how to help coworkers who have been in the office all along

If you’ve been working from home but will be returning to the office at some point in the future, have you thought about what you can do to make life easier for any colleagues who have been there all along and who have been shouldering a higher level of risk and burden?

In the comments on Monday’s post, readers offered these suggestions:

Advocate for them

“If there’s a big scramble for holiday time in your office, suggest that the people who worked on site the whole time should choose first (goes double if they’ve had to work with the public in this time).”

“Advocate to management to give thanks, gift cards, bonuses, an extra vacation day, or whatever to the individuals who worked in person and make it clear it’s for people who worked in office.”

“When it comes to advocating for extra PTO (which is a wonderful idea!), keep in mind that when you are keeping wheels turning, it can be extra difficult to use even regularly accrued PTO. Consider things like cross-training on critical tasks or whether your office might be able to support temps….anything to make it easier for essential employees to actually step away for a minute.”

“Help cover their duties so they can take a longer vacation, if that makes sense for your respective jobs.”

Even out the workload

“If someone was working in the office and had to take on parts of your job so that you could WFH, thank them and take back those duties that were done for you. I can see how it sucks, but it sucked having to do others’ duties on top of ones normal job. Don’t gripe, don’t whine, don’t moan about how you don’t like having to do what seems like “more work” than you had to do from home. In office folks have carried that load long enough.”

“Ask if there’s anything they’ve taken on since this all started that you can help with or take over. Especially if you’re a smaller company, there are a lot of responsibilities that don’t fit neatly with one person or group, so there might not be anyone who marches in and says, ‘Naturally, I’ll be taking back responsibility for the end-of-day shutdown procedure’ or ‘Give me back the mailbox key–that’s my job.’ Keep your eyes open for that kind of stuff even if no one says anything. They might not even be aware of how much morphed into their responsibility. And if you have more standing, raise things up the ladder. ‘Now that accounting is back in the building, seems like they should take back the scanning from the manufacturing team.’”

Expect things have changed

“Follow any new procedures and don’t grumble about them, and encourage other returners to do the same – for instance, we have had some staff in the office throughout, we’ve got used to the arrangements such as no more than one person at a time in the kitchen area, waiting so we don’t pass each other in the corridor etc. – it’s a bit more time consuming but it gets pretty old when those who have been WFH / furloughed and are coming back complain about it.”

“Don’t assume that everything will be exactly like it was last time you were in person or that everything should go back to the way it was. Be open to changes in processes which may have happened when you were out, including those which are not simply Covid-related measures or changes.”

“There will be a new culture at work! Its like you have a new job and your job is to figure it out and not constantly comment how in ‘old job’ they did not do this! Your job is to figure it out with the least disruption to others and to do the job.”

“Folks coming back, please don’t question or demand explanations for every little thing. These decisions were made in a context you didn’t have. By all means, ask for clarification when you need it, but ask yourself first (1) if the issue is important enough to have someone explain a year’s worth of background and (2) whether the answer is just going to be a pointless ‘because that’s how we made it work, given the circumstances.’”

“On a related point, when it comes to specific tasks, keep in mind that (probably) your colleagues were doing the best they could and that might mean you need to do some clean up. Please be gracious when you can.”

Follow your office’s safety rules

“Follow your local guidelines on mask wearing and social distancing (or your workplace’s guide if it’s more stringent) and don’t complain about it!”

“Wear your mask when you come back, even when vaccinated. Nowadays, it’s difficult to tell those who are ‘anti-mask’ versus ‘vaccinated, therefore unmasked.’”

Recognize people’s work

“Is there specific way people working on-site helped you out during the pandemic? If so, specifically acknowledge them for that! I love it when I get specific praise (especially from superiors) because it signals they’re paying attention to what I’m doing, whereas general praise such as ‘thanks for all your hard work’ feels hollow to me when said too often. “

“If you’ve been WFH – try to thank the person or people who have picked up the extra work to enable that to happen, whether it’s been scanning physical mail to you, dealing with face-to-face enquiries or whatever. If you can, be explicit in recognizing their extra work both to them an to any manager.”

Don’t complain to them

“As a frontline worker who worked terrible hours while pregnant and unvaccinated (resident doctor, saw Covid patients), I would love it if people would understand that…yes, your company isn’t managing the return to work well and yes, your problems are real and valid, but choose who you complain to! When people who’ve been in person the whole time say something to the effect of ‘I can’t stand listening to my wfh colleagues complain about being back in person,’ maybe don’t sputter say, ‘But my problems are valid, too!’ We know. It doesn’t invalidate your problems to understand that this colleague is not the person to complain to. Be sensitive! Your colleague may have also had serious issues with health, childcare, elderly parents, mental health, the state of the world, and was not able to stop commuting, wearing pants, and interacting with the (sometimes terrible) public.”

“Don’t talk about the tragedy of wearing clothes.”

“Speak up when you hear people making jokes or complaining (about having to come back) so that those who were in the office the whole time don’t have to. Something like, ‘Yeah, those perks are hard to give up, I’m sorry that x person did not get them’ or ‘I’m aware x did not get them and I’m thankful they were here so we got them, thanks x!’”

Other things

“What I wish my coworkers didn’t do: Stand super close when talking, monopolize my time with their desire to catch up (just ask if I want to take a break and chat instead), go in for a hug, challenge every decision made during their absence all at once, foist their ego hits from being absent on me, be really loud. Many of us have gotten used to the noise level in your absence — it will take us time to truly readjust.”

“Don’t barge into someone’s office (this is really weird, in the last 2 weeks I’ve had like 5 instances of this, all from people who were WFH, I assume you wouldn’t but in case you forgot not all rooms are yours, knock and wait.)”

“Don’t assume your experience of WFH was universal.”

“I am personally irked by the convos about how strange it is to be back at work … They sound like they just got rescued from a cave and want me to be interested and amazed at their experience being back at work. It sounds like this: ‘Hi, its been a whole year or 15 months since I’ve been here! Isn’t that amazing! It’s so different! They moved x … ‘ or anything indicating time seemed to move on without them. Followed by an expectation that we discuss and that I would be just as interested and engaged in their experience of coming back. I honestly cannot say why this irks me so much but it does.”

“Do be patient if we walk around as if there’s no one else here, I can go my entire day and not see anyone else, I’m a little worried that I’ll keep walking around like that (head down, brain elsewhere, not paying attention to where I’m going), if I walk into you it’s because this is the path I walked for the last year-plus. Not because I’m trying to get you sick.”

“Recognize that those who stayed will have got used to an emptier building, quieter atmosphere, possibly greater independence / less need to compromise when using resources / equipment – give them time to adjust and try not to get annoyed or antagonistic.”

{ 288 comments… read them below }

  1. Ask a Manager* Post author

    Once again, I am requesting that people who have not been working on-site during the pandemic refrain from centering their own perspectives on this post. If you’ve not been working on-site, this is not the place for you to complain about going back or dispute the experiences of those who have been there. Comments doing that will be removed.

  2. DNDL*

    I have been in the building and working with the public since June, but some of my high risk coworkers are finally starting to return to in-person now that they’ve been vaccinated. I have no desire—zip, zero, none–to hear them complain about wearing masks. I have been wearing a mask this whole time. I have been making our customers wear masks this whole time. One of the people who has been teleworking for over a year came in and at the end of her first day back, she complained about how awful it was to wear a mask. I do not want to hear it! Not at all!

    1. Daisy*

      I think my one exception to this is questions from people having issues with masks genuinely looking for solutions. For example how to deal with glasses fogging etc. – I wouldn’t mind sharing tips that make it easier after so much time figuring it all out!

      1. enlyghten*

        I’ve had some positive results with anti-fog solution, like the kind used on motorcycle helmets. If it helps.

      2. Momma Bear*

        Try different shapes/styles/materials. You may find that a KN95 fogs less than a triple ply fabric mask, or that you really need a nose piece whereas your coworkers can get away without one. Also, make sure it’s well-fitted to your face and rest your glasses over the top.

      3. Ev*

        If it’s workable for you, I’ve found that the easiest and most foolproof solution to this problem is just to wear my glasses maybe 1/8 of an inch further down my nose than I usually do.

      4. Abi*

        Baby shampoo. A tiny drop, buff it onto the glasses until it disappears. (The science is that it disrupts the surface tension so the fog no longer condenses.)

      5. esmerelda*

        Yes – I think this is a super important distinction! Conversation is (usually :) welcome, complaining is not.

    2. ----*

      In reference to the insistence that people wear masks, regardless of vaccination status and policy changes: saying they should wear masks, if it’s no longer required, because they MIGHT be anti-maskers is ridiculous. Don’t punish the people who have made the responsible decision to get vaccinated for choosing not to wear a mask, if it’s safe to go without one now. It’s okay for people to safely move forward.

      1. Lenora Rose*

        This might make sense in a small workplace where the only folks you see are the same few fellow employees, so the info about being vaccinated really only needs to go out once or twice, but not all workplaces are small or closed to the public.

        1. ----*

          My entire company has primarily worked on site since last May and I’d say most of my coworkers have chosen to get vaccinated. Even the most cautious are now comfortable with customers not wearing them and would be okay with changing the employee policy. If that policy changes and there are people insisting that employees should still wear masks to avoid appearing to be anti-maskers, that’s punishing them for another’s bad behavior. Regionally, our cases are way down, so most businesses are moving in this direction now. It might feel different in a major city that was hit especially hard by the virus.

          1. ----*

            Just to note, I work in a public library that is almost fully open to the public, not a small office.

      2. MCMonkeybean*

        I disagree. I’m very glad that on a recent company-wide call when asked whether my company was changing their mask policy given new CDC guidance, they said that since they are not requiring vaccinations or asking whether or not you have been vaccinated then masks will continue to be mandatory.

        If the people around you do not know whether or not you have been vaccinated then you should wear a mask. To me the new information means that small gatherings of family and friends where everyone knows that everyone else has been vaccinated can safely go maskless. Masks should still be expected in indoor spaces full of people who can’t be sure whether those around them are vaccinated or not.

      3. DNDL*

        I don’t get to make this policy. I have to enforce whatever policy comes down from the top, and right now that policy is “everyone wears a mask in the building regardless of vaccination status.”

        All I am saying is I do not want to hear a *coworker* who is just now returning to the building complain about masks. I’m still getting the from the public which, fine. I’ll deal with. But I don’t need the *coworker* to complain like it is some new thing impacting their lives for the first time.

    3. Niii-i*

      THIS! I’m not policing anyone’s maskwearing, but FFS, it’s 2021, If you are not accustomed to wearing a mask, keep it to yourself. The topic is ole, I dont want to hear IT.

  3. awesome3*

    Can I add that if some people are at work, and you are at home, to try not to do things like schedule “lunch and learns” when you aren’t providing lunch, and really you’re asking them to work through their lunch and eat at their desk? Small things like that may push people over the edge, as they’ve tried to keep calm throughout horrors like losing other in-person coworkers to the virus, and annoyances like dealing with the public. Someone having an outsized reaction at something like being invited to a so-called “lunch and learn” that is really just another meeting but during lunch time, is due to all of this different trauma that we are getting from a horrible year of working in-person. It doesn’t come across well when someone who has been eating lunch at their kitchen table invites you to one, even though it’s such a minor thing.

    (If you’re providing food, then go for it)

      1. rachel in nyc*

        I sorta like them but there is also not expectation that it’s my lunch. And that’s a huge difference- if I’m required to be there, it isn’t voluntary and it isn’t my lunch.

        1. Cj*

          We do have them at noon, maybe that’s because people haven’t scheduled other appts at that time. Occasional lunch is ordered in, but if it is not, than I don’t eat at me desk unless I feel like it. If I still want my hour lunch, I take it. Thank goodness they only do this in the off season. There would be an uproar if they tried to do it during tax season.

      2. Lynn Whitehat*

        Yes. Lunch is not defined by food. Lunch is defined by freedom and self-determination.

    1. Nesprin*

      Likewise, many of my managers are talking excitedly about holding in person meetings. I’ve been working in person all this time, but being in a small conference room with people not in my immediate bubble is a higher risk activity than I think I’m ok with, and staying out of in person meetings would require disclosing more health things than I’m ok with.

      1. NotRealAnonForThis*

        I’ve literally looked at a meeting organizer and pointed out “great, we’re all vaccinated (in theory)….but my children who I live with are not old enough to even get the vaccine”. I don’t like having to rely on the proper behavior of others. (The pandemic seems to have shown the rest of the world what those of us who have food allergic kids already knew – there is a subset of arseholes who put more weight on their inconvenience than on the safety and life of others. And its a hill they’ll freaking die on.)

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Worst part is it could be a hill for >>someone else<< to die on.

        1. Quinalla*

          As another mom to a kid with food allergies and three kids who are too young to get vaccinated yet (please let them be available in the fall like the news is saying!) I’m with you on this. I don’t get mad at others who are vaccinated for not wearing their masks where allowed, but damned if I’m going to take my mask off until my kids are vaccinated. And yeah, was one of the very few at the construction job site yesterday wearing a mask, though frankly that’s been pretty typical this whole time.

          1. NotRealAnonForThis*

            I’m pretty lucky that the construction sites I tend to frequent are for clients who are NOT playing. Masks are required, full stop. No tolerance policy enforced.

            Related to the food allergies – my biggest and ONLY complaint last year when I had to return to the office…you know those random grocery shortages? While I was WFH, I was able to figure out when my local store was stocked, and with my boss’ permission, swing my hours as needed to procure what I needed to. The thing with food allergies is, sometimes when the store is out of Brand X, you go without because Brand Y and Brand Z both contain the dangerous food proteins. Last summer was VERY interesting food-wise in our house because I had no way to shop when the store was actually stocked.

    2. NotRealAnonForThis*

      And I’ll add: “Lunch and Learns” that do not feature food provided by other than those attending just plain suck.

      (I put L&L in a separate category from “Brown Bag Continuing Ed Credit Lunches”, which are a necessary field. When they bring in someone who is credentialed to provide CE, and I don’t have to pay out of pocket, I’ll bring a brown bag.)

    3. Dust Bunny*

      My department sometimes hosts lunch and learns but a) we do get lunch and b) it’s understood that we’re working so I also get a lunch hour later (even if I’m not using it to eat).

      1. awesome3*

        In that case that sounds great. The perk of a lunch and learn is the lunch, if you’re not providing that, it’s just another meeting

    4. sofar*

      THIS! My friend works at a place with a skeleton crew in office right now, but they’re not allowed access to the break room (it’s locked). So no microwave or fridge. That means most of them have to leave the office to go purchase a lunch and eat it at a restaurant (ridiculous anyway). So, to do a lunch and learn, they’d have to leave to purchase a lunch, come back and eat it at their desks.

      Lunch and learns suck anyway.

    5. Jackalope*

      This is so interesting. We don’t have L&Ls very often but when we do they are very different. Free lunch is provided (usually pizza), it’s not required, and it’s generally a drop-by thing to present info (say about the new insurance plan or whatever). People can come grab pizza and leave, or ask a few questions, or stand around talking to the presenters for several minutes, whatever they want.

    6. Ponytail*

      Just because they haven’t been in the office for 14 months, does that mean the first day back in the office is the first time they’ve ever worn a mask?! If that was true, I would be avoiding that colleague altogether because I would not want to work with someone who has refused to wear a mask for the past year.

      And before someone says the colleague may have been quarantining – I would find it highly unlikely that they had never left the house until last Sunday but Monday, boom, they’re back at work. All my shielding colleagues who have still to return to the office, have definitely left the house, gently and building up their time outdoors.

      1. Mongrel*

        I’m much more tolerant of wearing a mask outdoors or when I know it’s only for a short time, like shopping.
        I still have an issue with fogging glasses that would be unworkable in an office, I have strong varifocals so ‘pinch mask top under bridge’ means I can’t focus on screens or documentation, shopping is fine, so would have to look for other solutions (probably double sided surgical tape).

  4. Yipsie*

    “when those who have been WFH / furloughed and are coming back complain about it.”

    I don’t really like the use of furloughed here. As if the people who have been working in offices this whole time have had it harder than those that lost their jobs.

    It’s been kind of annoying to watch the argument go back and forth about who has it worse, the work from home people who are stressed about coming back, and the in-office people who have been stressed about it the whole time without any acknowledgement of the people who have been unemployed and worrying about getting food in their moths and roofs over their head.

    I’d appreciate not treating them like they aren’t going to be sufficiently commiserate for people who got to continue to have a salary. I don’t feel like we should be policing how complainey/whiney the people who have been unemployed for a year are right now.

    1. goducks*

      While I agree that people who have been furloughed have had a specific type of worry/stress that those who retained their jobs didn’t experience, there is a subset of employees who were paid more on unemployment than they would have been working during this time (less so in later pandemic than earlier pandemic).

      While I think those boosted UI payments were the right move, I can see how it would be difficult for similarly paid employees who were not furloughed and had to work in person the whole time to hear. They didn’t get extra money in their pocket AND they took on all the additional risks and exposures.

      Like this whole conversation, knowing your audience is critical when complaining about where you’re at.

      1. Lacey*

        Yeah. I was paid more on unemployment than when I was fully employed. I felt pretty bad for my coworkers, since I had a chill, relaxing spring/summer, feeling pretty confident that I’d be brought back at the end of it, while they worked twice as hard, with a temporary pay cut, and couldn’t take really take their vacation days.

      2. Lynx*

        True, though those people also lost valuable time on their resume.

        I know AAM says not to worry about resume gaps during covid but it’s still preferable not to have one!

    2. D3*

      Can we just not with the hardship Olympics?
      There’s a specific point to this post, and you’re missing it because you think you have it worse.

      1. Chilipepper Attitude*

        It is not about a competition. Its about not complaining to your coworkers constantly. We all need to vent, can we just have people who are returning to the office stop venting about having to be in the office to people who have spent the last year in the office? Its like constantly complaining about how you have so much money, you don’t know what to do with it to someone who does not have enough money to feed their kids.

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The person who mentioned furloughed employees mentioned them in a very specific context — about complaining about new procedures.

    4. Magenta Sky*

      How about: “Don’t complain, just get the job done.” And that applies to everybody, whether they were WFH or not.

      1. Lacey*

        Yuck. People need to vent, they just need to be considerate about who they’re venting to. It isn’t hard.

        1. Astro*

          Do you need to be venting at work though? I don’t think that’s necessary. Unless it’s something that you think could be changed I don’t think your coworkers really should be your first avenue for that.

          1. Mophie*

            People aren’t robots and we are dealing with what is likely the most stressful time in many people’s lives. Forbidding venting doesn’t seem like the best thing.

            1. Roci*

              Vent to your friends and family. If you have nothing actionable to contribute and are just uncomfortable adjusting to changes that happened while you were gone, that’s not really appropriate to “vent” about to coworkers who were here the whole time.

        2. Magenta Sky*

          So long as there is an identical expectation of them listening to me vent about having to come in very day for the last 15 months, sure.

        3. Foof*

          Gonna disagree complaining for the sake of complaining (rather than trying to find a solution) should be minimized at work.

    5. Anon for this*

      Yeah, while I’m definitely not in a good place right now, and the fact that I’m able to work from home is the only thing keeping me going, there are definitely other people who have had it, if not worse, at least equally horrible in some respects. At least I spent the last year collecting a paycheck and did not spend the last year terrified I would catch a deadly illness from going in to work.

      That said I probably would be one of those people frequently saying wow it’s been fifteen months, simply because in the course of burning out hard on my job my sense of time has completely disappeared, and I’m constantly being amazed that it’s May and not January.

    6. Bagpuss*

      Yikes, I think the reference to furlough you quoted may have been mine:- I am in the UK and here, people who were furloughed didn’t lose their jobs, the furlough scheme meant people weren’t working but were paid at least 80% of their normal pay, it’s a job retention scheme intended to avoid lay-offs.

  5. Anon-mama*

    Here’s one for managers: continue offering admin/freebie/federal covid leave, even to vaccinated employees. We just learned ours is ending. People still have children in school or daycare (because you’re making them come back into the office) who cannot get vaccinated, who will be exposed to “we don’t vaccinate” families who went on vacation to higher risk areas. Just don’t take their vacation or low sick leave when the inevitable happens.

    1. Lunch Eating Mid Manager*

      We’re having this issue where the new federal COVID leave doesn’t cover childcare anymore (the first round did), and it’s very hard to find childcare for elementary age children this summer where I am (SF Bay Area). My employer’s delightful response is to use your accruals (vacation leave) to cover, rather than allow more/ongoing WFH.

      1. Momma Bear*

        Childcare is definitely still a problem. To reduce group size, several of our go-to camps are doing half days only and heaven help you if your kids didn’t all get on the same schedule.

    2. ZombieDC*

      My firm did that with our Office Services person. He’s been coming in basically every day (when he wasn’t there, I had to go in and cover which is a different story). At the beginning of April (this year) he got COVID and passed it on to his (large) family and he got it BAD. He was out for 2 weeks. Our firm made him use all of his PTO days as the federal law that made people give COVID sick leave expired right before this happened.

  6. Lunch Eating Mid Manager*

    These suggestions/comments in the post are 100% on the money, from my perspective as someone who’s been in office 2 days/week the whole time since March 2020.

    1. BigCityLibrarian*

      Of course, as someone who has been at work full time, and working with the public, since last June, only 2 days a week sounds like a huge privilege to me. Being able to work from home at all is something a whole lot of people just didn’t have the option to do. I am not at all interested in the complaints of my colleagues, who work in closed departments to begin with, and only had to come in 1 day/week.

      1. Lunch Eating Mid Manager*

        It’s all relative. I speak as someone who was required to come in 2 days per week in my department of 180, maybe 10 or so are like me. While the majority of other staff in my department did 100% WFH, we have a handful who were here every weekday to maintain the most essential of our essential services, and we also have inspectors who didn’t come into the office as they do in normal times, but who routed straight from home to up to 8 different construction sites in a day. To me, that group won our department’s suffering Olympics while those colleagues who are WFH are not even… in the stadium.

      2. hbc*

        I think it’s just a matter of being careful who you complain to/near, and the specifics of your complaints. I’ve been in the office 5 days a week since late summer, and I wouldn’t deal kindly with the person who came in for 15 minutes twice a week saying, “It was sooo hard for me to risk coming in during Covid times.” But if she said, “I found it pretty scary coming in and still do, I can’t imagine how you feel,” that would be completely fine.

  7. Emily*

    As someone who has been in the office the entire time and picking up the slack for those who got to work from home, this post is very much appreciated.

    1. Sariel*

      I agree with this sentiment. Thank you for this post, which was helpful and also a bit funny. I work in a public library and my teams and I have been here the whole time, while some people higher up have been able to work from home for months. Just a little consideration and appreciation go a long way for those who never had the option to WFH. So, thank you!

    2. ADHD Anon*

      As someone who mostly worked from home for for the past year – thank you for this compilation – especially the positive actions I and my team who have been remote can take! As always the blog audience and your curatoring of their collective awesomeness is great.

  8. Yikes!*

    We keep hearing “we don’t feel safe coming back”…. completely oblivious to those who HAD to come in and didn’t feel safe either. It feels a little insulting that those of us who did come into work formed a “bubble” with each other to feel safe and we are now being complained to about how our safety procedures aren’t good enough.

    1. Maybe not*

      Why would concern over personal safety be a criticism of you? COVID is hard for everyone, and many people don’t feel safe. That’s okay. They aren’t obligated to feel safe.

      1. Magenta Sky*

        “We don’t feel safe coming back.”

        “We didn’t feel safe coming in every day for the last 15 months.”

          1. Tryinghard*

            I seem to have missed the memo on when it was safe for essential workers. Can someone catch me up in that please? Thank you.

        1. nom de plume*

          That’s not the contradiction you think it is. The situation in March 2020 was vastly different than it is today, including how much was known about the virus, its transmission, how to treat it, PPE shortages, hospital capacity, no vaccine, etc etc etc. Need I go on?

          As well as erasing all of that, your comment does what Alison specifically ask commenters not do, which is try and score points against in-office workers by centering the perspectives of those returning to the workplace. It’s a little baffling.

          1. Spencer Hastings*

            I read Magenta Sky as saying the exact opposite (the second paragraph as a retort to the first). I.e., you don’t feel safe coming *back*, but how do you think the people feel who never left?

            1. Magenta Sky*

              Precisely. If people coming back want to vent about not feeling save, they should listen to people who have had to be there all along vent about that. Otherwise, it’s just another double standard.

              (For the record, I work in a retail store chain – in the office – that is an essential service (proven conclusively by the 2-3 times the normal amount of business we did for several months last year). We (in the office) had about three weeks of working from home in March or so, and since then, it’s been, basically, business as usual. The folks out in the trenches *can’t*, of course, work from home, and have been dealing with all the stress of the pandemic – we had one store closed for 3 days while every employee was tested – and the stress of customers who don’t want to wear masks – and make threats of violence about it – and customers who want *everyone* to wear masks – and make threats of violence about it, and everything else. And they have done an amazing job of it, because they work for people who actually give a damn about them. The bonuses that added about 30% of their income last year didn’t hurt, either.)

        2. Andy*

          There is no contradiction. The people who did not felt safe and were vocal about it eventually made management make changes half a year ago here – toward making things safer including for people who had to be in work.

        1. Iced Mocha Latte*

          Exactly. We’re preparing to head back to the office soon and I have team members who chose not to get vaccinated (yes, they said they chose not to because it’s not yet FDA approved). Guess who’s complaining about having to go back and are worried about sitting in cubicles that are well-spaced and an office that isn’t densely populated? They’re also complaining that they’ll be required to wear masks and social distance. Well, they made their choice. So…*shrug*

          1. Mental Lentil*

            FYI: The vaccines were given emergency approval after two months because there were very few side effects in that time.

            In most vaccine trials, the first two months are just looking out for side effects. The remaining time is to see how long the protection lasts. In this case, once it was discovered that side effects were essentially minimal, it would have been unethical to make people wait a full year to see how long the protection lasts.

            So if we have to get a booster shot after six months, this is why. But it’s more likely we’ll have to get boosters once a year for the next few years until this virus becomes endemic in our population.

            1. Iced Mocha Latte*

              They’re the ones saying it’s not approved, not me. And they also have said part of their reasoning for not getting the vaccine is not knowing if they’ll need a booster, among other things.

            2. sofar*

              This. I’m in the Moderna trial I just love it when people are like, “But ..but… but.. did you know they’re STILL TESTING the vaccine for the next YEAR?”

              And I’m like. “Yes. Yes I do. I’m the one going in for the blood tests for the next year and checking in on the app to say I don’t have any COVID symptoms.”

              And your point is so apt — in the beginning of the trials, it was all about safety/side effects. Now they just care whether I’ve had a COVID exposure and symptoms — and want lots of my blood to check for antibodies.

              Saying all this to the anti-vaxers does not help though, sadly, but at least then they no longer want to talk to me.

          2. Chinook*

            I am one of those people who is seriously reconsidering getting my second shot because I still have side effects from the first one. True, I didn’t get blood clots (though they ran the test to make sure), I still have a headache facial numbness a month later (at one point I was diagnosed and then cleared of Bell’s Palsy). I would like to add that my little yellow vaccine booklet has always been up to date and I got the flu vaccine every year, some I am not an anti-vaxxer, but some of us who are vaccine resistant have good medical reasons for it.

            That being said, I am also working as a receptionist (and answering phones) while wearing a mask and not complaining about never getting to take it off because I am sitting in a public space (no office walls for me). nd I won’t say a word because everyone here has been working here since the beginning. I am also grateful that my employer encourages vaccination (by giving time off, etc.) but doesn’t ask for proof. If the doctors are debating on whether or not my side effects are serious enough to skip a second dose vs. try a completely different vaccine, why should my employer get to force my hand?

      2. goducks*

        For a person who has been living with the ever-present risk of Covid, hearing people complain about returning to work in what’s arguably the safest part of the pandemic is hard. People who worked with others before we understood how this virus is exactly transmitted, before we had vaccines, before we had (more) effective treatments, widely available testing… Complaints about it being too unsafe now are going to land poorly. It’s fine to feel that it’s not yet the time to return, but to complain about how unsafe it is for YOU to a person who has had to live with this level of risk, and even greater risk, is tone deaf.

        1. Yikes!*

          Thank you, you said my thoughts perfectly. I don’t mind so much people expressing their opinion about how they feel. This pandemic was hard on everyone.

          Where I’m a little hurt is that for those of us who had to come in, did what we had to do to feel safe, formed our own routines to work/ socially distance and still feel ok medically and mentally…. to have these make shift routines critiqued by someone who worked from the safety of their home feels icky. Our work place is aware of the “new normal” coming to the office soon. I just don’t think anyone has the right to criticize how someone reacted to the hand they were dealt.

          I am in no way saying someone’s opinion, especially about how safe they feel given world events, is invalid.

        2. Washi*

          Exactly. Don’t complain about how unsafe you feel while vaccinated to someone who had to do the same work for months while unvaccinated.

          I intellectually understand people are still scared, but my knee-jerk reaction is an eyeroll because as a healthcare worker, being vaccinated has given me this huge, revolutionary peace of mind. Just complain to someone else, that’s all I ask!

          1. allathian*

            Yup. And yet, there are people who’ve had two shots and who are on ventilators right now, although granted, most of those are elderly and frail to begin with. 95 percent efficacy isn’t the same as 100 percent, and no vaccine offers that. Even 70 percent is optimistic against some of the new variants.

            We’re going to live with the consequences of Covid for a long time yet.

        3. Over It*

          Really well said. Concerns about unsafe reopening plans are legit–I’m newly in a remote position and my office is for sure setting itself up for a COVID outbreak once we fully reopen in July. But it still grates to hear about. When I was essential and vaccines weren’t yet available, I never heard anyone working from home besides my parents express *any* concern about my safety. It’s legitimate to feel unsafe if things are still unsafe, but save those conversations for management or people who have power to change the situation, not those who were forced to come in no matter how dangerous it was. It’s really not that hard.

      3. SheLooksFamiliar*

        No one is obligated to feel safe, but they shouldn’t complain to people who were also feeling unsafe but still had to work onsite most or all of the time.

        Context matters. Choose your message accordingly and wisely.

      4. Tenebrae*

        They aren’t obligated to feel safe but they are obligated to know their audience.
        I spent about half the pandemic in office, but in a relatively low contact role. I complained to my wfh friends and my retired parents. I did not complain to my emergency room nurse friend.

        1. The Rural Juror*

          Exactly. I’m in the same boat. I’ve been back in the office full time since June 2020, but with little contact with others. When my friend who’s a physical therapist at a hospital talks about her stress, I shut the h*ll up and listen.

      5. Smithy*

        At this point, unless there are actions that feel so unsafe that it’s worth flagging to HR/senior leadership or seeking new employment….I think COVID safety conversations are going to be more at risk of pushing people’s buttons than 3/4 months ago.

        After going through the stress and trauma for COVID for over a year, what feels safe for most people and what is safe for most people based on currently available science may remain at odds for a while. How our coworkers interpret that, what their risk appetite will be – I just think we’re a ways away from a broader consensus.

        Broadly speaking, a lot of the safety measures put in place have fallen on the shoulders of the staff that has needed to remain in the office. And so coming back and voicing that those don’t feel safe may end up being received as far more personally critical than institutionally critically. And again, it may end up opening a far far more emotional conversation than a technical one or a politie chit chat one. Which if the aim is to be cordial with coworkers – I can’t imagine wanting to step into that.

      6. hbc*

        Imagine you have been served dog food, and your dinner partner got a steak and is complaining that it’s not cooked to the right temperature. Are you really going to think “that’s okay” and they “aren’t obligated” to be satisfied with their meal?

    1. AndersonDarling*

      Posts like this make me think more about my casual conversations at work. I’m lucky that I can continue WFH, so I don’t need to navigate the awkwardness of these interactions. But all this advice makes me aware of how a small complaint can have a huge impact. I need to save my complaints for the big things, and only share them with my manager. Little complaints can be saved for conversations at home.

  9. Works at Work*

    I’m satisfied if they just come back and don’t complain. I didn’t even get 15 minutes off from Covid.

  10. Cranky lady*

    As someone who gets how lucky I am to work remotely, thank you for sharing this so I can be better prepared (and help prepare my team) for the transition back to the office.

  11. Kimmy Schmidt*

    Anyone here who can offer advice specifically for a higher ed context? I’m faculty and have been mostly WFH, but many of our staff have been in the office. The holiday scramble doesn’t apply to us, and all the other things that sound the most valuable (money, bonuses, extra vacation, gift cards, perks) would be dang near impossible to implement.

    1. Whynot*

      If you’re thinking about a department admin person, I’d suggest asking your department colleagues to contribute toward a gift card or something similar as a thank you, if your institution doesn’t do something for the in-office staff (which sounds pretty likely).

      If your department has a designated IT person and/or library liaison, I’d suggest doing the same (or sending a thank you card or saying a nice word when you see them). People in “support” departments worked their behinds off to ensure people had access to materials and WFH technology, and often didn’t get a lot of support from their institutions’ higher-ups in the process.

      1. Eeyore's Missing Tail*

        100% what Whynot said. I’m one of those departmental admins in higher ed. We can’t do bonuses, extra vacation, etc, but even just a thank you note from faculty saying how much they appreciate what we’ve been doing to keep everything moving would mean a lot.

      2. TryingHard*

        Agree 100%. IT teams kept things running for everyone WFH. Our team got attitude from some WFHers that had to come in for hardware repairs and we were endangering them even with all the precautions we took. BUT these were people that went to Disney Land because they could quarantine while WFHing. So honestly I don’t want to hear any WFHers about how hard it is to be back. I was onsite anywhere from 2 to 5 days a week helping others be able to Work from Home.

        Our maintenance and admin staff did a great job of helping out our team and our team have thanked them with candy and notes. It doesn’t take much to be appreciative of the people that kept stuff running.

      3. H.C.*

        Ditto for comms teams, who had figure out all the policy / procedure changes in breakneck speed and communicate that out in a clear, lay-friendly manner, not to mention being the frontline person responding / triaging every question/request/complaint.

    2. OhNo*

      As Whynot mentioned, personal thank-yous go a long way even if there’s no money involved. Even better if you can make sure that the praise reaches the ear of someone who does have some control over money matters – department chair, director of libraries, deans, administration, anything like that. Explaining how much their support has helped you in the past year really helps them make a case for more budget later on.

      And for the love of all that’s holy, don’t complain about anything that is still closed, don’t complain about the procedures staff have put in place, don’t ask for special treatment, and do everything you can to make sure your students don’t do any of those things either. As higher ed staff, by far the most frustrating thing about people coming back to campus so far is the constant comments on “why can’t we/you do X?”, “why isn’t X open?”, “just let me do X real quick, I know it’s against safety policy but…”

      And don’t even get me started on the number of faculty who have already contacted me asking why their students can’t access/do ABC, they’re on a deadline for an assignment, who cares that it’s not safe for staff, give my students what they need! Like, you’re the one that makes the assignments and sets the deadline, it’s your own dang fault if you went back to your pre-COVID syllabus without checking to make sure all the resources your students need were available again. [/rant]

    3. Kelly*

      I also work in higher ed, and have been working on campus a couple days a week during the last 14 months. As much as I like to criticize how out of touch our admin team can be at times, they were surprisingly decent and understanding in addressing staff concerns. There’s still one in particular that is as out of touch and ineffective as ever, but even a once in a lifetime pandemic isn’t going to change their work habits and personality. It said a lot that they found extra money to give staff that worked onsite during spring 2020 a small one time bonus last summer. Multiple people in admin and decision making roles have been working on site a couple days a week since the fall and earlier.

      Assuming that your institution hasn’t cut whatever small budget line that would be used to pay for food and beverages at staff events, use some funds from those lines to pay for an appreciation lunch for staff who worked on site.

      Another option is along the lines of allowing people to use vacation time that they have to use. Give people who worked on site priority for time off and the people still working remotely or only coming in when they feel like it can cover.

    4. Tina Belcher's Less Cool Sister*

      Faculty and staff operate under extremely different workplace rules and contexts, so other than just being a decent person (which I’m sure you are), what I as a university staff would want from my faculty colleagues is a little support and understanding that not everyone has tenure, a guaranteed annual contract, and virtual job security. Many institution are grappling with the economic realities of the pandemic combined with falling enrollment and increased need for financial aid, and it’s so jarring to see the faculty freak out that one position might be cut from one department when staff have been dealing with benefit cuts and layoffs for years. Faculty live in a completely different work reality than staff, so – like the main point of this entire thread – just be mindful of who you vent to about faculty-specific problems that staff would love to have.

    5. Old Biddy*

      You can let the people who couldn’t work from home do a bit of WFH. Now that my boss is back in person I have a bit more leeway to work from home.

      Depending on the exact situation, you may be able to finangle some version of extra vacation. I’m a staff scientist and was in-person from June-now. My boss was WFH. In February I had to go do elder care for my parents, and took a month off with my boss’ blessing. I took some vacation, some comp time, and did some WFH while I was gone, but it was nice not having to use up all my vacation days.

    6. Esmeralda*

      See if your institution has awards or recognitions for staff and non faculty employees, and nominate them for those awards. And give them a copy of the nominating letter you write.

    7. Occasional Manager*

      If you are in Higher Ed your institution or professional organizations probably have service awards that you could nominate essential employees for. This way you can say “thank you” while also helping them put a line on their CV/Resume/tenure package (and maybe even some extra money, depending on the award).

    1. Mental Lentil*

      As the left person left in my office wearing a mask where only two people are fully vaccinated, two people are halfway there, and the other eight will probably never be vaccinated, I agree.

      1. Nea*

        I am all for normalizing casual mask-wearing from here on in. Wake up with a bit of a sore throat? Wear a mask. A cold sweeping through the office? Mask up!

        I have them. I’m used to them. Everyone else is used to seeing them. I’m not volunteering to catch the common cold any more than I’m volunteering to catch COVID.

        1. Mental Lentil*

          I agree. This is very much a thing in Asia, where people tend to be more community minded.

          I think it definitely helps with allergies, too! A lot less stuff going up my nostrils!

        2. Marillenbaum*

          I am definitely keeping mine from here on out. My partner has a tendency to end up with bronchitis from a run-of-the-mill upper respiratory infection, which combined with his other autoimmune illnesses is…not good. If I can keep him healthier, I’m going to do it!

    2. JG Obscura*

      My employer (for now) is keeping the mask mandate, and I am so so grateful.
      We have had (multiple!) all-hands meetings where people asked “Do we haaaaave to get vaccinated?” I absolutely do not trust that all my coworkers will be honest about whether or not they’re vaccinated.


    3. MechE*

      Yea…no. I got vaccinated because it was the right thing to do and so I wouldn’t have to wear a mask anymore. I’ll show my vaccine card to anyone who wants to see it. I’ll staple it to my forehead if I have to, but I am done wearing a mask.

      If the problem is unvaccinated folks not wearing masks, focus on them. Bring the hammer down.

      1. LL*

        Yes, this exactly. I will show my vaccination card everyday to get to stop wearing a mask. Worry about those that won’t get vaccinated and leave the vaccinated people alone.

        1. Cj*

          We ditched them the day our governor allowed it, which was the day after the new CDC guidance, and by coincidence the same day I was considered fully vaccinated. Out of 15 employees, there is only one unvaccinated. Everybody freely and excitedly shared when they got theirs.

      2. Eden*

        Yeah. The problem of “some people aren’t vax’d” is not solved by “vax’d people wearing masks”.

        1. OrderingMaven*

          I mean, I believe it’s “everyone wearing masks,” not just vaccinated people. The proof will be in the eating — let’s see our numbers in two to four weeks. Until then, I’m keeping mine.

    4. Sled dog mama*

      Yes!!!! I’ve been required to wear a mask 8+ hours a day since… um sometime last April, I’ve lost track. It burns me up to see people not wearing them in a store. If you legitimately can’t wear one as one of the very narrow circumstances when the CDC recommended against masks that’s fine, but the you’re infringing on my civil liberties by insisting that I take precautions to not transmit a contagious virus that has unknown long term health effect, nope.
      My work place has only this week relaxed to the point of you are allowed to remove your mask when in your office alone (yes people were actually disciplined for this) and you know as a healthcare organization we’ve probably got a much higher vaccination rate than the general public.
      Just show a little compassion for your fellow humans.

    5. Elizabeth West*

      I am definitely wearing one when I go to work again until as many people as possible are vaccinated. And probably during cold and flu season for the rest of forever.

      I’m still wearing them in the store, too; preliminary data suggest it’s much less likely that fully vaxxed people can transmit COVID, but until we know for sure, I think it’s better just to be safe. I don’t want to inadvertently sicken someone who can’t have a vaccine. Plus, they’ve been helping my allergies right now.

      Btw, I went to both Walmart and Target today (both stores have said vaccinated customers can forego masking) and there were FAR more people not wearing masks in Walmart. #ThingsThatMakeYouGoHmm

  12. Daisy-dog*

    I feel some of these insensitive co-worker comments may be tied to just not knowing what else to say. They haven’t had chitchat with these coworkers in 15 months, so they don’t know that your child is now into theatre & underwater basket weaving or that you’re fostering a cat or whatever else you used to chitchat about. And it’s even more understandable that those that may have been isolated in the office are also not used to interruptions by these chitchatters!

    What are some good pivot topics when someone starts saying, “Pants, amirite?”

    1. Np*

      I think this is one of the most considerate posts here actually.

      I also understand the frustration of people who were given no choice but to work from the office but — at least where I live — stringent wfh guidelines were also to protect people who had to go in.

      (And I also think that we need to be kind to one another. I wfh a lot more than my colleagues, but also schlepped to crowded public departments where there were often Covid cases a lot more than them, because my role necessitated it. So each setup had its challenges.)

      1. Np*

        Also — pivot topics! I live in Europe, so Eurovision is a popular one these days. Books we’re reading. Funny memes. The occasional uplifting news item (love those)! Plants I’m growing. Updates in our industry.

        1. Daisy-dog*

          Thank you :) I love your suggested topics! I’m hoping to start getting more plants (for my patio), so I’ll have to seek out my green thumb co-workers.

          1. Mental Lentil*

            One of the things I’ve always loved about this time of year is that everybody is coming in with pictures of their yards and gardens. It’s a refreshing break to look at these.

            1. Jesshereforthecomments*

              Also, you can offer to share cuttings! Two of my “work plants” who now live with all my other house plants at home lol were from different people at my office. It was one of my favorite things at the office, seeing like 20 of us who all have clones of the same person’s plant.

        2. Jaid*

          I’m still a little sad Iceland didn’t win, but Italy deserved their win for sure!

    2. Nea*

      What are some good pivot topics when someone starts saying, “Pants, amirite?”

      After all this time re-starting at the “getting to know you” stage seems appropriate; none of us are who we were when all this started. So:
      – “I’ve found that (genre) podcasts got me through this. What do you listen to these days?”
      – “Going anywhere interesting on vacation?”
      – “I’m fostering the greatest cat now!”

      1. Not An Architect*

        I’d be inclined to avoid the vacation one if you’re after more pandemic-neutral topics. A lot of people still aren’t sure what vacations they can reasonably plan/take, especially those with kids who can’t get vaccinated or family they’d like to see but can’t for health or vaccination status reasons.

        It’s also something that has tended to present extra challenges for people who have been working on site. Sure, I would have dearly loved to see my elderly parents or my immunocompromised sister, and maybe if I’d been able to quarantine for two weeks either side it might have been possible. Instead I walked into work every day in a building with active COVID and new cases every day. For me to go anywhere would have posed too much of a risk to the rest of society, as well as to my colleagues and our (very immunocompromised) patients.

        It’s exciting to now have the possibility of vacations coming up! Just if you’re going to raise that with people who have been in-person, but be aware that it isn’t necessarily a simple, breezy topic. And, like others have said, if there’s a way to make sure they have first choice of vacation time (or get extra!) then absolutely do that!

    3. Chilipepper Attitude*

      I’d use that as an opportunity to remind folks not to go on about “returning is so hard!” I’d say, “yeah mate, pants, but that does not compare to the folks who had to come in and wear pants this whole time! We should be sure to thank them.” And then say, did you get that TPS report or whatever work topic is relevant.

      1. Mental Lentil*

        I think “yeah mate, pants” is just going to be my go-phrase whenever I don’t know how to respond to someone from this point going forward.

        Thank you.

        1. Onthetrain*

          This also works in the UK where a while ago, ‘pants’ was slang for generally a bit rubbish. Eg, “My favourite cafe was shut this morning and I had to get coffee from GenericChain”, “Yeah, that’s a bit pants”.
          It’s still heard from time to time in an ironic way.

    4. Smithy*

      If you’re in certain parts of the US – I do think “cicadas, amirite?” is a solid pivot.

      That being said, I do think that clinging to some old fashioned but useful small talk about weather – particularly summer – has a place. It may just be that once the small-talk rust is cast off it becomes easier to discuss newfound interests in more personalized small talk.

      1. Marillenbaum*

        Thank God for the weather, honestly. I’ve been in person since December, with most of my office (we are in a developing country and provide in-person services to the public). Even though we see each other, sometimes nobody wants the coffee conversation to be about which relatives died recently (a sadly common occurrence). So we talk about the weather. It’s so hot! It’s so humid! Thank goodness it’s finally monsoon season! And it lets us feel, for a little bit at least, like things are okay.

    5. basically gods*

      I think it’s reasonable to ask people what hobbies they picked up in quarantine; I suspect most people have something they started doing in order to keep themselves busy. I’m sure there’s good light-hearted ways of phrasing it that’ll rely on knowing your audience (there’s that tricky bit again!), but some better wording of “So, what did you use to distract yourself from the inescapable pit of gnawing dread that consumed you during the past year?”.

      1. A Genuine Scientician*

        Ish. Depending on their role, they may have seen their hours jump 25-50% with either no change in compensation, or even a salary cut. Or maybe all of their non-work waking hours were devoted to childcare, with schools going remote.

        I agree with the general spirit of something like “What are you doing for fun these days?”, but I wouldn’t assume that everyone picked up new hobbies during the pandemic.

        1. Onthetrain*

          Yeah, this. My new hobby was all work completely ceasing in my industry, and getting a longer- hours, lower- paid job in healthcare.

      2. eh*

        Eh, no. It’s not a safe assumption that people who were WFH had spare time/energy/ability to pick up new hobbies. I’ve been WFH for the past 15 months, and I’ve been sick with long covid for 14 of those months. My “quarantine activities” have consisted solely of trying to rest enough to have the energy to take care of myself, and going to doctor appointments. People with caregiving responsibilities likely have had any spare time consumed with those, not with hobbies. I know this question comes with good intentions but it’s not all sunshine and sourdough starters.

        1. Case of the Mondays*

          I’m sorry to hear about your long COVID. I hope you eventually make a full recovery!

    6. The Prettiest Curse*

      Oh, I agree with this a lot. A while back, I realised that I was completely losing the skill of small talk due to working at home (and if I have, I bet others have as well), so I forced myself to go to our local coffee cart once a week and chat to the owner. And to chat to the checkout operators at the supermarket.

      Pivot topics – asking about people’s pets, plants or sourdough starters/other new hobbies might be a good way to change the topic.

      I’m sorry that people who’ve been in offices are dealing with returning colleagues who are selfish, insensitive arseholes. You all have my sympathy.

  13. (Mr.) Cajun2core*

    Somehow I missed the earlier post. I was one of the first people to return to work. Some people are just now returning – a ten month difference.

    This is to managers and something similar was said above. If these employees have a doctor appointment or something, let them go a few minutes earlier and if at all possible, don’t charge them PTO. Other people this whole time, got to go to doctor appointments via zoom and were able to take off less time due to not having to travel. I have a doctor appointment tomorrow which is via zoom but I have to take off at least 30 minutes earlier than I would if I worked from home because I have to go back home for the appointment.

    1. Not An Architect*

      Absolutely this! I need to be on site the vast majority of the time but have been able to work from home maybe a dozen days, some of which I’ve taken to line up with appointments. It’s wild how much less disruptive to your day an appointment is when you can just do it from home when you’re already there.

      On other days I’ve found myself with remote appointments that fall on work days where I do need to be on site, and rather than try to engineer time off to be at home then I’ve scrabbled around the site to try to find a free room somewhere to be able to have them in private from work (employee wellbeing services came through for me, they had staff working from home doing remote sessions so I was able to use one of their counselling rooms).

      Having a policy which allows in-person employees to attend appointments with the same flexibility as wfh employees, without taking a hit to their PTO or having to make up the difference elsewhere, would be a great, very compassionate thing.

  14. Over It*

    Alison, just wanted to say thanks. A few weeks ago some people commented that this blog had been primarily focused on the WFH experience and essential workers were not feeling heard here. You acknowledged that you had been contributing to that, and have made a concerted effort over the past few weeks to run more posts about essential workers. Thank you so much for graciously accepting and implementing feedback.

    1. Another health care worker*

      +1. This is the only site I read regularly that has covered the dissonance we’re experiencing right now.

    2. OhNo*

      Agreed. I’m finding it doubly helpful since I’m now back in the office; I probably would have stuck my foot in my mouth several times by now if not for these helpful posts and all the suggestions of how to be considerate of non-WFH folks.

  15. Annie Hanson*

    Not sure if I am allowed to insert my perspective here, but I’ll just state that I’m SO impressed with all my agency’s employees who have been working on-site for the last 14 months (we started WFH around the last 2 weeks in March 2020, with the exception of our nurses, field inspectors, lab staff, etc-I work at the department of health in my state for context-whose job responsibilities cannot be completed remotely).

    I’m specifically saying this because as the leave management coordinator, I know that many employees were exposed to or contracted COVID, and yet still returned to work after quarantine/recovery.

    So whatever minor hardships I went through adjusting to work from home, I’ll keep those to myself when we return.

    THANK YOU to every employee that has continued to go into the office, lab, store, warehouse, plant, nursing home, school, etc.

    1. AndersonDarling*

      Everyone that had to stay in-office should be remembered forever. When they have a review in 10 years, I hope their managers still say “and Acme Co is grateful for your contributions during Covid. You kept us running and kept your co-workers safe. Thank you.”
      I don’t want their in-office work to be compared to volunteering for an event over the weekend or working late for a week. It was a SACRIFICE and is on a new level.

      1. OhNo*

        Honestly, I would love that. Where I work (higher ed), we had student workers doing a lot of the in-office tasks, under every COVID safety guideline we could implement (they legally couldn’t work from home, for reasons beyond my ken, and we wanted to make sure they still got paid). I’ve already told the ones I work with directly that anytime they need a reference, I will always bring up how they stepped up to the plate during COVID and took on WAY more responsibility than might otherwise have been expected of them.

  16. purpler*

    Removed. Things are not back to normal yet. If your office asks you to wear a mask, you need to wear a mask and I will not host a debate on that here. Many, many people are still unvaccinated. – Alison

  17. Mophie*

    Why don’t we just accept that this was a very unique and awful situation, some people had it worse than others, you can’t know for sure how bad someone had it and just cut people some slack?

    I have been in my office and at home during this thing as I work in public health. I was in person during the very beginning and went hybrid from the fall onward.

    Some people loved being in office, more freedom, their talents got showcased, they got more done with much fewer people in the office. Staying in office was a boon.

    I know others that can’t wait to get back to the office. Child care was stressful, they had family/marital problems, it exacerbated mental health issues, their work suffered and the are on verge of dismissal. WFH was no picnic.

    Can one person not complain to the other about the changes? Which one? And how do you tell which worker falls into which category?

    It’s a scary, stressful, uncertain time for everyone. I think advice here is what works in almost every other works in this situation. Don’t look for a reason to get upset or offended, and don’t pretend you know someone else’s situation. People vent as a way of coping with stress or change. We need to cut people slack instead of competing about who had it the worst.

    1. goducks*

      I think a useful way to consider whether a person is an appropriate person to vent to is to think whether you’d trade places with them. If your answer is “hell no!” then complaining about your circumstance is probably not a good idea and you should find another audience.

      Nobody who has worked onsite through the pandemic is suggesting people shouldn’t have feelings about returning, or that their feelings are not valid. They’re just saying that sharing those feelings might be insensitive to this audience.

      I had difficult pregnancies, but I was never in a million years going to complain about them to my friends who were struggling to become parents. I saved that type of venting for friends who it wasn’t going to upset. Know your audience, always.

      1. Mophie*

        I think that is my point. I think for many people, the assumption is that WFH was superior. But I don’t think that’s always the case. And you can’t know unless you delve into their situation. Some loved it, Some didn’t.

        So maybe the answer is, don’t complain to anyone about anything. But that feels too rigid to me.

        1. goducks*

          I guess I’d add to the consideration of whether you’d trade places with them, do you you think they’d want to trade places with you? If the answer is yes, then don’t vent to them.

          I worked on and off home/office for the past year. I hated WFH for the most part, strongly prefer being in the office. However, I know that there are people I work with who would have killed to WFH, even part time, so I’m not about to complain about the WFH stuff to them.

        2. Colette*

          I think it’s more the case that WFH was safer. Maybe it was hard; it was still safer than working with the public every day, or taking public transporation to work, or just being around coworkers who didn’t take the pandemic seriously. Maybe it’s not something you’d choose in ideal circumstances, but a deadly pandemic is not ideal circumstances.

          1. virago*

            Please be aware that you don’t know everything about your co-workers’ private lives. For some people, WFH may have been *less* safe because it meant that they were stuck at home all day with an abusive partner.

        3. Allonge*

          I suppose people who hated WFH for whatever reason (and there are many reasons) will also just… not complain that they have to go back to the office? I think a generic ‘last year was pretty horrible, glad it’s over-ish’ is perfectly fine for everyone.

      2. OhNo*

        I think perhaps a better metric might be would they want to trade places with you. If I was WFH and hated it, and my coworker desperately wanted to be WFH, they are not the right audience for my complaints. It would be tone deaf for me to get something they really wanted and just whine about how it’s not what I would have preferred.

        On the other hand, If I’m WFH and hate it, and my coworker who also WFH loves it, they might be a better audience for my complaints. Listing off to them all the things I hate about it probably won’t produce the same emotional reaction, just a lot of, “How can you dislike having no commute?” incredulity.

      3. In my shell*

        YES. ALL OF THIS. Sorry, @Mophie, but we’re not competing about who had it worst at all – you’re way off the mark on this one, and @goducks is exactly right – sure you (as a hybrid COVID employee) *can* vent or complain as you describe, but doing so without an awareness of your audience (and the risks, fears, challenges, lack of freedom they experienced) just compounds the thread worn feeling (of the COVID on-site workers).

        @Mophie Also, “Some people loved being in office, more freedom, their talents got showcased, they got more done with much fewer people in the office. Staying in office was a boon.” Ya, that’s a big nope. I don’t know anyone who worked on-site (esp with the public!) throughout who has expressed even a glimmer of opportunity that you describe here. It has been a relentless head-down-get-it-done-keep-my-job-but-also-try-to-not-get-COVID/not-bring-COVID-home-to-my-loved-ones effort, not a career opportunity.

    2. The Original Stellaaaaa*

      I don’t think there’s any situation where it’s okay to just say whatever you want to anyone, especially when you know it’s insulting, just because you’re feeling awkward. If you can intellectualize that, you can prevent the behavior.

      1. Red Swedish Fish*

        Yes, this post was so out of touch. The idea that someone believes that since they started out working in the office then when it got bad went home so they dictate everyone is on equal ground to complain about whatever they want just feels like someone at the height of privilege.

        1. Mophie*

          If you think working in a health setting in the northeast from March-September was easy, I got news for you. *I’m* not the one out of touch.
          I got to experience both parts of this. All I was trying to say is give your coworkers the benefit of the doubt. They are not seeking to piss you off or rub your face in anything when they joke about wearing pants.

          It’s not a competition.

    3. jenny*

      If you don’t know me well enough to know whether I’ve been working from home or onsite the whole time, you don’t know me well enough to vent or complain to me. It’s just not appropriate. I’m here to work and maintain a positive, productive working relationship with you. I’m not here as your stress-coping mechanism.

      1. Mophie*

        Maybe I’m wrong, but I was assuming most people reading and commenting on this blog aren’t restaurant and grocery store workers. I think most folks are office workers. In which case it’s variable. For many, I bet workload was higher and there were frustrations, but they weren’t really unsafe. At least for me there were much fewer people, it made work easier. My work was better recognized and I was able to get a promotion. So I had to go hybrid and spend some time in office and some at home.
        This is not true for everyone, of course, but for me, it was good. And if I said, “geez, it’s hard to get anything done with all these people in the office,” maybe I’d be the insensitive one. Which goes to my point, read the room and give people some slack if something they say rankles you.

        1. WS*

          Lots of healthcare workers here too, I’m one of them.

          Some people loved being in office, more freedom, their talents got showcased, they got more done with much fewer people in the office. Staying in office was a boon.

          Then if you know, for absolute sure, that you’re talking to one of those people, that’s fair! But I know absolutely no-one in that position.

        2. WorkFromTheOffice*

          Over the last year, I took 6 Covid tests, most of them being the result of an office coworker having Covid. Six times I waited to hear if it had made its way to me. One of those times, I thought that I had passed it to my mom.

          Working in a office offered no extra protection. There was no magical shield. Just 14 months of abject fear and worry.

        3. Pointy's in the North Tower*

          We (and by that I mean me) had people dropping off books and equipment from relatives who died from Covid even after being told that they had to mail them back. I work in an office. I had to handle packages because other staff can’t figure out how to change the mailing address on their personal packages to have them sent to their home. Working in the office wasn’t a guarantee of safer. I’m the highest risk person in my building (the only high risk category I don’t meet is age).

      2. Mophie*

        But people here are even saying inane banter things like “weird to wear pants, amirite?” is insensitive.
        My coworkers who know me well know where I was working, but they have no real idea if it was horrible. And I don’t know if they were dealing with marital problems, child problems, illness, etc. Because people don’t always let you know everything.

    4. nom de plume*

      “Some people loved being in office, more freedom, their talents got showcased, they got more done with much fewer people in the office. Staying in office was a boon.”

      No. The **whole point** people who’ve been in the office are making is that it was NOT those things. It was often isolating, scary, mandated without proper sanitary and safety precautions, demanding, and stressful. I’m really not sure how you can say to an essential worker in a grocery store or hospital at the height of the pandemic, “oh hey, you loved it and thrived!”

      The intention here is not to #BothSides the issue, which your comment kind of does. I was at home the whole time. I would not ever dare suggest that essential workers who worried daily about their safety experienced staying at the office as a boon.

      1. Ferret*

        Aren’t you kind of speaking for a group you aren’t part of though?

        My husband has been in the office the whole time and did not feel afraid, stressed, or anything like that. He enjoyed being in the office. He actually endured less stress than normal and got recognized in ways he probably wouldn’t have if that weren’t the situation. Not saying he was happy about the pandemic of course but it had silver linings for MANY people.

        I dunno, I think we just need to listen a lot more in these conversations rather than trying to dictate how everyone felt, especially people in groups we weren’t apart of.

        1. enlyghten*

          I understand your husband’s feelings on this. I never really felt afraid either. Workload increased and it became more difficult to contact people. There was also the frustration of knowing people who made three times as much as me got 6 months salary without working. Other than that, it was my preference to not telework. A bit of recognition and a bonus didn’t hurt either.

          For people like us, there probably won’t be any sour feelings, however I don’t think people like us are who this article is regarding. I think this is more for the people who were scared and went to work every day being incensed with the insensitivity of the people who were scared and were able and preferred to telework. There aren’t that many places that are taking this tack and it’s nice to see people trying to see this from all sides. Without histrionics, of course.

        2. Susie Q*

          This. My husband has been office the whole time. Including for several months at the beginning of the pandemic when most of his agency didn’t have to work at all and got a free 3 month vacation on the tax payer. He has loved it and has enjoyed being in the office. He even said that I have it way harder working from home nonstop while watching our now toddler.

          WFH folks can’t speak for everyone, neither can the people who have been going into the office the whole time speak for everyone.

    5. Ponytail*

      Hi, I’m responding to one specific point you said – Can one person not complain to the other about the changes? Which one? And how do you tell which worker falls into which category?

      My bugbear is that it’s not just one person. I have had, I’m not joking, 20, exactly the same, conversations since last summer, which is when I started going back to my work site. There are still another 20 or so work colleagues who I haven’t seen yet. I am glad when people come back, but I cannot keep listening to the same things over and over again – especially when not once does the conversation acknowledge that I’ve been in the office at least once a week for the past 9 months and the other person hasn’t. So, unless I wear a badge, it’s true, my returning colleagues won’t know that I’m not going to be receptive to their wide eyed awe at returning – but maybe they could think about what they’re saying before they speak?

    6. C.*

      I agree. I think it’s important for those who didn’t have the luxury of WFH to have the space and forum like this to openly discuss their experiences, frustrations, etc. But I really don’t see the point at all in slamming or minimizing the (different) experiences and frustrations that those WFH felt this past year. Who wins in that?

  18. Anonymouses*

    Re: recognizing people’s work, even before the pandemic we have an anonymous Props Box in a central location where people can put in nice notes about stuff that happened that get read out at our bimonthly staff meetings. It’s a great way to thank coworkers for something small or specific that you appreciated in the moment, you can just make a note and toss it in the box when it happened. It’s a bit nerdy and everyone groans when we pull out the box but then they smile when the comments are read.

  19. goducks*

    One thing for people returning to consider is whether the people who were onsite agree that WFH was as effective as being in the office. I’ve heard some of this in my own office, there are people who have said that they were just as effective WFH, while those who were onsite would beg to differ, even for things like lags in communication and responses to questions. Where in the before times, if shipping was having an issue with an order, they could bop over to the sales office and ask a question and get resolution rather quickly. With the sales team WFH, they have to send an email, Teams message, etc and wait for a response, without knowing when/if one is coming. There’s been members of our sales team who have said WFH is working perfectly, and think it should be permanent. They’re missing the impact their WFH is having on others in the org, so when they make comments in their presence about how great things worked WFH, it stings.

    1. Another health care worker*

      Yes, and also, unless you were always 100% WFH, someone else was almost inevitably covering tasks for you in person. These tasks may seem minor or irregular, but they had to get done, without fail. So, someone took over the annoying little chores you used to do for yourself. Please don’t go on and on about how there are no drawbacks to you working from home.

      1. Colette*

        That really depends on the job. There are a few people in my organization still at work – primarily shipping and receiving and IT hardware support – but those are things that have never been my responsiblity (or the responsibility of anyone in my division). We are all able to work from home without anyone in the office to cover any of our work.

        1. Another health care worker*

          I said “almost inevitably,” and Allison posted directions that people who have not been working on site should not center their own experiences on this thread.

          1. Colette*

            My point is that there are entire industries where your “almost inevitably” comment does not apply. I agree people shouldn’t go on about how there are no drawbacks to working from home – and I don’t know anyone who would say that there aren’t drawbacks – but it doesn’t follow that the work cannot truly be done from home.

            1. Another health care worker*

              You’re doubling down, now disputing my experiences both that people working from home often have tasks that need to be done in the office, *and* that some people claim there are no drawbacks to WFH. Why is your take on this more important than letting me, as an on-site worker, express myself on a thread that was specifically intended for us to do so?

              Again I’m referring to Alison’s note highlighted at the top of the comment section.

    2. TWW*

      Exactly. “Working from home is great! I don’t have to put up with interruptions!” you say to the in-office worker whose job requires them to occasionally interrupt you, and who now has to take the time to text you and wait for your response.

      We’re sometimes oblivious to our coworker’s experience, and it’s easy not to realize that things annoying to me are helpful to you, and vice-versa.

      1. Spearmint*

        I agree with the broader point, but I don’t think this is the best example. Many workplaces got along fine mostly relying on asynchronous communication even in person before the pandemic, and the debate about when to use email versus popping into people’s offices predates the pandemic as well.

        1. allathian*

          This is a very good point.

          When my org initiated a more liberal WFH policy a few years ago, people were messaging each other on Skype rather than pop their head over the room divider or come and talk to a coworker, even when both were at the office at the same time.

          If something can be resolved instantly, popping in is fine. But if solving the issue requires more work, please contact me in writing. Customers don’t always know which is which, they think something is easy for me just because it’s easy for them. Luckily my org supports handling assignments in writing, and I have the authority to tell someone “hey, this takes more time to solve than I can spare right now, please submit a ticket and I’ll get back to you.” Of course, some things are occasionally so urgent that I have to drop everything else to do it, but I find that a combination of not being extra helpful to those who try to circumvent the system by coming to my desk rather than submitting a ticket, and being able to ask them to submit a ticket anyway if the thing can’t be solved off the cuff, has helped ensure that the number of interruptions decreased sharply in the years when I was still mostly at the office.

    3. Bagpuss*

      I think this is a really good point – whether you are the person who was WFH and felt it went really well and was just as effective, but also if you hear others saying that.
      Check in with those who were still in the office to see if that was their perceptions too – you didn’t necessarily see the effort others put in, and things which felt like minor issue to you might have felt like mush bigger issues, or much more onerous / time consuming task to the people who had to do them in your absence.

      (All other considerations aside, if you want to use the experience of WFH during the pandemic as a way to advocate for being allowed to WFH, wholly or partially, knowing who it played with clients/coworkers so you can suggest solutions to those issues , or alternatively being able to say you’ve spoken to those who were in the office and they agree that it did not impact them, are both things likely to help in making that request – at least if you have a reasonable manager!)

    4. cncx*

      yes, this. i work in IT and making wfh work for everyone seamlessly takes time out of my day, and means i can’t do some of the other tasks i did when everyone was in the office because i wsn’t troubleshooting vpn all day every day.

      i spent four hours today with one user who couldn’t navigate a password reset remotely.

      wfh works for a lot of people and i think it’s great, but peopel have to keep in mind the work some team members do to make it happen.

    5. Susie Q*

      Ehh, at my company our sales staff have been 100% WFH since the start of the pandemic. Our sales have increased and our director has been incredibly pleased with our results. Our employees have also always been spread across the country so walking to someone’s office to solve a shipping issue never happened.

      Your experience is not universal.

    6. TheAG*

      One million times this. Where I work, the plant employees had to come in (even in job positions that could work from home, they were not allowed to). The corporate employees were allowed to work from home and aren’t coming back until September and now get to work remotely 2 days of the week. And we’re being told “don’t schedule on-site meetings on these two days” so we have to work around them.
      We have project managers refusing to come on site to oversee their projects. Guess who gets to do that? The same people who are also trying to keep the company in business.
      There are people who are supposedly working from home, but also taking care of a toddler and a baby (daycares have been fully open here and the majority of people I know are using them). The two of them I know, one takes a week to respond to an email (and you have to copy her boss) the other just has been MIA for months. Literally, but still getting paid. She’s got people working on site who are at their wit’s end.

      Pretty much everything coming out of corp takes longer. I mentioned this here before but we have meetings where there are 26 people logged in, only 6 ever talk, and if one of the other 20 is called on, never answer. Those 20 stay logged into the meetings until the end, even if the actual meeting only takes 10 minutes (so like they stay logged in for the full hour). It’s pretty clear to me that there are a fair amount of people who are just logging in and walking away. WAAAYYY more “meetings that could have been emails” so people can justify their jobs. It’s putting a lot of strain on us and is a HUGE morale buster. The majority of us in management in the plant are STEM fields (scientists, engineers, IS and finance) and STEM is a red hot market here. I imagine 2 things are going to happen around fall. Mass exodus from the plant and and another RIF in corporate (that would be 3 in 5 years).
      (I know I made it sound awful but I love what I do and I get paid well to do it, and I love the people who work in my plant so I’m staying).

  20. ZSD*

    I love the idea of giving these people first dibs on upcoming vacation time! My work also gave $500 professional development grants to people who had to come to the office to take over Covid-specific tasks like enforcing mask wearing, screening temperatures, etc.

  21. kittymommy*

    I know I’ve said this before, but sometimes I feel like I’ve been in a different dimension. The nature of my work and office, no one really went home in my building. Outside of here, I didn’t leave home (except for necessities, I’m my own bubble), but in this building? Everyone was in the same boat. We picked up more work due to other departments being partially closed/ WFH, but I guess in some ways the “masses coming in from the cold” is a phenomenon that is also foreign to me.

    1. Msnotmrs*

      Same here. I work for a large 24/7 government org (think police dept) and virtually no one stayed home except a handful of admin people, and most of them were recalled last summer. I didn’t stop work for 15 minutes, and the same is true of almost everyone I work with.

  22. GinoGinelli*

    I work for a charity that has various different organisations under it. My organisation has been in the office the whole time, apart from the most senior people who’ve been working from home. The Chief Executive made the impact on the mental wellbeing of the people working from home the focus of their emails about Mental Health Awareness Week, completely forgetting (not for the first time) the existence of the organisation I work for. It’s a real kick in the teeth to receive no recognition or reward for commuting every day, and adapting to new and uncomfortable ways of being around others in the office.

    1. enlyghten*

      Yes, the commute. Not just the time and money involved, either. I live in the mountains and everyone where I work has hit a deer. I hit my first deer in 20 years while 90% of our workforce was working from home. Not my favorite day ever.

  23. Entry Level Fury*

    Thank you for this!! I’ve been in the office the entire time and it has been EXHAUSTING to hear my friends who have been WFH complaining about returning to the office. Like it was said, I don’t mean to discredit their anxieties and fears, but my goodness, find a different audience for your complaints!! It’s so rude and self-centered to be whining to people who have been living those anxieties all along, and even worse, because it wasn’t half as safe as it is now when we were doing it.

  24. llamaswithouthats*

    Speaking of which, Alison your Slate article is trending on LinkedIn today!

  25. enlyghten*

    I’ve worked on site the entire time and for me the nicest thing was how quiet it was. Now that we are back in full swing with everyone on site, my colleague is catching up on the socializing he missed over the last year. Even if it weren’t unprofessional pro-Trump politics, I still just want to do my work in peace. It doesn’t help that I don’t hear so well and every time he talks I have to ask him to repeat himself, smile and nod, then turn back to work.

  26. KD*

    I’d have some grace for those marveling at all that has changed. It’s human nature to look for small talk, and some aren’t good at it in the best of times, and now with so long having not practiced, some people are going to panic looking for something to discuss. To me, it’s like how the first thing a lot of people talk about is the weather. They look at their surrounding for ideas, and that’s what jumps out at them.

  27. I know I sound terrible*

    I would also like to add to keep all this in mind even if you’re wfh but know people personally who haven’t been able to wfh.

    I’m a librarian and have been mostly in-person for most of this pandemic and listening to my family members who have office jobs complain about how they don’t want to go back to work (in any capacity) is just as annoying.

  28. Butter Makes Things Better*

    Thanks so much for this, Alison! I really appreciate you centering non-WFH folks while giving the rest of us a chance to do more than just witness and allow room for venting frustration. I’m forwarding it to my husband who’s in management at his company in case he can implement, share, or advocate any of these!

  29. JB*

    As staff return, I’m finding they need to re-learn etiquette for sharing spaces, especially those working in open plan layouts. We have one colleague who takes every single meeting on speaker phone. Groups of people walk through the adjacent hallway (no walls/barriers – more of a path beside our desks) laughing and talking very loudly.

    Before COVID, I felt like we had all gotten into to pretty good practices/habits – using headphones, lowering voices when in open areas. Many people have become used to having their own environment at home, so I feel like we’ve moved back in time to when our space was refurbished to open plan instead of offices and cubes.

    1. basically gods*

      I have really had to work on training myself out of swearing quietly at my work, which wasn’t an issue at home when the only one to hear me was my cat! (Swearing isn’t a sign of something going wrong, just as a side note– I work as a software developer, so having stuff break or being frustrated by a problem I’m beating my head against is pretty normal!)

  30. Krabby*

    My team has been rotating our in-office schedule since Covid started to ensure that no one gets saddled with too much (usually 4 people come in each day). We had to spread out into another team’s desk space to ensure that we could properly distance. The team whose desks we took is starting to come back on a rotation now too, so we set them up in the desk grouping next to their old spot. They are flipping out about this apparent “disrespect” for their work.

    Like, I’m sorry it was easier to set you up somewhere new than to split up our team and move us all around after we’ve been using these desks FOR OVER A YEAR so you could WFH full time. SMH…

    Anyway, I really appreciate this post. Even though I was still going in, it was usually only for a week every month or so. I feel like I’m much better armed to ensure that my colleagues get the recognition they deserve.

    1. WellRed*

      Post a copy of this column with the part about don’t complain about changes highlighted.

    2. The Price is Wrong Bob*

      You were in the right here, it makes no sense to maintain weird ghost desks or some high school cafeteria-style hierarchy.
      I find this super pathetic of that team to react like that, because unless they are the owners of the business….it’s not their stuff?! As long as the equipment that was issued to them individually is safe and accounted for, it’s all good. Maybe it’s because I started full time office life close to the recession, but I don’t leave too many personal items I cannot replace at the office ever. Especially now that in my case, it’s hot-desking and lockers anyways and we have a clean desk policy (so no one has any claim to a desk spot for more than the day, just a locker). “Disrespect for their work”…gimme a break, you adult babies.

  31. LifeBeforeCorona*

    As an essential worker, I really enjoyed the faster commute because of less traffic. But it was too eery in the early months, I kept getting an end-of-the-world vibe at all the empty workspace that literally looked like it was simply abandoned. Also, when most people return there may be new and maybe better processes in place to do things. Try it before dismissing it outright. Almost every week we found new ways to be more efficient and could try them out without passing them through a committee. You may not like the mailroom’s new setup but it could turn out to be more user-friendly than before.

  32. MechE*

    “Wear your mask when you come back, even when vaccinated”.

    Nope. I have my vaccine, so I’m not required to wear a mask (in my office). I’m not wearing a mask. If the issue is unvaccinated people not wearing a mask, make vaccination a requirement for employment or working in the office. Make people show proof of vaccination if they aren’t wearing a mask. Don’t punish the responsible people because of the irresponsible people.

    1. Colette*

      Since some people can’t get vaccinated for medical reasons, your solution is probably illegal.

        1. Over It*

          Vaccination mandates generally allow for exemptions for people with bona fide, documented medical reasons they can’t get vaccinated, because otherwise it would be an ADA issue.

        2. Daniel*

          Note that requiring new hires to be vaccinated is very different in legal terms and ethics than forcing current employees to go get vaccinated. The latter is forcing an employee to make a medical decision for themselves or lose their job. Sadly, in my state that is legal.

      1. Calliope*

        No, I don’t think this is right – you have to make reasonable acommodations for disabilities, including those that might preclude vaccination. Wearing a mask if you can’t be vaccinated is probably a reasonable accommodation.

      2. Eden*

        That’s like saying, it’s illegal to decide “all employees must work Saturdays” because some people are Jews. If someone has a medical reason for not wearing a mask they can get their needs documented and get an exception.

    2. Over It*

      The problem is it’s hard to keep track of who is and isn’t vaccinated, and many companies won’t ask because that opens so many cans of worms. Many offices (like yours) allow people to be mask-free in a private office which is one thing, but it’s more than reasonable to continue requiring masks for all staff and visitors in shared spaces.

      1. Calliope*

        This poster is suggesting something in line with CDC guidelines. Not sure why it’s irresponsible.

        1. Daniel*

          Yes. And my state is lifting all mandates June 2nd as well. If my employer also lifts the mask mandate I will be very happy the masks are now optional. Myself and most of my office is vaxed.

      2. MechE*

        I need to wear a mask, despite being vaccinated, or else I’m being irresponsible?

        1. Unkempt Flatware*

          Yep! Because of how many people lie about their vaccine status. We can’t trust each other yet. Wear a mask.

          1. Old and Don't Care*

            Can’t we agree that we should follow our employers policies, and that if wearing a mask is not required it is in fact optional?

            1. Unkempt Flatware*

              No this thread seems to show that folks do not agree about that. This is about those coming in for the first time in a while and how to best respect those who’ve been there all along. Wearing a mask, because who the help knows what I’ve been up to in the last year (I could be that toilet seat licking influencer for example), is the right thing to do in many folks’ opinions here. Because trust.

              1. Calliope*

                I think it’s fallacious to assume that everyone whose been in the office is agitating for longer mask wearing. Not always the case IME. I’m generally in favor of it but I agree with the above poster that if you can verify vaccination status, it’s fine to use the CDC guidelines on that one and allow vaccinated people to go unmasked. Obviously that’s not workable in all environments but I think it is in some.

          2. MechE*

            How ridiculous. I did my part. I’ll pin my vaccine card to my chest, but I’m not going to wear a mask when I don’t need one. Punish the dishonest people, not the honest ones.

            So often on this site I see Allison say that blanket policies are a poor way to address the infractions of individual offenders. This is in that same vein.

          3. Calliope*

            In an office setting you can verify vaccination status though. If you have clients coming through that’s different but not all places do.

            I guess someone could still photoshop up a card but depending on your office you can gauge how likely that is. I work in a small-ish place and am not worried about my coworkers committing fraud.

    3. Dust Bunny*

      We don’t wear masks when we’re alone in our individual workspaces (which are self-contained and not near each other) but we do when we might be near other people. And we require masks of anyone who comes in, regardless of vaccination status. We’re all vaccinated.

      1. MechE*

        If you are all vaccinated (I am vaccinated as well), shut are you all wearing masks?

        1. Unkempt Flatware*

          Again, trust. The lack of it. For each other, for the virus itself, for our own immune systems and for our employers.

          1. Stuckinacrazyjob*

            Yes when I’m at work I wear a mask to indicate ” I am not breathing germs on your children! Trust me!” Or ” I obey rules in the office! I am not rude!” Sure I’m vaccinated but how can they tell if someone they barely know is lying or not?

        2. Jesse*

          Because I want to reassure people that I am taking pandemic precautions like hand-washing, vaccination, physical distancing, etc. seriously and I am not a risk to their health. Also, I have lupus and no one’s sure right now if immunocompromised people are making enough antibodies in response to the vaccine.

          Right now, to a casual observer, there is no difference between an unmasked vaccinated person and an unmasked rule-flouting bug-chaser. I don’t want to be mistaken for the latter when I’m on the job.

    4. tra la la*

      I work at a public university and we aren’t allowed to require vaccination or even ask if someone is vaccinated. I’m vaccinated, but given the politics in my state, I’ll be keeping my mask on when I’m around people I don’t know.

  33. saf*

    I love this, “general praise such as ‘thanks for all your hard work’ feels hollow to me when said too often. “”

    Where I work, the phrase everyone uses is “Thank you for everything you do.” Oh, how I hate it. But you can’t tell the chair of the board of deacons that – she really thinks it means something!

  34. AnotherSarah*

    I have been mainly wfh but have come to the office a few times. It’s been creepy to be there alone, or nearly alone. There have been some cases of harassment and assault between employees who haven’t been able to wfh, and I’m sure that the empty building was an enabling factor. I’m not sure what the advice is here, except that the influx of us all coming back might provoke mixed reactions, and both a sense of decreased safety *and* increased safety.

  35. Anonymous of the Old Office*

    Re: Not complaining about being back in the office

    This has reminded me of something that used to get under my skin when I first joined my new team at work (fall 2020). Our workforce is spread between two different buildings, since our original “older” building (built around 2000, I believe) can’t accommodate the full staff. The newer building, which some of our staff moved into a few years ago, is significantly nicer. It’s waterfront with spectacular views, has updated bathrooms with touchless amenities, and even has a really nice changeroom/shower room that looks like it belongs in a spa. I have always worked in the older building (minus the past year and a bit spent working from home). The only thing that really bothered me was not having access to the nice changeroom since I commute by bike; there is a changeroom in the building next to older building that I can use, but it has that high school locker room aesthetic and the location isn’t convenient. But the place I was working before I joined this organization was the basement of one of the oldest buildings on our university campus, so “older” building actually feels pretty swanky to me.

    Before I joined my current team, they were moved into the newer building. They were there for a little while until there was a restructuring and they were relocated to the older building (before the newer building, they were actually in a different random building nearby). When I joined the team in fall 2020, my teammates would literally complain daily about all the things they hated about the older building. It was the epitome of the “first world problems” meme. “I can’t believe I have to touch the tap to wash my hands! I’m going to get the plague.” “I can’t believe how ugly the view is from our desks. Remember when we saw those eagles/otters?” All I could think is how many years my partner spent working at a floating restaurant that didn’t even have it’s own bathroom; he had to walk to a nearby public bathroom and wait in line if he had to pee during his eight hour shift.

    It was annoying and frustrating to hear them complain constantly. And the stakes were way lower for me. I can’t imagine how much worse it must be to hear similar complaints when you’ve been forced to risk your health and safety during a pandemic. As scary and confusing as returning to the office might feel, we should probably try to schedule our venting sessions to times when those who were in the office the whole pandemic don’t have to hear it.

  36. turquoisecow*

    My office has been half in and half out for the last few months*, and the current plan is that everyone will be back in the office on June 28th. In discussing the reopening in a team meeting recently, several people suggested putting signs on conference room doors to remind people of the maximum number of people allowed in that room. Since each conference room is a different size, the amount is different for each room. It is definitely a good idea to give people a reminder of the current protocols, especially if they’re changing. My office is going from half occupancy to full occupancy so the protocols will definitely be modified a bit

    (*with the exception of people with medical reasons and myself, who is part-time fully remote.)

    1. BenAdminGeek*

      That is a great idea! I wouldn’t have thought of it- “we used to fit the whole team in here, so we’ll do that now” would have been my default, but this is a smart way to remind folks without being rude.

    2. FedUpFranny*

      We put out occupany signs and distancing signs but also removed the extra chairs. We knew that if we left it up to employees, they would still crowd in if they had a place to sit. I would like to tell you that it works 100% of the time, but that would be a lie. Some groups will have meetings with standing room only just to all be in one space. It is something else indeed.

  37. KuklaRed*

    This is such a great discussion! And it really has made me think… My company went 97% remote as soon as things started to go into lockdown. But due to the nature of our business, a few people had to be in the offices to accept packages, mail, and load data. I am going to ask our HR what we are doing for those on the team who did not have the option of working from home full time.

    1. All the words*

      As someone in that 3% who had to keep going to the office throughout this whole thing (not your office, of course) thank you from the bottom of my heart. I really hope someone in our company thinks to do the same. The lack of acknowledgement or consideration outside of occasional generic, blanket thank you emails has been more than a little demoralizing.

  38. Anon #5989*

    “Recognize that those who stayed will have got used to … give them time to adjust”
    “There will be a new culture at work! Its like you have a new job and your job is to figure it out”

    So… people who worked from home have to figure everything out while waiting for in-office workers to adjust at their own pace?

      1. Dust Bunny*

        But also: Yes, the WFHers need to consider that they’re not coming back to what was in place before they left and be considerate, too. They’re not the only ones who had to make adjustments.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yep, people who risked their and their family’s lives every day to do their jobs should get more grace from those of us who didn’t.

  39. CatPerson*

    I was planning on going back in and kind of just doing the head down come in and work and leave with my mask on with making no ripples so to speak. I wasn’t planning on trying to go up to people and catch up, but was later thinking it might be rude not to catch up. But upon reading this my first gut reaction of not coming by to “catch up” was the correct one.

    I was one of the really high risk people. We’re not back yet but I realize those back at the office are probably pretty frazzled. I tried to offer to be backup for someone to take a vacation but they are now having someone else be backup and now that poor persons vacation has been delayed by over a year. I really think that person needs to be able to take a break so I’m not sure what else to do with that.

    Thoughts? Is this a cold way to return? Upon reading this article it seems ok but I want to see if anyone had some super blunt comments for me as to if this seems like an awful way for the coworkers to return? I am also now a full on germaphobe (working on it but that’s another and separate thing). I’m really just going to keep to myself to try and keep it together and not get in anyone else’s space.

    1. Calliope*

      I mean, do what you need to do, but I don’t think you need to ignore people and not say hi to avoid minimizing their struggles.

      1. CatPerson*

        Oh sorry I didn’t mean I would not say hi. But like I’d not stop by and have a big ol ohh whats new convo you know?

        1. Marillenbaum*

          I mean, I think a warm hello is fine, then maybe an invite for a catch-up lunch a little later? For people you like and also don’t want to overwhelm, letting them choose when to schedule it might be a good move.

  40. Mad Harry Crewe*

    The bit about who (not) to complain to reminds me of Ring Theory:

    It was originally developed with a focus on individual injury/illness, but I think it applies very well here, as well. Put the affected person (or in this case, the group of people who’ve been working face to face with the public) at the center. In the next group would be people who were in the office but didn’t have to work with the public. And so on – from the people who were most in danger out to the people whose routines barely changed. Support in, dump out.

    1. Jesse*

      Ah, thank you, I just posted (vaguely) about this before seeing that you’d done a better job of it! I’m so glad you posted the link so I can know specifically what theory I’m talking about next time.

    2. Anonymous Hippo*

      Thanks for sharing. I was thinking more along the lines of the comedy rule of punching up versus down, but this is a little clearer for this instance.

  41. Jesshereforthecomments*

    Thank you to Alison’s post and to all your comments! I consider myself pretty empathetic and don’t often put my foot in it, but I definitely said that it felt weird to be onsite and mentioned how hot it gets wearing a facemask when I had to go into the office one day. I should have kept those comments to myself, and now I will remember to.

    Also, those of us who WFH have been getting a small monthly stipend to help cover internet costs. I think they should have given a stipend to onsite workers too. I am at a financial institution and our branches opened back up almost immediately with protocols in place, but still I’m sure it was incredibly scary and stressful. WFH people got $50/mo. I think anyone who wasn’t working at home should have gotten $100/mo. I did put this in a number of our internal surveys, but that’s about all I could do.

  42. Quizler*

    The point about evening out the workload is going to get more complicated for some. We just had three people (out of seven) who were WFH, turn in their resignations. They decided to move to another employer (all went to the same place) that will let them work remote. Our management wouldn’t agree to that, so they found something else. Now the workload is going to get worse, and will likely not be evenly distributed. I hope this doesn’t become a trend.

    1. The Other Dawn*

      I’ve been wondering myself how this will play out once we go back to the office in another month or so. We’re going hybrid (each department manager’s decision), which is a new thing, but lots of people are unhappy that they have to go back in at all. I can see their point–their department or position truly does not require any in-office time, they’re more productive at home, they don’t have to commute anymore, and don’t need to to spend money on business clothing. But I can also see the CEO’s point–he’s afraid of losing the company culture (small company, been around 150+ years) and opportunities to collaborate. The people who love WFH and want to stay that way will leave for companies that allow it 100%, even if it’s just a lateral move. And the people who hate it and are now in a hybrid department will choose to go in-office 100% if there’s space and the manager allows it, or will leave.

  43. Somebodycall911*

    I wonder if some of the tilt towards sympathizing with the challenges of working from home and sort of forgetting those of us in the office 100% of the time comes from the fact that many manger types have the ability to work from home and those challenges are more in their face.

    I know personally my employer has done a lot of things right, especially for work from home people and regarding layoffs, but definitely have not acknowledged or really done anything for those of us working 100% on site. Someone in another department commented on our intranet that the reward was “normalcy” which was a huge sting- nothing about what we’re doing is normal! And that doesn’t change that schools, childcare etc are not normal and we can’t be home to accommodate. Honestly, the biggest way I wish they would show their appreciation is right in the wallet. We’ve operated this entire time thanks to us- put your money where your mouth is if we’re appreciated!

  44. Janice*

    Kind of opposite to some of what’s been said – but I think it’s important to have a conversation about extra responsbilities that people working in person took on before trying to relieve them of their extra work. I’ve been working in person with the public the whole pandemic have a pretty boring job most days. Covid made it stressful and scary for sure, but I also found myself taking on new responsibilities and some of them I really liked. When things settled down/co-workers returned, I really felt an attitude of “thanks for covering but we don’t need you anymore”. It hurt to be given some of the responsibility I was craving in my role just to have it taken away with no real acknowledgement of the effort I’d put in or how well I’d done. Also I’ve been tired of fighting with people about masks/hearing complaints about them for months now – just don’t.

  45. the cat's ass*

    thank you for this SO much. Because my eye-rolling isn’t covered by my mask, whoops.

    Management has been really proactive about “Masking is NOT negotiable, support your non-WFH colleagues because they kept us afloat, etc. ” Lunches haven’t hurt, either.

    AND i just got some great news-the Reply Guy who was the bane of my existence pre-covid (ah, the mediocrity of middle-aged white men, tho AAM really helped me deal with/tolerate him in a professionally acceptable, non-homicidal fashion) has decided to retire and not come back to the office, YAY!!!

  46. Betteauroan*

    This is all really interesting to read and very helpful information to make the change over more bearable for everyone.

  47. Meetkat*

    Thank you for posting this topic. During the first lockdown I was still in the office and my workload increased 3 times! And then with the second lockdown because of Fallon revenues I got laid off. Six months on unemployment benefits put me so behind financially I may never recover. I was a month away from being homeless as I had to borrow to stay afloat. Now with a new job (finally and thank u Allison for your advise on salary negotiations!) I can finally breathe again and soon hopefully my area will reopen. I would have loved to wfh but not everyone had the opportunity and many who did not may feel burnt out and undervalued. Give them time space and respect for what they had to deal with. It was very scary having to go into work please remember that

  48. ljfdutk*

    I’m concerned there’re other impacts being overlooked. For example, I know a lot of people whose visa statuses are in trouble or who have already had to leave the country, and they would rather be working in the office than laid off.

    I’m honestly so tired of the Suffering Olympics

  49. In the corner*

    If you’re sick, STAY HOME. I was in office full-time, no choice, no flexibility. When our office opened back up, the first person who stopped by my office on the very first day back was sick. He knew it, he knew the rules, but he came in anyway because he was lonely working from home the past year. WTF!!!

    1. Daniel*

      America has a culture of expecting people to down some dayquil and come in with the common cold. My work certainly has, for as long as I’ve worked here. This is one aspect of American culture I was hoping that the pandemic would change, but I’m skeptical. This may be more common in small to medium business though. I’ve never worked for a large corporation that doesn’t make everything personal.

  50. Marcina*

    As an ED RN for whom WFH has obviously never been an option, I actually kind of genuinely feel bad for the people who now “talk about the tragedy of wearing clothes.” I have always loved the fact that I get to go to work in, essentially, pajamas. And since COVID, I get to work in hospital provided and laundered pajamas! Silver linings! I’ll take ’em where I can!

  51. Andy*

    > Follow any new procedures and don’t grumble about them, and encourage other returners to do the same

    Way better management is to keep open discussion about what procedures are for and whether they should be changed or nor.

    > Folks coming back, please don’t question or demand explanations for every little thing. These decisions were made in a context you didn’t have. By all means, ask for clarification when you need it, but ask yourself first (1) if the issue is important enough to have someone explain a year’s worth of background and (2) whether the answer is just going to be a pointless ‘because that’s how we made it work, given the circumstances

    Is it just me that finds explaining reasons and backgrounds for newcomers completely normal? I did not that for all new people in team. I am new now and people are explaining me the reasons for every little thing.

    Maybe it is because I work in software development which is fundamentally heavily team work, but I find the “just shut up and follow” attitude to me more of sign of bad management then of politeness. I am explaining every commit I make to people. We discuss processes and style guides all the time and we go back to explaining them all the time as people forgot or as new ones come it.

    1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

      The problem many of us have with you deciding to discuss “what procedures are for, and whether they should be changed or not[sic]” is that most people who have been work from home this whole time lack the contextual experience to understand why the new procedures were put in place, and most folks who want to discuss why the change was made really just want to argue for why things should stay the same as they were, when that person was comfortable with the procedure. The unfortunate truth is that most people are bad at embracing change, and would prefer to live with how things used to be.

      Explaining reasons and backgrounds to newcomers is often normal, yes. But asking us to explain the reasons and backgrounds about COVID changes right now is asking us to relive and dwell on a trauma that is still ongoing, and many of us simply do not have the emotional bandwidth to do that at the moment. Especially when those discussions will often devolve into “you didn’t do the ideal thing in the moment” conversations – which are often colored by what we know now, because it can be so hard to remember what we knew vs suspected and when with this virus. Most of us are painfully aware that none of us knew what the ideal thing was, and were mostly making things up as we went along. That doesn’t mean that we currently have the bandwidth to listen to others second guess all our actions, with the benefit of hindsight knowledge and bias.

      Maybe wait a while on that.

      1. Quite Anonymous*

        Well said!

        Andy, as the person who wrote that second bit, I’ll emphasize my point that of course you can ask what you need to clarify things. People need to be able to do their jobs. But we’re not really talking about newcomers needing to understand process here; we’re talking about returning employees. Clarification is good, and some issues are important and deserve more context than others. Let’s just not rehash every unimportant decision made over the past year, especially not right away.

        I’ll try my hand at an example. Say you come back to the office and the llama reports are located five feet to the left of where they used to be. It’s one thing to say “Is this where the llama reports go now?” or even “Should I move these back to where they used to be?” It’s another to complain, throw a fit, or run around demanding a detailed reckoning from the essential staff over a very minor change.

      2. Not An Architect*

        Also, you may only ask each question once – but if every one of your colleagues also asks each question once, that can add up to a lot of time explaining decisions that were chosen as the most practical way to mitigate a given risk or improve an untenable situation. Better to just trust that those decisions were made for good reason. If they start to cause problems then by all means ask for more context/background, but take some time to just see how they work first. The reasoning may become obvious without you even having to ask.

        Also, while understanding the whys and hows behind a piece of software engineering may be critical to doing effective work going forward, a lot of covid practices and protocols don’t need that level of in-depth background analysis and examination, and the people who worked to figure them out definitely don’t need to spend time and energy explaining and justifying them to each new colleague to return.

  52. cncx*

    late to the game here. i’ve been in the office at least two days a week the whole time and there was a post a few weeks ago about someone who was picking up tasks because they were in the office and they no longer wanted to do them now that people could in principle come back, and that’s my biggest grumble: the stuff i did as a courtesy because i was the only one present is still a *courtesy* and not my main job.

    so i just need everyone to keep the same energy that these tasks are best effort and if they don’t like how i do it they can come in and do them. It’s fine to not feel safe coming in but check in that the people you are counting on to be able not to come in are still okay with the arrangement..

    In the same vein, some ppl are still wfh because they work around childcare and that’s fine but don’t expect me to do stuff at nine pm because that’s the time that works for you when i worked a whole day normal business hours.

  53. Wendyroo*

    Capitalism has utterly failed on multiple fronts during the pandemic, so let’s pit different groups of workers against each other in a fight over who got shanked the hardest. Problem solved.

  54. Jesse*

    There is a concept I once read where you should only vent/complain/bemoan stuff to people “further out” from the epicenter of the issue. So if your mother-in-law is sick, share your worries with your own family, or your friends, but avoid burdening your spouse or your siblings-in-law with your reaction, because they’re closer to the issue. If you have treatable cancer, don’t cry on the shoulder of someone who’s got terminal cancer.

    I think it’s a really helpful rule in general to avoid contributing to someone else’s suffering.

  55. BatManDan*

    All of this advice sounds terrific. I’m self-employed (as, of all things, a professional networker) so I’ve had moments of stepping out into the world, and pulling back, as circumstances dictated. But I am in touch across scores of industries, and have heard all “sides” to the experience of the pandemic, and I think all these resonate with some of my clients. Thanks for posting this; I’ll be sharing the link via social media. AAM is great!

  56. Springtime*

    After thinking it over for a day, I think that my comment falls into the category of “Don’t complain,” but that it elaborates on one aspect: Don’t just react constantly. At my job, we worked from home for a few months, but have been back in the office and working with the public for getting close to a year now. When we first came back, we were all anxious. But some people were REALLY anxious and their constantly voicing complainy hot takes only made everything worse for all of us.

    It’s OK to be anxious. Acknowledge it, and before you react to anything, think about what you can do that will really help the problem. You can’t fix the pandemic, but you CAN be one of the people who is willing to take on some of the work of constantly enforcing safety policies, rather than just complaining that “someone” isn’t doing it to protect you. “Someone” is anxious and exhausted, too, and if your attitude is that you “shouldn’t have to” take care of yourself, then chances are everyone else is feeling that they “shouldn’t have to” take care of you, either. If you take an active role in making sure that policies are followed in your immediate vicinity and do reach an impasse, you’ll also be in a much better position to escalate the problem higher if need be.

  57. Exhausted FOR This*

    Thank you for this thread AAM.
    For myself, in this moment, the hardest part from WFH, or not working, as is the case (no judgement) isn’t that they are afraid, as I am afraid too. Not hugging my own son for fear of COVID, and all the other things, it is real, for all of us.
    The issue though is that the idea that this is over now that temp situations that prompted WFH in the first place, seems to be ending, is that to come back to the workplace is THE END.
    The fear, I have sympathy for, but the idea that they are now planning vacations, and the excitement, it is REALLY hard when no matter how much time we not WFH take off (ha, like we will!) it won’t correct the exhaustion we have now.
    And trust me, even I have a hard time appreciating the exhaustion I am actively experiencing right now.
    I just feel this will never end, as for the past year and a bit, it has not ended for me.
    I am broke, I am beyond tired, I have almost no active real friendships, we are too tired for more than a cursory text to say ‘ i love you sorry i am shit but so tired’.
    So, to help? Please let us have vacation time prior to yourselves.
    Seriously. Even unpaid time, or shorter days.
    Just let us go home early, a few times, over a few months, we need to get strong again.
    WE ARE strong, look what we have done! but we need to regroup, just like WFH people do.

    1. Yet Another Office Manager*

      Yes, people who have been overworking at the office should definitely get extra time off! I hope you do!

  58. Yet Another Office Manager*

    I’m going to staple this one to my forehead when my coworkers come back:
    “Do be patient if we walk around as if there’s no one else here, I can go my entire day and not see anyone else, I’m a little worried that I’ll keep walking around like that (head down, brain elsewhere, not paying attention to where I’m going), if I walk into you it’s because this is the path I walked for the last year-plus. Not because I’m trying to get you sick.”
    (This is funny to me because I am the one who already did this before we closed the office to everyone, and I’ve been back in the office 1-2 days a week since February or March.)

  59. jimrustles*

    i didn’t mind so much being declared mandatory and coming in even after catching covid for zero compensation or raise but also getting chastised by management for not attending virtual happy hours at review time made me want to find the nearest living thing and kill it.

  60. Former Employee*

    “Don’t talk about the tragedy of wearing clothes.”

    Belated thanks for the laugh. Some people…

  61. DidISayTheInsidePartOutLoud?*

    The last of the support staff at our firm finally came back a couple weeks ago after WFH FT since March 2020. I’ve been back FT since June 2020 and was on a hybrid schedule for at least a month or two before that. One other coworker came back FT around the same time as me. The rest came back in the months shortly thereafter – definitely before the end of 2020.

    The person who finally came back to the office a couple weeks ago had flowers delivered – from the firm – on her first day back and is already WFH again because it was “too hard” for them to return cold turkey.
    When I returned, I was given a lecture about how far behind *I* had gotten on case work and a new set of rules I had to follow in order to stay employed here. The reason I had fallen behind was THE PANDEMIC and certain vendors and other offices we frequently interact with – many of them medical or medical-related – who’s response times for anything had slowed to a crawl also thanks to the pandemic.

    So, yeah – I don’t really care about how “scared” you are or how weird it feels for you to be here after 1.5 YEARS of getting random texts and emails asking me for favors.

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