masked, socially distanced here); I developed a severe case of tendonitis in my right elbow the first three months of WFH since my home is not made for WFH (tiny place, with no adequate furniture) and my doctor specifically wrote a note saying I can’t work more than half time from home.

  46. SnowboarderChick**

    Removed because in violation of the rule at the top — but there’s some good discussion in response which I’d like to leave. – Alison

    1. R. D.*

      “But the solution isn’t to blame office workers who don’t want to return to the office, the real guilty part here are irresponsible bosses and companies who put their profits above people’s safety. It is possible to have solidarity and support for essential workers while also being unsure about returning to the office.”

      This right here.

    2. Calliope*

      It’s not blaming office workers for the situation. It’s blaming the discourse on this site specifically for the way it’s talked about office workers vs. frontline workers, particularly in the comments section. I think the number of people running in to say that “No, we do have it horribly! Don’t talk about frontline workers specifically!” are making exactly that point.

    3. miro*

      The OP isn’t blaming office workers, they’re expressing some (super valid, IMO) frustration at how people who can work from home have been continually centered in media coverage at the expense of essential, in-person workers.

      It’s pretty frustrating to see that even in a discussion that Alison specifically designated for essential/in-person workers to share their experiences, people are still turning it back to talk about office workers instead.

      1. Tired*

        This. So much. No one is blaming office workers for the treatment of essential workers. We’re blaming you for whining and being shocking tone deaf by complaining about risks you’re being asked to take that we’ve been forced to take for 13 months. Wrong audience. Literally every other thread Allison posts is for you…..this is not.

    4. Dust Bunny*

      Nobody is blaming office workers, it’s just pointing out that a lot of attention has been paid to the stress of working from home and now the stress of transitioning back and appallingly little has been paid to the people who were at work all along. Everyone was worried about getting a grocery-delivery appointment but didn’t seem to acknowledge that every grocery delivery depends on a bunch of service workers being physically at work. And then insult was added to injury when service workers weren’t prioritized for vaccines. The people who enabled us all to work from home and avoid public spaces haven’t gotten nearly enough attention.

    5. Double A*

      Yes, and the experience of office workers has been discussed endlessly. This is not the space for that.

    6. Pickled Limes*

      I don’t blame the people who have been working from home for feeling nervous and worried about going back. I do, however, feel that many of them are being incredibly short sighted about how other people have experienced the pandemic. It would be nice if, as they talk about their worries, they would acknowledge that they’ve had the privilege of keeping safe for the last year while many of us have not.

      I have lived every day of the last year terrified that I would contract covid and pass it along to a medically vulnerable member of my immediate family. Every. Day. I’ve watched my coworkers like a hawk to keep track of who was safe and who was not. I’ve been eating lunch in my car to avoid taking my mask off in the same room as people who did not take the pandemic seriously. The daily, hourly, fear and stress I experienced is not being acknowledged at all by the people who have been home and safe for months. And it’s CERTAINLY not being acknowledged by my employer.

      So yeah, it’s my employers’ fault that I wasn’t safe. But it would be nice if the WFH crowd could be mindful of people like me when they start freaking out about going back to work.

      1. Chris too*

        I haven’t been in the break room to eat at all. I take all my breaks in my vehicle. In Canada, where it can be a little cold.

    7. HannahS*

      “When people talk only and exclusive about this perspective, I feel unseen” is not “blame.” Solidarity goes both ways, and now it’s your turn.
      I’m a doctor. I was in the hospital, on the wards, pregnant and unvaccinated, sweating through my PPE while trying not to vomit into my N95 while working with people with respiratory illnesses. It doesn’t invalidate your experience to listen to mine, which has been objectively more dangerous and of greater service to the public, without turning the conversation back to yourself.

  47. A New CV*

    I work retail, selling not-at-all essential goods, but we’ve been open and working this whole pandemic, with no extra money and very little acknowledgment. We aren’t medical staff, we aren’t teachers, we aren’t custodial or grocery or delivery, we are just cashiers and sales associates. Every day all day listening to the customers who tell us about how this shopping trip is their social outlet because they are “so bored and lonely at home”. They bring their kids to us as if we are a play place and then we have to re-sanitize everything. They still are as demanding as ever, they still are shocked about supply chain shortfalls, they still maintain that the customer is always right. I’m still expected to be professional and a super customer service worker in spite of my anxiety and the fact that customers are worse not better.
    So I am sympathetic to WFH people. The pandemic sucks for everyone. But I am exhausted of being literally exposed to people who have the option and the privilege to stay home when I am out in the world making low wages, working harder than ever so that they can opt not to do online shopping because their boredom is more valid than my health.
    It’s not Oppression Olympics to want to be acknowledged. I’m not a hero, I’m just working.

    1. rear mech*

      ugh, yes. I feel all of this. I’m working in a luxury hotel, not making sure people get the basics they need to survive. I’m grateful that most of our customers are pretty good about masks, but for most of them it’s business as usual. They’re bored and need a staycation. They want gourmet food, fancy cocktails, and stayover housekeeping delivered with impeccable service that handwaves and doesn’t acknowledge how fucked things have been. Someone (maybe here?) described their grocery delivery people as “cheerful fatalists” and for a lot of us, this is just an affectation to smooth over the interaction and not end up with a worse tip or unpleasant interaction by inviting arguments, political harangues, or performative pity of the “I can’t believe they make you work on Thanksgiving” (while shopping on Thanksgiving) type.

      1. A New CV*

        Sometimes it feels like the most exhausting part of all the many draining and terrible parts is having to maintain that blank customer service facade in the face of customers cluelessness. Like, yes, here I am working for barely above minimum wage so you can get to indulge in shopping therapy for your perfectly legitimate stress. Please continue to complain about it to me, since I have to be nice to you regardless. Do you want to hear about MY stress? Probably not, since you are only making worse by being here….

        1. Pickled Limes*

          I don’t know how to come back from this as a customer service worker. How do I go back to normal and keep smiling and acting sweet to the very same regular customers who talked about hoaxes and complained about the new procedures put in place to keep staff alive? I’m supposed to just forget that this man didn’t care if I died of covid and keep a smile on my face every time he comes back in? How?

          1. A New CV*

            I hear you. The cognitive dissonance of having very nice customers not wear masks is mind boggling. It’s like I can’t even enjoy the previously enjoyable parts of my job! I work in an educational toy store. Interacting with children used to be a highlight and now I’m constantly aggravated by how many whole families wander through, window shopping for fun, as if this is just another Saturday. One of those grownups could have stayed home with the kids. Or you know… curbside pickup still supports my local business without putting me at risk because you want to entertain your kids.

          2. Wino Who Says Ni*

            I don’t know that you do come back from this. I always considered myself very positive in my thinking about customers and now…I just can’t. I now feel like I’m (nearly) completely surrounded by morons out there who are incredibly disconnected and clueless. I used to see the best in people, but they generally elected to show me their worst.

      2. More anon today*

        ‘the “I can’t believe they make you work on Thanksgiving” (while shopping on Thanksgiving) type.’

        Oh God I hate those. During our last heavy snow some dude complained that a “girl” (an adult woman, assistant front end manager) was shoveling snow. I told him the “boys” were all bringing in carts rather than asking him if he wanted to shovel it himself if he didn’t like how we were doing it. Like, you see people doing the work and sort of recognize that it’s not great for those people, and yet still somehow don’t make the connection that for you to be here shopping means someone must do that work. Like someone else said, all the people making WFH possible have been practically invisible.

    2. Sandangel*

      I’ve been calling myself “semi-essential” retail; my main department is non-essential (toys), but one of the sub-departments attached to mine is (pet food/supplies), and I’m cross-trained in other departments that are essential. I live in a suburb of Los Angeles, which has been generally good about masking and social distancing, but it’s still incredibly frustrating. Even now, a year into all this, I have to correct people to wear their masks over their face, not their chins.
      The kids playing has only gotten worse. Now that people are getting vaccinated and things are loosening up, people are more and more willing to go out and let their kids burn off energy, and we have to clean up the mess. My managers keep trying to act like business as usual, like it’s possible to feel anything’s normal when, even after getting fully vaccinated, I’m still double-masking just to leave the house to get the mail.
      I’ve been staying at this job bc my job history is pretty spotty with some noticeable gaps, but once I hit two years in August, I’m going to start job hunting in earnest. I really want to not deal with people face-to-face for a while, some quiet boring office job without screeching children.

  48. Transportation Industry Essential Worker Bee*

    Thanks so much for this thread and conversation. This year has been tough. Working in the transportation industry in general is tough most of the time, but this past year even more so. There was a brief slowdown during the spring lockdowns last spring, but then everything came back and increaed. Most of our jobs can’t be done from home. Everyone in the transportation industry, including the largest carriers, are seeing huge delays, but it seems like people are either oblivious or don’t care. I’ve been screamed at more times than I can count. People are just down right nasty. I constantly hear things along of “I understand there’s a pandemic/COVID, but you’ve had X # of months to figure this out…” There are things that you can’t just figure out due to the unpredictable nature of this thing… like when a site has 25% of their drivers out with COVID… you can’t just figure that out. Both my husband and I work in this industry for different carriers, and we’re so burned out that we can barely function. Our weekends are mostly spent sleeping. Dinner most days is cereal because I can’t must up the energy to cook even though it’s something that I used to enjoy.

  49. Anon for this*

    I disagree with Mary. I don’t think the OP is saying there is a competition for suffering but I think those who are complaining about having to go back to work now or in a few months sound a lot like they think their suffering is pretty darn severe and it does not sound like they recognize the stress on those of us who have been at work for the past year. There are so many letters here from ppl who feel forced to go back to workplaces and how terrible their employers are being for forcing ppl back to work after everyone at their workplace is vaccinated. Like the OP, I’m pretty over it.

    Conservatively I can do 80% of my job from home. Whole other swaths of my city employer are working from home, but our area was never allowed to WFH in full or in part. No idea why but its the job, if i want to keep my job, I had to work.

    I get that it is scary to go back to work. It was hard for us too. We shut down completely for 2 months but then had to work. I’d have more respect for ppl if they asked HOW can I feel better or safer about going back to work rather than asking how to get out of it.

  50. Burnt Out*

    I have a job where I could WFH but my department insisted that everyone be in the office starting in June. So we went through the worst of the pandemic in the office, working long hours when we didn’t have to. I have children who had to remote school so I got special permission to work from home for 3 days, but I felt very mistreated and made to feel guilty by management when it came to these accommodations.

    At one point while working long hours in the office, we had sanitizer sprayed despite half the staff still being there. It caused me to cough and gag. When I complained to HR, nothing was done. When the governor of our red state even came out asking everyone who could to work from home for 30 days, the CEO and HR met and decided to do nothing. Even after Covid spread through the office and actually impacted our ability to get things done, they still insisted on us being in the office.

    Then one year into the pandemic, my department gets layoff notices. After everything we went through, they’ve decided to outsource our work and get rid of us. Our final days are in June. I’ve never felt so worthless or disposable as I do right now. I wish I would have had a workplace that was caring enough to have people work from home through the past year.

    1. Mister T*

      I believe there is a special place in hell for your bosses. I’m so sorry this happened to you.

      1. Burnt Out*

        Thank you. Our team (accounting) navigated them through a bankruptcy and asset purchase. We put in 50-60 hour weeks pretty much cleaning up things and starting the company from almost scratch. Then new upper management swoops in and we’re all out with a “this isn’t personal, it’s a business decision.” And the severance offered was insulting (think one week per year employed with a max of 4 weeks, most employees only being here for about a year). The only reason I’m not walking away is I need unemployment and I need some time off after this year.

      2. joss*

        from the bottom of my heart I have to break the “this place is not for you rule” to agree with Mister T. Your management is just vile @burnt out

  51. honeygrim*

    I work in an academic library. For a couple of months pretty much everyone in the library worked from home. Then they created a plan to provide access to materials through the request part of our library system. That required at least one person to come on-site a couple of days a week to pull books and deliver them to the pickup location. I alternated with one of my coworkers, splitting my week into on-site and work-from-home days.

    Then the planning for fall started, and somehow I ended up being the go-to person in my department for determining how our space would be used. I was there nearly every day from June onward, along with one co-worker (the others were furloughed through the summer).

    While my role is much higher up than my on-site coworker, and I had the privilege of choosing to work from home at least one or two days a week, the situation highlighted the “class divides” that Lucious mentioned above. Most of the people who could work from home were faculty or higher administration people; most of the people who had to work on-site were front-line support staff.

    The people on-site were the ones running circulation desks, shelving books, pulling requests, etc. They were performing the physical work that is the backbone of the library. They are also the people most visible to library users–the ones they see when they first enter the building. But they are also typically the lowest-paid and most vulnerable workers (they were the ones targeted for the most stringent furloughs over the summer).

    My frustration with upper management’s obliviousness to the reality of working on-site was exacerbated by my own boss, who didn’t enter the building for about five months because he didn’t want to expose himself to COVID. When he was here he stayed in his office with the door closed. It fell to me to make all of the decisions about using our space and to work with other people in our library to handle issues that came up. He was completely unavailable.

    I spoke up in a couple of meetings about this, and echoed what a lot of others are saying here. I don’t blame those who could work from home for doing so; I’m glad they could take that step to stay safe. But I am extremely frustrated with the administration for completely disregarding the impact of the pandemic on those of us who had to work on-site, and for not at least acknowledging the risks we took to keep the place running.

    1. A Library Person*

      We’re seeing this too in our library. As we have increasingly opened to students (and, presumably soon, the public), people whose job descriptions include service points or material shelving/retrieval (who are always in the lower job classifications with lower pay and fewer benefits, naturally) don’t have the luxury of choosing to stay at home. Even when it is technically “voluntary”, everyone knows that it really isn’t or at least won’t be for long.

      1. Ponytail*

        Our library went almost the other way – senior staff have been running the show, including moving books around, counting numbers in and out, answering queries and monitoring user behaviour. I was happy to help out, but have reached my limit and am finding it difficult to remain friendly with colleagues who a) refuse to come in and b) don’t even consider taking on some of the wfh tasks I can’t do because I’m doing their job. Some of my working relationships have been permanently damaged by seeing how my colleagues have behaved. I understand not everyone feels safe coming in (although I’m in the UK, and infection has been falling for weeks now) but when my colleagues refuse to cover online tasks on a day I’m clearing their backlog of damaged books? Infuriating.

    2. Academic Library Anon*

      Our academic library has been good about enforcing masks and asking patrons to maintain social distance, as well as encouraging work from home and quarantine/isolation in the event of possible exposure to covid. However, one huge hole in our net has been our student employees. Our university doesn’t offer benefits of any kind to student workers, so while benefited staff who need to stay home while they are in isolation because of a possible exposure can either work from home or take leave, student employees just have to stay home without pay. I brought up to my bosses that this means student workers are incentivized to not report possible exposures and just come to work and hope that they don’t sick, which puts everyone else in the building at risk. The response was, “We don’t offer student workers benefits and we can’t change HR policies.” It’s maddening!

    3. GothicBee*

      I work in an academic library too. They had everyone come back in June, but prior to that, there was definitely a lot of inequity in terms of who had to work in person and who could WFH. They did at least have some projects the front desk staff could do from home, so they were alternating working in person for the couple of months that WFH was encouraged.

      Initially when we came back, students were gone and things were okay, but at this point, we may as well be entirely back to normal. We have people monitoring the entrances to make sure students are wearing masks, but students mostly just wear a mask to come in and then immediately take it off. And we’re not enforcing any occupancy rates, so people just crowd together, though furniture is spaced out, so it’s somewhat better than pre-covid.

      At a certain point I found myself just not caring anymore (about my workplace situation) because it was easier than getting upset about it. The whole thing has been really frustrating, and seeing people who’ve been WFH for the whole year complaining about coming back can be frustrating. Especially since I feel pretty lucky myself that despite being in person, I work in the back office area, so I feel safer than if I were dealing with the public all the time and afaik no one in my immediate department has had covid. A couple of my family members work in food service and it’s definitely been worse for them.

    4. Academic Library Director*

      I am a covid long hauler with an auto-immune condition and all I want to do is stay home. We have been fully opened since the the first week of May 2020. We are all exhausted. I now do all mask enforcement as the patrons have gotten more hostile. Our students weren’t authorized to work from home or get paid while quarantining so I bent the rules. I asked them to read books from our collection and write reviews. I have focused on being as kind and humane as I can be as a manager. I can’t change much but I can do some small things.
      This last year as destroyed any faith I had in employers.

      1. Ismonie*

        Thank you for everything you have done. I’m so sorry that your institution has let you down, but what you are doing really matters.

  52. Lu*

    I’m the office manager at a manufacturing company so we had groups of employees who obviously had to be at work every day. I think the company did the best they could. We made sure to have plenty of cleaning products, hand sanitizer, moved work stations so employees could social distance, plexiglass barriers when 6 ft distance was impossible, mask mandates, and now paid time to get vaccinated. We also made sure to communicate how business was going so there weren’t rumors about layoffs, furloughs, etc.

  53. Meep*

    I have been working the whole time and it’s very difficult to not feel resentful of people working from home. But in the long run, I’ve come out stronger.

    Yes, there are all of the possible precautions taken with my workplace. I do feel safe and except for a few instances where coworkers came into the office not feeling well (and cause ripple effect issues), I have not felt threatened.

    I can connect very well to the letter writer and have experienced all of those emotions. I am getting to the point of being a bit grateful for the experience because I’ve had no choice but to venture out in public. I’ve been forced to cope with the fear and other emotions around all of the COVID situation. I feel like I’ve come out better for it. I am not afraid to be with coworkers, or any other people, in safe environments. I do not think I would be in this spot if I was able to work at home.

    1. In person*

      This is my glass-half-full take as well. I’m not afraid to navigate this world, because I’ve been doing it for over a year, as have the 60 others in my office with public-facing operations. Putting aside all that’s been frustrating and nearly impossible (kids at home but you have to go in everyday?, etc.), I don’t spend any of my work day worried about the person next to me anymore. We’ve figured it out and learned to balance a certain amount of risk with the need to get our work done–with distancing and masks, of course. In our case, it’s not about a bottom line, even. It’s about a service only the government can provide that the public keeps demanding.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      Yep. Hard agree. I see the fear in real life here, too. Working this whole time has actually helped me to fight off many other problems that some folks are having. I do see how their concerns are legit, I also see that I have been most fortunate in oh-so-many ways. I would describe my setting as lower risk than what others talk about here. I feel that my PTB were very concerned about keeping everyone safe. This is a huge difference from most of what I read here. I agree that if I had sat home this entire time, I would be of a very different mind-set.

      My work itself has quadrupled in complexity for various reasons. My new normal is to repeatedly explain very basic things to people over and over. For the average caller at work, I must repeat what I said at least 3 times sometimes as much as 5 times. Most of us have lost our ability to concentrate for one thing. But another reason for this is the ever-changing status of our country and my arena. It became normal to be told to do X on Monday and then be told on Tuesday, undo all the Xs and now do Y. Of course, Wednesday would bring me back to doing X or changing everything over to unrelated W. It was hard not to think I was getting paid to do nothing as each day negated the work of the previous day.
      I came up with plan A to manage things. Then I had to move to plan B … and then plan C… so it went on. The mental hoops became exhausting. It finally reached a point where I was no longer able to explain the status of in-process stuff because of my reconfigurations due to the constant changes. It was easier just to do it myself.

      My surrounding cohorts remained level-headed. In an odd turn around, I think all of us ended up developing a new level of respect for each other and a new level of trust. I also think we saw each other’s strengths in ways that surprised and privately pleased us.

  54. Moose*

    My workplace decided last fall that the best way to keep us safe while all working in the office full-time was to split us up into shifts. So now we have some people starting work at 0400 (meaning many have to get up before 0300) and some people leaving work at 2230. And we don’t have extended food service hours to cover people, let alone daycare hours or public transportation. Exhausted? Exhausted doesn’t even begin to cover it.

    1. More anon today*

      Holy crap. Surely there’s a better way. Although I would prefer that to my current schedule, which usually includes starting at 0400 two days and leaving at 2100 (sometimes 2300) another day in the same week, every week. But I chose it (for slightly better pay and benefits) and live alone.

  55. Mari*

    I’m an administrative professional at a small church. I’m the only employee on site during the week. I was allowed to work from home in April and May 2020 then was back to the office.

    It’s been pretty frustrating. I deal with all the public interaction with no protection but my own mask. My employer refused to require any public health protocols during the week and in my community most people are “COVID deniers” to some extent so nobody interacting with me wore masks, practiced social distancing, or did anything out of their usual routine.

    It has been up to me to do what I can to limit my own risk while congregants and others berate me for dodging hugs, back away from being crowded, and wear my mask. Many of them didn’t even have a need to be in the building, they just had “cabin fever” from “all this lockdown nonsense.”

    Meanwhile, on Sunday mornings social distancing was half-heartedly enforced and an acrylic booth was installed to protect the organist from contact. But even those measures were cursory. They didn’t even cancel services or do extra cleaning when a wave of COVID swept through the small, mostly elderly congregation and ended up killing a congregant and hospitalizing others.

    It’s been frustrating and terrifying. I’ve been actively searching for a new job but it’s a small, rural community so jobs aren’t easy to come by – at least not ones any better than what I have.

    1. Anenemous*

      My husband and my sister both work at churches and I do not understand why the oldest, most vulnerable churchgoers are the ones most likely to loudly complain and refuse to wear masks or distance and were coming in all week to pester the poor secretary. I completely feel you and I’m so glad neither church has had COVID spread within the congregation. That sounds terrible. I’m so sorry.

    2. Pickled Limes*

      People have been saying from the beginning that they’re going to ask how companies handled the pandemic at future job interviews. I’ve decided to go the same for churches. If I’m ever in a position to start looking for a new church, the first step in the process will be to ask if the church held in person services during the pandemic and if so, were masks required.

      1. OyHiOh*

        When I’m once again ready to attend religious services in person, I will absolutely very much judge my future religious home based on how they handled the pandemic. Neither of the two representative congregations in my community will see me regularly (I expect eventually I’ll be willing to attend life stages events locally) in the future because of how they’ve handled the past year.

      2. Ismonie*

        Check their social media, too, see if there is proof of bad behavior in online services.

  56. Dino*

    My workplace lied to us about the efficacy of the cleaning products they supplied for 1o fucking months.

    1. Dino*

      My job CAN be done from home (with strict regulations on home office setup due to PII) but my company doesn’t pay me enough for me to not have a roommate, let alone an extra bedroom.

      The only pro is that my profession was in one of the earlier vaccination phases so I’m fully vaccinated.

  57. User*

    Thank you for posting this. I work in a grocery pharmacy and it’s been tough. When our pharmacy got vaccines we weren’t even allowed to vaccinate our employees at first. It’s like everyone forgot what they were forced to deal with those first few months. And now we look around the store and it feels like “before times” even though we’re not there yet. It’s incredibly frustrating to see people unnecessarily risk what we’ve all sacrificed so much to get to. That being said my company was amazing and did an really excellent job keeping us safe. Despite having cases we had very little to no spread within departments themselves which I’m incredibly grateful for – but it also makes it that much more frustrating when people complain about having to go back to work – if we use common sense and do what’s asked – and really they’re not big asks – it can be done safely.

    1. Tortally HareBrained*

      Yes to the minimal spread at work when precautions are able to be applied and followed! This is a thought I’ve had a lot lately as people express anxiety about returning to work. I’ve been in a small office (max 8 people) and we had only person contract COVID on a trip to see a terminally ill relative and gave it to no one in our office thanks to our protocols (masks, moved desks further apart, no eating in shared spaces, appropriate leave when ill). We’ve done programs for adults and kids since last June, both inside and out.

      We absolutely need to continue to be aware there is a pandemic but we have also shown that we can begin to reenter the world when we use the tools we’ve learned about in the last year and continue to get people vaccinated.

      It’s exhausting to me to hear people pretend like this is last April when we didn’t know what tools could effectively reduce (not eliminate) transmission between people.

  58. Keeping your lights on*

    For those of us that keep your lights on, your furnace running and your water hot (energy workers) there was no such thing as work from home. We had as many safety measures that could be managed and still do the job. But when your coworkers had to isolate/quarantine, were sick, or in one case – died, there was/is no relief for those left working. This country has asked the absolute limit of essential workers. We have foregone time off in the last year because you need to have enough people working to cover those that cannot work. We are burned out: physically, emotionally, mentally. So when someone who had the luxury of a paycheck while sitting in their own home complains that it isn’t safe to return to the office, I am disgusted.

    1. MJ*

      So so sorry and thank you.

      We are seeing the very best of people and the very worst of people. If only the latter could see/appreciate what the former does for them… We need an island to vote people off of.

    2. Speaks to Dragonflies*

      Thank you for making my job easier KYLO. Water utility maintenance worker here. Without electricity, my pumps won’t run and I hate having to run the generators.

    3. Anon for this*

      And thank you!! I remember the power blipped one morning as I was getting ready to go in to work (food and bev production) and I thought “that’s it. that’s the final straw” but then it came back on and…all was well in the world (outside of everything else).

  59. Wool Princess*

    OP, I’m sorry you’re having such a hard time. If reading about folks’ anxiety about shifting to in-person work is upsetting, you might consider scrolling by as an act of self-care and self-preservation.

    I had two jobs during the pandemic – one WFH and one in person a few days a week (although I am lucky to have only occasional public contact in the in person job).

    The shift to work from home was really destabilizing – I ended up leaving the WFH job but I can imagine a return to in-person work would be really anxiety-inducing because it would again be a huge shift in routine. We’ve all gone through trauma. We’ve all been coping as best we can, so a lot of folks have come to rely on comforts of WFH (pet cuddles, comfy clothes, mid-day hugs from partners/kids, breaks to lay on the floor when the existential dread is just too much) so I can understand why losing those would feel scary, especially when we are not by any means out of this pandemic.

    My experience with the in-person work was that at first I was constantly terrified of being infected/infected someone. Eventually those fears just became the baseline – every now and then I get a pang of “might contract a deadly disease today”. It is a duller anxiety than the major shift in environment would feel like, I imagine. I wouldn’t say one is better/worse, just different. I found the in-person work a better distraction from the social turmoil of 2021, once I was accustomed to the whole living-in-fear thing.

    We all experience things differently and have different coping mechanisms; I imagine there are folks for whom that “might contract a deadly disease” anxiety never dulled and have just spent the last year in pretty much constant terror.

    1. Calliope*

      Ok, seriously, “I might contract a deadly disease” is worse than not being able to wear comfy clothes. This is a place where it’s ok to set a hierarchy. No, it won’t affect everyone the same way, but that’s not the same as saying it’s an equivalent issue.

      1. Hula-la*

        Thank you Calliope! Other commenters have said the same thing, but this feels a lot like when white commenters center themselves during discussions about race.

      2. Luffi*

        “Eventually those fears just became the baseline – every now and then I get a pang of “might contract a deadly disease today” – But it’s not just a background fear, is it? You were legitimately at higher risk when you worked outside the home. People might handle fear differently, but the fact is you were in greater danger than anyone working from home has been. I think it’s important to acknowledge that.

        1. Calliope*

          Yeah, and I think that’s part of the issue in this discussion. When you’re out every day doing something you mostly can’t spend a lot of time thinking or talking about the risk and still being functional, whereas when you’re at home not actively facing the risk, you can. So the latter group often sounds louder even though their risk is lower. But that doesn’t mean the risk the former group is taking doesn’t have serious effects, short term and long term.

      3. Tired*

        Agree SO much. I’m sick of hearing that it’s not the suffering olympics, everyone has struggles, blah blah blah. You know what, in-person essential workers (especial healthcare and first responders) have had a MASSIVELY harder time during the pandemic, and telling WFH people to shut up and that their struggles and complaints are objectively less serious is perfectly fine because it’s 100% true. There is a hierarchy, some people have had it worse. It’s ok to acknowledge that, even if it’s not PC.

      4. JustHadtoSayThis*

        Thanks for saying this. I’d also like to point out that even within the category of people who have been working in person, the “I might contract a deadly disease” is not the same. I work in the same (white collar, degreed) profession as many people commenting today. While going back in person and increasing my family’s risk was very stressful for me personally, I also try to be mindful that the risk my colleagues and I took on is significantly smaller than the risk borne by the essential workers who actually got sick and died in large numbers. In the end, I was working a relatively well compensated union job with sick pay, in a highly regulated environment. And we had no outbreaks at work.

        I guess tl;dr is that the way many of us feel about WFH office people hesitating to return, we should consider that there are many categories of workers (who are underrepresented on AAM) who’d have every right to feel the same about us.

    2. Wool Princess*

      I appreciate the feedback from others on this. After reading more comments, I think I should have hung back on this one because my relative on-site risk is so low compared to many others. It’s clear this is not the space for the WFH perspective, so I apologize to folks for bringing it here.

    3. The cat’s ass*

      This. It only dissipated somewhat after I was vaccinated and won’t go away until completely until everyone I know is vaccinated. Fortunately I live in a very blue state, with a job that demonstrated a good to great response to the pandemic, but “low grade-terror” pretty much sums up the last year for me as a health care worker.

  60. TopSecretForThis*

    I’ve been essential for this whole pandemic since I work at an assisted living facility. I actually started less than a month before we shut down, so my entire experience has pretty much been pandemic life.

    I feel like it wasn’t the worst situation because we HAD to be so careful due to working with the elderly, so we had mask mandates and a strict lock down with no wiggle room. HOWEVER, our upper level management could not have been more clueless if they tried! I had constant emails about how they were all working from home now (cool, we’re not, why do you keep reminding us?), and instead of any real help (like hazard pay!) the company spent THOUSANDS on crappy signs about how “we’re all in this together”. No. No, we’re not. YOU’RE at HOME, we’re on the front line trying to keep our residents from losing their minds because they’re stuck inside 24/7 while their families are convinced that we’re making up a virus to keep them from their families and/or make a quick buck.

    Oh, and all those work-from-home execs? First in line for the vaccines. And this was when it was just front-line workers who could get the vaccine. But because they worked for assisted living they were technically at the right tier and boy did they take advantage of that! Before our residents could get it, they jumped the line to go first so they could “properly inform us of any potential side effects”. I wish I had kept the email, the tone was just over-the-top sanctimonious, like “we’re doing this to HELP, we are NOT SELFISH, we need to know side effects to be better informed….” It was just gross. Just so, so gross and off-putting and tasteless. And I know, I know, the vaccine rollout was chaotic so get it when you can, but to be a healthy individual who is working from home and knowing that you are responsible for a vulnerable population, how on earth do you justify getting a vaccine before our residents? Ugh. Sorry for the vent, this has been driving me crazy since January.

    Soooo…’s been a mixed bag! I’m glad I could be there for my residents and their families in this unprecedented time (gag!), but it’s been such an eye opener as to how truly shitty people can be. But I guess that’s been the case for every one, regardless of work situation.

    1. Libervermis*

      It’s a wonder the execs don’t have an aneurysm from that level of cognitive dissonance. I’m so sorry you had to deal with such extreme selfishness.

    2. Starlike*

      Yes! I worked for a skilled nursing/long-term facility for several months during this, and the whole situation, just… we had the top administrator locked in his office all day every day because he had the privilege of being able to do that, COVID outbreaks among the residents because it’s not like they can *not* be in close contact with other people and also most of them couldn’t remember to wear masks 99% of the time, and staff pretty quickly turning to fatalistic “whatever, if we get it we get it, but we have to get the job done” attitudes because what else were we going to do? It was keep the residents alive the best we could or… not, so there was really only one option. And in terms of safety precautions, everyone was pretty careful but also, only a few of us had the privilege of private offices to eat lunch in, etc. I was pretty shocked by how many of the staff refused the vaccine when we became eligible, but I think that fatalism had already set in so hard that the equation was just permanently skewed.

  61. awesome3*

    I’m in a job that in some states is happening remotely, but I’m in a state that is not into that at all. What happens in practice and what the public is told is not the same. I even asked an anonymous question about something I saw with my own two eyes, but was told that it doesn’t happen. Hmmm.

    We had a coworker pass away from covid, and the distanced memorial we did was exactly a year from the initial shutdown. The whole thing is absolutely heartbreaking and challenging.

    The stupidest things trigger me right now. For example, every tweet I see asking why people are even wearing jeans anymore infuriates me. Or letters to Alison that start with “since we’re all working from home.” And the stupidest thing of all that I want to spend all of my social capital and energy on (that is obviously not worth it) is being invited to “virtual lunch and learns.” They do not provide lunch, they just want me to be on a zoom while I eat lunch at my desk, which is what I’ve been doing all year anyway. These are mostly put on by people with the option to work from home. And yet, in a normal year I should certainly just get over the poor choice in wording.

    I am way more burned out than makes sense at this point in my career. I have no idea how I will make it to retirement at this rate. I can only hope things get better because for me to keep going at this job, there is no other option.

  62. awd*

    I’m a restaurant worker. Other than the period of time where we were shut down, right in the beginning [which, unemployment anxiety was not a fun ride], I’ve been in-person. There are no options for me and my colleagues. I also work for a covid-denier. My bosses, the owners of the restaurant I work for, ignored all the rules the entire time and never got in trouble for it. They hung out with their buddies all day every day, drinking maskless, even when we were supposed to be takeout only. Even after one of the regulars DIED of Covid and both the bosses got it (and survived), they kept ignoring all the rules.

    By some miracle, I didn’t get it, and I didn’t pass it to my spouse, who has been working from home and unable to be in a pod (when that was a thing) because of the risk my work posed to her. We are now both fully vaccinated, but I’m still surrounded by jerks who cared more about their access to alcohol than their own or my safety.

    Also, people who went out to eat and drink at restaurants during the height of this pandemic were uniformly selfish jerks who did not care whether me or my colleagues lived or died.

    I don’t really care either way how office workers feel about going back to work. I hope my spouse can keep working from home because she prefers it and doesn’t want to go back. I just wish that the people who behaved so poorly during this pandemic could see how much harm they did to the rest of us.

  63. E*

    I am fortunate enough to be in a position of authority at my workplace, which means I have been in charge of making sure our clientele is following safer procedures – masking, etc. Unfortunately, I work in hospitality, which means that every guest who comes through my door thinks they’re better or more important than the person standing behind our desk, whether that’s me or my staff. This was a problem even before the pandemic, but the weird political divisiveness over masks, hand-washing, and virus safety has exacerbated a problem that was already a nightmare to tangle with.

    Add in the fact that I also live in a rural, conservative area where the locals are less-likely to follow CDC guidelines, and I have spent the last year on high alert at all times. I try to be the bad guy when people come in without masks, or wearing them wrong, so the wage slaves who work for me don’t have to deal with it, but it’s 100% taken a toll on me, and I am not okay.

    My poor partner, who has been able to work from home, and I occasionally clash over the fact that I am wound so tightly. When I got scheduled for my first vaccine a few weeks back, I told them they should try as well, and they were hesitant to do so (although they eventually did).

    Constantly worrying about this and feeling like enforcing virus restrictions for other people – many of whom not only forget but argue about it – is a form of emotional labor none of us signed on for, or are being compensated for.

  64. Sincerely, a statistician*

    I worked (mostly) from home for a couple of months, but some of my job tasks must be done on site (I’m manufacturing-adjacent) so I’d come in 1-2 times per week. However, it ended up making things MORE stressful for my small work group (all of us coming in at different times to do our on-site tasks) and communication was problematic, so we all kind of simultaneously made the decision to come back on site full time mid-summer. Honestly, it’s been fine. I work for a large employer that enforces mask wearing, does temperature screening upon entering the building, conference rooms are closed, we do Teams meetings from our desks (which are spaced out cubicles), etc. I feel very safe at work and I’m more productive than I was at home. I realize that this isn’t the norm for essential workers and I wish it was.

    1. Helena*

      This is my experience, except that the on-site workers are constantly being bombarded with new “safety procedures” that are rooted in WFH-ers’ over-the-top anxieties rather than any practical balancing of risk with the need to get actual work done. There are three security doors between my post-pregnancy bladder and the bathroom, sanitizing every doorknob every time is not reasonable. Literally spraying the walls with disinfectant (it’s an office, not a hospital) is a real problem in enclosed spaces. Closing off entire rooms to prevent an in-office worker from going in there for privacy during a personal phone call. The panicky emails to senior management about people who pull down their masks to take a drink of water. The long brouhaha about allowing people who take public transportation to come in to work. The refusal of senior management to make anyone come in to help the overloaded in-person workers because the WFH-er might get sick and die, in a workplace where masks are rigorously enforced, everyone has their own office… It just never ends.

  65. "Essential" Worker*

    Thank you for this, Alison.

    I work in a customer-facing role at my local public library, and was laid off from March to September of 2020, but was brought back last fall and have been working ever since at both this job, and a second job where I’m working in the office (both jobs are part time, so I don’t get paid time off or healthcare – this is in Ontario, Canada aka America lite).

    The stress of working with the public at the library is constantly aggravated by “self care” platitudes from management (who get to work from home most of the time) and I’m incredibly burnt out. Working 40 hours a week without the benefits that I would get if those hours were all with one employer, coupled with constant talk of “wellness” at the library (if you care about my wellness, how about some PTO and health insurance?) and I’m really struggling.

    Ontario is also governed by a malicious (not incompetent, as many believe) POS who you’ve probably heard of recently, and headed towards our worst “wave” of this pandemic yet. I’m hanging on by a thread.

    1. Kristina*

      Seconding this is something a lot of employers are getting REALLY wrong. They keep sending these email newsletters (from the safety of home) to all employees about the importance of self-care. Simultaneously, they create policies and unsafe work environments that make their self-care suggestions impossible. It just adds insult to injury. STOP promoting “self-care” if you don’t provide opportunities to take time off work!

    2. Pickled Limes*

      If I get one more email from the director’s assistant advertising a webinar about controlling stress and anxiety, when this job is the very thing causing me to be stressed out and anxious, I just.

    3. Ev*

      Oh god, this. I’m lucky in that my library has in general done pretty well by us (scrambling rushed reopening plan aside), but every time one of those chirpy “wellness” emails goes out I just want to scream.

      1. “Essential” Worker*

        Yes! At my library staff had to fill out mandatory self care plans, and watch a mandatory video about burnout (which ironically talked about taking time off as one of the most important things for coping with burnout). My other part-time colleagues only have the one job and rely on partners for income and insurance, so I feel like I can’t push back on these policies as the only person juggling two jobs to make ends meet.

        1. EmmaPoet*

          I just lolsobbed because I haven’t been forced to do this, but we get so many of those emails and videos and it’s just- STOP.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Someone got the wise idea to start up a wellness thing at work. Since my workload has quadrupled at least, I do not even have time to read the email. I just delete, delete, delete. If they want me to be well then they can act like you know- professional leaders. I don’t need the mashed potato emails of “Do X except in cases of A through F then do Y except if it’s the third Tuesday of any month without an R in it, then we dunno what you are gonna do.”
      Sorry, that’s neither instructive nor informative. People have forgotten how to write and I have headaches and sometimes stomach aches trying to sort through the blather.

    5. EmmaPoet*

      Yep. We’re essential enough that they brought us back while the pandemic raged, but somehow we’re not essential enough to get vaccinated early.

  66. Accounting Otaku*

    My husband in IT wasn’t allowed to WFH until he actually caught COVID-19 at work. Even then, he was expected to be back at the office ASAP. I was at a company that only allowed me to WFH during the state-wide lockdown and was required to come back to the office as soon as it was up as “it wouldn’t be fair to the factory workers who have had to come in everyday”. (This is whole other can of worms as our workplace was considered essential on a technicality and should have shut down.)

    The situation caused a lot of resentment towards the workers who were allowed to WFH full or even part time. It fed the mentality of “If we can make it in, why can’t you?” It caused me to be mask police because we had worker who’s spouse worked in a COVID-19 unit, and he would refuse to wear a mask unless you policed him. This was on top of refusing to stay home when he actually had permission and capability to do so. We had to come in like it was another day, find childcare in a more difficult environment to even find it. It’s created a new Us vs Them situation, and we are not okay. I hate going into an empty office. I had a breakdown during lockdown because I felt trapped. That little socialization I got from work meant a lot to me. It’s taken a hit to my work ethic as I find it hard to be productive if there’s no one productive around me.

    We are all in the same storm, but different boats. Those of us that have been out here the entire time have been doing everything we can to keep ourselves and everyone around us safe despite having the deck stacked against us. We’re just as afraid of everyone coming back to the office as you are. If you come back too soon, it makes it harder for us keep people safe. I know the numbers a looking better now. A lot of us have system that we’ve been making work, and bringing anyone back too soon will ruin this. Please don’t act like we’ll be happy to have everyone back and go back to normal just yet. Normal is gone.

  67. Ferret*

    I’ve been back in the office for a couple of months now working in the planning end of our vaccination program and I while I don’t wish anxiety and stress on anyone I’m very grateful for everyone staying home because it reduces the crowds and especially the number of people I have to come in contact with on public transport

  68. Richard Hershberger*

    I am a paralegal in a small office: just the lawyer, the secretary, and me. When this first came down I volunteered to keep coming in, while the other two work from home. I see my boss perhaps once a month, meeting in the parking lot to exchange paperwork. He has been vaccinated, and I just got my first shot. I don’t know about the secretary. We haven’t discussed how this will play out. I think they both like working from home, while I am more productive coming in, and happy to do stuff like open the mail and anything that requires handling paper files. This has been a kick toward reducing paper, which is all to the good, so there is less and less of this.

  69. Mr Mike*

    Worked as a clerk last year at a local US 2020 Census office. Typical boiler room set-up; about 40 people in one room with desks pushed together. The pandemic closed us temporarily in March & we came back in May to the desks moved a foot apart instead of jammed together. We wore masks but could NOT avoid getting closer than 6 feet (40 people in one room!). By a miracle, we didn’t get our first case of COVID until late October when the office was towards the end of shutting down for good.

  70. Texan librarian*

    Our library has been open to increasing degrees since last June, and while my colleagues have been mostly exceedingly careful, members of the public using our space have not. More than half of our patrons these days coming in to use computers, study, play board games and pick books don’t wear masks, and many of them refuse to social distance. We are resuming some in person programs in June. Even though I’ll be fully vaccinated by then, it is still discouraging and frightening, not to mention numbing. At a certain point, I have to turn off my empathetic side and stop caring whether members of the public get covid or not, since they can’t be bothered to follow safety guidelines. All I can do is try to protect myself.

    1. blerpblorp*

      I work in a college library also in Texas, we reopened in July to students and yeah, I had to stop worrying about what students where doing in terms of distance (they can sit next to each other if they want, they’ve made their choice to be reckless) but I am going to police masks hardcore because that does affect everyone, including me! It felt very risky and reckless to open like we did (other college libraries in the area were not open, and are still not open this semester) but on the other hand, I was happy to be able to better serve students, and be a visible part of the school and not let the libraries be forgotten about! Even when Texas dropped the mask mandate, our school still requires them which is good, at least and most of the staff have been vaccinated. It’s been very weird and there have been a few cases among our staff but luckily not any spread among us.

      1. Physics Tech*

        Exactly, I give the students the resources to be safe (aka they dont have to sit 6″ from each other), but they’re choosing to do so and I don’t have the bandwidth to police that.

    2. Youth Services Librarian*

      Yep, public librarian here and the same thing. between the public (very anti-mask county in the midwest) and our admin constantly pushing us to open things up fully b/c “people will complain” or “people want it” we’re all just… over it. added to that major budget issues that will probably mean losing even more staff in the near future and it’s real hard to believe admin when they tell us how much they appreciate our work – then turn around and insist we drop all precautions, don’t enforce staff wearing masks properly, and have in-person programs with minimal restrictions asap. we’ve had another surge and NOW they’re worried about cases and are all “no more changes” like… what’s left? the only thing we haven’t done is reopen the play area and let people in the (unventilated) small group rooms!

  71. Archaeopteryx*

    Healthcare has been a real Mr Toad’s Wild Ride this year. Due to a promotion, I’m on a hybrid WFH schedule for the past few weeks for the first time ever. Our org is desperately low on funds despite the admitted benefits of job security, so we’re on a hiring freeze and our typical raises were halved (we do Covid testing, etc, but primary care and stuff like colonoscopies are the main sources of actual revenue, and those plummeted this year). March thru May we got a lot of “Thank you healthcare workers”, free pizzas, flowers, etc, and then June-July it felt like that all just wore off in a snap and we became the target of people’s frustrations (and of course the occasional Covid-denier).

    Riding the (for some of the year, bizarrely empty) bus to work throughout the whole pandemic and coming into close contact with patients means we’ve had to be extremely cautious in off hours. No “bubbles” or anything, just games over Zoom for a year. So it was frustrating to see friends who worked from home going on trips or in-person Thanksgiving and things like that. Plus there were the daily logistical struggles of finding some place to eat lunch socially-distanced (when all we had was a teeny breakroom and conference room), facial issues from bad masks (it was very “you get what you get” for a while there, and sometimes the surgical masks would be super thick or scratchy or not bend over your nose).

    Still, it was pretty easy to avoid bitterness when the vast majority of our friends who *have* been working from home are teachers. We don’t envy them in the least and we’re thoroughly impressed.

    1. Archaeopteryx*

      And I will say, thank you so much to retail and food-service workers, who don’t get baseline respect at the best of times and have now been risking themselves for minimal pay and still too little respect. As many insults/abuses/irritations as I’ve had in my whole healthcare career, none compare to the way people treat you as their indentured servant in retail and I realize probably no one was sending them pizzas and flowers even in April 2020.

      The 8pm clap/cheer for essential workers continued in our area through at least August before it petered out. We always clapped in honor of those who get no respect for their risk.

  72. animaniactoo*

    LW, I don’t have advice, but I just want to say that I hear you. I have sisters who are deemed essential, one of whom has been forced back sooner than others, and one like you – who never got to be home at all, because her job was required to be on-site so that others could be home.

    At a minimum, I think this highlights – strongly – the differences in what we consider “essential” and what jobs truly ARE “essential” to our day to day existence and how little we value those. Which sucks. Right down to the fact that there has not been true recognition for you (as a group) to be receiving true hazard pay rather than (for lots of places) an extra $1/hr. I’m sorry that you have been so sidelined and overlooked and condescended to and dismissed when it comes to your true value and the risks that you have taken.

  73. Rebaroni*

    Essential health care employee here. I’m an accountant but I work in a long term care facility and hospital.
    We had to stay on location due to optics for direct care staff. Admin felt the resentments would be too much of a distraction if some employees went home.
    There was resentment in our office at first but it’s mostly old hat now. We’re wearing masks and distancing and NOBODY in my department has caught it. We’re all vaxxed now, but still same level of caution. Hygiene and masls and distancing works!!! Push for that if you’re just going back. Reminder- I’m on site in the hardest hit sector and we’re doing great! I’m proud of my leadership and my coworkers!
    I’m really close to my coworkers now since they’re my main social contact now lol.

    1. OTRex*

      Agreed 100%. PPE works! That’s why I have a hard time understanding the fear of coming back to work in an office setting, where you can very easily avoid unmasked contact with others (as compared to healthcare where we can’t social distance from patients), unless you work in a place where the company doesn’t believe in COVID and therefore doesn’t enforce masking.

      1. Firecat*

        It’s not easy to avoid unmasked coworkers in the office at all!

        In my office, before I left the company, it was extremely common for me to have unmasked colleagues come withing a few inches of me! They would touch my desk, my shoulders and hands, not bother cleaning up the break room after themselves, pull their masks down to cough or flat out not wear their masks.

        Also, just because your company let people work from home doesn’t mean your team/manager is going to take Covid seriously! All it takes is one Covid denying manager to make your team site extremely unsafe. A lot of people are also not vaccinated yet. Vaccine hesitancy is rising and something like 25% of American adults plan to wait at least a year to try a new vaccine which puts herd immunity out of reach. There is also a lot of people, who took Covid seriously, who are just fed up and done and are now in serious wishful thinking mode. I’m vaccinated so everything is safe. No need to social distance or mask up indoors!

        The hesitancy and anxiety is completely valid. That’s why I think this post got a lot of pushback at first. It implied being worried about returning was akin to erasing everyone who has had to stay the whole time.

    2. Firecat*

      I think it’s awesome that it worked out so well for your team, but man the whole “optics” trumps personal safety argument in healthcare was bullshit.

      I guess they were not wrong though. Resentment for the tiny amount of wfh we were afforded was huge. Depressingly few nurses saw it as – fewer people in the office = less risk for me.

      Those optics were also ignored once it came time for mandatory PTO burning in “solidarity” of our decrease in patients. Then the concept of fairness was completely flew out the door. The back office staff – whose work hadn’t decreased that much as monthly reports are due whether there were 10 or 10,000 patients were cut 80% so that nurses who had no patients to visit could be spared any time cuts. There was also A LOT of pressure to work while on PTO because of course our work was falling behind and the nurses couldnt assist with any of it (a couple could but 90% didn’t even k ow what excel was for).

      Ultimately 75% of my office caught Covid too. The back office was closer to %85 with 65% of frontline staff. I attribute that to back office staff not having N95s fit or provided

  74. Teacher here*

    Teacher, in person since August in a state that has never required masks and the governor has had videos spreading false info on Covid removed from YouTube. Luckily my school district required masks, and my school has been ok about enforcing. Some schools have not.

    We lost a teacher in my school in December. She also infected her mom and they both died. It was awful. And we just had to keep going. The district barely acknowledged the loss. We weren’t even in line for vaccines until March. At this point, I’m just done. 20 years in this career. I’m taking a year off to take classes in HR. Hope to change careers.

  75. anon-mama*

    I’m in a library that’s been fully open since last summer (“it’s like the grocery store!” *insert eye roll). Every surge, every unexplained coworker callout amidst patrons who just cough through every interaction, has just ratcheted up our stress levels. Living at an 8-10 long-term is not sustainable.

    Things done well: UV filters in the HVAC, medical grade purifiers in every shared workspace (so every room), windows open, spacious breakroom, full masking from coworkers (and the public by and large thanks to a state order), and a culture of communal acceptance of the expectations for everyone’s safety. Also some biggies: participating in the voluntary federal extension of covid leave and arranging for us to get a couple days’ jump on vaccines when the age groups qualified (state regulations on how to prioritize). The bad: municipal management has been very quiet on quarantine rules, and some don’t seem very strict at all (someone came in positive before their results after known exposure). But so far no one has contracted it at work because all of the other measures did their job.

    I sometimes feel frustrated like OP, but in my bad moments of thinking others’ anxiety might be misplaced given that we’ve managed it without vaccination for so long, so once you’ve got your shots, returning to work shouldn’t be that scary. But I do sympathize for those who may be returning to places where they don’t have mitigation measures in place. No one deserves to be without protection.

  76. awesome3*

    Another thing that was hard was when other states opened up vaccines for people in my role who were working from home this entire time, and they still resisted going back in person, while I’ve been in person and was not eligible for the vaccine at that time. There’s definitely an element of envy, and I think while everyone has probably been scarred by this last year, it’s really different depending on which situation you’re in.

    1. EventPlannerGal*

      I’m so glad to see this POV finally being addressed on this site.

      I’m finding it so hard to find a balance. I’ve been on-site at least part-time since May, with periods of full-time, and at the moment I’m in the office part-time and WFH the rest. I don’t get any say in this. On the one hand, I WANT to be in the office. I just can’t WFH effectively, I hate my flat and I need to get out of it or I feel like the walls are closing in on me. But at the same time, it’s scary as hell. I’m not vaccinated and won’t be until probably July/September because of my age. Sometimes I feel fine, sometimes I’m not. And then now that my coworkers – mostly fully vaccinated coworkers, by the way – are starting to return and I’m hearing all their anxieties, it’s like… I get it, but I already had this emotional journey 12 months ago and I have no interest in sitting through someone else’s.

      I don’t know, sometimes it feels like I shouldn’t be freaked out because on some level I do want to be in the office so I’m getting what I want. But I also, like, don’t want to die for the sake of more efficient filing.

  77. Guy selling flowers at the end of the world*

    I’ve been working retail the entire time as a manager with an ownership stake. I don’t have enough employees so I’ve been working 7 days a week for most of the pandemic. I’m the one who personally deals with all the anti mask a-holes who think it’s their right to put our staff at risk.

    Additionally, I am at higher risk. I haven’t gotten ahead financially.

    And the supply chains have been severely screwy. A product that we normally sell 24 semi loads of in May we could only get 2 semis of last year. And it’s a key product so a lot of customers were very angry with us.
    We instituted strict mask policy, hand washing policy and social distancing and did most of our retail outdoors. Even in a Midwest winter, luckily none of our 100+ employees caught covid at work. Though some caught it in their off times and we had two people die.

    I’m exhausted. Broke. In addition to working 7 days a week our house was hit by a small tornado and one of my parents needs care which I’m helping with about a dozen hours a week. So we’ve been working, fixing, cleaning, etc.. in addition to it all.

    Yeah. I feel like I really, really need some time off but now that people are venturing out they seem more demanding and ruder than ever. Like they are fully rested and expect us essential workers to be right there with them at 100%. We are not. I’m going into our busiest season of the year completely wrecked and I don’t know how much more I have to give.

    1. kaycee*

      “Like they are fully rested and expect us essential workers to be right there with them at 100%. ”

      You hit the nail on the head there. Every WFH person I talk to feels like the Elle Woods “what, like it’s hard?” meme. Yeah, it was for some of us in a way you’ll never comprehend.

      I’m sorry you’ve had an extra hard year. Caregiving is such hard work, especially when you’re already overworked at your regular job. Sending good vibes your way <3

    2. Lana Kane*

      Just wanted to say that I see you. I’m in healthcare and the level of anger and entitlement we’re experiencing is just adding insult to injury. I’m sorry you’ve gone through so much on top of the pandemic.

      1. Guy selling flowers at the end of the world*

        Thank you. I think healthcare workers have had it much worse and I really appreciate all you all have done.

        I feel much better today after a good night’s sleep. Posting this was cathartic because I always try to be so stoic about these kinds of things.

  78. kaycee*

    Honestly, this post is coming way too late. I had to stop reading AAM for a while because it felt so whiny to see all these letters complaining about WFH or people making more on unemployment than I was at my grocery store job. (And to be clear: I don’t wish job loss on anyone and I know being on unemployment is so, so hard. But it’s also valid for me and my coworkers to be frustrated at having to risk our health for less than unemployment wages.) We got patted on the head for about a month as “heroes” and then everything went back to normal for us – my company’s $2/hour hazard bonus went away after three months. Customers became ruder than they were before because they assumed our supply chains were fully back to normal while not realizing that my orders were getting short-picked at least weekly because our warehouse was half-staffed.

    One of the other hardest things with being an essential grocery store worker is that it’s been way more isolating than most people realize. Close friends didn’t want me in their bubble because I couldn’t control my exposure and in friend zoom calls I got stuck listening to everyone discuss their sourdough starters or what yoga video they did while I just sat there exhausted from working a 12 hour retail shift with nothing to contribute. I’m lucky to have a work team I’m close with and it helped, but it was really crushing to see people getting together and not being invited.

    1. HannahS*

      Oh, we might be in the same region. That hazard pay debacle broke my heart. You deserve so much better. I felt safer as a healthcare worker than I think I would have working in a grocery store, because my workplace is so careful about everything.

      1. kaycee*

        I’m in the midwest and work for a national store, but I’m pretty sure “hero/hazard pay” debacles have happened at every single store. It’s extra frustrating because one of the house bills originally had a federally mandated hazard pay for essential workers, but it was one of the first things axed. We really mean nothing to anyone, but are told at the same time that we should be grateful to have jobs.

        1. HannahS*

          That’s so awful! It was so disappointing to see it play out. Not only should you be paid a fair living wage to begin with, you should absolutely be compensated with extra money for the additional hazard.

    2. insertusernamehere*

      That is really frustrating to take on all the health exposure risks and dealing with the public while making less than you would have made with unemployment and PUA. And then having to listen to people making nice salaries from home freak out about having to go back to the office. I can see why that would mess with your emotional health and why you would need to take a break from this site or even friends.

    3. kaycee ally*

      The shunning is real. I am so sorry. I did not stop reading AAM, but I did stop reading and watching a lot of news. The sheer number of articles about sourdough starters and ways to stay busy from the newspaper made me want to scream. I am already busy. I want to be LESS busy.

    4. annoyed*

      yes, this. I’ve been working in health care this entire time and it’s so frustrating to have all of these memes about being stuck inside – i wish I was stuck inside and not working through an outbreak every month. I’ve never had a bubble. There were months I saw nobody at all. I am incredibly tired of the people getting paid to sit at home and work talking about how difficult it is for them to get delivery food and delivery groceries and act high and mighty without realizing that they are benefiting from all of us who cannot work from home.

    5. anon24*

      So much this. I’m an EMT. I worked through the whole pandemic, both carrying out people dying from Covid and gritting my teeth and dealing with people who “tested positive and feel sick so have to go to the emergency room”. I could have made 3x what I make on unemployment (I did the math). I ended up getting Covid from work, and the only reason I got paid for my mandatory quarantine was because my company decided to pay us – the government excluded health care providers from the sick pay laws. EMS workers in my state were denied hazard pay because “if you deserve it the federal government will give it to you.” I am absolutely burned out on humanity right now and while I am glad that people had the opportunity to work from home and limit the spread, the cluelessness and lack of caring for those of us who couldn’t just blows my mind.

  79. RaeofSunshine*

    My job (purchasing, for medical manufacturing) could easily be done at home full time, and apart from 2 weeks last March we’ve been in the office full-time for the sake of ‘collaboration’. My partner is high-risk and transitioned to WFH full time, and I’ve barricaded myself in an empty section of cubes and only attend meetings over teleconference. Not sure how my seclusion where I don’t see or talk to anyone in person is different from just being safe at home, but I’m not willing to risk the paycheck.
    The constant mental stress of knowing that, if my partner gets sick, I’m the one who brought it home was crippling at times. We are both now vaccinated and he is tired of being at home and excited to be back in the office. I am now getting weekly teletherapy to deal with processing essentially the fear of killing the person I love most. It’s been a really, really rough year.

  80. Tired*

    Hi – law enforcement here. Not a minute a work from home and we get the added fun of rioters screaming in our faces for the past year. I very nearly stopped reading this website given how frustrating it was to hear office workers panicking about the thought of, in the future, having to sit in a cubicle, vaccinated, with a mask on and how their life was SO AT RISK and their manager making them come back to work was SO UNREASONABLE. This post has made me feel significantly better that there were a lot of people feeling this same sentiment and not all AAM readers are hand wringing about being (about to) have to do something for work I would LOVE to have been doing all year.

    1. SomebodyElse*

      Nah, you’re not alone. I think there is a fair amount of us out here, it’s just not worth the fight to say anything that goes against that particular grain.

      I remember being told that I was a selfish killer on here when I mentioned a trip to Vegas this past summer. (IIRC, it was in the context of a LW whose coworker was traveling)

    2. Birdwoman of Alcatraz*

      Agreed on all counts! I am also in law enforcement, and we had about two weeks of reduced shifts before the riots began and it was off to the races — have been full time ever since. I’m so, so tired – of my job, of the constant social turmoil, of the stress, of having to push responsibility for virtual school and childcare onto my partner (who has been WFH from the start).

      I know I’m luckier than many, since my spouse was able be home to watch the kids and wrangle school-on-screens and prevent them ending up like feral raccoons, but I still have to move right on past posts where commenters say they’re stressed by the idea of having to leave their dogs/commute/wear grownup clothing again. I get it – no part of this is easy, no matter the situation – and I hope at some point I’ll regain the bandwidth to offer up more sympathy, but I’m definitely not there at the moment.

      Thanks, Alison, for giving us a space to vent and commiserate.

      1. Maggie*

        There are not enough words to say THANK YOU to every law enforcement officer who has survived this year.

    3. Anon at the Moment*

      100% on having to step back from this site for awhile. It was doing my mental health no good to come here and see people having near panic attacks at the thought of having to do what I’ve been doing for the last eleven months.

      If I ever hear the phrase “suffering Olympics” again, I’ll scream.

      1. No thank you*

        Seriously. I get that this is Alison’s site and she can do what she wants, but every time I saw a question about bra wearing I wanted to scream – people are dying and your biggest concern is possibly having to wear a bra? And you thought this was soooo important that you had to write into an advice site? Did I mention people are dying??

  81. Rulesfor*

    I work on a psychiatric unit for kids. We couldn’t go remote, and a year later, we’re struggling more than ever. The number of kids waiting for psychiatric beds is staggering (upwards of 70 last week in our emergency room alone) and is like nothing I ever saw prior to the pandemic. Everyone is burned out and exhausted. I’m struggling to find an upside. The hospital has handled the pandemic fairly well, although not perfectly, but at this point, everything just feels so relentless.

    1. Another health care worker*

      Adult psychiatric needs here are also far, far outpacing our capacity. People are waiting in the ED for days for a bed anywhere in the state.

    2. Annie N Mouse*

      I am in admin for mental health facility for kids. Its been a long arse 12 months. Waiting lists, can’t take new clients bc staff numbers are down, no one is willing to come work for us. Maybe bc of unemployment or fear of catching covid. Its been hard. I don’t have direct client care, but colleagues that do are burnt out. Its so hard.

    3. ChildTherapist*

      I’m a private practice child therapist and an number of my co-workers stopped working with kids, firing their child clients as the kids couldn’t do telehealth. It sucks as I get too many referrals. I’ve seen up to 40 child clients a week some weeks and am burnt out. Thank you for working and doing what you do. I have been trying like heck to keep kids away from the hospital but the rate of SI is so high right now….I’ve been in person the whole time for those who want it, which is most of my caseload since I work mostly with little kids who have autism.

    4. J.B.*

      Thank you for being there. My kid could have been one of those waiting for admission. It has been really hard on kids.

  82. Chantel*

    I’ve been working in my office the whole time, mostly because my home situation isn’t good for WFH; just too noisy and hard to focus. As such, the company I work for has been wonderful about the pandemic. People can WFH if they wish, or not, but for those of us who chose not to, the company worked very hard to find us appropriate space and equipment to stay safe, and made it mandatory that everyone wear masks (with a reporting system for those who might not comply) and that all in-office meetings take place online. Plus, on any given day that anyone working in the office wanted to WFH instead, they were able to; just has to let their supervisor know.

    Anyway, my take on things is that anxiety is relative. I just don’t believe in expecting people to hold back on their anxiety just because they don’t face the same obstacles as essential workers, or because I’ve been managing okay with not having wored from home. It’s too much like the “Oh yeah? You think that’s bad? Listen to this…” one-upping that absolutely demeans other people’s lived experiences. It’s too cynical for me. I figure people have their reasons for being scared and are entitled to them. Who am I to say otherwise? Why must anxiety about COVID be reduced to one common denominator?

    1. Spouse of healthcare worker who cares for Covid patients all year long (it was rough, ya’ll)*

      Because essential workers have been treated like absolute crap by the public in general and in the comment section here. So much so, that their voices have been shut down. It was literally suggested by one commenter that people should quit their jobs and “go homeless”. Alison posts a letter from someone who has a different experience and the first post basically say, “ok, let me switch from your issues and talk about how much I have suffered”. It’s been a really ugly look at privilege, many people who regularly comment here should check theirs. Not all suffering or anxiety is relative and comparable. This post has finally given people the platform to say it.

      1. Chantel*

        Well, okay, but that’s one commenter, and a sample of one isn’t generalizable. I agree that pockets of the public have wildly mistreated essential workers, but there are many more who haven’t, and it’s important to acknowledge that. I guess my experience has been different from yours overall, as is my informed perspective.

        1. Spouse of healthcare worker who cares for Covid patients all year long (it was rough, ya’ll)*

          Of course it isn’t everyone. Don’t you see that you’re doing it now? You’ve basically said my experience is not everyone. Who cares? It’s a lot of people, many of them on this site, and I’m not going to sort through a bunch of examples. Some people have had it better and some worse. We’ve all had varying degrees of awful this year. Essential workers are trying to be heard and talk about the kind of things people say that are tone deaf and you are doubling down. In the face of potentially seeing another surge in some parts of the country and I read on here that someone doesn’t want to go back to work because of their anxious cat. Meanwhile, I worry that my spouse will end up back in the Covid units watching people die day after day. Not everything is relative, objectively.

  83. Spicy Tuna*

    For people who have been working in person the entire time, does the reopening of offices that were previously WFH make you feel a) safer because the vaccine rollout is going well or b) less safe because there will be more people who are generally in public than there have been in the past? Both/neither?

    1. Jenny F. Scientist*

      I work in a college where literally 10% of the students had the plague during *one single week* this winter. At least now there are vaccines. Reopening offices full of vaccinated people doesn’t worry me.

      1. Physics Tech*

        Holy crap, do you work where my partner works? Her state university had 600 cases on campus recently. I made sure she was teaching in a VERY nice mask because of that.

    2. HannahS*

      Vaccine rollout is good. My workplace (hospital) was fully operational when no one was vaccinated, and remains fully operational now that most of us are vaccinated (one dose, at least). So I definitely feel safer with vaccines!

    3. Chantel*

      Actually, I have worked on-site the whole time and have felt safe all along because my company has been absolutely fantastic about supporting those of us on-site (I have a post below that goes into detail).

      An important effect about my company’s support, at least in my opinion, is that the company’s approach has mitigated tensions between on- and off-site workers, which was a really smart vision. Plus, as President Biden has called for this week, we were/are allowed to get vaccinated on company time; didn’t have to take SL or AL, or even report that we had done so.

    4. insertusernamehere*

      In my state and tourist area, it’s like we never shut down at all. I’ve been exposed to hundreds of people a day. It’s been business as usual here and even worse because our governor constantly proclaimed that we were open for business – so people were leaving their more restricted states to come here. I believe is exact words about my state were: “We are encouraging people to come to the state for any reason, including spring break trips to the beach. For any reason, that’s from A to Z.”

      So I’ve had the joy of all the extra tourists in town, presumably the less cautious ones who get off planes from their various cities in high rate areas, perhaps with different virus strains, and coming straight into my workplace to pull down a mask while being in front of my face.

      I got a vaccine the second I was eligible – actually I signed up for one way before that (but I was eligible by the time of the appointment and quite frankly even if I wasn’t, I would have gotten it anyway without a shred of guilt based on my level of exposure and the fact that my job can’t be done at home) and there is a major, major sense of relief and weight off my shoulders. I still am working with masses of people beyond my personal comfort level, but I think I was much more at risk before getting the vaccine. And on the bright side, many, many people who have come into my work lately from other cities do casually mention they are fully vaccinated. So even though I know that not everyone is vaccinated, the general feeling I’ve gotten is that many people are. And all of my colleagues have gotten at least one dose of the vaccine at this point but one. (She thinks it’s from China and is a plot to kill off 80% of the human race so there’s that. But she does at least wear a mask around everyone else without complaining.)

      1. Spicy Tuna*

        I really appreciate this response, and I’m sorry this has been your experience this whole time. My entire network is in states with low tourism so I haven’t even heard this perspective on things. I asked the question because in my area, things became and have remained quieter (mostly-empty parking lots everywhere) and with more and more things reopening, I have heard mixed answers to my initial question among my friends and family so I thought I’d ask a wider audience.

      2. LQ*

        I hate how brutal this has been to “tourist” areas because you’re sort of guaranteed to be getting the people least likely to be taking it seriously. People who would be careful and mask without a fight would just stay home. So I’m really glad you’re seeing lots of vaccinated people now.

    5. PostalMixup*

      That’ll depend on timing for me. My region is lagging in terms of vaccinations, so if they brought people back right now a lot of them probably won’t be vaccinated. And the first while you’re back in the office you’re still getting used to pandemic work norms. If you’re WFH, you don’t have to wear a mask all day, or consider how close you stand to someone while chatting, or any of those things that have become routine for the rest of us. So if it was right now, I’d feel less safe. If it’s this fall I’ll feel more safe. I’ll feel safest if the re-population happens gradually, so that our site doesn’t suddenly have 4x as many people, 75% of whom haven’t worked on-site during the pandemic.

    6. H2*

      You say this like people are really staying home.

      Yes, in the cases where a skeleton staff is operating in person and everyone else is at home, bring everyone in will cause more risk. But for most of us, we’re dealing with more or less normal numbers of the public every day. I’m a professor and I have the same number of contact hours with students as always. So, yeah, 100% the only thing that will help is mass vaccination.

    7. LQ*

      A little less safe but mostly because ALL of the COVID cases that I know of at my work place have been ones that people got outside of work from social shit, and the vast vast majority of them are people who were full time WFH people. So many people who are “scared” to come into the office but totes fine with flying on a plane to go hang out in person with a whole bunch of people in very social very airspace sharing kinds of ways. Those people are going to come back and bring their not caring about getting sick ways into the office, that makes me nervous.

      Luckily my office will be wfh for a while longer.

      Vaccine is an absolute good and I absolutely feel safer because of it. But I don’t think that the WFH folks=people who were taking COVID absolutely seriously. Now I’m really glad that they stayed out of the office so those of us who were in were able to stay safe! I just don’t think that we should laud the WFH people as “safe”.

  84. Cake Diva*

    I work in the grocery sector. I can’t work from home.

    During the great Toilet Paper Hoardings of April 2020, there’s was a lot of pandering and performative praise about how much we were wanted and our job was important and we were heroes. Yadda yadda.

    But not enough for meaningful change across the industry, like better sick leave or higher than minimum wage. And now that things are reopening, we’re back to being losers who should get a real job. (Caveat: my company has largely done a good job with wages and hours and pro. But that doesn’t mean I don’t see the worst of it elsewhere.)

    I know it comes with retail but the biggest thing was the customer overreaction to every change. What do you mean I have to wear a mask? Why aren’t you making the 50-serving cakes I have a wedding of 600 people this weekend? What do you mean I can’t bring Mom, Dad, Grandpa, and 4 kids into the store with me? Why do I have to wait outside for 5 minutes?

    I don’t make the rules. But on average I see more people in an hour than most see in a week or more.

    Retail is exhausting already. The more we’ve opened up, the more entitled people have been. A little common courtesy would be nice.

    1. kaycee*

      Fellow grocery worker here. I had so many of the same moments. My store has an in-house delivery service and you could tell looking at their carts when someone was shopping an order that was clearly for a party.

      Also loved when people would tell me about other grocery stores that would let anyone in and there wasn’t a line. Like cool, then go shop there. Losing your $60 cart isn’t going to break us when we’ve had record sales for a month.

      1. More anon today*

        Also grocery worker, and I feel you guys so much. In the before times too, but even more so now, that is probably in my top five Things I Really Want to Say to Customers but Can’t: “Other Store does it differently and you don’t like our way? Please feel extremely free to go to Other Store. Preferably right this second.”

  85. Kittykuddler*

    I woo ok to in the Veterinary industry. We’ve been considered essential workers and have been here all along. It has been sometimes overwhelming to me, especially as vaccines started rolling out, that we weren’t classified as healthcare despite the healthcare we provide for animals. We weren’t eligible for vaccines until phase 3.2 in our state. I can also say that with everyone at home with their pets more, we’ve been busier than ever! And we e been trying to do everything curbside while also not exposing each other. We did close for 8 days when we had a positive employee, while everyone had to get tested. After much pushback from the public, we finally started letting clients back in the building this week. One at a time. Still masked, and distanced. At this point, about 70% of our staff is vaccinated and it’s not looking like the other 30% have any intention of vaccinating. The suicide rate in this profession has always been disproportionately high, but it’s been even more of a struggle over the last year. Being responsible for my staffs health and mental being has been very taxing. I’m tired now. I no longer try to convince people to get the vaccine. Or share how I trust these companies because I’ve been huge chunks of my life listening to testing data and being walked through the vaccine and medication approval process. I’m just angry and sad now at the holdouts who want to open everything up fully and let the chips fall where they may. Who don’t care that even though they don’t get consider themselves at great risk, don’t know that I have an elderly mother at home, or that my kids spend half their time in a house with a teenager with compromised lungs. I haven’t even had the luxury of being able to stay home with my kids when schools closed. They’ve been passed around family members and I had to send them back to school as soon as it reopened despite risks because my job can’t be done at home. And I couldn’t leave the workforce and still be able to put food on my table.

    1. healthcare worker*

      Just want to says thanks for all you do.
      One of my dogs had his own healthcare emergency during the pandemic (dermoid that got infected with staph and was softball sized by the time our vet got him in) and the other (12.5 year old Alaskan Malamute) began suffering falls and had to be put down. I have been truly amazed at how wonderful and welcoming the vet’s office has been during this time. For me it’s the only place that has felt anywhere “normal” during this time, not because of a lack of precautions but because I welcomed in and treated exactly the same way I would have been without the pandemic, only difference was wearing a mask.

    2. Oof*

      Thank you so much for everything you’ve been doing. I so appreciate my vet, and if you are them (hey you could be!) you and your staff are deeply appreciated by me. I love paying my (regular health visit) bills, and I tell everyone who gets a new pet how amazing you and your staff are. Even if you are not me, I bet you have clients like me!

    3. Miss V*

      I know it’s not enough, but thank you so much for all you do and have done.

      I had to run my kitty to the vet about six months ago because I was concerned he had a blocked urethra (thankfully he didn’t and is alright). My vet was doing curbside and while I hate it because I know my cat gets so scared it never even occurred to me to say anything to the staff- I was just so grateful to know if he was sick he would get the care he needed. I’m so so sorry you’re having to open up more because of push back from the public.

      Thank you and all the vets from this cat mom and her very spoiled kitty.

  86. Science Leige*

    I work in manufacturing that is directly related to COVID (think materials required for testing or treating the disease). We upped our productivity by 2000 percent last year. I do a job that cannot be done at home and the global supply chain for our raw materials almost collapsed under the increased need from us and all the other companies that make similar things to us. My job had a lot to do with finding and validating alternatives. I’m exhausted. I’m beyond exhausted. Nights, weekends, times where I worked 28 days in a row with no time off, because it was so important to have a rapid response to COVID.

    What we did right: We did send everyone who could work from home to work from home. We required masks. Eventually we implemented on-site weekly COVID testing. We require social distancing, but in practice it’s not enforced nearly well enough. This isn’t so much the fault of the workers. We have taken away most of the lunch room and conference room space, as well as a lot of desk space, because we needed room for more labs and product storage. So they had nowhere to eat lunch or take breaks, which is problem, especially in the winter.

    What we could have done better: Acknowledging the absolute misery it’s been. Not doing more to protect our manufacturing lines, who are completely unable to socially distance. I think we got lucky that we didn’t have a huge outbreak among them. Every time I had to spend extended time in the manufacturing part of our site, I had so much anxiety about catching it and bringing it back home (my partner is in multiple high risk groups). Bringing people back to work onsite too quickly, although most of our workforce is now vaxxed.

  87. FundraiserNYC*

    I am a hospital administrator and I feel very conflicted. My job can be done 75% from home. Back in March and April 2020, hospital administration was able to work from home, but I still went into the office, traveling by subway, about twice per week. We were already short staffed because our department’s admin quit in January and there were tasks that I picked up that could not be done from home – processing checks, finances, mail, etc. I worked about three days per week from home. The entire hospital – regardless of whether your job could be done remotely – was brought back 100% of the time, no exceptions, in May. The inflexibility of the policy made me feel incredibly resentful towards my employer. In May, we still had quite a few COVID-19 cases in the hospital, so it didn’t feel safe at work or during my commute on public transportation. Somehow I never contracted COVID-19 but for a long time, I just assumed I had been exposed.

    I feel conflicted because on the one hand, I was very fortunate that I could WFH at least part of the time compared to my front line colleagues. The docs, nurses and support staff had to be here and they willingly put their lives on the line every single day. NYC was hit so hard in the beginning and before we had a better understanding of the virus, so my colleagues were really going to battle, facing the unknown and not knowing when the tidal wave of patients would let up. At the same time, there were COVID-19 deniers filming outside of my hospital, calling COVID-19 a conspiracy, because they didn’t see many visitors coming into the hospital. At that time visitation and elective procedures were not allowed which is why they weren’t seeing people entering the hospital. I literally had dead bodies wheeled past me in the hallway, and to hear what the COVID-19 deniers and anti-maskers were saying on social media was just deflating and made me feel hopeless that we would ever get a handle on the pandemic.

    I also saw so many inspiring stories and people – we received round the clock donations, meals, messages of thanks and PPE from our community. That was amazing and uplifting and really got me through. It was a time filled with anxiety, deep sadness, guilt that I couldn’t do more like my front line colleagues, and a lot of respect for grocery store workers, EMTs and our generous community.

    1. FundraiserNYC*

      Just wanted to add:

      I feel for the people that have been WFH this whole time when they talk about the isolation, loneliness and how eager they are to “get back to normal.” But I honestly can’t relate to it since I’ve been back at work full-time for almost a year now. I don’t hesitate to go to the grocery store or salon because I’ve been around everyone else in my situation for so long. Sometimes I get a little salty and think “it must be nice” when I hear people talking about “being stuck at home all year,” but then I remember that I wasn’t so isolated since my life has been semi-normal.

    2. More anon today*

      I appreciate health care workers so much. And those deniers suck. I’m sure you’ve seen the clip of some asshat outside a hospital shouting “it’s obviously a hoax, where are all the covid patients?” and a hospital employee trying to tell them “they’re inside, in the ICUs, duh.” That’s such a willful level of ignorance. Sorry you’ve had to put up with those on top of the rest.

  88. Capt. Dunkirk*

    I work in a production and warehousing type place. All the “office” workers of the company went to WFH last April and have been there since. But almost no measures – aside from hand sanitizer being readily available – were put in place for those of us who had to stay. No one wore masks, and social distancing was ordered, but not enforced in the slightest.

    I regret that I let peer pressure overwhelm me and I didn’t wear a mask either for a month or two. But then I decided I’m not going to die for my job, so I started being the only one to wear one. Fortunately, no one made any snide comments or anything (at least not to my face).

    Then, last Fall, one of our managers got COVID and masks were suddenly mandated company wide. Obviously, that’s closing the barn doors after the horse got out. Especially since in the week after, several more workers (who worked with said manager) caught COVID too. Thankfully everyone recovered. However, what’s worse, when that manager fell ill, the first thing my manager said to my team was “Fergus got COVID.”, completely ignoring any notion of privacy.

    The only plus is that with about half of our workforce WFH, it’s pretty easy to stay away from coworkers. I’m hoping they continue WFH for those that can indefinitely because I’ve grown very accustomed to the empty hallways and lack of foot traffic through my area and am dreading when it goes away.

    I’m extremely disappointed in how my company handled it all and is the newest, largest reason on top of a pile of many of why I have been trying to get out. So far I have not had any luck. But hopefully 2021 will have light at the end of the tunnel.

  89. That's my purse*

    I work in the service industry, and anyone else who ever has knows how frequently customers treat you as if you aren’t a real person with needs and fears. This has only been exacerbated by the pandemic, as every time someone reaches directly over my shoulder or stands too close to me to ask a question it becomes not only a personal boundary violation but a health hazard. Every person that pulls their mask down to ask me why a product has moved makes me wonder if they’ll be the one to kill me or a loved one. It feels so dramatic to type it out, but especially early on when we had no idea how easily COVID spread or if the amount of exposure mattered, every interaction was a minefield. That anxiety has lessoned with knowledge, but it hasn’t gone away. I’m not mad at people who’ve been safer at home, I’m just so so tired.

    As for how my workplace specifically has handled things:
    Pros: We pretty quickly limited capacity and required face coverings for employees. That was soon followed by strict mask policies for customers as well. We’ve required employees to isolate after travelling since it’s not possible to socially distance at work. We were given a small lunch per diem that’s worth an extra hour of pay for our lower end employees. The state extended health care mandates, allowing some peace of mind if we did get sick.
    Cons: Our hazard pay was minimal and disappeared at the end of the summer. Despite the business prospering through this (to the tune of doubling a preplanned remodel plus some), there have been no raises outside of standard promotions or yearly reviews. Owners increase the store capacity when it’s busy, defeating the purpose. Upper management ignores mask policy when it suits them off the sales floor. During the winter, there was no good place to take breaks that didn’t violate mask policies. I often found people eating in the restroom to avoid going outside in the cold.

  90. Elliott*

    I’m in a pretty fortunate position, so I definitely wouldn’t compare my experiences to those of essential workers who have had a lot of contact with people. I work in higher education and returned to campus in August after teleworking since March. It was stressful because I had no idea what to expect when the fall semester started. Guidance on who should and should not return to campus was a little vague, and I think my manager (understandably) didn’t want to make those judgments for people. I felt like I could telework effectively for the most part, but there are a few elements of my job that do require me to be on campus, and I felt overwhelmed trying to figure out how to handle that. For example, some of my colleagues are only coming to campus a couple times a week, but I didn’t feel like I had much guidance on whether I could or should do that myself. I started driving to work instead of taking public transit, so there have been some increased expenses due to parking and gas.

    I was uncomfortable at first because I would occasionally run into someone who wasn’t wearing a mask, or wasn’t wearing a mask correctly. But fortunately, I have the office to myself for the most part and I started feeling more comfortable as I saw that frequent exposure to others wasn’t going to be a big problem. I liked teleworking, but there were more distractions because I don’t live alone. And I feel better knowing that I can do the things I need to be on-campus for.

    If I were around people all day or didn’t have a private-ish workspace where I could take off my mask, I think I would be struggling a lot more. I have a lot of sympathy for essential workers in retail, food service, healthcare, and similar fields where social distancing is harder.

    1. Elliott*

      Something else I just thought of: One thing that has been really weird is participating in Zoom meetings from my office. Most of the time, it’s fine, but it can be tough when there are other people in the building. If I don’t use headphones, the sound carries. When I wear headphones, sometimes people interrupt me. And it’s weird when everyone else in those meetings is working from home and make broad statements about “when we return to campus.”

      Another thing that’s been hard is having limited options to tet away from work on my breaks. I used to always sit in a coffee shop or run errands on my lunch hour, but I’m not comfortable with that. Also, my building is locked and I’m the only one around to greet delivery drivers or let guests in, so I worry more about being away.

  91. So tired*

    Thank you for sharing this! I totally understand the anxiety and fear of returning to the workplace part- or fulltime, but it has felt like no one else has been working on site all the time sometimes! This is actually my first comment on the blog – I feel seen at the moment.
    My workplace has done a great job at handling the pandemic – but I’m really tired of hearing how bored people are. I wish I could be bored. I’m busy, exhausted, and really wish I could have some help, but never bored.

  92. Moi*

    I’m in a hospital that takes COVID seriously. Unfortunately, we are completely overwhelmed. The amount of ICU patients has doubled. Younger and younger previously healthy people are getting admitted. We’re pulling people from every area of the hospital to help out. This means that lots of surgeries and other things aren’t happening. What it really hard is the amount of stupid comments people say. “The ICU is empty”, “COVID isn’t a big deal”, “doctor’s don’t know what they’re doing” etc. Its really hard to hear when you’re burnt out trying to save people.

    1. Chantel*

      Oh, wow, that’s hard to read; I can’t imagine what it’s like to hear in-person. Willful stupid is really angering. I’m so sorry you’re experiencing that, Moi.

  93. Not playing your game anymore*

    Someone said “we are not all in the same boat. We’re all in the same storm, but some of us have much safer boats, some of us have no boats at all.” We closed down for a week then brought people back as safely as we could. People were encouraged to do as much of their work as possible from home, but none of us, in my department, have work that can be done entirely from home. We did curbside, insisted on masks and social distancing, and as others have mentioned our mostly science and engineering oriented staff were fairly compliant. I worked in the office mainly weekends and evenings when few of our “public” were around as I was worried about my invalid Mom who lives with me. But the pandemic fell lightly on our household and we are very grateful for that. My work has decided that everyone must be back in the office full time starting May 10th, doesn’t matter that some things worked fine and some were BETTER remotely. Oh and we’re dropping the mask requirement at the same time. Not happy about that as we’re still seeing lots of cases locally, (we are burying a cousin of mine this afternoon)

    So we’ve gone from handling things well to dropping the ball entirely and I think we’re quite a ways from done with this.

  94. NHS manager*

    I work in healthcare in the UK but I’m not a healthcare professional. For a few months I worked from home. The IT was dreadful and I frequently cried with frustration and ended up working late nights/ early mornings when it was better.
    I went back in August and because I knew I had antibodies and everyone had to wear masks (and did 99.9% of the time) I felt safe. And much saner for being with other people. So there are pros and cons.

  95. the cat's ass*

    Yup, nurse in an office clinic here. We started with cutbacks. Some staff were given the option to furlough, one retired, a couple had maternity leave, and a couple quit. The rest of us masked and gloved up, cleaned like maniacs, and saw patients remotely as well as in person while trying to socially distance when feasible. There were rare people (patients, not staff) who threw wingdings about wearing masks, and they were invited to leave. I went into the office 95% of the time. Medical director pushed to get everyone vaccinated asap, completed by the end of March. I think the shift out of terror/daily anxiety came for me after we were all vaccinated. I feel proud that my practice and all of the people in it are okay and are going to be okay, but OMG I am exhausted. We as a staff have supported each other, and the patients (mostly an older population who is majority vaccinated) have been amazing too.

    I’m still not in a place where I’ve been able to process it all and suspect i won’t be for a while. I also spent a decade working in infectious disease during the HIV/AIDs epidemic, and this feels horribly familiar.

    I do not have a job that easily lends itself to WHF but have no problem with anyone whose job does. The next months and years post pandemic are really going to change what/where the workplace is, how it’s shaped, and what workers will tolerate-it’s already happening! But at what cost.

  96. Nursey Nurse*

    I’m an ICU Nurse and I approve this message!

    Thanks for the space to acknowledge the reality of what many of us have been facing all along.

    1. CowWhisperer*

      Thank you for all you do!

      I work in a home improvement retail store. We did the best we could with what we had to keep everyone safe while avoiding punching out the next person who said “Well, since I’m going to be at home I figured I should paint my (pick a room)”.

      Our rather dark comfort to each other was “At least we’re not doing something really risky like working in an ICU” – and used that to push hard to get any and all PPE that normally came to our stores re-routed to the local hospitals. We all also enjoyed pointing out to customers who were irritated that we didn’t have our normal PPE that the shortage was due to a global pandemic – perhaps you’ve heard of COVID?

  97. Ann O'Mouse*

    About a third, maybe half, of my organization started working from home last March. I wasn’t one of them, because my work had to be done in the office. Coincidentally, those working from home were those making the most money. I felt hurt, like my org didn’t care about my safety or health. I think it was largely a coincidence, because my work had to be done in person, and there’s could be done from home. It was just a forty to fifty thousand dollar difference that stood out to me. Now everyone is back, and I still feel less valued. When people in my organization make comments about it being hard to be back because they’re fifty feet away from everyone, with a mask on, behind a closed door, taking all zoom meetings, I still feel resentful, because I’m inches away from people who don’t always wear masks, my interactions happen face to face, and I don’t have the option to use zoom. I’m grateful that I didn’t lose my job and that I wasn’t furloughed, but it sucks.

  98. Kimberlina*

    I work in an outpatient medical office, in a hospital, in a major city in the Deep South. I am so tired of telling my patients *daily* that they need to wear a mask and to wear it properly. (It’s extra-awkward to say that as you’re meeting a new patient and starting a relationship by potentially annoying them while advocating for safety measures.) I’ve given up on my coworkers who do not wear masks “behind the scenes”, even though our office, hospital, and city all have mask mandates and the majority of my coworkers have contracted COVID. (One person was hospitalized; another lost a grandparent. Only half of my coworkers have gotten the vaccine because they “don’t trust it”.) I’ve called my husband from work multiple times to say that another coworker contracted COVID and to ask if I should sleep in the spare room. I’m taking biotin supplements because my nails are so brittle from washing them so often. I’m tired of stripping my clothes off as soon as I get in the door. I’m just so mad at how careless others are about very basic science and precautions.

    1. Msnotmrs*

      At my agency, I’ve heard through the grapevine that the refusal rate among staff is about 35%. People literally died!

  99. EDinTX*

    I and all my employees have been at work in a caregiving capacity this entire time. Tired is how I would describe it. We have been doing all our “regular” work and have been responding to a million changing directions from our organization, as well as local, state, and federal guidelines. We had to source supplies and deal with incredible staffing shortages as our staff were exposed to COVID and the resulting quarantines. We’ve had staff and people served die or become seriously ill and had to work on through our grief and fear. We have to deal with people’s anger and frustration about restrictions to visits and programming and sometimes – in order to placate virus-deniers – put ourselves and our individuals at risk when the rules were not iron-clad enough to prevent visits or other risky behavior that families insisted upon. We did not get a lot of grace or leeway from anyone – regulators, individuals, families, or our big bosses. And now we have to return to “normal” as soon as regulations allow it. A lot of this is our job and we accept it, but it has been exhausting.

  100. Msnotmrs*

    I work for a conservative government agency (24/7 operation, think a hospital or a police station) in a conservative state. We had “directed health measures” that were a joke and were not meaningfully enforced by either the city or the state. I didn’t spend one day at home unless I was actively quarantining–in fact, for the first 2 months, I was working 6 days a week because some of our programs had to be split into groups to accommodate social distancing. Given the nature of the work environment, the infection rates have been sky-high; I am the only person on my team who didn’t contract COVID-19. I was one of the first people I knew to get the vaccine, however.

    I’ve felt at my breaking point any number of times. It’s really been indescribable, and it is hard to sympathize with my friends and family members who have been able to stay home. I know that, for example, working full-time from home while trying to do distance learning isn’t easy, but I seriously feared for my life for about 6 months of the year, conservatively. The psychic strain of it really can’t be compared, and that’s the truth.

  101. Not Too Short or Too Sweet*

    I’m a librarian. We were closed to the public for 2 months early on, and some staff were able to work from home for about 6 weeks of that (though many of our staff were loaned out to other departments and having to work with the public and some staff were furloughed). We’ve been back to work since mid-May 2020. It is exhausting and it is difficult not to be jealous and resentful of the people who are working from home, especially those working in other departments of our organization who don’t always understand that we can’t drop everything for a four hour virtual training since the public still need to be served. I am tired of having to argue with people to wear a mask. I am tired of being short-staffed due to staff having to quarantine (sometimes because of their own irresponsible behavior). My staff are traumatized from all that has been going on (constant rule changes, safety not seeming like a priority to management, etc.) and that has led to me having to deal with teamwork breakdowns. There have been days that I have gone home and collapsed. Though the bright-side of all of this is that in my state we qualified as essential workers for vaccine purposes in early March and at this point nearly all of my staff are fully-vaccinated. Which is good because we are being told that we will be pretty much back to business as usual starting in June.

    I am also frustrated because people don’t think of library workers being essential and having to deal with all this. I went to a doctor this week for my frequent migraines and she was telling me she was shocked at how many library people she has seen recently with migraines/headaches and she was wondering why that was. So I told her and she said that she realized teachers were having a rough year but she hadn’t thought about librarians.

    1. TechWorker*

      I think those who are well off can often forget that libraries are essential services for people unlike them.

    2. EmmaPoet*

      My library system has also been back to work since late May, though thankfully not open to the public. It is exhausting, commuting via public transportation is scary, we’re all so, so tired. People yell at us over the phone because they placed an interlibrary loan a week ago and why isn’t it here yet! (never mind that this didn’t happen even before Covid.) They complain vociferously that we’re not open yet. We’re understaffed because people have quit/retired/transferred, so getting through our regular duties is hard enough, plus we’re all wearing multiple hats so we can get books shelved and holds pulled. We’re scared about what happens when we reopen, because our security budget has been cut, and we were already the roughest branch in the system. We are not looking forward to being the mask police.
      People complaining that they don’t want to wear a bra at work can miss me with that crap.

  102. Quinta*

    I’m a researcher at a university in the US. Many labs at my university have been operating on a “shift” basis — half the people come in to do their work in the morning and the other half come in the afternoon. We also have plexiglass shields and of course we mask up. I don’t love this schedule but I feel very safe at work. I do not feel safe on my commute. I take public transmit and most of the time people aren’t masking properly.

    1. Quinta*

      Forgot to include that some of my work can be done at home and I work from home those days. I love that aspect of this “hybrid” schedule and I wish it would stay.

    2. pony monkey*

      I just got a severe injury and had to switch from cycling to public transit. Feeling very lucky that I got my first shot just one week into the delightful experience of riding a bus full of half assed mask wearers who seem like they’re in the bottom tier of every type of hygiene as well as bottom tier of giving a fuck about their fellow humans.

  103. Just Another Zebra*

    I work for a mechanical service company (plumbing, specifically). Our customer base is primarily commercial. We work in hospitals, dialysis centers, grocery stores… you get the idea.

    We’re so tired. All of us. I’ve had coworkers catch COVID. One is still out, because he hasn’t recovered. Trying to keep my technicians safe has been like a hamster running on the wheel. Gloves are in such short supply, and have gone up so much in cost, just getting that basic thing is an endeavor. Things that used to be readily available (like water heaters) are backordered for months because of material shortages. It’s been a lot of late nights, a lot of desperate phone calls, a lot of frantic sourcing that sometimes just doesn’t work out.

    For what it’s worth, though, my company has been so diligent in keeping us as safe as possible. We were “locked down” into separate areas of the building by department to help with distancing. If someone was sick, they got 2 free PTO days. This also applied for getting the vaccine. All 75ish employees got to keep their jobs, which we were admittedly not expecting (we do a bunch of restaurants, and when they all closed for a few months it was rough). The owner didn’t pay himself for a few months. He goes out of his way to let us all know how appreciated we all are. During the pandemic, he started buying the office lunch once a week as a thank you.

    Everything has been so crazy, and some things have not (and probably never will) go back to the way they were. Everything OP wrote resonated so closely with me. People who worked from home just don’t get that.

  104. Jenny F. Scientist*

    I have been teaching college students in person since August. We are basically the plague ship. At one point our town was #3 in the country for per capita cases (population: 7,000). Some of my colleagues who just peaced out on teaching in person were yelling at all of us for ‘allowing’ the university to open. News flash: they didn’t ask me! This year was awful. I went back to my office to cry every day the first week. But someone had to teach the labs, and my department has people who are really, really high risk, so…. that someone was me.

    Right: Actually enforcing masking. Lots of tech though most of it didn’t work very well.

    Wrong: pretending testing prevents outbreaks; they tried to solve a respiratory pandemic with hand sanitizer; moved our labs so they meet until 7 pm so they could do ‘enhanced cleaning’ and then did literally no cleaning so… this just… sucks? Making everyone teach hybrid, which makes everyone want to die, as far as I can tell.

    1. H2*

      Yes. Thank you. Hybrid makes us all want to die. It’s literally twice as much work for faculty and it’s soooo hard for students to juggle. It’s such a lose-lose.

    2. Physics Tech*

      Oh yeah I also teach labs, and have been in person since August! I had such fights with facilities about our air quality, and they kept trying to tell me that students cleaning the desks was enough.

      It’s not! This is an AIR BORNE disease

  105. Chris too*

    At the beginning of this I had two part time jobs, because I liked the variety. Neither of them could be done from home. The one retail one I would have thought cared more about the employees seemed to take the line, some of you may die but that’s a sacrifice we’re willing to make. As far as I could see before I got out of there they didn’t change the way they did anything. For instance there were phones everywhere in the warehouse and we were normally required to answer the nearest phone in three rings. No “gee, maybe now there’s a deadly disease you shouldn’t all be expected to be lifting a shared receiver to your faces in order to keep to the three rings rule.” The individual manager was great but he had to take his orders from corporate.
    The other job, government in a natural resource area where we physically work with the product, did everything almost perfectly. They put big barriers up everywhere and supplied enough high quality masks and hand sanitizer for an army. There were some times when I had to stand shoulder to shoulder with someone I was training, but my boss made it clear that he would do that himself if I didn’t feel comfortable, while making it clear he wouldn’t have a problem with it if I refused.
    I left the first job for full time work at the second.
    I have been jealous of all the people who didn’t have to worry at the end of every work day whether they had caught a potentially deadly disease.

  106. Bye Academia*

    Thanks for making space for this conversation.

    I wouldn’t call myself an essential worker, but my primary job function can’t be done remotely. I started staying home in March 2020, at first because I was sick with covid that I contracted from work, and then because the governor shut us down. I muddled along, doing whatever support work I could from home, very grateful to remain employed and paid. I’ve been back at work every day since my sector was allowed to reopen in July 2020.

    I do appreciate that everyone else who has been remote the whole time helped make it safer for me to come in. Less crowded public transit, less crowded office. My workplace handled things pretty well, requiring daily screenings to enter the building and requiring masks (with good compliance and enforcement).

    But I will say that it’s hard not to roll my eyes a little when people freak out about doing things like taking public transit when they and many around them are now vaccinated, cases are down in my area, and people are still wearing masks, when I have been doing these things the whole time without the protection of vaccination. We are never going to eradicate covid at this point, but we can certainly protect ourselves well with the vaccine. At this point, I think it is reasonable and responsible of companies to start planning what things will look like moving forward. We’ve all made do waiting for the vaccine, but we can’t stay like this forever.

    I get that people are just used to staying at home now, and that people are going to have to get used to going out again. I guess I just don’t want to be the sounding board as people work through those feelings.

  107. Teacher and contact tracer*

    Definitely a lot of eye-rolling at what frequently reads as faux concern over returning to the office. Some of it is totally valid, but the point about still being concerned even with vaccination is maddening. I’m a teacher who has been in-person full time (with about a third of my students choosing to remain remote) since August. Since some are in-person and some are remote, I’m teaching to 10 kids in front of me and 5 kids on a tablet or Swivl on Zoom. No one is getting 100%, even without factoring in the extra covid measures we have to take.

    I’m also the school’s contact tracer, so I’m responsible for reporting and tracing any positive cases in our community of almost 1000 as well as tracking symptomatic individuals and walking them through how and where to get tested. So the handwringing about contact tracers not disclosing enough information is another stab in the back.

  108. Learning does not require pantyhose!*

    I’m a professor at a private college that went in person in August. We would have folded if we didn’t. Faculty were given the choice to be hybrid. We have a Covid task force run by an epidemiologist, and the school is now setting up vaccination clinics and enabling as many students, faculty, staff, and relatives of these to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Our president informed us at our initial meeting that we would wear masks on campus (sole exception was in your own office, by yourself, with the door closed) or we would walk. I’ve been given full authority (and blessing, really) to remove students from my classroom if they fail to wear their masks. Our class sizes have been limited to allow for distancing.

    But yeah, I’m tired. We all are. Our breaks were scuttled or broken up, we have been doing twice the work, and we deal daily with “why are we required to wear masks if they don’t do anything?” from students who refuse to think about those around them or engage critically with the evidence.

    And I get a break! The summer is coming up, and, as faculty, I’m privileged to work however/wherever I want for the summer. My mother-in-law works for a big-box retailer and has had cancer and has had to work in person this whole time. At this point I’m out of patience with anyone who won’t just put a mask on, for whatever reason; it’s not that hard, suck it up. If my husband (who works from home permanently now) were to fuss about it, I’d probably deck him.

    1. Physics Tech*

      I’m glad you were given dispensation to shuttle students out who don’t wear masks! I had to push hard to get a firm answer about that, and even then the answer is “well just report it and we will deal with it” which…

      I’m glad you get a break soon! Once the semester is over (and I’m so excited for it to end) I think everyone will rejoice. Honestly I’m thinking of making optional my students final labs because we are all so tired.

  109. Penny Parker*

    I live with my adult son (he is in his late 40s); I am retired. He has been at work this entire time. He works in a call center. Due to this column — and help from a friend who is an attorney — we were able to get him an ADA accommodation due to his series of hospitalizations for pulmonary embolisms within the past four years. I was absolutely panicking before we got the accommodation which has him working in a separate room by himself. This entire past year has been so stressful knowing that if either he or I get covid we are both likely to die.

    I am really sick and fed up with those who are whining about going back to work. This letter is absolutely right on. I think the work at home or go to work divide has clearly shown class differences in the U.S. Those who have been privileged to work at home are now coming across as entitled whiners.

    As for my son’s job? His call center job is as a hotel reservation clerk at a waterpark motel. If I had a nickle for every day he came home complaining about those whom he had to speak with who wanted to know what his company is doing to “protect” people *while they are in a waterpark* I would be a rich woman now.

    Those who have been shielded from going into public for the past year are fortunate indeed. I count my blessings that my son could get the ADA and thank Alison for having posted about it a year ago.

    1. RLM*

      seriously! I was working at a bike rental shop (luckily 100% outdoors) and had a guy scoldingly ask me to re-sanitize the bike, while he remained straddling it, while refusing to wear even a bandana over his face

  110. monogodo*

    I’m “support staff” for a local school district (I work in the printing department). In March of last year, we were placed on Extended Emergency Leave with full pay. We were told that we were to work from home, if able, and to only go in to the office if it was absolutely necessary. From March 13 through May 31, I went in to the office four times, for a total of about 20 hours of work. I was paid overtime rate for those hours. When I went in, I was required to wear a mask, and the district provided masks, gloves, and cleaning supplies. They gave me five reusable masks, two boxes of disposable masks, and a dozen N95 masks. We also were screened (asked if we had any contact with someone with COVID, or had any symptoms of COVID, and took our temperature) as we entered the parking lot. If we failed we were turned away.

    In June, we came back to work part-time. We were still receiving our full 40 hours per week of pay. Any hours we worked on site were paid at overtime rates. They considered it “hazard pay.” Everyone in my department but me was working either Monday/Thursday & every other Friday, or Tuesday/Wednesday & every other other Friday. I was working 4-hour days, every day. I’m the only one in my department at my location. I have a large counter separating me from my customers, and I have a barrier set up so that the closest they can get to me is over 6′ away. The district provided acrylic shields and a case of hand sanitizer. Everyone in the building is required to wear a mask, unless they are at their work area and at least 6′ away from others. They have cleaning staff that comes through regularly to sanitize surfaces. They’ve made the rest rooms single-occupancy, and installed a system that records a picture of the person along with their temperature as they enter the building, for contact tracing.

    In the middle of August, the Extended Emergency Leave with Hazard Pay program ended, and we went back to work full time. It was good while it lasted. It was nice working 20 hours per week and getting the equivalent pay of working 70 hours. It really came in handy when we needed to do repairs on our roof and replace the natural gas line to the house last summer.

    I’m fully comfortable with my work situation. I believe my employer is taking appropriate steps to ensure my safety. In fact, I think they’ve gone above and beyond what was necessary. My bank balances would agree.

    In September they gave hourly employees who were making less than $60k/year a 2% raise. And in November they gave us a one-time bonus of $700. It was their way of saying thank you for putting ourselves at risk for them.

    When vaccination started rolling out, the district set up a program to get staff registered for it. They also allowed us to go to our vaccination appointments on the clock. My first dose took me almost 5 hours, the second just under 3 hours.

    I know that I’m extremely lucky to have the job I do. I had just started here in November 2019. My previous employer ended up furloughing most of their employees for 3 months, after cutting their hours/pay to 80% of what they were getting. They still aren’t back to 100%.

  111. middle name danger*

    I’m not holding up well. I’m definitely in a better position than those who work directly in the public, but I’m in production/operations for a company where all the sales and office staff have been working from home. We’re here still building and sending packages so they can keep making money. There are three of us that have been here the entire time, except when we were forced to burn our PTO to rotate schedules when it all first started. (Which nobody else had to do.) I am in contact with delivery people and pest control/landscaping, and it feels invasive when people who are WFH pop back into the office without warning us, which is happening more and more. I’ve called out sick multiple times this month just because the stress is getting to me again but I have no reserves left.

  112. Violet Fox*

    I’m tired. Drained and tired.

    I work as a sysadmin at a university. I mostly work with infrastructure and research tech (computation towards lower end of HPC, storage, scientific software, machine learning — all of that fun stuff), and over-night I had to become an expert in digital teaching teach.

    We managed to get a Zoom license for campus two days before we were shut down last year. Most people were gone from campus for two months, we were gone for two weeks — worked 70+ hour weeks in those two weeks and got permission to go back to handout equipment, deal with the mail etc, because that was relaxing compared to the rest of the job.

    We’ve been hybrid since May of last year, with hybrid teaching in the fall, digital this current semester, with students sometimes on campus, sometimes no. One of the real upsides of higher-ed is that lots of people have their own offices, and at least in my department we’re blessed with large shared offices and windows that open (weather allowing).

    Everything takes more time. Sourcing iPads for our teaching staff took about a week of phone calls, Converting classrooms with chalkboards to hybrid teaching rooms took time since we had to do it ourselves instead of being able to hire in people. Things that were a couple of minute conversation get dragged out for days or longer over email. Sales people we needed to talk to were furloughed so I ended up doing a lot of the work they would normally do myself.

    I think I stopped working flat-out somewhere around November, maybe December, and now it’s just higher than normal, with a growing backlog of things to do when things more normalize, even though a lot of normal work that had to get done still did get done.

    I think I only had one or two months last year where I didn’t get overtime (not the US, so overtime rules are different here and too complicated to get into).

    Supply lines for IT equipment are still massively messed up, the chip shortage is still a thing, and since I don’t have the emergency fund I had last year things like webcams (ones we use trippled in price in a year), these things are eating my budget.

    tl;dr Tired, need a vacation, much work to do after things normalize.

    1. H2*

      Oh, man—know that you are appreciated!

      I’m a professor and our IT and our center for teaching have been unbelievable. We could never have pulled it off without them!

      1. Violet Fox*

        Thank you!

        Truthfully our professors/section teachers/course graders have all been amazing and rolling with all the changes and doing a great job doing the best they can for our students given the rapid changes. They have also been so understanding with time and workload.

  113. Firecat*

    At the start of the pandemic I worked at a hospital. You would think a hospital would take infection prevention seriously, but mine took the same approach as 45s administration and left it up to the various managers. The result was a fractured inconsistent approach to managing Covid.

    My manger decided Covid wasn’t a big deal and that essential meant onsite – even though mine and others could be done remotely. We were allowed to be remote for 4 weeks before ordered back onsite for “fairness”.

    It was awful. Those of us who had a brief respite were treated like shit by those who stayed onsite the whole time. I remember the first day back. Any time I or another person who had worked from home came within 10ft they suddenly went quite. Our “hellos” and “how are yous” were met with icy silence.

    It also happened that those of us who were able to WFH overwhelmingly took Covid more seriously. So we wore our masks consistently while the nurses who were seeing Covid patients would march around maskless and scoff at anyone who asked them to back up. People would come up to my desk and ignore social distancing, and I got reprimanded several times for not being “helpful enough” which was their code for me daring to enforce six feet.

    Covid spread quickly in the office. By May of 2020 30% of our department had caught it. You never knew who had Covid and who didn’t. The managers kept it secret. There were many times I would be in the break room or bathroom for something and would find out that Jane who was just walking around me maskless talking loudly actually had a positive Covid test 8 days ago but “I’m fine now”.

    I also remember a particularly awful experience where a Covid denier – whose whole family caught Covid – cornered me and went on about how Covid wasn’t a big deal. She was bed ridden for a week and her husband was hospitalized for 3 weeks. Her husband was still in the hospital with Covid when she cornered me and assured me it wasn’t the Covid that caused him to be in the hospital. It was only because he was fat and didn’t take care of himself that he was hospitalized and on a ventilator….

    The final straw for me was when I got an official reprimand, a meeting with HR and something places in my file for complaining about our department not following CDC guidelines. I think they filed it as not respecting authority or some nonsense.

    I was thankfully able to find a new job and have been remote since then. I’m incredibly grateful and feel for everyone stuck working in that environment. Last I heard my department had 75% of staff catch Covid. One retired afterwards due to fatigue after the illness but it was brushed off as simply retiring. Another younger coworker is a Covid long hauler. She was formerly a strong Covid denier, but now she is apparently sullen and withdrawn. She’s had months of coughing and fatigue and general lethargy and fogginess. She’s used all her sick time and is now experiencing pressure to step up her work and stop using Covid as an excuse.

    The entire department is now vaccinated but the damage was done. Lots of people left, either the hospital altogether or at least that department.

    1. Firecat*

      As someone on both sides of it, while WFH is much better, it’s true that it has its own challenges and the anxiety around returning is real. I don’t think it’s great to dismiss that because frontline work was so much harder.

      I dunno to me it’s kind of like my childhood. I grew up poor, food wasn’t always available, and it wasn’t uncommon for me to see my parents stab each other with forks or beat one another with chairs. However I never saw much value in telling someone who was stressed about typical teenage stuff that they were a privelaged little jerk who should stuff it. Their feelings were real and hard even if they were demonstrably much less difficult then my situation.

      I’m glad to see this post – not enough attention has focused on the frontline staff – particularly the retail workers. They were literally sacrificial pawns in a political game of chess. More Americans died in 2020 from Covid then all the US soldiers who died in WWII.

      1. school of hard knowcs*

        We are essential mfg and never shutdown. Management did everything to keep us safe and follow guidelines. We only had 2 cases that were traced back to family. I am very grateful for their attitude and choices.
        I think it is interesting what you said. Sometimes if you grow up in a difficult environment it can help you be more resilient and kind to those who don’t get it. (I quit playing who had the worse family game)
        I have looked at people I know are struggling much worse than I am and am amazed by choices to be upbeat and kind. I am equally amazed by the selfishness of others.
        I decided to be more generous and kind no matter how others behaved… no matter what.

      2. Tired Bubble Teacher*

        I was WFH until September and agree to a certain extent. I was certainly a mess about leaving my solitary routine to go back to in person teaching. For me, the complaints I’ve struggled with are two-fold: First, the folks who are fully vaccinated and their workplaces are continuing at least some safety measures, but they’re still really upset. I understand the fear, but I wish they’d be a little more introspective and realize that what they feel they need (100% no covid guarantee) doesn’t exist and we all have to live with it. My second pet-peeve is the not wanting to give up work from home creature comforts. I get bras are a big issue for some people, but I can’t help but think that I have been working my butt off AND wearing a bra AND trying to protect kids who don’t want to be protected from covid so maybe a little perspective?

        1. Firecat*

          That’s fair. My issue was more with the complaining that anyone would complain about anxiety after having the privealge of WFH.

          As an aside, I’m worried about getting a bra! I lost a lot of weight during Covid – Yay. But I’m still large chested. All my bras broke this year – and all 3 of the local plus sized clothing stores closed down. No other stores have my bra sizes. I have a few ill fitting sports bras I put on for short trips but honestly finding a new bra is going to require a 1.5 hr+ trip to a major city which I am extremely hesitant about. Either that or purchase some measurement equipment and take my chances online but that can risk hundreds of dollars when a lot of places are not accepting returns.

          1. Tired Bubble Teacher*

            Thanks for that perspective! A good reminder that context matters in any discussion of challenges and anxieties.

  114. Ace in the Hole*

    I’m the health & safety coordinator for a piece of essential municipal infrastructure. My work itself has handled things as well as I think we could have, although I may be biased since I’m one of the main members of our covid response team. But I’ve been getting burned out the last few months. The worst part, for me, is the pervasive focus on stay-at-home worker’s feelings/fears/conditions and the emotional impact it has on me. I’ve brought a bit of this up on AAM before, so I’m going to copy part of my previous comment:

    “So many of us have (by necessity) continued working on-site throughout the pandemic because our work is essential and impossible to do remotely. So many of us have (by necessity) continued doing essential errands in-person, because delivery is not a realistic or affordable option for everyone. In addition, as part of the team responsible for developing and enforcing my organization’s covid safety protocols, I have spent a lot of time researching it and evaluating hazards based on data and making risk assessments, so I can see how people are responding disproportionately/irrationally to covid-related risks compared to other more mundane hazards. I can’t help but feel like people wringing their hands about returning to the office with safety protocols AND vaccinations are being a bit… precious. And I have a very hard time holding my tongue when people voice their (not factually supported) anxieties about reopening around me, because it feels like they’re expecting sympathy for having had the privileges of being safe when I was not, being able to ignore things I had to be immersed in, and being expected to do a small amount of additional work to maintain safety measure that I have already worked very hard to create in the first place.”

    This is compounded by the fact that people often turn to me looking for advice or support with their covid-related questions, anxieties, or anger. They know my job is safety, they see me as an authoritative voice on covid matters, and I keep a cool head. But that means I have no escape. My job IS safety… but normally, that’s mundane occupational hazards like forklift accidents. Normally, I clock out and go home and don’t have to think about danger 24/7. Now? It’s like I never really get to clock out. I’m always interacting with it in some way. I never get to just talk about my opinion or feelings either – I have to be very careful about what I say all the time, because most people I know will take me as an authority speaking objective truth even if I’m just trying to vent about my own frustrations or anxieties.

    The other traumatic element has been society’s total betrayal of essential workers. At the beginning of the pandemic we were told by everyone from community members to the federal department of homeland security that our operations were CRITICAL, and we must not shut down no matter what. But when we asked for help, none came. No assistance getting PPE or cleaning supplies. No relief workers, no help with traffic control, no help enforcing mask mandates. No vaccine priority. No resources like childcare for our employees. No leniency from the state on regulatory requirements that were impossible to safely meet. No compassion from the community when we had to discontinue or limit certain services – only anger. We didn’t even get help from the local health department when we asked for assistance developing effective safety protocols. Nothing.

    To know that the people in your community – your neighbors, your leaders – would throw you into the fire and not even give you a hose… How do you come back from that?

  115. Madame Harv*

    I am taken aback by this statement: “People not wanting to leave their home offices is not the same and the more that we pretend that it is, the more we ignore the burden put upon those out and working every single day.” As somebody who was once in the “people not wanting to leave their home office” and am now in the “back at work” category, I feel these are exactly the same. When I didn’t want to go back to work, I was scared of getting sick when I had to go back to work and scared that people in my life who didn’t go back to work would shun me for health reasons. Now that I’m back at work, I have the exact same fears. It hurts my feelings a little (and is factually wrong) that this person is saying that my fears were not the same when I was at home as they are now that I’m back at work. We’re all afraid of the same things here. I do agree with most of the rest of this post — the pandemic has surely had a bigger impact on the people who have had to be at work the whole time and we’re very grateful to those people. And now everybody else is going through the same thing. I don’t exclude those still worried about what’s to come from them for my fear to be legitimate and I don’t think the person who wrote this letter should do that either.”

    1. A Library Person*

      I think what the OP was trying to get at was the difference between having been forced to take certain risks without meaningful societal acknowledgement (then or since) of the trauma of being in that position versus having to take on an increased level of risk after having the privilege to sit the worst of the pandemic out at home. And that is a privilege, even though it comes with its own unique challenges.

      The point isn’t that we aren’t all afraid of the same thing (we are; no one wants to get sick and die!), but that people who have been able to experience a degree of safety aren’t recognizing that others never had that opportunity in the first place.

      1. JustHadtoSayThis*

        I’m also a library person, and I just want to comment on your point about “having the privilege to sit out the worst of the pandemic at home.” Obviously it depends on your area, but in mine the first wave in March/April 2020 was the worst of the pandemic…and I was at home. The custodial, security, and IT staff of my library kept the library running while the other librarians and I sat terrified at home. We didn’t return until the summer, when things were much safer.

        This is not to undermine your point. Just to say it’s all relative. I would personally never compare myself to the essential workers who never stopped working in March, even though I have now been working in person for the better part of a year.

    2. Ace in the Hole*

      To be blunt: no, you don’t.

      Those of us who have been working on-site consistently throughout the pandemic have had to deal with not only the fears of people returning now, but also the uncertainty and confusion and fear of dealing with all that when we knew almost nothing about the virus except that it was deadly. When we didn’t know how deadly, how contagious, or how to effectively prevent it. We have been handed the burden of supporting our entire communities through an unprecedented disaster, but not given any help handling that burden. And we have been doing so for over a year, much of that time when there was no end in sight.

      Many of us have not only been dealing with this fear and stress, but have also been working grueling hours and/or doing emotionally exhausting work at the same time. A lot of us have had to become overnight experts in epidemiology because we were suddenly responsible for developing safety procedures for an unknown virus. Many of us have then had to do contact tracing for our own dying coworkers when the procedures we developed failed to protect them. Many of us have been subject to aggression, insults, rage, and contempt from people in our own communities

      I’m not even afraid anymore. I ran out of fear six months ago. Now I’m just exhausted and angry and betrayed.

      Your feelings are legitimate, but they are not the same.

      1. Another health care worker*

        This. Doing something now is not “exactly the same” as doing it now after having also been doing it for over a year.

      2. LQ*

        “I’m not even afraid anymore. I ran out of fear six months ago. Now I’m just exhausted and angry and betrayed.”

        So much support for this. Absolutely stand behind this.

        1. Sleepless*

          Yep. A year ago I was terrified. It turns out you can only walk around feeling terrified for so long. Now I’m just vaguely bitter.

      3. OTRex*

        A-freakin-men. Those of us in healthcare didn’t even GET to be afraid, because we had sh*t to do.

        1. Ace in the Hole*

          I really feel for you guys. I’m in garbage and that’s bad enough… I can’t even imagine what it’s been like for healthcare workers.

    3. Qwerty*

      You are not in the same situation as people who had to work for most of the pandemic. I was going into the office when the plague first hit and my state was in lockdown. We didn’t even know what the disease was, masks weren’t a debate item because we weren’t even thinking about them yet, tests were practically non-existant, all we knew was something dark and mysterious was happening. My explicit reason for being sent to the office was to spend time with strangers and new hires. When I say I expected to die, I am not being dramatic – a year before the pandemic I was in danger of dying *twice* from the same bout of pneumonia and its something of a regular occurrence for me. I put myself at risk while my coworkers moaned about how they should never have to come back to office because they were happier at home and bragged about who had the best home office setup. Even when I managed to minimize my time in the office, I didn’t have the option to put myself on an information diet to preserve my mental health – I had to become an expert in all the ways things could go wrong in order to advocate for the procedures that would protect my coworkers and set up good measurable metrics for how to tell when it was safe to return to the office, because the executives were paying attention to what was good for business not what was safe or reasonable – they would have had everyone back in June 2020 on alternating weeks and tried claiming the 12in dividers on our open office desks meant no one would need a mask. Whenever cases go to a long term low point and it looks like we might be able to reopen, everyone whines because “I don’t wanna” without showing any desire to contribute on making things safer. Going back to the office a year into the pandemic is very different from being there the whole time. I say this as someone who has been at two companies during the pandemic and been the biggest advocate at both for keeping people at home as long as possible.

    4. H2*

      Unless you were forced to interact in person with people in December and January of this year, your experience is not the same as mine. Period. The situation is NOT the same now.

      1. ChildTherapist*

        Yep. I joined two separate studies on COVID just to give myself a fighting chance. One was observational, but included home blood tests and covid swabs weekly. The other was a literally a vaccine trial- and I cried when I was invited to join because there was a 2 in 3 chance I’d get a real vaccine. Even if the vaccine had risks, I figured it was better than COVID.

    5. Frankie Derwent*

      It’s a vastly different thing to be working on site when covid vaccines weren’t developed yet and we had no idea how long that would take than now, and I say this from a country with less than 1 percent vaccinated but is expecting millions of doses by third quarter.

    6. KAZ2Y5*

      Wow, if this is milder than the comments that have been deleted…well any comment I have would probably get me kicked off this site. Having the privilege of working from home and not having to come back until after having been vaccinated is nowhere near the same as having to work (in a hospital for me) this whole time and especially having medical conditions that would make it worse to contract Covid.

  116. Random Southern Librarian*

    I was about ready to cry when I got my vaccine doses last month. My profession is not exactly known for being full of spring chickens; the majority of my family (including myself) are considered high risk for one reason or another; and the population we serve at my branch is mostly elderly. I have spent the past year terrified that I would give someone COVID and they would be hospitalized or die. I have had people freak out at me and throw Nazi salutes when we ask them to pull their masks up. I have worried constantly that someone would come in with COVID and purposely not wear a mask just to show us that it’s not a big deal and that they have COVID and are fine. We (the library system) are the only place in town where I have been that actually enforced masks (the joys of living in the South) and so we got a lot of pushback. As manager, I was the one employee who had to be there most of the time even with limited staff, so if I got it I had the greatest chance of spreading it to others while asymptomatic. It was all just a constant level of underlying stress that drained my energy to the point where I get off work, go home, and just sit on the couch to watch reality TV. I have problems even summoning the mental energy to follow a plot.

    To get the vaccine, and have my family and my work team get the vaccine, has been a huge relief. Now that my friends who were working from home are getting the vaccine, it has been a bit odd for me to hear them talk about it. Because I did not have the option to stay home, so the vaccine is just peace of mind, not special permission. But my friends who are getting it are talking about how they may soon feel comfortable going to the grocery store instead of getting delivery or curbside or even (the shock) seeing other people from a distance of 6 ft or more apart outside. It’s just a bit of a disconnect. Because even something that seems like it would unite our experiences (getting the vaccine) is still so different for the WFH crowd vs the in-person crowd. So it is nice to get a dedicated thread to talk about our experiences as in-person workers because even the little things, like the vaccine, can mean something so different to us.

  117. officefarmer*

    I’m a farm manager – I’ve been working more than usual since last March trying to fill gaps in the food supply with our own product, and responding to never before seen demand for local food. I’ve been screamed at in our store for asking folks to kindly put a mask on, I’ve had folks intentionally cough at me at farmers markets, I’ve endured eyerolls on eyerolls from folks who didn’t want to mask up, but did when asked. I was one of the last groups in my state to get vaccinated and it was a slap in the face after spending a year enduring all this.

    All the folks complaining about working from home irk me beyond belief. You can’t farm from home, and we’ve been busting it for over a year now to respond to this crisis. Thank your local farmers and workers – with your dollars, to be clear. No more applauding in the streets or hanging up a sign while you continue to mistreat service workers. Tip at least 20% (should be more), buy from local farms, be as kind as humanly possible to anyone you encounter in a grocery store, restaurant, or any kind of retail establishment. You have no idea what we’ve been through this past year.


  118. Jerry Larry Terry Gary*

    If I see one more person with a mask under their nose, I may throw something. At them. Because I have the individual right to do that.

    1. JustHadtoSayThis*

      You actually don’t! Sorry, I know you’re joking, but you don’t have the individual right to assault people, even though I agree it’s frustrating when people don’t wear masks over their nose.

    2. More anon today*

      Friend of mine calls them “nosers.” So now I have a new word I can use in my head. Ducking nosers!

      Had a customer the other day with a mask printed to make him look like a noser while actually wearing the mask correctly, and I haven’t decided how I feel about that. Someone going “Ha, ha, I’m pretending to be a jerk!” usually doesn’t feel much better to me than someone actually being a jerk. Or maybe I just have lost any sense of humor about this thing after the last year in retail.

  119. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

    I’ve been in person at work MOST of the time–I got about two months at home right at the beginning. My workplace has done a fairly good job with the circumstances we have, although there have been frustrations. So, caveat that I probably have not seen the worst of being at work the whole time.

    I want to say, I don’t get the hostility toward people who have been able to stay home and are worried about coming back now. Yes, we SHOULD have had that as well. But every person who stayed home helped us as well, or in theory would have, by slowing the spread. I contracted COVID despite following all the rules and doing all the advisable things, except staying home from work, and I’m still deeply angry about it. But I have been worrying FOR my friends who have worked from home, and I’m encouraging them to push to continue doing so as long as possible.

    I told my mom this earlier in the whole thing, when she got called back to her office after about six months. She’s in a unique position at her workplace, and she could have continued to work from home. She didn’t want to, since she thought other people would be upset. I kept telling her that by being one less person in the office, you are protecting THEM. Politeness and fairness are not the same thing right now as they were before. Doing what is safer, within what is possible and responsible for your livelihood, is the moral thing.

    So yes, people at home have not experienced the same things as we have. But I don’t think any of them claimed that they have. More people in the workplace means more risk for everyone, so while they are concerned for themselves, of course, we should also be concerned for them (as I truly believe most of them who are concerned about COVID at all have been for us all along), and for the effect (upon all of us) of them being back in offices and workplaces.

    I really don’t see why it has to be a zero-sum game, or why we have to be mad at the people who are afraid of very real, scary things. Be mad at the powerful people who have let this happen to us. Don’t be mad at the people who are facing something THAT WE ALREADY KNOW is scary, just because we’ve already been doing it.

  120. Myrin*

    As many regular commenters/readers know, I work as a shelf-stocker at a drugstore, so I was never home from the beginning (to top it off, I’m responsible for what we internally call the “cotton” aisles, which includes toilet paper and was not fun this time of year one year ago; I literally had to change into a different undershirt and polo at work because I was one giant heap of sweat with how fast I had to go about re-stocking that stuff).

    I do have to say that I don’t love the whole “trauma” narrative. Maybe it’s because I’m not in the US, maybe it’s just because I’m somewhat emotionally stunted by nature, but I honestly don’t feel traumatised in the least. (Actually, the thing that had a much bigger impact on me personally during all of this is the fact that I had just, in February last year, started looking into getting jobs in my actual field which has been placed on hold pretty much completely because it relies on crowds, and I don’t know at all what the future holds for me. That makes me feel sad and sometimes a bit hopeless, but not traumatised.)
    To be clear, I don’t want to diminish these feelings in any way – my younger sister has been dealing with PTSD since she was 15, so this is not a foreign topic to me – and I would never in my life tell someone who says that they’re feeling traumatised because of this that they shouldn’t or that “well, actually”, but it does feel kind of alienating to see this whole “we’re all collectively living through trauma right now” thing pushed so strongly when I’m just over here like “erm, not really?”.

    Writing this down and in that, thinking about it more deeply, I’m now thinking that this might be location-specific – I don’t reckon I’ve seen that particular framing in our local news. I’m also quite sure that none of my coworkers feel anxious, not at this point in time but not really during the last year, either, even those who’ve had to deal with the virus themselves. I don’t know if that says something about us as a people but I feel pretty confident in that assessment, so make of that what you will.

    In any case.

    People are, of course, people, and behave like annoying customers even during a pandemic, there are just new topics they’re being annoying about now. We are, by government orders, mandated to wear KN95 (I think that’s what they’re called in English?) in stores, and my workplace has been excellent at enforcing that (workers are exempt from that, which is also something some customers are annoying about. Go figure.). When we tell someone that they’re wearing the wrong kind of mask or the right kind of mask but wrongly and they become angry or refuse or what-have-you, we’re asked to immediately contact a supervisor – most often our big boss – and she will put the wrath of god into the person in question and, if necessary, throw them out, no questions asked.

    We’ve been provided with all kinds of masks for free from the beginning, we can take as many of the new home tests as we want (take them home, I mean, not take them at work; we sell them and always have them in stock), our breaks are such that only a certain amount of people can be in the break room at any given time, we’re encouraged to keep people at arm’s length (to varying rates of success), we are somewhat arranged to work in “clusters” so that only the same people are close to each other.

    What definitely could’ve been done better are
    1. the restriction of how many people are allowed in the store (it’s working fine now but especially before Christmas, we were packed even when within official limits; that wasn’t the fault of our store in particular but rather that of the big, higher-than-regional bosses who came up with that number. I was not impressed.) and
    2. what happened in the actual case of one of our coworkers actually contracting corona. That one was 100% on our direct boss. When the first person came down with it in… I wanna say November? October?… she did not communicate that at all to anyone of us, not even the people who had worked with her (the ill coworker) right before she was diagnosed. She very much adopted the stance of “if I pretend it’s not there, it’s not there” which of course doesn’t work with a potentially deadly virus! Nothing stays hidden for long in this store, though, so after only one day, everyone was informed through the grapevine (and no one had gotten it, thankfully!), but boss didn’t actually know that so we now knew that she honest-to-god wouldn’t have informed anyone, even though she’s explicitly allowed to do so. Same thing happened with the two other coworkers who got it earlier this year. I would really wish for some more transparency and backbone from my boss in cases like these but overall, we’ve been bravely soldiering along.

    1. Myrin*

      Oh, and another thing my workplace hasn’t been doing well at all and which I was just reminded of reading another comment, even though it’s arguably the biggest thing: They keep playing their stupid radio spot thanking us, the workers, for being there and “giving our all” (big eyeroll for that one in particular) while not paying us any more and, in fact, reducing personnel and hours to 75% during last summer, all while having the store opened like normal, meaning the people who were there were stretched even thinner. We have now (as in, last week) received a “corona bonus” in the form of a whopin’ 100€ to spend at our store – but you can only get it if you were ill for fewer than X days, so if you actually had covid, you’re not gonna get that, nu-uh, and if you’re only part-time of course you get only a percentage of that. But at least he gets to play his feelgood radio spot once every hour.

  121. Retail Pro*

    I have been going into my job occasionally since May and full time since June. It’s a retail company and we were closed the first two months. I don’t usually work with the general public in my role, but occasionally I do, and most of my staff does interact with the general public to some degree. We have had passive aggressive mask wearers, a “customer” who used coughing as a form of intimidation, employees get hired only to bail after we invest in training so they could file for the unemployment benefits (which with the extra $600 was more than we could pay a sales associate). I also have two chronic pulmonary diseases, so while I’m relatively young, I am high risk. The anxiety has been unbearable at times, with plenty of meltdowns, questioning if I should quit, weighing my odds of exposure and likelihood of severity should I get infected, having to schedule staff wide testing after several in store exposures. It’s been rough. We aren’t even “essential” in the way that a grocery store or dr office is, but we have been open and abiding all modifications since we were allowed to reopen I have been at this job for over 7 years now and didn’t want to jump ship, I had the chance to create policies and procedures to promote safety and health, this definitely changed our work culture on sick leave and hopefully that remains (previously it was more like, I know you feel sick but can you tough it out for a half day? Now it’s more accommodating to giving people time to rest and recover). As we became eligible for vaccines we planned ahead to allow staff coverage in case people felt ill from side effects. But overall I think the anxiety of our staff overall has been one of the biggest hurdles – the guilt and stress an employee felt after potentially exposing the rest of us, the anxiety of working the general public who can’t manage to keep their masks on, the harassment of anxious customers or people trying to intimidate our staff. We have almost all receive our second vaccine now and are feeling better, cases are plummeting in our area so feeling more optimistic.

  122. I'm A Little Teapot*

    I switched jobs recently. My previous job it is well known that the CEO and other high level management do not like remote work, and they continuously talked about getting everyone back to the office when it was safe. Well, I heard from a friend there recently that they’ve officially stated that it will be hybrid in office/remote when they can pull people into the office. That happened because the employees, as a whole, pushed back and demanded flexibility.

    That’s one company. But if that particular company can shift to hybrid, a lot of others can. It’s going to take time. It’s going to take bloated expenses because they have office space for everyone but it’s half empty, and the related pressures that go along with it. It’s going to take people, en masse, demanding change. Its going to take sweeping culture change. But you can’t put the genie back in the bottle, and Covid let it out.

    I suspect that 10 years from now, the environment will have completely changed, at least for traditional office jobs, and you either change with it or become a dinosaur. I won’t be investing in corporate real estate anytime soon. I do think investments in converting commercial real estate to residential other uses besides traditional offices are going to boom at some point.

  123. JB (not in Houston)*

    Yeah, not wanting to hear complaints from WFH folks, I get. Of course you don’t want to hear complaints from people who seem oblivious to the fact that you’ve been at risk the whole time while they were able to minimize their risk. But wanting those people to be forced to come in to an environment that you already think is unsafe, so that it’s even more unsafe for everyone, including you? That I don’t get. We had to come in to the office on a rotating schedule throughout the past year, and I was relieved that the whole office wasn’t there when I was because that lowered my risk. I do not understand wanting more people to come into the office where safety measures aren’t taken so that everyone is in more danger, and I don’t think you have standing to say they aren’t being team players if your reaction to hearing that your coworkers are going to have to put themselves at risk is to say “good, if I have to suffer, you do too.” Not wanting to *hear* oblivious complaints, otoh, and wanting them to understand that they’ve been lucky in ways their coworkers haven’t, that’s more than fair.

    1. JB (not in Houston)*

      Oops, this was supposed to be a response to a comment and not a stand alone comment.

      1. Princess Trachea-Aurelia Belaroth*

        The comment was probably deleted in moderation.

        I’ve been working in person, though, and I agree.

    2. H2*

      I don’t care if people want to continue to WFH. What is exhausting is listening to them be shocked! and horrified! at how dangerous it is that anyone would suggest it. Commenters here literally post regularly about how they won’t even consider the idea and their companies are evil for suggesting it. Is it better for everyone if some people are able to continue working from home? Sure. Is the idea that your company might want you to come back to work by the end of the year horrific? That’s ridiculous.

    3. Frankie Derwent*

      No, we don’t want more people working in the office if they didn’t need to be. We just don’t like listening to people recite the risks and utter horribleness of being made to work in the office when we’ve been living through them all along.

      I especially hate the narrative that people who are going out and catching covif must be lacking in discipline and if we could only all stay at home, the pandemic would be over.

  124. Bucky Barnes*

    Thanks for this Alison. I’ve been at work for almost the entire time while most of my coworkers have cycled in and out. My management has been strong in requiring masks specially when some people don’t want to. Our seating has also been rearranged so that there’s an empty cube between each occupied cube. My mental health has still taken a nosedive this year. And while I think we’re on an upswing with vaccinations, I still have rough days where the anxiety flared up.

    My group was rough with communicating what was going on at first. It’s better now though there’s still room for improvement.

    1. Bucky Barnes*

      Also, Pickled Limes your second paragraph posted at 11:45 is so me. In fact, I’m eating lunch in my car right now.

  125. Cormorannt*

    Oh man, I feel this. I’m in manufacturing. I manage a small team, some of whom can only do their work in person and some of whom can work remotely but not fully effectively. I had to furlough my in-person folks last spring and then we were all called back to the office last summer. I worked so hard to make my team feel safe, to do the best by them, answer their questions, etc., back when nobody had any answers or any idea what to do. I tried to keep those working from home as productive as I could so we wouldn’t be called back into the office any sooner than we were. Once back, my company was mostly focused on surface sanitizing, hand-hygiene and temperature monitoring. I fought for better mask compliance mostly successfully. All of it was so freaking hard. I don’t think I realized how stressed I was until the massive relief I felt when I got vaccinated. And then frankly the letters about people wanting to lie about their vaccination status so they wouldn’t have to go back to the office made me absolutely rage. I’m not proud of that, and I try to have empathy for people who are now dealing with what I had to deal with a year ago. I understand the anxiety, truly, but I cannot be there for it. I am wrung out.

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

    My job isn’t essential, but my org is considered essential and due to really bad, expensive internet where I live and a lack of home technology, I’m not able to do my normal job while at home. For the first 3 weeks, when they thought we were only going to be gone for a few weeks, this was OK with my org that my whole department was just shut down — my mobile devices allowed me to deal with email, we use Teams for meetings, and we were to spend our days doing LinkedIn Learning courses or other training that we’ve never really had the time for; but as time wore on, my real work NEEDED to be done.

    First we all were brought in on alternating days, and then my department coworkers were finally allowed to take their work computers home (we have more expensive equipment and software than most others, and they didn’t want us taking them home). That would have solved my home computer problem, but not my internet problem so I agreed, as the only one, to work in the office.

    However, the org also decided to save money on utility, supply and cleaning costs by consolidating workers in my building to 2 floors and closing off the other floors; there were other little things too — they stopped bottled water deliveries, buying coffee supplies and shut down many restrooms. I’ve been required to work at a conference room table in a conference room chair, instead of my usual computer desk with a proper adjustable chair, keyboard tray and correct monitor height, etc. Unlike home workers, I can’t really do anything to fix my environment — it’s not MY space.

    A year later and I just can’t anymore; I’ve had back spasms (enough to keep me in bed for days), my neck and shoulders hurt chronically, and I have eye strain. When I bring up returning to my office/desk/chair, my grand boss just sort of sneers at me about us all having to make the situation work and we haven’t finalized plans to return yet, but I’m already here. She makes me feel like I’m unreasonable princess for expecting that my employer supply me with an adequate work station…that ALREADY EXISTS! This is a new person who started one year ago in April and the department has only “met” her virtually. I think in a way, she’s retaliating against me for not being able to work from home this whole time — either she’s jealous because she would rather work in the office, or is just so out-of-touch that she doesn’t believe that I can’t get reliable internet where I live. I don’t want to get to a point where I am making a workers comp claim or going to HR (I have no experience with HR here except to sign up for/review my benefits and that’s always been a fine experience), what would they even do?

    Like many others, my org has done a lot to support WFH, but despite there actually being a good number of us still coming in regularly, they just don’t make any acknowledgment that being in-office has been more difficult than it was pre-pandemic and they COULD do such minor things that would make a significant difference.

  127. Excelsior PT*

    Hospital based physical therapist here. My department was shut down for two weeks last April because 14 out of 40 tested positive within a short window. After the 2 weeks, about 75% of the department was furloughed until July. I’m one of the ones who have been here all along.

    It has been brutal, not so much because of the actual work, but because of the chasms that have opened up between staff on a personal level due to varying degrees of political and “scientific disagreements” – and not abiding by the general rules of when and where to talk politics etc…. We are front line providers and I am trying to tune out anti-vax rhetoric and conspiracy theories daily more from my coworkers than the people I take care of. The phases “arm chair QB” and “back seat driver” come to mind with how many of them discuss current guidelines and developments in public health. I expected more from trained healthcare professionals, even though we are extremely rural in our location.

    At this point, I’m just exhausted and have to talk myself out of calling out sick at least twice a week. Many of my co-workers assume that it is like this everywhere in the world, and are shocked to hear it is not (hello New Zealand and Australia) but can’t seem to make the connection between how their different approach lead to their different outcome. In my area we are actually seeing the surge now, and in younger folks, that we were preparing for at this time LAST year. I had my hair cut last week and the next day learned by hairdresser and multiple of her family members tested positive and all I could think was, “yup, that seems about right.”

    Pre-pandemic we traveled multiple times a year; it was our # 1 means of self care to have a trip to look forward to. Scratch that. If we are lucky we will be traveling in December, but I’m so pessimistic that I still booked everything at rates that could be 100% refunded and I don’t dare get excited for it. I read an article talking about the definition of the word “languishing” recently – it certainly hit home.

  128. Nishipip*

    I am a health care worker in audiology, and my workplace handled covid AMAZINGLY. Despite being an essential worker, my company did close us down for 2 months at the beginning, having all emergency client needs met by our head office, while we acquired PPE. They continued to pay us 75% of our wages while we were at home. Our clients struggled, so it could only be very temporary (long wait times for repair etc).

    Once we were back, we were given a lot of autonomy and very stringent rules to follow. We literally kept our doors locked until a client complied to the rules. We have the occasional client who can’t wear a mask, but those are very few and far between, and these are people who actually can’t wear one, not those who pretend.

    My government, however, has completely fumbled the vaccination response. It’s worse now than ever before, and EVEN THOUGH I AM A HEALTHCARE WORKER WHO WORKS ALMOST EXCLUSIVELY WITH CLIENTS 70+, I have yet to be vaccinated. I applied twice now, and still have yet to get a response. The call line is just automated, so I can’t get any help there.

    I am very much at risk still, and while I am extremely privileged to be working for a company that handled their end so well, I am insanely jealous of those who got to work from home.

    1. Jenny F. Scientist*

      I don’t love the government here (US), but at least they did all the healthcare workers FIRST. My state did school teachers right afterwards (though not college profs for several months despite…. the disaster that was colleges.) Everyone should do the healthcare workers! You can’t do lots of healthcare remotely!

      1. Nishipip*

        My province left it entirely up to the individual health units, so some towns have all of their health care workers vaxxed and others don’t. Its been really frustrating waiting by my phone to be called and not getting anything, and not being able to speak to a real person to go and get my shot.

        It’s really frustrating seeing those who are retired, and are able to stay home, getting their shots, but all essential and health care workers can’t. Not only are we the ones getting sick right now, but we are vectors for the community as well.

  129. old biddy*

    My husband and I have been on-site and we’re both exhausted, even though we’re pretty fortunate. He’s had to work extra to cover for coworkers who were furloughed and deal with coworkers who remove their masks all the time. I’m a scientist working at a university. Everyone gets tested at least once a week and my students are really good about masking, so that’s good. Nonetheless it’s tiring because I’m doing my own job as well as covering for everyone who was working from home. Now that we’re back to full occupancy things are getting easier.

  130. AnonPi*

    I would say maybe half the people in my division have been WFH the entire time, about 1/4 on site the entire time because they couldn’t do their jobs at home, and the rest going in on a rotating basis (say a few days a week). I’ve been WFH the entire time, and my job mostly work with the last group. Essentially there are small teams of people, and they take turns to keep numbers of people down to reduce exposure.

    These people are badly burned out, and it’s very concerning that no one from management is willing to address it. I wasn’t sure how aware they were, so brought it up to my manager in the hope they would bring it up to them, but he said that their managers are aware. So it’s come across as they don’t care (either they truly don’t, or are that oblivious how serious it is), as long as we keep everything running. Management is pushing for maintaining normal schedules and work loads regardless of how hard this is to for them to do. People are depressed, anxious, and getting sick from the stress. They’ve asked to slow things down or flat out halt work for awhile to give everyone a break, but that’s not going to happen. And now management from top levels (above our division) are pushing to start having everyone come back so we can fully “return to normal” even though that is still not possible.

    I just want to shake someone and yell at them to open their eyes and see what the hell is going on. Someone is going to suffer permanent physical or mental harm from the stress, or there’s going to be a workplace accident and someone gets hurt because people are exhausted and burnt out. It wouldn’t surprise me if some people quit and I wouldn’t blame them.

  131. Cabubbles*

    I got a whopping 7 days in lockdown. I missed supplemental unemployment by 4 days! I was one of a 3 three man crew when a typical 4hour shift has nearly 7. In the first day back alone I walked 7 miles. I live in a red county where a good chunk of the population still thinks this is a leftist plot. In the last month of California’s shutdown, we had be cussing us out constantly for still being closed. One gentleman called the store to rant at my 63year old coworker that we were violating his rights and that God would come down on us. When we finally reopened the majority of the staff intentionally missed calls to come back to work. The shutdown came during a time that is usually slow; this is usually a time that we use to recharge from the holiday season. So when all of my coworkers started trucking back looking fresh with stories about baking and increased savings I wanted to pull my hair out. Then the complaining started. As a manager I had to ask them to wear their masks correctly. I had to direct unruly customers. I had to step in when customers were becoming abusive. Through all of this many of my coworkers couldn’t understand why those of us that stayed were so frazzled. Relations with my coworkers have improved with a new holiday season but the public still generally sucks. We had a woman secretly film us so she could laugh about getting through the whole store without a mask… all because I had turned her away earlier in in the day. To cut this short I’m tired and I wish hazzard pay had lasted longer.

  132. Going anon for this one*

    I’m posting on behalf of my family member who works in a retail setting. Many stores in our town closed at the beginning of the pandemic, but this one declared themselves essential and stayed open because they sell fabric that can be used to make masks. Although mask supplies could be easily purchased online and picked up in store, and they even offer curbside pickup, customers prefer to come in, often in large family groups, and browse. They declare they are bored and their kids are bored and they “need to shop!” And then they complain that the store shouldn’t be open. Um. Okay.

    Our city, and then our state, declared a mask mandate, but the chain refuses to allow staff to enforce it. At most, if they see a customer carrying a mask or wearing it below their face, they can ask them to wear it correctly. My family member has been cursed at for doing this. The store brags about “enhanced cleaning,” but none of this is happening. Employees were bringing their own supplies at the beginning of the pandemic, because all they could get from their corporate office was extra window cleaner.

    Customers ignore the 6-foot guidelines, walk around signs and barriers, remove their masks to sneeze, and remove their masks to place them on counters when they “need a break from wearing them.” I’ve really come to hate people.

  133. Mostly*

    I was let go during a layoff of my entire department in January before all the shut downs. I had my interview for my current job a day before stay-at-home orders and started 3 days later. My work is an industry that is essential- HVAC- but our company focuses on lots of non-essential sides of that for ultra rich people. My coworkers only wear masks when they have to and I’m not able to wear on in office. At most it’s me and my manager and our boss, but the guys go in and out.
    Besides giving our techs masks, we’ve really done nothing here. The owner and wife got covid and stayed home during that time. There have been multiple scares this whole time. We are in Georgia which had extra trouble with very bad government response.

    This whole time I have had just this base line fear. I knew I’d get sick and with my health issues that could easily kill me. And before the vaccines I had this feeling of “well, just get it already so I can stop worrying”. And then when the vaccines were released I would cry with frustration when trying to find any way to get one. I am finally fully vaxxed now, 2 of our techs are and my in-office coworker is half vaxxed. My family is. I can finally exhale a bit but just knowing that for a year most of the people at my job didn’t care is just so painful.

  134. BothSides*

    I’ve been back in the office by choice since July. Our small team (we are not essential workers) was given the option to work at home before our state officially mandated it and some did, some didn’t. I chose to for 4 months, then returned for a variety of reasons, including wifi, A/C, and social interactions. (I’m single and live alone so it was a long 4 months.) We have a very large facility for fewer than a dozen employees; and everyone has their own office, masks are required in common areas, and we’re closed to the public, so it felt safe to me to come back. Others waited until our management required it, then went back home when our area regressed and got locked down again.

    Apparently, some who chose not to work from home complained about those of us who did, saying things like it must be nice to get to sleep in and then work in our pajamas, etc. Never mind that I was afraid to go pee during the day in case I missed a call and someone thought I was slacking off, I got blamed for technology issues I had no control over, etc. There were no mid-day walks when I was at home! (Unlike the people who were in the office.) Now they are trying to claim martyr status because they’ve been here the whole time. As it happens, I was the only one who got sick with COVID, and one of only a couple who has been vaccinated so far.

    I definitely have sympathy for folks who HAD to be at work and deal with the public, but I’m lacking it for my own colleagues who made that choice and are now complaining that they have been here the whole time.

  135. RicksGuardian*

    I work for the feds, and we have been going to work for almost the entire time (we were given admin leave for several weeks at the beginning of last year). I have to say my Agency has done as good as job as I think was possible with trying to keep us safe while continuing to do critical, 24/7 duties. They divided us so that we worked one week in office, the other at home or on leave if not possible, with the weekend to disinfect. They gave us lots of PPE, sanitizers, and such. They even had us sitting in every other desk where possible to try to keep 6 feet away at all times. They kept us updated on positive coworkers (I had to self-quarantine twice) so we could try to limit spread. They even gave us ideas on how to keep ourselves busy during a self-quarantine (yes, bread-making was an option).
    Still, it has been stressful and overwhelming an anxiety-causing. And having to go into work meant that so many people could not be there for those who needed support or help — I had to protect others, I couldn’t help out those I wanted to help. I lost 2 uncles to COVID, and one of my cousins quit her job as a nurse because she couldn’t take it anymore. It’s been so heartbreaking to see the reality of COVID in hospitals and nursing homes and senior centers and vets– one of the worst things is to die without the support and presence of your loved ones and even familiar surroundings. And because of people’s refusals to do the simplest, easiest of actions — stay away from others and wear a mask, thousands of people’s and pets’ last moments were of fear, loneliness, pain, and confusion, and my cousin said being so helpless and angry just got to her and her spirit broke. It’s happening all over in the medical services.
    And yet the general tone out there is so selfish — altruism is an inconvenience, it’s a change in routine, and someone’s “go f** yourself” desire to have a beer in a bar has led to the immeasurable suffering of hundreds. While I don’t want to downplay the affect COVID has had on everyone — feelings are always valid, and I understand the change of everyday living is stressful on everyone, it’s been really crushingly hard as well on those of us who had to stretch ourselves even more to ensure the best possible life for everyone, regardless of their views or actions. Even as they disparage me and put me in harm’s way.

  136. coldsassy*

    I work in a bank branch, which means that my job cannot be done from home, but everyone who works for the bank but NOT in a branch has been working from home since last March. Our lobbies were closed from the end of March until the end of July.

    Some days are better than others, but frankly, I’m exhausted. It is really hard to get out of bed some days, given that I already have clinical depression and anxiety, which was under control for the most part pre-pandemic but was triggered by the pandemic stuff. We were given an extra week of PTO last year plus about a month and a half of extra pay for everyone working in a branch last March and April, which they cut off after realizing covid wasn’t going away anytime soon. Anyhow, this year they used that as a justification for why our annual raises were smaller. And I can’t say that getting company-wide emails about “when we will return to offices” is doing much for the morale of those of us who have been physically present in branches this entire time.

    I’m just…. tired and I really feel sometimes like I could just sleep for days.

  137. Veterinarian*

    We are a veterinary clinic. Never closed for one day and we are frankly the only clinic in our metro area that hasn’t had COVID transmission at work. It’s been a completely bonkers year for the vet industry too, thanks to pandemic pet purchases. (And lots of stressed out cats who were used to getting some time alone lol.)

    Right – strict mask enforcement, we changed immediately to have the human clients stay outside except for euthanasia, super clear leave policies (if you are sick or exposed to someone who is sick/COVID+ DO NOT COME TO WORK), full paid time off for sick leave and/or quarantine (this was due to the first COVID relief bill, super important), tons of communication with our county public health dept about when we had staff potentially exposed, changed schedules to allow for vaccination as soon as it was available to us early this year. Our bosses also did a good job walking the fine line of encouraging responsible behavior in our personal lives without intruding into them. My family was always very careful bc I had a pregnant wife and then a newborn but co-workers wanted to travel and socialize and our bosses were like it’s not our role to police your personal lives but we want to stress that COVID exposure in your personal lives puts all of us at risk.

    Wrong – the only thing my employer did wrong is that I think they should have offered the vet techs a raise or hazard bonus. It’s very hard low paid work and they are all exhausted. The other things that were wrong were out of their control – clients have been bad about wearing masks and have been extremely rude about our safety precautions requiring them to remain outside. (FYI – nearly every pet is better behaved without the owner there!) The ERs and big vet school near us have been short staffed the whole time so we are providing a level of care beyond what is appropriate for us. We are so tired. Please be kind to your veterinarians! It’s always a hard job with lots of mean and rude clients and devastating cases and this past 18 months have been next level.

    1. Momma Bear*

      Just wanted to say that I appreciate the efforts vets have taken to continue to care for animals. We had a sick pet earlier this year and I was so grateful for the ability to do “curbside” vs having to go to a strange ER vet (plus the cost). It’s been a weird year.

    2. Sylvan*

      Just commenting to say that I recently had to go to an emergency vet (my cat later passed away). I experienced nothing but kind, polite service from every single person I interacted with. You’re all going through such a hard time, and the customer-facing part of your job seems like it would have been difficult even pre-pandemic. Thank you for what you’re doing.

    3. Black Horse Dancing*

      Vets have been incredible throughout the pandemic. They have been the kindest, best medical staffs I have come into contact with as well as the most caring. Most vet clinics even allowed people inside if it was a euthanasia case. Be proud of yourself and your staff!

    4. Anon at the Moment*

      Our vet’s office has been phenomenal thru this whole pandemic. I was just there today with my dog and noticed that they had to tape a sign to the door reminding clients that they could not yell at or insult office staff or they would be asked to leave. How sad is it that they had to remind their clients to show basic respect and decency?

  138. Haven’t picked a user name yet*

    I am lucky to work from home (flexible before the pandemic) but my husband is a chef at a prestigious college. We live in a wonderful community that has taken the pandemic very seriously, but on the edge of the portion of our state that skews red. The college closed to students/food service last March, but had a smaller population on campus starting in august, and almost full capacity in January this year.

    The school has been excellent at requiring mask usage/and other precautions, but that doesn’t mitigate the co workers who obviously don’t wear masks outside of work, or go on vacation, or go to bars etc. working in a kitchen is also challenging to maintain distance. All employees have also been tested twice a week since last summer.

    What they haven’t done well is being upfront with who has tested positive. As the spring has sprung here, cases are spreading in the dorms as the kids are socializing, and his kitchen was closed for two weeks this month because three co-workers tested positive. But they would send out a generic email saying – there was no close contact etc. my husband has felt anxious for a year, but even more so, since he knows he spends time with less than 6 feet between all his coworkers throughout the day, but he hasn’t been considered close contact.

    While I understand they don’t want to announce who has COVID, in a closed employment environment it doesn’t seem prudent to leave it up to the person who contracted it to say that they weren’t near co-workers, rather to ask coworkers if they were in contact too.

    It has been nerve wracking. (I also have a senior in high school who works at target, and she has to deal with customers who remove their masks after coming in the store.)

  139. JB*

    Well, since you ask, I’m doing terribly and currently searching for a new job despite the dismal job market.

    I’m very lucky compared to some people, in that I am not in a public-facing position. I’ve only had to deal with risks and anti-maskers among my own coworkers, and (to be fair!) the company I work for did a lot of things right, and when I kicked up a fuss about them relaxing some of the measures in late 2020, they graciously moved me to an isolated workspace (formerly occupied by a department who is able to work 100% remote) so I can have more distance from others and more control over who comes near me.

    Even with that, it’s been hell. I was initially on an alternating schedule – three or two days per week in the office. Meaning I had to schedule all the in-office work (both mine and my colleague’s, who has chosen to be 100% remote since the start of the pandemic to avoid paying for childcare) around the days I would be in.

    I got so stressed I contracted shingles. (As everyone kept telling me, I’m very young for shingles. That was helpful to hear.) Then I put up a fuss and got my isolated workspace and a full-time in-office schedule so that I could actually do my work.

    We had a COVID exposure two weeks ago. A coworkwer in a neighboring department came in clearly symptomatic three days in a row before getting tested over the weekend. Very glad I’m in my isolated workspace. (I did get tested anyway of course – negative.)

    I’m scheduled to get the first shot of the vaccination soon (Pfizer) so there’s a light at the end of the tunnel; and the rest of my family, for various reasons, were able to get vaccinated before me so at least I’m not worrying about bringing it home to them. But it’s been a nightmare. There’s a lot more I could complain about but I’m already worried I may have identified myself. (I work in a big industry, but one that a lot of people did not realize was on the ‘essential’ list, and in a very niche position in that industry. Most people I work with don’t really understand what I do all day, which is one of the reasons I had to really push to get them to find a way for me to be in every day. Everyone keeps asking me ‘do you really have to be in the office?’ – if I didn’t, I promise you, I wouldn’t be here!)

  140. Kiwi*

    My husband has been at work the whole time (retail and now a local beverage delivery route). I’ve still had fieldwork that usually involves meeting clients (who don’t generally care about masking and social distancing), and have been working at a manufacturing plant 3 days a week since January. His retail job he had when this started penalized him by slashing his hours and pushed him out when he took time off because he was no longer sleeping due to anxiety about getting me sick (I’m high-risk). We both did end up getting it in December because his route takes him to areas that believe it’s not a big deal and no one wears masks.

    I don’t really have much to add, except that this year has been absolute hell. It’s been a physical, mental, and financial strain. Thanks for posting this.

  141. Qwerty*

    Have other people who are on-site but not in a public-facing job have found themselves or their coworkers become a lot more lax about covid protocols, either in or out of the office?

    Everyone in my office technically following the rules and no one really seems to be in denial, but it’s like everything has gone back to business as normal while wearing a mask. I’ve noticed whenever I’m on site daily for a couple weeks, that I become super comfortable around strangers outside the office and my brain goes back to “people are safe again” despite normally being the annoying person reminding everyone of the protocols all day long. I’m curious if this is common for others, or if it’s unique to my current company. Our on-site work often doesn’t really allow for social distancing, so some people are basically working side by side for a couple hours at a time, which is probably contributing to it.

  142. Tryinghard*

    I worked part time at home but my husband (construction – sites shut down multiple times for outbreaks but his job was great for ppe and even was able to schedule the crew for vaccines) and my son (grocery store employee) worked full time in the trenches. I have to say all our jobs did a good job of protecting us.

    I work at a place that not everyone could work off-site and the comments people who were privileged to wfh have been made have been met with some resentment because those of us onsite DID come into contact with Covid and some even got sick from work. The wfh staff also said it was a hassle to have to work around my onsite schedule when they had IT needs even though I took the risks when meeting with multiple people onsite. Those were hard moments not to just walk away but I know my boss and up appreciate my work and did their best to keep me safe.

    Everyone at my house ended up getting covid and it was scary for us all. So yeah I wish all three of us could wfh full time as I hope we all are essential to everyone in our own ways.

  143. Junior Attorney*

    The legal industry has been a mixed bag during all of this…

    At the macro level, my city’s court system was slow to react and was still open for a day after the state’s stay-at-home orders were entered. Older attorneys seem particularly careless about wearing masks over their nose, and harder-charging attorneys have tried to pretend there’s no disruption in work patterns and still inflexibly demand discovery production and deposition scheduling on the same timeline as they would have previously.

    At the micro level, I’ve been back in my physical office since mid-summer, and I can’t really explain why that was ever necessary other than the partners felt uncomfortable with ongoing remote work. The bulk of what I do on a day-to-day basis is research, writing, and remotely-conducted proceedings that I can log into from my laptop. (Though every now and then I’m in person at, say, traffic court, and wonder why a petty offense ticket is important enough that seeing a respondent’s driver’s license through a computer screen is insufficient.)

    All of that said, though I am back in the office, I do have a decent ability to hide away inside my own four walls and not be around other people. And judges, on average, have been more liberal with scheduling orders in my experience. The biggest challenge is honestly the intangible moral fatigue of continuing to churn hours in the middle of profound societal unrest — if I didn’t bill my usual hours on the day BLM protests snarled our city after George Floyd’s murder, or on the day insurrectionists stormed the Capitol, I’d just have to bill extra hours a different day to make up for it, as if billing even a normal amount of time in the current climate is not energy-draining enough. It’s hard to pretend to feel super-invested in interrogatories about some personal injury plaintiff’s rotator cuff treatment while Rome is metaphorically burning. The legal industry pays lip service to mental health given identifiable issues like that percentage of attorneys who developed substance abuse or mental health problems even pre-pandemic — and there are resources out there such as support groups or free counseling (of which I’ve even partaken in the past) — but as a practical matter asking for personal time directly from an employer is an impossible request to make, given the risk it will be heard as an admission that you can’t keep up with the job.

    Overall my $0.02 is that the moment calls for as much grace as we can muster in all of our respective circumstances. I don’t think others should be forced back to work prematurely just because I’ve been coerced into being here — a race to the bottom lies down that path. I think it’s reasonable for employers to want more people back now that vaccines are more widely available, especially for roles where in person work is helpful and/or doesn’t add too greatly to risk due to work environment, but