how is the return to work supposed to work, exactly?

As a work-advice columnist, I’ve been able to track the evolution of the pandemic through my email: In the spring of last year, I was flooded with questions about companies that weren’t keeping people safe, the adjustment to working from home, and dealing with furloughs. Then it was coworkers who wouldn’t wear masks or keep their distance, along with frustrations over endless Zoom meetings and how to work with young kids around. And now my inbox is changing again, as offices that went remote last year increasingly start to bring employees back on-site and people begin thinking about how their returns will work.

At New York Magazine today, I answered a bunch of the questions I’ve been getting about the return to offices — about dealing with coworkers who you no longer respect because of their behavior this past year, about bras, about not wanting to go back at all, and more. Head over there to read it.

{ 261 comments… read them below }

  1. Kimmy Schmidt*

    I hope there is someone out there who has decided Covid was the nail in the coffin for ever wearing a bra again! I’m too nervous to ever ditch the bra at work, but boy do I want to. And this reminds me… I need to do so much shopping for new office attire, especially pants and bras.

    1. Liz*

      I ended up, mainly due to my chunk, ditching the underwire bras and going with wireless. I also made the decision early on i would get up, get dressed, including a bra, every day, for a sense of normalcy. me going without one isn’t going to happe, but the ones I have now are so much better!

      and i have to find some clothes that fit too, as we go back in just under 6 weeks, alhtough MY bosses have said 1 or 2 maybe days a week. we’ll see.

      1. chewingle*

        Yep! Like one LW, I was very pregnant the last time my coworkers saw me. Then I found wireless nursing bras and I’m never going back. I’ve tried all kinds of wireless bras that don’t work because I’m too busty, but these nursing bras are AH-mazing.

          1. Anon Dot Com*

            Not chewingle, but I’m also large-chested (D-cup) and I looooooove Cake Maternity nursing bras. Never thought I’d able to wear a wireless bra! They are amazing.

          2. Chinook*

            I also recommend knix dot ca. I have gone wireless for 5 years with my DDD’s and my back does not regret it with these bras. They also do an amazing “no bounce” sports bra that I can actually run in.

      2. Super Admin*

        Ditto! Found a few bralettes that are cute AND supportive of my Ds and I am never ever going back to underwire. I can’t manage braless, but you can be damn sure I’m going to make the bras I wear as comfortable as possible.

        1. SheLooksFamiliar*

          I’d love to know which brand(s) you recommend. I’m a D or DD, depending, and am sick of underwires.

          1. Koalafied*

            I was a 32D the last time I wore bras, and I would recommend checking out Aerie. They have some good compromise options that are not as restrictive as a bra without just letting everything hang out.

          2. underwire supporter*

            I am a DD or higher and mostly find underwire more comfortable bc it is so stable. If anyone has recommendations for supportive or in some way comfortable bras for larger cup sizes, please share!!

            1. Generic Name*

              Same. I was wearing sports bras and bralettes at home, but I had markedly increased breast pain (related to my cycle) towards the end of the day. The days I wore my normal underwire bras were much better for not having pain. I had assumed that the “wear a supportive bra” advice to avoid breast pain was just the patriarchy trying to keep us women in restrictive bras, but apparently not. Sigh.

            2. Jill of All Trades*

              I got a bunch of info at r/ABraThatFits (thank you reddit) and overhauled my bra-wardrobe just before the pandemic hit. They had a whole guide for measuring yourself, and I realized I’d been wearing bras 5-6 cup sizes too small.

              I’m a 34H in US sizes (34FF in UK sizes) and had been wearing a 34D before. I also prefer underwire by and large because it just keeps things from moving around in uncomfortable ways. I’ve personally found that the unmolded Freya bras have been the best for me because they kind of form to your shape instead of making your shape form to it.

            3. LPUK*

              I am F cup and always wear underwire bras – but I DO spend quite a bit of money on them, buying French brands like Empreinte and Marie-JO. When you look at the prices you may need to think about cost per wear – I have bras that date back 5 years that are still in very good condition. And they are so pretty and glamourous and give a great shape that looks like two breasts rather than a bolster under your jumper (I’m short and otherwise slim so this is important). They are generally pretty comfortable except when they get to 16 hours wear. I wear them every day and don’t even notice them as uncomfortable in the working day. Just make sure you wear the right size. It’s the band and wiring that should carry the weight of the breast not the straps, so if your’s are cutting in that’s a problem. Also the band should fit snugly under the breast but you should still be able to get your little finger behind the band in the area between your breasts – and you should never take off a bra and see red marks. I first discovered French lingerie when I had a bra consultation with Rigby and Peller in London ( the Queen’s corsetier). It was a bit alarming at first because they don’t measure you, they just ask you to strip naked and look at you, which is a bit disconcerting. Then they ask you what colour and style you like an go away and bring you a selection from the back room. It was the first time I understood that different brands and styles are better for different breast shapes and I found my particular dream bra which is Thalia by Empreinte, which I have worn versions of ever since.

          3. TardyTardis*

            The Playtex 18 hour bra is wireless and *has wide straps!* For those of us with divots in our shoulders, this is a huge thing.

    2. Anna*

      My sister is very petite so she can often get away with no bra if her shirt is thick enough, but she also has a selection of vests if she wants a thinner shirt, like silk. I think it’s funny – she looks like a banker from the 1800s – but her coworkers comment on how “dressed up” she looks so it passes her company’s business dress.

      1. JJ Bittenbinder*

        I have no explanation for this, but I read this as your sister getting away with being braless if her hair is thick enough and thought she was strategically arranging her hair to cover her chest or something. And her old-timey banker vests sound cute!

    3. Case of the Mondays*

      I’m just too vain. I am large of chest and wore Coobie bras (one size fits all bralettes) through the pandemic but they are not supportive enough for me. They are supportive enough that I could wear them at home all the time without the pain I get from going braless. However, I just look … I don’t know … frumpy? when I wear them under my professional clothes. My boobs are not where they are supposed to be and look smaller making the rest of me look larger in comparison. When they are up where they belong in a miserable bra, my whole figure and style looks so much better. Maybe I should get a lift someday so I don’t need them….

      1. RussianInTexas*

        Yes. Bralettes and even wire-free bras make my waist look noticeably larger. I am short, with short torso, and very large bust. My breasts need to be hoisted up tight and high.
        I don’t hate my underwire though, I basically don’t notice them anymore.

        1. Case of the Mondays*

          Yes! I have long legs and a very short torso so any sagging has them too close to my waist!

          1. allathian*

            Yes, me too! I also have pointy boobs. I’m absolutely not judging any big-busted person who wants to go braless, but I won’t give up my underwire bras, I just prefer the way my figure looks with a bra.

      2. Koalafied*

        This is definitely a thing. I gave up bras a long time ago and have been extoling the benefits to anyone who will listen, but I’ve always been clear that you *do* have to be OK with your breasts looking like natural breasts instead of being lifted and shaped, which will make them look smaller/flatter. I hang on to a couple of “almost bra” bralettes for the rare occasion that I want to ~look sexy~ when I’m going out, but the main reason bra-free works for me is because by the time I gave them up I had largely stopped caring about being attractive. Neat, clean, sure. Attractive? eh. pass.

        1. RussianInTexas*

          It’s not even about simple attractiveness. Yes, I want my closes to fit well, and I want to look less like a ball than I do without a bra. It’s that after couple hours of being vertical and braless, my back hurts, and my breast hurt.

          1. Koalafied*

            For sure – was just responding to Case of the Mondays’ comment about the vanity aspect, not meant to suggest vanity would be the only possible reason someone wouldn’t want to go braless.

        2. Justme, The OG*

          I don’t care about being attractive, but I do about being comfortable. For me, not wearing a bra is not comfortable. And don’t forget about boob sweat.

          1. RussianInTexas*

            That too. A friend coined a phrase, lets see if it goes through – boob sweat = humiditties.

            1. Buster*

              Wearing a bra is like wearing underwear. It’s not appropriate for work to not wear either.

              1. allathian*

                Professional norms are relaxing in a lot of ways, this idea is sexist. Not so long ago the same people who think like you do said that women should wear skirts, pantyhose, and heels if they want to look professional. There’s nothing inappropriate about going braless if that’s what you prefer, although some people with breasts do face problems up to and including harassment if they’re visibly braless, and especially if the contour of their nipples is showing through their top.

                I wear a bra at all times when I’m dressed and vertical, because that’s the most comfortable for me.

              2. Anonomatopoeia*

                You know, for men of my parents’ generation, not wearing an undershirt under all kinds of shirts was like, super not the done thing, and now lots of men don’t wear them. It used to be totally not okay to wear a variety of sleeveless things, or things that showed your knees, or your ankles, or whatever, and all that has changed. It’s okay for folks to be real interested in bras going away, and to push that change along if they feel like it. I’m still hoping I can continue to just be largely barefoot most of the time (probably this won’t fly. I can hope.) even though my shoes are literally never heels, much less uncomfortable heels — I’m a sneakers and birks kind of girl and own no shoes that aren’t in that realm.

              3. Koalafied*

                I sincerely hope you can never tell whether a coworker is wearing underwear or not.

      3. Beth*

        Yep! I think this is pretty common for big-boobed people. My bras are legit necessary (these things are heavy, they need some support!), but they also make a big aesthetic difference. Wearing a supportive wired bra changes my shape (lifts and shapes my breasts, which definitely gives me more of an hourglass look compared to letting them hang down lower), it changes how my clothes fit (shirts are cut for the breasts to be in a certain area of the torso), and it kind of impacts my posture too (the way my bras fit definitely encourages me to sit and stand straighter).

      4. JJ Bittenbinder*

        I have a couple of padded Coobie bras that are just sized S/M/L/XL and I find they’re good enough under a thicker sweater (especially given that they were $3.99 each!), but I agree that a properly-fitted, underwire is more flattering on me when I’m wearing something that is less baggy/sack-like. I think of it less as being vain and more ensuring that I’m not distracted and self-conscious all day the way I am when I feel that something is off about my outfit. I have pretty terrible body image issues and it can seriously ruin my day to feel like I look terrible (to the point where I try to keep a couple of emergency scarves/cardigans/accessories in my desk because otherwise I am either feeling like sh!t all day or I’m trying to find a store to dash out to and spend money I don’t really have on something that isn’t as upsetting to me).

    4. Keymaster of Gozer*

      I’ve been wearing corsets (soooo much relief from my spinal injury – bras are agony) but I think I’d be on a hiding to nothing if I tried to make those acceptable work attire :p

      1. rachel in nyc*

        I’d think if the fabric was thick enough it would be okay. Sort of a variation of hiding a lace bra.

        I also googled “wearing corset under work clothes” for that suggestion. (Note to self, make sure I clean the cache on my work laptop before I return it.)

      2. Free Meerkats*

        “It’s a support due to my spinal injury.” I’d bet money your spine doctor would sign off on that. Just because it’s for a medical reason doesn’t mean it has to look “medical”.

      3. Beth*

        Look up “stealthing corsets.” This is definitely a thing people do, and you can find lots of tips on how to make it work with normal attire!

      4. TardyTardis*

        Well, as long as your clothing is opaque and you don’t wear the same one you wear to Rocky Horror, shouldn’t you be all right?

        1. Keymaster of Gozer*

          Generally wear them over my clothes at home (steel ribbed things can chafe next to skin) but maybe I can find something less conspicuous…

          1. Marillenbaum*

            Maybe an undershirt? After all, traditionally corsets were not worn next to the skin (despite what shows like Bridgerton claim); there was a chemise and then stays. So a cotton tank top beneath the corset, and then layering your regular work clothes might give you the combo of function and discretion you’re looking for.

      5. allathian*

        My maternal grandma, who gave birth to 10 children, looked like she was about to pop for as long as I knew her. She wore corsets for back support, and they were completely invisible under her clothes. She always wore an undershirt next to the skin. I guess it helps that it rarely gets hotter than 30 C / 86 F here, so wearing layers isn’t usually a problem.

    5. Now In the Job*

      Me!! It’s me!!!! I haven’t worn a bra in over a year, and I’ve been back at the office for over a month. I have yet to wear a bra yet. My daily wardrobe on top is a tanktop, button down shirt, and a sportcoat. In the winter, add a sweater. I have one or two Smartwool bralette things on hand if I feel like I really need it, but so far have just. Not. I’m fortunate that I run cold, so I’m never comfortable in a lightweight shirt or something without layers, and wear a sportcoat year-round for professional image purposes anyway.

      The only time I’ve put a bra on since last May is to work out, and even then only high intensity workouts. I don’t even remember what my body looks like in a bra anymore.

      1. BeenThere*

        You are my hero! I want to do this so bad, I’m in technology so the issue of being a women is complicated enough. What I’m hoping is no one can complain about visible nipples seeing as half the tech bros walk around in very tight shirts. I’d really love to see them explain that one.

        Maybe I should encourage the women’s group to hold a “bra burning” when we are back in the office… it might have to be something more ecologically sound that a large non-OSHA compliant blaze.

        1. JJ Bittenbinder*

          it might have to be something more ecologically sound that a large non-OSHA compliant blaze.

          Maybe cutting them up? I’m imagining the trope of the scorned/cheated on woman attacking her partner’s clothes, but with bras.

          I actually hate how I look and feel when I go braless, but I really hope those of you who prefer it can wear (or not wear) what makes you comfortable and happy.

      2. Kimmy Schmidt*

        I am so excited for you and your free boobs!!! Spread the joy, ditch the bra!

    6. RussianInTexas*

      Nope. I am wearing an underwire (old) bra right here while working from home, and never being on video.
      As a person with vast tracks of land (I mean VAST) no bra, bralette, and most wire-free bras do not work for me, and clothes do not fit right.
      I have few bralettes, recommended by various people, and they either fit too tight like sports bras, or too unsupportive like basically a cropped tank top.

      1. Ponytail*

        Me too. I love my bras, spend hundreds of pounds on nice ones, in matching sets. I get measured every now and then, which makes a huge difference, and am careful about adjusting the band and the straps as my bra goes through its life. I cannot go braless unless I’m spending the day in bed, it’s so uncomfortable once you get to a certain size.

        I’m more concerned about having to wear shoes again – every trip on-site has me desperate to kick off my shoes which unfortunately I can’t do.

        1. RussianInTexas*

          I think I will retire any non-wedge heels after this. Permanently.
          My bras aren’t fancy or sexy looking, but they are built like serious engineering hardware, and cost some serious money.

          1. Ponytail*

            I wish I still worked in Slovakia, where indoor shoes (slippers) were totally normal, in the office. Even my students were expected to change into slippers before starting classes.

            1. RussianInTexas*

              Where I grew up, you always changed your shoes unless it’s summer. Now, in schools and in the office the slippers were not allowed, but you didn’t have to spend time in your muddy boots.
              At home all guests were expected to change out of their outside shoes, and guest slippers were offered.

              1. allathian*

                Yup, sounds familiar! I’m so glad. In my office, people wear anything from heels to knitted wool socks, but we’re a casual office.

                I haven’t worn anything except sneakers and snow boots for more than a year. I’m not dreading a trip to the office because I can go there in my sneakers, but I’m not looking forward to the first time I’m going to have to put my nice flats on.

            2. Chinook*

              It is a thing here in Canada. It is not unusual for everyone to have at least one or two pairs under their desk so we don’t klomp around in snow boots during the day (never mind the mess of melted snow).

              I think that, if you just do the shoe change, most people won’t even notice. The biggest problem is remembering to change out of them before you leave (at least if you want to keep them clean).

              1. TardyTardis*

                I wish it was a thing here! I remember the nice gentleman coming into the tax place straight from the irrigation ditch, what fun.

        2. ceiswyn*

          Yeah, my breasts went from a 46F to a 32D during massive weight loss and believe me they show the damage. Sad triangles dangling out to the sides somewhere below my ribcage aren’t a great look, and they aren’t a great feel either, so underwired bras with moulded cups will be an essential in my world for the foreseeable.

          However, you will get me out of my comfy trainers over my dead body.

    7. this is ka*

      I haven’t worn a bra at the office for the past couple of months! I layer when possible and wear silicone nipple covers when I’m concerned about nipping out. I have slanted shoulders and was forever pushing straps up. Feel so much more comfortable now! Though it was VERY strange at first.

    8. StripesAndPolkaDots*

      I worked in a professional environment for years and never wore a bra—and I’m sizeable. I just wore undershirts. Hated bras too much.

    9. Koalafied*

      I haven’t worn a bra since Hillary lost.

      I do wear a variety of bralettes. At one end are my my “almost bra” ones from Aerie that have traditional adjustable rather than stretchable bra straps, use gathered seams to create some semblance of a cup structure without a wire, and have a 2-layer design with a thin elastic band around the bottom of the inner layer but not the outer layer, so the elastic band layer can disappear under the boobs as it’s wont to do and hold my boobs up a little while still having a long line down the ribcage for the outer layer. This type looks put-together enough that it can even be worn by itself as a top (not at work, obviously).

      At the other end are my “I ain’t puttin’ in ANY work today”/”boob slings” that are a single seamless piece of fabric in the shape of a crop top with wide shoulders, and has 4-way stretch everywhere except the wide band that goes around my ribs, which only has 2-way stretch. I buy these in multi-packs from discount shops like Costco or Wish.

    10. Wool Princess*

      I went from daily bra wearing to wearing one once every week or two. After the AAM thread about it I bought pasties that stick on to cover my nipples so I could wear bras even less frequently.

      My boobs are a little saggy and folks can probably tell if they’re looking. But I reject the idea that I need to make my boobs look a certain way for other people’s comfort.

      1. Wool Princess*

        Just adding that if folks with boobs are more comfortable in bras, they should wear bras.

        1. underwire supporter*

          I like to say that since they have a life of their own, they need a room of their own.
          Meaning, I am not comfortable with all the boob movement and prefer a bra to keep them corralled.

    11. Secret Name for this*

      I did!! I actually had a little bra burning. I dumped them all in the trash and burned one for the symbolism. As of my return to the office yesterday, I am wearing a Hanes men’s tank top as an undershirt. They are tight enough to keep things in place (though I am small) and provide an extra layer under my top. I could not face even wearing a bralette in the summer. The hot binding nylon around my ribs was unbearable. Yay!

    12. Workerbee*

      I have not worn a bra for maybe four years now.

      My choice and solutions will not work for everyone, but if interested:

      —I wear patterned shirts and popover tops to obfuscate natural shape and nipples (nipple covers don’t work on me and they were annoying anyway).
      —Some black colored tops work too.
      —Vests and cardigans, sleeveless or otherwise, are good options. I have a magnetic button I use to keep the open concept cardigans closed if necessary.

      Nobody has said a damn word to me and I’d have a lot to say in return if they did.

    13. Yellow*

      I work in a very casual work environment, and am small chested. I’m not comfortable going bra-free, but I have been wearing bralettes or sports bras all of the pandemic and plan to continue FOREVER. No more “real bras” for me. It’s great.

    14. generic_username*

      I’ve taken to wearing a lot of low- or medium-impact sports bras, bralettes, and have one underwire-free bra. As the world has opened back up (yay being vaccinated), I’ve been going out in those same bras and it’s been 100% fine. I’m never going back to underwire bras again… I’ll probably buy more of the underwire free bras when it’s time to go back to the office so I can get a lower-profile strap (which the sports bras don’t have) with enough support (which bralettes don’t generally have for my DDs).

  2. V. Anon*

    My company’s back-to-the-office swing has begun and people are all over the place. Ecstatic, emotional, enraged, resistant, terrified, liberated…it’s so much to process. The days I’m in the office are exhausting. And now, the days I’m NOT in the office are also exhausting! This transitional time is the pits.

  3. Kira-Lynn Ferderber*

    I think the advice about weight loss comments is great, but I would like to push back on one part: the idea that the office is not the place to educate people about fatphobia. It may be completely true that it is not THIS employee’s job to do that educating, and so I understand that comment here within the scope of answering the question. However, to add a little something: if your workplace does any kind of DEI/awareness/anti-oppression training, anti-fatphobia education *is* relevant! Fatphobia affects productivity, employee retention, etc., the way all oppression in the workplace does.
    I am biased because I get to deliver anti-fatphobia education in a very specific kind of workplace sometimes (rape crisis centers and domestic violence agencies), but I think it is relevant in any office.
    If you serve food to staff ever, it’s ok to have a policy on food talk and body talk. imo. Thanks!

    1. MK*

      100% agree. I clicked on the comments hoping someone would have addressed this. The world is starting to realize that conversations about race, gender, etc. are not “inappropriate” for work and are, in fact, important conversations to have at work. Those conversations may inspire conflict, but that doesn’t make them inappropriate to have.

      My old office was very liberal–a nonprofit with lots of female staff and racial justice was a big part of the mission–but there was lots of diet talk and the same people were having weight loss clubs that involved weekly weigh-ins in one woman’s office (!). I mildly mentioned to someone that I didn’t think it was appropriate for the workplace, especially because there may be people with eating disorders who you would be making uncomfortable, and got immediately shut down. I didn’t have any standing to do any more about it, particularly as I was the fat person and didn’t feel I was respected within the organization, and the only other fat people were actively trying to lose weight and talking about their Weight Watchers programs. Why am I expected to politely deflect and, at most, say I don’t want to talk about MY diet at work if someone is persistent? They may not have criticized my appearance to my face, but it was actively harmful for me to be around that–a constant reminder that everyone I am supposed to be working with thinks the size of my body is unacceptable. It would have been great if someone in leadership had addressed this appropriately, instead of taking part in it.

      1. Batty Twerp*

        The letter writer who mentioned about weight loss also points out that she was 8 months pregnant the last time any of her co-workers saw her. If she’s anything like my mum, she’s in a perfect position to point out that, yes, she’s lost 8lb 6oz!

        Ok, just a little joke – but it’s a curious cultural shock. Not that this is the point, but when maternity leave can be several months in other countries, the additional weight loss after having a child shouldn’t be so unexpected. Add in the societal pressure to return to pre-baby weight faster than humanly possible and all this means is that the workplace is no place for any kind of weight commentary.

        You don’t owe anyone *any* response to comments or questions about your weight loss or gain. Asking about the baby’s weight at birth (while I’ve never really understood this one) is acceptable.

    2. FrenchCusser*

      I had a pretty severe health crisis last year that made me drop 75 lbs. in a couple of months. Yes, I was technically ‘obese’, but had good cardio health and having watched my mom yoyo diet for years and have absurdly high blood pressure, I just decided a long time ago to avoid all that crap.

      But man, the ‘compliments’ I got when I got back to work really incensed me. Dude, I could have died! Even when I would flat out tell people to lay off, they would just double down on it. ‘But you DO look so good!’

      I’ve put some of it back on, so no one’s giving me that crap anymore, but if I was comfortable with my body the way it was, what right do other people have to comment on a completely involuntary and unwanted weight loss?

      1. Jack Straw*

        I’m a BIG FAN of making things awkward enough that people STFU. :)

        Someone comments on me gaining weight or being “more round” (it happened twice)—“Yeah. I have a begin tumor between the size of a grapefruit and a volleyball in my uterus.”

        Comments on me losing weight: “Yeah. Turns out that huge tumor was cancer.”

      2. allathian*

        A former coworker went on leave for 3 months. We have long vacations, but not that long, but it’s still common enough for people to have enough working hours banked to take extended leave for this to pass without comment. Anyway, the coworker, who was a bit overweight but far from obese to start with, returned to work several dress sizes smaller. She got a lot of comments on how great she looked and people kept asking her what her weight loss “secret” was. Until the day when she decided she’d had enough and calmly took her wig off. She’d taken sick leave to deal with cancer. She was a very private person and I don’t think she told anyone except her manager at work about her diagnosis. It made me angry on her behalf that some of our coworkers had badgered her to the point she felt she had reveal some medical information she’d much rather have kept private to stop them “complimenting” her on her weight loss. I’m just glad I never joined them in doing that, and when I saw what happened to her, I swore I’d never comment on anyone’s changed weight because you really can’t tell how it will be received. I only made one exception, when a very obese guy mentioned he’d joined a medically supervised weight loss program because his doctor told him if he didn’t, he’d be dead before he turned 50 and he wanted to see his 10 year old daughter’s high school graduation. He didn’t drone on about it, but during our coffee breaks he’d occasionally give progress reports on his training sessions. He never mentioned his weight, but he went from morbidly obese to the upper range of normal weight in about two years, and at least pre-Covid he managed to keep it off. Once or twice I said something about how his weight loss program seemed to be working well, but that’s it. Nothing about his looks.

    3. QuarantinePuppy*

      Seconded. I had no idea how real fatphobia was until I moved to the South and started my current job, where I feel completely comfy in my larger body simply because most other people are also larger. I guess that speaks to my internalized fatphobia more than anything else, but I didn’t realize how much being surrounded by thin coworkers affected how I saw myself and how confident I was.

    4. Chantel*

      Thank you so much, Kira-Lynn. I’ve lost some weight – about 30 pounds – and nowhere near where I should be healthily, but I do expect some “Hey, look at you!” comments when I return to work onsite, and I so dread it. I know people mean well, but it’s so infuriating that one’s weight is open season for discussion. I mean, I never point out anyone’s alopecea, which, like weight, can be controlled (in the case of alopeacea via implants, various hairstyles, etc.).

      Notice from afar, people. Not every observation needs to be shared.

      1. MK*

        I’m glad you wouldn’t comment on these things at work, but you’re also mixing in a big dose of fatphobia with your well-meaning comments. That is, by reminding us that (1) being fat is unhealthy and (2) people can stop being fat through sufficient control. These things are parroted everywhere, so everyone assumes they are true, but it doesn’t make them true. We have actually known (scientifically) that weight is not a good benchmark for health and that the vast majority of people cannot lose weight long term (and, in fact, dieting leads to long term weight gain). (Look up Health at Every Size research to start.)

        This is not meant to attack you personally, but to point out how insidious this is, and how internalized it is. I’m sorry that you believe there is something wrong with your body and that you feel like you haven’t done nearly enough shrinking of it for you to be healthy.

    5. ecnaseener*

      I agree — I was surprised that the LW asked for a script conveying that it wasn’t ok, and Alison flat out refused to give them one. I expected her to at least take the approach of “it might not go over well, but if you want to die on this hill, here’s a script.”

      LW, if you want to die on this hill, I would go with something like: “I’ve always thought weight talk wasn’t really appropriate for the workplace” or “I’m not a fan of discussing coworkers’ bodies and I’d appreciate you not commenting on mine.”

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        When a colleague says “you look great,” responding with “I’ve always thought weight talk wasn’t really appropriate for the workplace” or “I’m not a fan of discussing coworkers’ bodies and I’d appreciate you not commenting on mine” is … a lot. It’s your call if you want to do it but not something I’m going to advocate as a first response in a context where people are trying to be friendly and where relationships matter. You can simply decline to engage with the subtext, which is what I advised.

        1. MK*

          I don’t think people’s response was based on your advice for the letter writer’s specific situation of (perhaps) responding to perhaps mild comments like this one. I don’t think anyone was advocating for adding a drama bomb to a situation where a relatively innocuous comment was made. (Though it is not at all clear to me that LW really was only anticipating someone saying she looked great without making the “subtext” the text and explicitly going on about her weight loss. It sounded like she’s expecting a deluge of potentially very inappropriate comments, based on her experience there. The fact that you read her letter so differently may point to a difference in life experience between yourself and some of the commenters.)

          People are responding to your more general statement that “the office isn’t the place to try to educate people about fatphobia” and the conversation “generally doesn’t belong there.” Does it make sense to make a thing of it every time the mildest of microaggressions happens? No, but it wouldn’t if the issue was sexism or racism either. That doesn’t make the topics inappropriate for the workplace as a general rule. Prejudice against fat people impacts people at the workplace in real, financial ways that have been well documented.

          1. MK*

            Basically, in terms of your advice to the LW, if your first response doesn’t work and people continue to be aggressive about it, she is left with the impression that it would be “inappropriate” to deal with the topic more directly. Hopefully it won’t get that far! But it seems like that is what she’s anticipating may happen.

          2. Filosofickle*

            Yeah, lots of colleagues won’t simply say “you look great”. People aren’t that subtle. They’ll just as likely say “I wish my body rebounded like yours after I had my baby” or “Look at you mama, so skinny! What’s your secret?” or “Boy that baby weight sure is hard to get rid of” or whatever unnecessary commentary around bodies and pregnancy and thinness that pops up in their minds. And even when people do just say “you look great” sometimes they do it with that surprised voice as though you’ve never looked good a day in your life before that. People are obsessed with weight. (Me included. This is a HARD cycle to break.)

        2. Marillenbaum*

          For something like “You look great!” you can also just steadfastly refuse to acknowledge the unspoken reasoning with a response like “Thanks–I’ve always loved this shirt!” or “You noticed my new frames!”

        3. ecnaseener*

          Yep, I was imagining something more blatant than “you look great,” more like “wow you’re so thin, you look great”

    6. Jillybean*

      Yes! Was coming here to see if anyone else found it…strange that Fatphobia is a type of discrimination that we seem to still be reluctant to acknowledge and push back against. Alison’s answer surprised me.

      1. MK*

        Yes, exactly. We just don’t acknowledge it. Some writers (Lindy West I think?) have written about “coming out” as fat. Obviously people can SEE who is fat, but it becomes this subject that is never polite to talk about, and the burden of that falls on the fat people who are ashamed to bring up when they are mistreated because of their weight.

        People who aren’t fat don’t want to bring it up because they view it as a problem and assume it’s something that fat person feels bad about. Fat people don’t want to bring it up because it feels humiliating to have to say, “actually, I don’t gorge myself on food all the time” (and no one believes us anyway, if we tell them whatever stereotype isn’t actually true).

        This includes me–there are very few people in real life I have even some of this conversation with, and it typically doesn’t go great. Even with people who care about me, bringing it up means I’m either going to get people saying I’m not that fat (ugh), or tell me it’s not about how I look but it’s just unhealthy, etc. The truth is I already know the people who care about me also pretty much all think that being fat is a bad thing, and the direct result of poor diet and exercise choices, even if they are also sympathetic to people who may “struggle with their weight.” I know this from the little comments they make (that are in the air we breathe) even though they are not rude enough to direct these comments at me. Bringing it up feels like I would have to defend my humanity. I don’t want to have to argue to someone that I don’t have a body that is “wrong.” My body is me. It’s easier just to never talk about it.

        1. ShinyPenny*

          Nicely articulated.
          So much is unspoken, so much is wrongly assumed… You’re wore out before you even start.

        2. ceiswyn*

          You are absolutely right. I am a lot more willing to advocate for the basic right of fat people not to be discriminated against now that I am an ex fat person.

          I’m a lot angrier at the discrimination now, too, because I no longer have the little voice in my head that agrees with them that I’m taking up too much space, I’m just lazy and lack self control, etc etc.

          There are a lot of reasons someone might be fat, including physical health issues that prevent exercise or make them too tired to cook healthy meals, and mental health issues where food is one of very few reliable sources of pleasure or stimulation. Oh, and being bullied and miserable. Food can be, ironically, a source of comfort for those suffering from fatphobic bullying.

          There are also very few sources of help for dietary issues.

          I am the same person now that I was six years ago when I weighed more than twice as much. But my life is massively better, not just because I can do more and have more clothing options, but because LITERALLY EVERYBODY TREATS ME SO MUCH BETTER. And that gives me SO MUCH RAGE.

          1. MK*

            I’m glad you have been speaking up. It really is easier to do when you are not, or are no longer, in the group that’s being attacked–and it also gets LISTENED to more, because people don’t think you are “biased” or “just making excuses for yourself” or whatever.

            I hear you about how people treat you differently. When you observe this, do you get a lot of people telling you that it must not be because of your weight, but because you are “more confident” now?

          2. GothicBee*

            This. I lost weight several years ago that I’ve since regained, but one of the (most surprising) massively huge differences between my life when I was thinner vs. now/before I lost weight is how nice everyone was when I was thin. It’s so insidious too because people are pretty much never actively mean to me about my weight, so the difference is only noticeable if you lose weight and see how much nicer people can be. Like I was completely ignorant of how much my weight affected how people interacted with me until I lost weight. Which is absolutely rage inducing!!

          3. Gloucesterina*

            I appreciate your sharing the insight that the harm of fat fear and fat hate also extend to the formerly fat. I’m so sorry that this has been your world – ugh.

      2. allathian*

        Yeah, it surprised me too. Being fat isn’t a protected characteristic like age, sex, race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or gender identity, but that doesn’t mean that discrimination against fat people doesn’t happen or that such discrimination should’t be acknowledged and pushed back against.

        The idea that fat people are lazy and that losing weight is just a matter of eating less and more nutritious food and getting more exercise is both insidious and simplistic. Even if losing weight were a matter of when there’s a will there’s a way, it still wouldn’t make fat phobia or discrimination acceptable. Never mind the fact that fat people can be healthy and even athletic.

        I really do think that to ensure a harmonious workplace, it would be best to stop commenting on people’s looks at all. If you absolutely have to say something, comment on something they can change fairly quickly, and only in a positive way, i.e. “I really like your shirt, is it new?” and maybe asking where they got it if it is. Or “I really like your hair, who’s your hairdresser?” or something like that.

        1. ceiswyn*

          I tend to go with the rule of complimenting something that the person actively chose.

          Haircut, fine – natural hair colour or curl, not fine.
          New spectacles, fine – eyes, not fine.
          Muscular development, maaaaybe if we have that kind of relationship and I know they’ve been working out. Body size or shape, no nay never.

          1. Filosofickle*

            Laughing about the hair color! People often compliment mine and I always thank them and say something to let them know it’s colored. I’ve had friends ask why I don’t just let people think it’s natural — that’s because I want credit! I work damn hard on this color. If it were just something I was born with, it wouldn’t be an achievement.

      3. May*

        Yes, I’m surprised as well. Fatphobia is rampant but that doesn’t make it any less harmful. Framing it as a compliment doesn’t make microagressions less bad, it just makes them more insidious. Also, it may be a “compliment” towards LW but it creates a toxic workplace for fat people.

    7. Anonomatopoeia*

      Me TOO. And I also hoped I wasn’t coming here to talk about this alone — Alison, I almost always agree with you, but yikes, this one I think you might want to consider further, particularly if you are a person who is thin. I don’t know anything about your body size, which is fine, but because you said this, I think you may be under the impression workplace fatphobia isn’t pervasive, invasive, and damaging, or that gentle redirects of the most direct comments would fix it.

      Here’s the thing: is it appropriate to educate people about not being racist asshats at work? Yes? Is it okay to educate people about not asking only women to make coffee, or to avoid assuming their gay colleague has a side job in a drag show? I feel like also yes, but also that this is an effort which has been underway, to notable (but far from compete progress, for a long time. People who would never use a racist or homophobic slur are happy to make (and state as fact) assumptions about how and whether someone’s body size contributes to their illness, or whether they can do a task, or all sort of other stuff, and it’s all about fatphobia.

      Workplaces are most of where I hear horrible bodyshaming nonsense and like, there are weight loss (“health”) competitions because January is for shedding those holiday pounds, and people talk about whether they are eating lunch and whether what they are eating is fattening and how about making sure there are thin people choices at the office birthday potluck and and and. People who wear a clothing size in the smaller half of that which is usually available in ordinary stores will say things about how they are never going to [find a boyfriend/be able to wear a swimsuit/find shorts they don’t look like a cow in] if they eat the cookie that came with their salad, and will do so while speaking to a person such as, say, me, who is actually twice their size. Hell, I have never been eligible for life insurance through my employer even though I do a part time second job which involves being physically active and able, based entirely on my weight, which everyone basically thinks is fine and normal even though there’s scads of evidence that intentional weight loss isn’t a great approach for most people, and that health behavior is many times more important than body weight.

      So yeah, it’s true that if someone says hey you look like you’ve lost weight, they probably get a mild, “eh, no idea, I don’t do weighing.” But for the rest of this nonsense I absolutely educate in the workplace about how health behavior and body size are only vaguely correlated and also no one’s dang business in the office, because for sure someone ought to be pushing back on the messaging that amounts to a preference that I please consume my own body to make everyone else happy, a concept that is NOT less messed up than messaging about not flaunting your sex life by having a photo of your same-sex partner, or messaging about the inherent laziness (I can’t even finish typing this sentence without going ahead and saying it’s not an argument I’m making it’s racist crap) of people from whichever nonwhite race the speaker currently finds objectionable.

      1. MK*

        Great comment. I was trying not to do too much of “it’s like XYZ form of prejudice” when I commented because I don’t want to make it sound like I am ranking/comparing various forms of discrimination. I do think it is useful here though because Allyson has written very thoughtfully about similar issues when it comes to other groups–for example, I remember a good discussion about why it’s wrong to expect queer people to be silent about their partners and families under the guise of “that’s private, don’t bring it up at work.” That said, in my observation, there are a LOT of people who understand that many forms of prejudice are wrong, but still do not get that other forms of prejudice are real or wrong. Here, it’s often because they think being fat is a behavior, so they don’t compare judging someone for the size of their body to judging someone based on an immutable physical characteristic like skin color. Instead, they view it as judging someone for “bad habits” or lazy, gross behavior, like they might judge someone who leaves nail clippings and spoiled food on their desk.

        In this case, sure, we would be better off if NO ONE was making small talk or participating in workplace initiatives about fitness, diets, bodies, etc, in general. But the actual situation is that toxic, fatphobic diet culture is fully espoused and imposed in the workplace. It’s not right that the people who know this is wrong are consequently told that because it’s an inappropriate subject for work, they shouldn’t bring up their point of view, or point out that the comments being made to them are hurtful and offensive.

  4. Case of the Mondays*

    This. I get a LOT of anxiety with change. It is something I have worked on in therapy, with a life coach and take medicine for. I’ve learned that tons of people have anxiety from change, even if it is good change. Not all rise to the level of a medical condition but it is safe to assume almost everyone at your office is anxious on day 1 back. Similar to the first day of school.

    I actually was dreading walking in and having to talk to a bunch of people so I made sure I got in extra early so that others were coming in and saying hi to me instead of 15 people saying hi to me as I walked in. I highly recommend that approach. I am so not a morning person but it’s really been helping.

    1. June*

      I take the approach even when there wasn’t a pandemic. I just like being one of the first in and I can get settled before there are 10 people trying to put their lunch in the fridge.

    2. Mel*

      Oh being settled in to my work when everyone else comes in keeps my stress level down. I can get all of the little tasks done pretty quickly and knock out at least 2 things on my list before people roll in and want to chat.

  5. Keymaster of Gozer*

    There’s people that I now know are horrifically selfish and narrow minded and honestly believe the whole thing was/is a ‘hoax’ and…I’m not looking forward to seeing them again.

    (I’ve been doing work from home as well as going into the office because some IT issues you gotta be on site to resolve).

    I also know I’m going to have, at some point, some form of ‘I really have to go process the trauma of the last year or so’ because I’m bottling it up at current. There’s definitely going to be a time off request heading in my manager’s direction.

    1. Lana Kane*

      Hopefully your management team is expecting this. I work on healthcare so it might be different, but our leadership has advised managers to expect a spike in time off requests and do all we can to accomodate them.

    2. nonegiven*

      I wonder how much the actual all cause death rate went up between 2019 and 2020?

      1. lailaaaaah*

        In the UK and US, there was an increase in overall mortality month by month compared with 2019, both due to COVID and because of the difficulty in treating other conditions while healthcare centres were swamped with COVID patients. It’s harder to tell on a global scale because of the difficulties with collating data, but it looks as though the trend was worldwide.


      2. Bagpuss*

        Per CDC figures for the USA – “From 2019 to 2020, the estimated age-adjusted death rate increased by 15.9%, from 715.2 to 828.7 deaths per 100,000 population”

    3. a*

      I am one of the “never left” people, and have had to listen to 2.5 of my coworkers expound on all of that BS for the year. (That one guy won’t actually take a position on anything.) Sometimes I push back – I’m known to be argumentative and liberal anyway, so I’m not really hurting myself. But the other day, when we got new guidance on mask-wearing and vaccines (which was immediately rescinded anyway), one coworker said that thing that the hat store in Nashville was advertising and got blasted on. So, not only did I have to push back very strongly on that, I’m still contemplating whether it’s worth the trouble to report the comment to my boss.

      I am pretty much angry at society these days. I don’t see that improving. Maybe next month’s vacation will help.

  6. KHB*

    I have the opposite problem from a couple of these letters: My employer is bending over backwards to let people know that they can work remotely as long/as much as they want to, but they’re completely ignoring the downside of keeping us out of the office for so long. The office, technically, is open for those who want to come in (and I’m here now), but with a boatload of restrictions (capacity limits, one-way hallways, masks required at all times unless you’re in your office by yourself with the door closed, etc.) that haven’t changed since January even though local case numbers have dropped by 97% since then and everybody on my team is fully vaccinated (or at least, they say they are, and I believe them). So very few people are coming in to the office (I guess they figure that, with all the restrictions, what’s the point?), and the powers that be are taking this as a sign that nobody wants to come back just to work, so they’ve already moved on to speculating about how they’re going to convert our space into “the office of the future” by turning everything into collaboration spaces instead of private workspaces, and all sorts of other vague-but-horrible-sounding things.

    All this is taking a toll on my mental health. I miss my coworkers so much. I need my private office to do my job well, and the uncertainty over whether I’m going to get to keep it or not is unbearable. I don’t know how to raise my concerns without sounding like a reactionary fuddy-duddy who hates progress and wants everything to be just like the Before Times just because – but I liked the setup we had in the Before Times a lot, and I feel like I’m crazy for saying so.

    1. Chc34*

      Speak up! There might be other people who feel the same way you do about things like the private offices. However, I think there are certain realities to consider, like the fact that a lot of your coworkers are likely going to stay remote and you sound like you’re aware that forcing them to come back just because you miss them is unreasonable. But I don’t think you’d be out of line at all to say “I really like working from the office but need my private office to stay focused: is keeping it a possibility in our future plans?” Then you can decide if the environment is one you’re going to be able to stay in or if you should look elsewhere.

      1. KHB*

        Obviously, I don’t want anyone to be forced to come to the office if they don’t want to just to keep me company. But (1) I feel like the higher-ups are missing the distinction between people who aren’t coming to the office because they want to work remotely forever and people who aren’t coming to the office YET because we’re still in a freaking pandemic, (2) there’s a whole lot that we could be doing to make the office more comfortable and welcoming to people without compromising safety, and we’ve shown no interest in doing any of it, and (3) the need for human companionship is not nothing, you know? I’m fortunate that I don’t live alone, so I haven’t been totally cut off from humanity this whole time, but it seems like not much gets said about how lonely these past 15 months have been for so many people. I’ve kept myself going on the promise that it’s temporary. The prospect of living like this forever is just overwhelming.

        1. le teacher*

          Just chiming in to agree and validate your feelings. I am in the same boat. I am teacher and we’ve been hybrid so I haven’t totally been isolated, but I still greatly miss the Before Times of teaching. I have zero desire to do more virtual teaching or remote work – I want my normal classroom, my full, bustling classes, my energetic students right in front of me. I appreciate this site because Alison gives space for workers of all attitudes to share how they’re feeling, but it does feel like the wider media narrative is “well everyone loves remote work so now everyone is just going to work from home 24/7 and offices will all disappear” but of course, the situation is a lot more nuanced than that!

        2. Chc34*

          Yes, I totally get it and sympathize – I live alone. I’m just saying that I think 1 and 2 are where you need to focus here (and aren’t unreasonable to bring up at all), and that you’re likely going to have to adjust to the fact that the human companionship level just isn’t going to be what it was in the Before Times rather than trying to get that back to what it used to be.

    2. fposte*

      I think that sounds like a perfectly reasonable point! I don’t know that you have the power to change your office’s direction (though it seems weird that they’re both being severely restrictive about contact and planning a remap that will mean everybody has more of it) but you can politely weigh in. “I really loved the way the workspace ran before, with its balance of public and private, and I’m hoping that once we’re able to minimize COVID restrictions we’ll be able to return to that balance. I know I work better having some private space, and losing it could make it a really hard transition for people who’ve been working at home but need to come back to the office.”

    3. Mimi*

      It might also be worth speaking up about the specific in-office policies. You could either tackle it from a as-a-person-in-the-office perspective (“I’ve really appreciated being in the office, but I’m finding the one-way hallways/always masking everywhere/whatever really onerous; could we re-assess these policies now that case numbers have dropped/CDC recommendations have changed/our local requirements are less restrictive?”) or from a general taking-the-tenor-of-your-coworkers way (“I’ve talked to five people this week about how they would really like to start coming back to the office, but they don’t feel like it’s necessary for everyone on fully-vaccinated teams to mask all the time, and it seems like too much effort to be worth it to them; could we take another look at our precautions and see if they’re in line with current recommendations?”)

      If the problem is that coming back to the office is too annoying, but you think it could be less-annoying while still being safe, people might start using the office more if the rules changed.

      1. alienor*

        Even little changes help. I’d be 25 percent less annoyed about having to be in the office if they would reopen the vending machines. (Buying packaged snacks from a vending machine that offers contactless payment seems like a very low-risk activity, so who’s to say why that decision was made, but it was.)

        1. KHB*

          If it’s anything like our office, I suspect it’s something like: “Nobody’s using them” (because, duh, pandemic), so it’s not worth keeping up the contract with whatever food-service company to have somebody come in every so often to restock things.

          But I absolutely hear you. We currently have zero food service available in the building, and almost nothing within walking distance (depending on how you define walking distance). When the building first reopened last September, even the refrigerators and microwaves were off-limits. The only option for food during the day was to order delivery, but to pick it up you had to exit the building, then go through the whole security rigmarole (temperature check, etc.) to re-enter.

        2. bishbah*

          Our concessions vendor is backlogged on service calls and backordered on parts and supplies, leading to warm sodas in the machines and water/coffee machines out of order in both of our local offices. At first I saw our water dispensers taped off and thought it was some weird safety protocol, but no, the office manager says it’s because they can’t get anyone out to fix anything.

          1. Evan Þ.*

            In case there’re any office managers in this situation reading – please, communicate about things like this! I’d feel a lot less frustrated if I saw an email or a sign saying “Sorry but we can’t get maintenance / refills / whatever” than if I just saw the machine staying empty or not working.

        3. joss*

          if your vending machines are anything like the ones at my office they are serviced by outside vendors which could add an new risk factor, so it would be an additional item to considered when deciding the timing to reopen the vending machines -> not the use but the restocking/maintenance of the machines. I am just guessing here so take it for what is worth

      2. C in the Hood*

        Yeah, my state (CT) is pretty well-vaccinated & cases have gone down dramatically. But the in-office policies haven’t changed at all (one-way hallways–which no one follows anyway because no one remembers which way, 1 person in the bathroom at a time, etc.).

    4. Smithy*

      My job is external facing, so the ambiguity around in-person work is felt increasingly as time goes on.

      As my work is external facing, my employer has taken a far more passive approach – i.e. if no one asks for meetings or visits, then we don’t offer and if they want something you want to say no to, we will help you. But the reality of “we’ve been managing but not able to do everything we normally would” is felt more as time goes on. I’ve begun building into my 1 on 1’s questions for guidance around when and how questions can be asked. The more I tie it to work (i.e. – if I was planning a visit to HQ, I’d do X & Y – do you have an idea on when HQ might be open and allowing larger meetings that would make my visit appropriate?), the more my boss has worked on finding definitive answers.

      All of which to say, if there are other colleagues who have jobs where they can manage remotely – they might prove to be a good network to see how to push forward some of these points. My “I’m missing pre-COVID work” certainly sounds different to yours – but it has a similar dynamic where the 100% remote work with heavy restrictions in person impacts my job. Having allies might help both in forming a group and raising very relevant work needs and concerns.

    5. nnn*

      In your organization, is there specific work that has to be done in the office, or is better done in the office than at home?

      If yes, perhaps you could frame it as “I prefer coming into the office, so I’m happy to take on more of the office-specific work and shift more of the other work to my work-from-home colleagues. Also, employees who are taking on the burden of in-office work so their colleagues can work from home need private office space to do their job well.”

    6. Cascadia*

      I think you should definitely speak up and share your feelings! Management won’t know people feel this way if you don’t say anything. I also want to add that a big reason some people might not be coming back to the office is childcare. If you have parents on your team or in your office, there’s a good bet that those students are not in school full-time, or camps/day-care is not available in the same way it was. I reckon that the school year starting in September will be much more normal, and maybe you might see more people returning to the office around that time. I’d encourage your admin to at least wait until the end of the year, 2021, to see where people are at.

    7. At home with work*

      I relate. My employer was already planning a work from home option for more employees. About a month in, they announced the change is permanent for anyone who wants it to be.

      We aren’t opening up here at all. I’m not sure what it will look like when we do. They say working in office is going to be an option for those who want it. I don’t want to work in an empty office. Physical space isn’t my concern. I’m wondering if I’ll need to find employment where the people are.

      The pandemic has forced me to be used to constant uncertainty. This is one more thing.

  7. DadSaidSo*

    to the person who said i can’t unsee my coworkers ugly views.


    We have 3 conservative people in our fairly liberal, open minded office of 13 and during lockdown these 3 have become almost intolerable. I used to be part of a fun group chat with 2 of them that was nice in the first few months of WFM. The 3rd one is our former student employee who we just hired as a full time team member. We got along great (even though one time she said we should all vote for T because her dad said so) until work from home. She was posting vacation pics to other states during the height of the pandemic & then going into the office without 2 weeks of quarantine. She says I called her out on it. I just don’t care anymore. We can interact politely in the context of our jobs, but I don’t need anything more than that from her, or the other 2.

    If you enjoy your job, just keep going. Good luck to you.

    1. HC in HR*

      Judging by his comments over the past 16 months (vaccine being micro-chipped among them), I’m guessing 1 of my Coworkers has fallen into the QAnon abyss.
      I was ok just ignoring that – but now he’s loudly proclaiming that our Company is mandating vaccinations & firing people. Unless my COO has been lying to me for months, that is NOT what we’re doing at all.
      Anyway, I got real concerned about this Coworker’s well-being & I spoke to their boss, who then spoke to the Coworker. Coworker denied saying anything negative about our Company & said he was only speaking in hypotheticals, so now I look like the bad guy.
      I was already dealing with the fall out from the Coworker playing a horrible ‘joke’ on me right before COVID, and now I honestly don’t know if I can calmly work 6′ away from him. Luckily, I’ve been told by the COO that I can WFH or have a hybrid schedule … but sooner or later I’m going to see Coworker face-to-face & unless I’ve magically become much more Zen than I’ve ever been, I’ll be hard put not to try to shake some sense into him.

      1. Still Tired*

        One positive to the conservatives jumping headfirst (cannonball?) into being more right-wing is that it helps me screen out these places in job interviews. It’s not considered OK to ask how many Republicans / right wingers work at a place, and in my field it’s probably 60-40 (left-right). BUT I can ask about their plans around returning to the office and vaccines and masks. Already had 1 interview where the future boss’s boss repeated the Marjorie TG women’s lies word-for-word about vaccines. So that’s a silver lining.

  8. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

    I’m actually wondering if hybrid is going to be less productive than either full-time in the office or full-time at home.

    I’d like to do hybrid, because there are lots of cool places for me to have lunch downtown, or to buy shoes or books or whatever. Not to mention I can take a walk at lunch that isn’t the same old scenery I have at home.

    But if I find myself changing my mind too often at the last minute about whether I’m going in or not, I’m going to reconsider whether I want to do hybrid. It’s a very small office, and I won’t even have another person in the office most of the time starting in July.

    1. TiffIf*

      Before Covid, my company allowed us to do one day a week from home. Generally I took the same day every week (Friday) which made it routine. I’ve been vocal to my manager and on our employee survey that post-Covid I want a hybrid work in office/WFH schedule. If it is something they offer I would make it a regular thing (like MWF in office and TTH at home or something.) If I had a dedicated place in my apartment as an “office” I wouldn’t mind full remote, with occasionally going into the office if needed, but I have been working from my bedroom craft table for 15 months and am sick of it.

    2. Hen in a Windstorm*

      You don’t usually just decide on a whim which days to go in. For 12 years, I got to work from home 1 day/week, then a year before the pandemic, it upped to 2 days/week. They were always the same days. It was great – you always have the ability to schedule maintenance, do laundry, accept packages, etc., on those days.

      You might want to consider whether everybody wants the same work at home days so you’re all in the office together, or whether you deliberately want a staggered schedule so there’s always someone in the office on any day.

      1. alienor*

        My group was told that everyone had to be in the office two days a week, but we could pick the days. We all voted and Tuesday and Thursday won, so that’s our schedule. Personally I don’t want to go into the office ever again, but having worked one day a week remote before the pandemic, I know it’s easier when either everyone is remote or no one is, so I can live with it.

      2. Alton Brown's Evil Twin*

        Yeah, except we’re a very small office, don’t need converage, and the only person I’d collaborate with intensely is moving.

        So ad hoc scheduling is a thing I could get away with.

      3. RussianInTexas*

        Yeah, boyfriend’s company is doing the hybrid comes fall, and leaving it out to the managers to work out the schedule for their groups. But it’s a non-negotiable schedule, as in you can’t decide this week I work Tuesdays and Fridays and this week I feel like a Wednesday.

    3. rachel in nyc*

      My office is giving us a set schedule- the idea is that certain people should be in the office at the same time as other people.

      The blue teapot design people need to be in the office with red teapot design people one day a week, but one day a week, they need to be in the office with the blue teapot paint crew. That way everyone is in with the people they need to see the most.

      1. londonedit*

        This is what we’re going to be doing. We’ll have to do a minimum of two days a week in the office, and those two days will always be the same, the idea being that departments that interact with each other on a regular basis are always in the office together for at least two days each week.

  9. Aggretsuko*

    So far my office is claiming that they want to do hybrid. However, they want to go back to “business as usual” with in-person walk in service. And we only have five adults (plus a bunch of rotating student staff) for that. And we aren’t allowed to hire a sixth person, but then again we haven’t been able to hire or keep a sixth person for years on end. The sixth person’s entire job was to do the front counter service…guess why we can’t hire or keep someone for that.

    At first they were all “you may have to go in once a week.” Then they were all “no, that’s too hard, you’ll have to go in twice a week.” And that’s when I knew that we are not going to be able to do hybrid. Because what happens when someone calls in sick? We’ve had 3 out of 5 call in sick or go home early in a day before, including last week. What are they going to do, start calling people at the crack of dawn to start driving into the office on their at home days? Repeatedly? I’m the only one that lives close by so you know they’d get me first, rather than the people with the 1.5 hour commute. We’re never going to know our schedule because at any point in time someone’s baby can get the croup and we’ll be called in physically at the last minute again and again. Why the heck even bother with “hybrid” if I’m going to have to be in the office virtually every day because someone’s sick again?

    I know darned well it’s not going to happen. Everyone else is telling me “be optimistic!” but upper management is terrible at these sort of things and while my boss’s boss can talk a real good game about wanting hybrid and how she’s done all kinds of schedules before, I just don’t believe or trust them to figure out these kinds of problems within the next 3 weeks.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      What I can see in this case is having in office being the standard, but a one or two day a week option for remote work, on a schedule. So the default is to have at least three people in the office at any time, to build in redundancy for absences.

      If you’re regularly getting 60% of your staff calling out/leaving early at the last minute, though, that’s something management can address – that’s a really high absentee rate for a job that has coverage requirements, and coverage requirements put restrictions on how flexible a schedule can be.

  10. MedGal*

    I am so glad my manager saw the light and we will be remaining remote. Two days a month for team activities/ 1:1s in the office is doable. Double bonus: our homebase for office space is going to be closer to home (we have multiple locations in our particular metro area).

  11. AnotherAlison*

    I was in the office in my old job from Aug-Dec., and I was actually looking forward to returning (crowded house and home school fatigue). Apparently, it was not all rosy, though, because I quit. I started a new job in January. It started remote. I’ve had some opportunities to go back and work in a local office, but I’ve blown them off and no one has made me do it. Now I’m kind of like you’ll have to pry my WFH lifestyle away from me with a crowbar. My team is in our home office in another state, and I don’t really know anyone here, and they’re downsizing real estate at the end of the year so not pushing people to go back full-time anyway. I could really go either way as far as work, but I like not commuting (even 15 minutes), and even though we’re on Teams and have to look nice-ish, not wearing business clothes is great, along with many other benefits that far outweigh sitting at a desk near people I sort of work with. I actually spent last year training for Ironman and finished that goal May 23. I don’t think I could have done it if I had been commuting to an office full-time. If I could just get my husband out of the house during the day, it would be perfect.

    1. Princess Scrivener*

      oooh, congrats on your Ironman accomplishment! I, too, have perfected a fitness habit because of WFH, and gained muscle and lost weight as a result. No 45-minute commute, no road rage, no stress, better sleep–I’m gonna need to borrow your crowbar if our team heads back to the office any time soon.

    2. Kate*

      I really dislike zoom, and at the same time I have gained so much by not spending hours of my life dressing for the office, buying clothes for the office, and commuting (car expenses, parking, and ALL THAT TIME)…

      I also recognize that I’m pretty introverted, and while I absolutely love seeing many of my work mates, I really do NOT need to see them all week. My ideal schedule would be everyone is on site twice a month for a day of meetings, and then two weeks on your own.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        It does seem like the video “on camera” meetings are decreasing some. I do get tired of everything being a scheduled meeting, but we haven’t evolved to a better way for remote interaction yet. Maybe someday. My home-office mates are in office 1 day a week (all same day). I’d be okay with that, but still, what’s the point if no one is where I am that I need to meet with?

    3. Great Training!*

      Nice. When my job was remote during the peak of the pandemic I could run in the morning, bike outside or in the indoor trainer in the afternoon, and swim after work and still get 10 hours of sleep a day which was the only reason I could get so many quality sessions in. Now that we are back in the office I lost 2.5 hours of time commuting, getting ready, etc. and yearn to find a remote role soon so I can continue the routine and do an Ironman someday.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        Ugh, 2.5 hrs commuting is all your time. It’s frustrating to make progress then lose ground. Good luck on finding something remote or at least closer. If you do get to the point of IM training, I used the TriDot program. It’s an online program that uses AI to be optimized for your volume and intensity needs. I mean, I still had 3- 100 mile rides, but my mid-week long rides were <2 hrs and mostly topped out at 1:00-1:20 until peak. Long runs peaked at 14 mi, and I was able to run the marathon w/ strategic walks through aid stations. Off-the-bike runs maxxed at 40 minutes. (Sorry everyone else – first rule of ironman is never shut up about ironman.)

    4. Cyrus*

      I’m the reverse. I’ve probably gained 20 pounds since March 2020. This is mainly because my commute used to be by bike. I couldn’t go back to work right now even if I wanted to due to childcare, but once that’s resolved, I hope I’ll be able to go back at least 3 or 4 days per week.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        Ah, that’s rough. My spouse put on weight, too. He grew his business from 1 employee to 5 during this and moved from working at jobsites to working at home. He’s trying to find other ways, but he has a hump to get over where he currently has not admin or management staff and has no time.

  12. EPLawyer*

    So far, despite the courts being FULLY open, even to jury trials or going in to file things, I have not set foot in a court room yet. Although I have a court date for an IN PERSON hearing next month. I am not looking forward to it. Only because I ate my way through the pandemic. Most of my suits don’t fit anymore. I don’t want to spend a lot of money on new ones because I INTEND to lose the weight. But guess how well that is going? I could be more disciplined but I’m not. But still holding off on the clothes buying because that feels like giving in. There is no reason I can’t lose the weight, I just won’t rein in my eating.

    1. Hen in a Windstorm*

      I’ve done this to myself before. Trust me, the worst of both worlds is not losing the weight *and* not buying new clothes. You will likely hate how you look and be embarrassed by your clothes and feel even fatter than if you just bought clothes that fit.

      BTW, try saying “I can” rein in my eating, rather than “I won’t”, since it’s mostly about mindset. :-)

    2. rachel in nyc*

      Yeah, apparently my friend’s boss (they’ve been in the office for a couple days a week for awhile) said something about how everyone was dressing…after some complaints about people saying they didn’t have work clothes that fit, he admitted he had one suit that fit.

    3. BubbleTea*

      Buy clothes to fit your body, don’t try to make your body fit your clothes. You’ll look way more professional in well-fitting clothes and feel more confident about yourself.

      I suspect you’ll also find it easier to make lifestyle and eating changes when you’re not putting as much pressure on yourself to get quick results! I doubt there is anyone who has come through the pandemic without something reasonably significant changing about their body, mind or soul. Gaining and losing weight are both very common ones I’ve heard about. Give yourself grace :)

    4. Brett*

      I’m one of those people that lost a lot of weight during the pandemic (25% of my bodyweight, and still dropping) thanks to some very effective guided help (it was the help, not discipline, that got me there). The clothing issue has become distressing for me too. I’m still not at a weight that my doctor and I have agreed is healthy for me, but I couldn’t get my pants to stay on even with a belt and my shirts looked like tents nearly hitting my knees.

      I hit a plateau though, so, I donated it all and bought new clothes three months ago (which gets really expensive because I am already in size ranges that are never offered off the rack). Then I broke my plateau. Now those clothes don’t fit either. I could keep going down, or I could bounce back up, or I could stay the same but none of my clothes fit. My first in-person meeting in 15 months is in 2 weeks too, and i’ll probably need to wear blue jeans and a t-shirt.

      1. Toothless*

        I had this problem too and I have primarily solved it with a sewing machine and Goodwill! I discovered that taking in cheap t-shirts that are basically two flat pieces sewed together up the sides is very beginner-friendly; I would turn the shirt inside out, lay it flat, and use a bunch of safety pins to make a new seam 1-2 inches away from the old one, try it on, adjust in or out as necessary, and then sew a straight line where the pins were and another zigzag one to keep it from fraying. I shrunk relatively evenly, so I could take a uniform amount off something that used to fit well and get pretty much the same shape.

      2. Marillenbaum*

        Depending on how significant the gap is, it might make sense to get 1-2 items tailored. Most places have a 1 week turnaround time.

    5. Anonosaurus*

      I get this – I lost weight in the before times and gave away my larger work clothes to charity, maintained through all of 2020, then over the last six months (which have been really tough where I live) I have regained almost all of it through a total abandonment of self discipline. I am so furious with myself. Anyway, on a practical level, you just have to have clothes that fit for court. It’s not giving in, you can get rid of them later but you don’t want to be standing in front of the judge wondering if your straining pants button is gonna fly off and hit her in the face. Or worrying that your skirt is riding up your thighs. Luckily in the jurisdiction where I practice, attorneys wear robes/gowns which hide a lot. The issue with those is less about trying to get them to wrap around your butt, it’s not tripping over them on the way out of court …

      1. FrenchCusser*

        You say ‘abandonment of self-discipline’, I say ‘situational depression’.

        We all have it. It’s been a rough year.

        Go easy on yourself. Beating yourself up never accomplished a damn thing.

    6. Picard*

      Dont get down on yourself – we’re all there in one way or another. May I recommend poshmark or thredup? A little better choice than most goodwills around my area and it comes right to your door. You do have to know your brands/sizing or have a tape measure and be willing to read the real numbers! But nothing is worse than clothes that dont fit.

  13. Anonymooose*

    Company leadership is discussing adjustments to work attire since everyone’s coming back (it’s unrealistic to let people work remotely) and one change will be…shorts. In a professional office no less.
    There will be guidance on acceptable versus no-go shorts but I gotta say, I’m a bit scared to be seeing pasty white legs and bony knees of 50 architects and engineers who have been semi-hibernating for a year.

    1. The Original K.*

      Good luck. A previous employer tried to allow shorts and it did not go well, so they yanked it back. (I never attempted it because all my shorts are shorter than the allowable length and I didn’t care enough to buy knee-length shorts I’d only wear at work.)

    2. AnotherAlison*

      A local AEC was doing this for a while. We were in the building next door. It was a little weird. Good luck. I have bad cycling tan lines and an aversion to bermuda shorts, so it would be a no for me.

    3. Maeve*

      I worked in an office for many years where I wore shorts frequently and as far as I know everyone survived seeing my pasty legs.

    4. ecnaseener*

      I’m sure it’ll be weird at first, but the visibility of bony knees really shouldn’t affect you. You don’t have to ogle them.

  14. Chc34*

    I used to work in a low-paying-but-completely-based-in-NYC industry and some of the workplaces there are moving toward a hybrid system that requires you to be in the office a certain number of days and at home a certain number of days. My friends hate it, because it requires them to both stay in a commutable distance from the office and have a dedicated workspace set up at home, which, if you don’t make a lot of money in NYC, isn’t the greatest. They’d rather just be back in the office full-time than keep working in a tiny corner of the living room they share with three roommates.

    1. rachel in nyc*

      If you are willing to commute from Pennsylvania or upstate (which, yes, I have co-workers who pre-pandemic commuted daily from Pennsylvania), you can totally get more space but you also have to trust your employer is really going to stick to hybrid and not change their mind in a year.

      You don’t want to find yourself suddenly spending 4 hours a day commuting because you needed office space at home.

      and do you want to live in Pennsylvania?

      1. Mental Lentil*

        and do you want to live in Pennsylvania?

        If I can get close to the cheesesteaks, then yes! Are there good cheesesteak places that aren’t in Pittsburgh?

    2. TWW*

      I always assumed “hybrid” meant working from home some days was optional, not required. What’s the logic in requiring it?

      1. ecnaseener*

        Hotdesking / paying for less office space.

        And yeah, I’m in Boston not NY but it was really tough apartment-hunting for a studio with enough space for a WFH cubicle that’s also close enough to my office. Luckily prices are way down in the city because plague, but if I stay hybrid longer than a year or two I’m going to have trouble affording it.

  15. Bookworm*

    Just sending sympathy to people who are anxious about returning to the office. I think this really isn’t the way to go, even in most vaccinated places.

    Good luck!

    1. The cat's pajamas*

      Thanks. I’m working towards hybrid and was going to start 1x/week. I made plans before the mask mandate was lifted, and now don’t want to go back quite so soon. I’m hoping I can renegotiate. Thankfully, my employer has been very flexible. It’s really frustrating though! I’m feeling less rather than more safe, sigh.

  16. GardenontheRidge*

    Recently it seems the number of posts being answered on paid only sites is increasing. Very frustrating.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Nope, it has been exactly the same number for years. For years (since at least 2016?), the 12:30 pm ET post every day has been an outside post, with the exception of Friday and some Thursdays. There remains the same huge amount of free content here as always.

      1. Brett*

        I think the amount of free content has even gone up, with the addition of the friday letters and friday good news?

    2. Mental Lentil*

      Please don’t go here. People have expenses and need to be paid. The increased volume here means a larger webserver bill. This is how the system works.

      There’s plenty of free content here and elsewhere.

      1. I'm that guy*

        It’s one of the ways that Alison gets paid. If you want free content here then some people need to pay to read her content on other sites.

    3. Aggretsuko*

      Either you pay the money or you skip reading. That’s life on the Internet in 2021. Up to you which choice you make.

    4. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      If you aren’t the customer, you’re the product Alison won’t get paid for her columns if it looks like nobody is clicking to follow the links.

      I don’t love ads (she understated), but I would rather have this than a subscription service. Patreon has its place, but that is also likely to have some extra pay-walled content for patrons.

  17. Mia*

    One thing I’ll really miss is my work blanket. When I’m cold at home, I can just wrap myself in a blanket and keep on working. (Even on Zoom calls, I can keep a blanket over my legs.) I keep a sweater in the office, but the blanket is so much more effective (and comfortable)!

    1. Batty Twerp*

      I have a blanket that I’ve put over my legs since WFH began. It’s a large blanket, folded so it just covers my knees, and this adds weight to the rest of it.

      And it’s like… a mental trigger that this is work time when I use it. My home office is dual use, so putting the blanket on acts like a signal. There are downsides to this – while I also find it comforting to have the blanket across my legs, I now get distracted when it’s not there and I’m meant to be working. To the point at which I am sat with the window wide open, in a strappy top and shorts, and a heavy blanket across my thighs because it’s half way through my work day!

      I’ll have to train myself out of this one…

    2. Anon for this*

      I told my manager that it’s… not that I’m opposed to going into the office, per se. Yes, being able to wake up five minutes before work starts, start working, and pass out immediately after work is done is helping me avoid collapsing from stress and burnout (increased workload. No increase in staffing level), but what’s really keeping me at home right now is knowing one of my coworkers doesn’t want to get vaccinated because of exercising personal freedoms. I’d love to start easing into working at the office some of the time, one major perk of this job is you aren’t paid as much as other places, but you get discounts at the really high quality restaurants on site. I want to go back to the days where $5 could get me two fresh cooked, made from scratch meals I don’t have to cook myself, but not so much that I’m willing to be around someone who actually thinks requiring people to get a vaccine is unnecessarily infringing on personal freedom.

    3. NotRealAnonForThis*

      I have a very large grey fine-knit scarf (think: I can wrap my 6 foot frame in this thing and it covers to mid thigh) that I keep at work. It looks like I’m using a wrap as opposed to a blanket. Serves the purpose of a blanket since our HVAC in the office is…not awesome! Oddly, nobody has said boo about it.

      1. La Triviata*

        I have a wrap that a friend gave me a couple of years ago. I don’t really like it, so I brought it in to our (over-cooled) office in the Before Times. I got several compliments on it and I’ve found it does a good job of keeping me warm enough to work (when it got REALLY cold, I put on my office sweater and put the wrap over my head).

    4. Hush42*

      Several years ago… like maybe 2018 I think enough people in my office complained about the temperature in our building during the winter (old building, drafty windows, long cold winters), that the executives approved getting every employee who works regularly in the office a company branded blanket to keep at our desks. It is honestly the softest fulffiest blanket! Now every new employee in those same departments gets one of the blankets as an on boarding gift (along with a pack of other things) it is great! I brought my blanket home with me when we went WFH last year. The last few months I’ve been in the office sporadically and I always miss my blanket.

    5. Chilipepper Attitude*

      My office has 2 locations. One I find freezing. I keep an electric heated shawl at the cold place. I think it looks very old fashioned but I don’t care. I am warm!

    6. Lana Kane*

      Lots of people in my office had blankets in their cubes/offices. I had one as well!

    7. Texan In Exile*

      All I think of when I read what you wrote is what Caroline Criado Perez wrote in her book, “Invisible Women: Data Bias in a World Designed for Men,” about how office temperatures are set for men, not for women and how when I read that, everything suddenly made sense to me. I never see men with sweaters or space heaters at work. It’s always the women.

    8. Marillenbaum*

      I have a coworker who keeps a blanket at her desk for exactly this reason. Also, a footstool because she is short and the desks were all designed for 6 foot tall men.

    9. Anonymous Hippo*

      As I sit in my office, shaking from the cold, wearing a jean jacket and with a heater on, I so feel this.

      Yes, I know this is a steel mill, and they keep the offices cold for the guys all decked out in fire-retardant suits but damn, I’m freezing.

    10. dealing with dragons*

      I just keep a blanket at the office. I could probably claim some kind of ADA thing due to an underactive thyroid but realistically for some reason they keep the office at sub-arctic temperatures.

    11. At home with work*

      Why can’t you bring a blanket to work? It’s not at all unusual. Office temperatures are set way too low. In the winter, you need a blanket. In the summer, you go outside to warm up and go back to your desk and your blanket.

    12. GothicBee*

      I’ve known multiple people who keep a blanket at work and just drape it on the back of their office chair when it’s not in use. So I say go for it and just bring a blanket to the office at least for while you’re at your desk. But there are also blanket-sized wraps that could be more appropriate if you need something in meetings or if you feel self-conscious about it. I keep a wrap that’s essentially a blanket in one of my drawers for the few times I get really cold.

  18. Iced Mocha Latte*

    We go back to the office hybrid soon and I’m dreading the mask policy. We’re following CDC and state guidelines, where vaccinated don’t need to mask or distance but unvaccinated do. It’s not going over well with the unvaccinated people (meaning the ones who chose not to be vaccinated). I’m vaccinated. My plan is to go without a mask unless someone asks me to put it on since I have an office and am well away from others; however, the reactions within my own department, and in the company, make me hesitant. I’ve heard: “It’s discrimination!” “This is creating a hostile work environment!” “We’re being targeted!” Given I’m a manager and the attitude I’ve seen from a select few, I fully expect someone in the department, or the company even, to complain to HR about me and others within the first week. Ugh.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      We’ve not had that ‘you can take masks off in public if you’re vaccinated’ thing in the UK yet (you have to wear one unless you have a medical exemption) but there’s already discussion on our company forums about how those who’ll have to continue wearing masks because they believe the vaccine kills people daily or whatever will be ‘targeted for discrimination’.

      That thread though degenerated fast into something I had to lock down the entire forum for an hour so I could clean it up and send certain screenshots to HR for.

      I’m sincerely hoping the loud voices making comparisons to a hideous time in history are NOT something that will show up in this building. Else I’m gonna need to be signed off for stress. Again.

    2. dealing with dragons*

      I’m not sure why people take such umbrage at unvaccinated people having to wear masks – it’s perfectly within the realm of reasonable thought to not get the vaccine. But actions have consequences, and not getting the vaccine means wearing a mask. It’s not complicated logic to me, but perhaps I’m being too reasonable.

  19. AnonForThisOne*

    I think our workers are getting very nervous about not coming back to the office.

    Our parent company is hiring people to bring into new offices in other countries (and has even told some employees to move to those countries to keep their jobs) with no plan at all for people in the US to return to office. It is clear that the “return to work” is also going to be used as a “return to cost cutting” to shed roles in more expensive areas by simply cutting those people out of in-person work.

  20. RussianInTexas*

    My office is saying basically nothing. There been no information whatsoever, but this is par the course.
    Through the grapevine, they are looking for a new office/warehouse location, and it will take a while to build, so people who are already WFH, will continue to do so. But the management will not bother to actually tell us anything.
    On the other hand, a lot of benefits the LW lists do not apply to me. True, I don’t have the commute, but I have to work 8 to 5 with one hour for lunch, strict. I have to check in and out for everything, even while being exempt. I cannot leave early or take a nap, or whatever, and have to notify when I have to leave for an appointment. And I don’t get to wear all my nice clothes, shoes, nice makeup, and all the things I love.
    So I am ok with working from home and I am OK to be in the office.

    1. AnonForThisOne*

      Be careful with this. This is what our company did, and shortly after announced that they would be hiring all new people at the new location, and were suspending headcount for WFH workers associated with the old location, with no plans to reopen the old location.
      New location has a much much lower average salary for the same industry than old location.

      1. RussianInTexas*

        Nah, it’s in the same city, about 8 miles on the north/south axis, they just need to consolidate various warehouses and the office in one place.
        And they already pay us badly. And I am planning on jumping the ship as soon as I can.

    2. Elenna*

      FWIW I’ve definitely seen people saying they’re still wearing their work outfits, either for a sense of normality or as a way to mentally transition to work mode or just for fun. I realize it may not be the same when you’re not leaving the house and nobody’s seeing it, but you can still wear your nice stuff!

      (Admittedly, I’m saying this while having worn pyjamas all day every day. But you don’t have to be like me if you don’t want to!)

      1. Marillenbaum*

        My mom has worn non-pajamas every day of this pan dulce. Casual wear mostly–jeans and a nice top–but she dresses for the office even if she doesn’t have on-camera meetings. She is also the sort of person for whom waking up at 7 AM on a Saturday is sleeping in, so honestly I just live in fear of her awesome power.

  21. Jessica Fletcher*

    There are people in my office ignoring our mask mandates, which makes me specifically worried about being around them. Our city still has positivity rates over 15% and low vax rates for adults 18-64. The pandemic isn’t over, unfortunately.

    I would be much happier never going back full time. I agree with LW that my quality of life is better, and I continue to be productive, so there’s really no need for me to go back.

  22. Danish*

    Our office plans are still largely up in the air (sounds like the general plan is back to offcoe, but with whatever flexibility is reasonable to work out), and the thing I’m most anticipating is… I’m trans now! On hormones and everything, so I will be presenting as an entirely different gender than the last time I saw any of my coworkers.

    I’m actually not AS concerned with this as I could be, given that I live in a very liberal area with a cool team, and making this transition has done great things for my self confidence but… It’s definitely on my mind as a thing I’m going to have to address in some way at some point!

    1. allathian*

      Good luck!

      Lots of people have changed things up either deliberately or through circumstance during this time. Many people have either gained or lost weight, for example. My former manager got her teeth straightened out, because it was just simpler for her to manage the constant brushing WFH. The biggest change on me will be my hair, I haven’t had a haircut since February 2020.

  23. LabRat*

    One question I’ve been asking about the hybrid situation is – what about monitors and chairs?

    My workplace shipped me a very nice monitor for WFH, and allowed us to pick up an office chair to use as well. But what’s not clear to me is how that works when I go back 2 days a week – will I have to buy my own work chair for at home for the other 3 days? Do I have to bring the monitor back and forth, or just suffer on a tiny laptop screen either 2 days or 3 days out of the week? The answers to those questions are going to greatly influence how successful hybrid work is for me.

    1. Lunch Eating Mid Manager*

      This 100% the hot topic at our office. For the majority of our employees who were 100% remote, we’re asking them to come in one full day a week for month of July. They can decide for themselves if they want to lug in their extra monitor, ergo chairs, etc. (Although IT is scrounging around for a few extra monitors for some people.) Presumably they will not for one day. The real crunch will be if we then implement a month of 3 days in office/week in August, before back to full time in office in September. The basic plan debuted by my boss is, anyone who complains about not having all their stuff in office can come back full time asap. He thinks that will cut down complaints.

    2. Aggretsuko*

      I assume some kind of depersonalized “hotboxing” situation would happen. The more specialized you need your setup to be….heck if I know. I would rather not haul my giant 2 monitors back and forth, though.

      1. ecnaseener*

        ……I’m guessing you meant hotdesking, not hotboxing? I wouldn’t, uh, expect to see hotboxing in a work environment.

    3. Mynona*

      This is why I hated my hybrid office. My office computer is a desktop, and there’s no support for home office equipment, so I had to use my personal technology at home. And then flip flop locations day to day. That ruined my productivity more than anything else this pandemic. I electively returned to the office full time as soon as I was fully vaccinated. Can’t take the back and forth.

      1. TWW*

        Right? I have $5k+ worth of equipment at my desk. There’s no way I would want to replicate that setup at home, and even less way I would want to haul it back and forth every week. It’s so much cheaper/easier just to get in my car and drive to work every day.

  24. PersephoneUnderground*

    That last one would have been such a great opening to point out that what the LW is suggesting is called “Unionizing”! That’s how you as a group push back successfully on working conditions that the upper management refuses to compromise on.

    They even said it in different words “if a large group of us just refuse to come into the office…” yep, that’s called collective bargaining, and if you formally unionize they legally can’t fire you for trying to negotiate your working conditions. It doesn’t mean you instantly win, but management would have to negotiate with a union in a way they don’t have to with individuals, even a lot of you.

    1. RussianInTexas*

      In my state it means you will get fired for something not related to unionizing. At will state and all that. Yes, I know firing over trying to unionize is illegal. Firing for not liking you is not.
      And really? Working from home is a privilege, I can’t imagine anyone seriously try to unionize over that.

      1. Need to Remain Anon for this one*

        The things we now consider rights started out with people saying they were privileges, so you never know!

        1. RussianInTexas*

          I honestly don’t think working from home will ever become a right, or even as widespread as AAM commenters think. I foresee a lot of us going back to the office eventually.

          1. Chantel*

            …which is really unfortunate, considering the sheer number of advantages of WFH. Reduced car accidents, better for the climate, saving money, guarding against porch pirates, etc.

              1. RussianInTexas*

                Yes, we had double of the whole 2019 deaths on the road in the first 6 months of 2020.
                And we had over 200 road rage related shootings in the area as well, which is a 4x increase vs 2019. And enormous spike in crime (which is economic related, not WFH related).
                As for money – I don’t really know. I have to run the A/C all the time now, I had to upgrade my internet, buy a new laptop, and a chair.
                And I sincerely miss lunches with coworkers, even though not having them is a money saver.

  25. Choggy*

    My (newish) manager is trying to keep his team happy by telling us he’s “fighting” for us to continue to work from home, and, when the time comes, for me to work remotely from a different state. What I’m not getting are any definite answers, and that’s what’s frustrating me. Additionally, if I do have to go back into the office, my commute will be that much more stressful now that people have been used to driving the highway I take like it’s the Autobahn. It’s bad enough I was in an accident because someone was following too close behind and crashed into me, but now, we have an added bonus of changes right outside the parking lot of my company which will make it that much more difficult to get out of there. I will also have all kinds of interruptions, and people showing up without notice and wanting to come into my cubicle and I won’t know if they have been vaccinated or not. I am seriously thinking of taking some kind of leave for my mental health, something that I’ve never even considered before.

    1. Choggy*

      On top of which, one of my coworkers died unexpectedly this past weekend, I’m just not feeling present at all.

    2. Aggretsuko*

      Yeah, our management is claiming to be working on this, but they have nooooooooo idea on anything. I don’t trust them.

    3. PT*

      I feel the Autobahn thing so much, this has been happening where I lived. Except it’s been more like Fast and Furious: Autobahn here. People are going double speed limit and shooting at each other while doing it. It’s nuts.

  26. HigherEdAdminista*

    We are likely to be hybrid starting at the tail end of summer, and honestly I’m dreading it. WFH isn’t something that was a thing in my organization and I expect they will go back to the old, draconian policy on it as soon as possible. I dealt with it for years, but having had it now for a year and change, losing it is sad; I keep telling myself that at least I got this amount of time towards in my career, which I wouldn’t have had otherwise. I wouldn’t mind a permanent hybrid model, but I just tend to see hybrid as the transition back to 5 full days, which I am mourning. For financial reasons, I can’t move any closer to my office than I already live and losing 2.5 hours a day to commuting (not to mention getting ready, etc.) is going to be sad –especially since this commute will be on public transit; masks are mandatory, but there is no one to stop you from slipping it down or off once you are out of sight (indeed, some of the employees do this!).

    What’s worse is I really don’t see the point of the hybrid schedule as it exists right now. For our office size, we must be alone in the offices; we have to attend all meetings and such remotely. So I am going to campus so that I can… sit in a room alone and talk to my colleagues/attend meetings via Zoom. I will do that at least one, but possibly three days a week. My boss is particularly friendly with one guy in my office, and I keep worrying that the plans for going in will have enough plausible deniability in them to favor him, and leave me screwed.

    We are going to have some classes in person and some online; some classes will be in person sometimes and remote sometimes. This is going to create pandemonium with space. I expect that weekly I will be spending a significant chunk of time working things out with regards to rooms… a task that is being entirely created by changing our plans over and over again and trying to do things at the last minute. This feels reflective of the whole mentality to me, that it is better to do something as fast as possible, even if it isn’t done well, rather than live with restrictions a little longer so we can take the time to plan an effective return.

    1. Anon for this*

      My husband’s university had this space problem already. They had registration for Fall 2021 semester in February? when we were in the belly of the beast of the post-Christmas COVID spike. The people who handled registration assumed classes for Fall 2021 would be online again based on how COVID was trending at the time, and set the class schedule times with the assumption that classes would be online and no classroom would be needed. The students then registered for all of their classes.

      WELL the Republican-controlled State Board of Regents found out about this and flipped. out. and demanded they reschedule the whole semester to be in person. But you can run unlimited classes in parallel when you don’t have to consider classroom space…and now they had to scramble to find available classrooms to fit all of these classes running at the same time. So basically, it is going to be a semester of silliness, with classes scattered haphazardly among various buildings among campus and students and professors running frantically back and forth because no one is in their department’s classrooms.

      1. HigherEdAdminista*

        I am sympathetic! I have already heard faculty saying they are going to play it by ear for when they teach in person and others suggesting spaces that are undoubtedly too small for the group in question. I don’t see how everyone doesn’t see that this is going to be a disaster and they are doing nothing to help it, but my guess is that they don’t want to help it.

  27. Mannheim Steamroller*

    My employer has decided on a hybrid schedule, with all employees assigned to Group A or Group B and each person in the office for five days out of every 10-day pay period starting September 15. What has not been decided yet is the structure of the hybrid. Two possibilities are under discussion…

    Alternate days:
    A week of A-B-A-B-A followed by a week of B-A-B-A-B. This works out to one group going in only on odd-numbered days of the month and the other only on even-numbered days of the month, with the groups flipping after each 31-day month (because both the 31st and the 1st have odd numbers).

    Semi-consecutive days:
    A week of A-A-B-B-A followed by a week of A-A-B-B-B. Group A would go in every Monday, every Tuesday, and alternate Fridays. Group B go in every Wednesday, every Thursday, and alternate Fridays.

    We will also be encouraged to stagger our hours to minimize the number of people in the building at any one time.

    May we live in interesting times!

  28. Indy Dem*

    We were already hybrid prior to COVID – 3 WFH days a week (same days each week), and right now there are no plans for us to return to the office, since we will be moving to a new office building in 2022. Also, they’ve introduced a flexible workplan, and STRONGLY encouraged managers to work with people who want flex hours/job share/work 4 10 hour days instead of 5 8 hour days. And this is a multi-billion dollar corporation. I am impressed with how they’ve been. If I had my druthers, I’d stay full remote, but even then, the flexibility will help, if I have to return to the office. My wife’s company is basically letting people choose – in office, hybrid, or fully remote. She’s choosing remote, saving 2.5 hours of commuting per day.

  29. ampersand*

    I’ve commented before about it, but it’s looking like my office is expected to go back sometime in late summer/early fall, with no masks, no social distancing, and no ability to ask who is vaccinated. Many of us have young, unvaccinated children at home (or health issues, or both). We share offices. Our breakroom is tiny. Our bathrooms are tiny. There’s really no ability to distance ourselves from one another. I don’t want to, but I’m prepared to find a new job over this.

    1. Chantel*

      I’m so sorry, ampersand. It does seem like workplace safety has become an unexpected element of why people will leave jobs, and why they will accept new ones. I am in that camp. It’s just that important, and COVID protections are an excellent measure of the extent to which safety is valued in the workplace.

  30. RemotelyCommenting*

    My company has been full time remote for the last 15 years, so the pandemic was barely a hiccup to us. It’s software, so definitely the work itself is compatible with WFH. But the amount of things employers throw up as critical blockers to remote work are laughable.

    “But how will you coordinate?” Slack! You get your answer in priority order. Zoom if its urgent. You actually have to report meaningful status on what you’ve accomplished, not, “I worked on X”, since managers see your output instead of butts in seats.

    “How will you get promoted?” If everyone is remote, see the above. So much less cliquishness to overcome, so much less watching sociable but incompetent coworkers rise to the top.

    Socializing? We do have company retreats to meet each other in normal times. Sure, there’s no Friday happy hours, but I hate spending time with my coworkers outside of work. I have friends and family outside of the office. And quipping over Slack is perfectly friendly for my tastes. We seem to get along well enough to deliver the product.

    And yes, I took a 15k paycut to work remote. It’s completely worth in in the time I get back from not commuting, not spending money on lunches at restaurants, and quality time with the dog.

    1. Chickaletta*

      This is nice to hear from someone who’s been remote for so long. My issue is that I have about 20 years left before I retire and the idea of spending 24/7 in my house for the next 20 years really depresses me. Of course, that’s not literal – I’ll be out and about to socialize and visit the grocery store, go on vacation a couple of times a year – but my day-to-day life would be spent within the confines of the walls of my house for at least a couple decades. Does that bother you at all? How do you cope?

      1. allathian*

        While pretty much everyone needs some social contact to thrive, the amount that people need varies a lot. It also depends on the circumstances, for some people who live with uncongenial housemates or partners, going to the office is an escape from unpleasant living conditions. For people who live alone, WFH can lead to feelings of isolation if they don’t have any other people to socialize with except their coworkers.

        I know I’m very lucky because it seems like my marriage’s only become stronger during the pandemic, our son’s been in in-person school for most of the pandemic, and our house is big enough for us to work without getting in each other’s way all the time.

        I admit that I really enjoyed getting an office job after WFH for 3 years with only my computer for company. I was essentially a freelance contractor with one employer, but I never met my client in person, and I only spoke with him once on the phone. This was in 2003 before smartphones or webcams were ubiquitous. Admittedly I got the job because my dad was working for that employer and realized that I had skills they could use. They were desperate for someone with my skills and were willing to give me a chance on his recommendation. I recognize the privilege here. The experience I gained there helped me get my current job.

        That gig was great for me professionally, but wasn’t enough on its own for me to pay my way, so I also worked at a call center in the evenings. Hardly glamorous, but at least it got me out of the house and I got much of the socializing I needed with customers and coworkers. I was also single at the time while most of my friends were either dating or in committed relationships and working FT, so I didn’t get to meet them as often as I would’ve wanted.

        I’m looking forward to some kind of hybrid model. We had that before the pandemic, WFH has worked really well for the majority of our employees. I must admit I miss unscheduled conversations in the break room, especially with employees I don’t work with often if at all. I’m just not missing it to the point that I’d be jumping at the chance to go to the office for as long as masking up and distancing are still necessary precautions. I just don’t see the advantage of meeting in person vs. on a video call if you have to mask up.

    2. Choggy*

      I think it’s important to point out that what occurred in 2020 has every possibility of happening again. So for companies to return to doing business fully back in the office, every day, is extremely short-sighted. I truly think most managers defer to the path of least resistance and don’t have the courage or interest in embracing change for future benefit.

  31. Harry*

    One thing I wish A.Green highlights is the need to be sensitive around people who have been going to the office all along. These are your IT support, facilities engineer, front line staff, etc. Be careful when you have conversations around co workers who have been home as there may be people within earshot who won’t be pleased with your whinings.

    1. Buster*

      Yes, don’t assume everyone has been in the same situation throughout the pandemic.

    2. cncx*

      IT support here and while i must say my employer/management has been amazing and a lot of the times i have come in the office it is by choice, i would like some sensitivity from peers about me not having the same experience. especially when we first locked down, there was a good month where i was spending ten hours a day teaching people how to work from home. last spring/summer was brutal for me. and now, because everyone is home, people think i am on call 12-16 hours a day just because they want to flex their own schedules. what i gained in losing my commute was more than compensated by people calling me to help them anywhere from 6 am to 9 pm. i maintain that i’ve had a good experience at a good company on the whole, but the hours i put in last year and the unreasonable expectations around my availability have meant it was busting it a lot more than some of my peers. i started building things like workouts in the middle of my day just to be mentally ready for the after dinner/after kids go to bed support calls that people couldn’t plan for.

    3. allathian*

      She did this a few weeks ago.

      The vast majority of employees at my office have been WFH, and because I work for the government, my employer is listening to the recommendations of our local health authorities. We also had a liberal WFH policy even before the pandemic, so I seriously doubt we’ll be forced back into the office any time soon for mandatory meetings, probably not before the vaccine coverage for 2 shots reaches 70 percent of the population, sometime in the fall if the current trend continues.

  32. Anonyanony*

    I honestly feel, if we go back into the office, I am going to make sure I don’t respond to emails, calls, or chat with the speed with which I’ve been able to do from home. I want them to see how much more effective I am working from home.

    1. ecnaseener*

      I sympathize with that impulse, but I honestly don’t think it’ll work. They will expect the same standard of responsiveness, and if they notice you not meeting that standard they’ll probably see it as a you problem rather than an office problem.

        1. Anonforthisone*

          I agree with you Anonyanoy. The thing that makes me more productive and efficient when working from home is the ability to get more done without interruptions. I won’t even have to try to be less productive in the office, because as we return, so will the interruptions and I imagine the same will be true of you.

          I am starting now to get in the habit of drawing boundaries around work. I had a problem with this before the pandemic, and during it I found it was easy to be flexible and still have a life, but I will no longer routinely sacrifice my life time for work. I will do my job and do it well, but I came in early every day and stayed late to finish something up usually twice a week; those days are over.

  33. Buster*

    I suggest you change the title of this post from “Return to work” to “Return to the office.” People have been working through the pandemic.

    1. Extroverted Bean Counter*

      Yes – my employer for a while was calling it “return to work” and I think got a lot of scathing feedback from some director-level+ people. The implication that we’d been sitting around not-working for months was not received well.

  34. Cake Party*

    I’m/we are stilling waiting on more news from hire ups on when and what return to office life may be. The last I heard we might be working on some sort of combined team with other teams and focusing on our customer facing things. But i’m not clear if this means we’ll get to do any of our team duties while in the office. Which is questionable to me since the whole point of going into the office is to do those tasks that are hard to do WFH. I’m also wondering how parents and non parents will be handled since not all kids will back in school. Will non parents have leverage to not get stuck with all the in office shifts? Only time will tell ……

  35. Jenny*

    I was 2 days work from home per week prior to the pandemic with maybe a week every two months of travel (so 100% office those weeks).

    We were told last month to expect maximum telework until January and the rumor was that we’d go 4 days telework then. But things might be changing in that we go back sooner and maybe only 3 days telework. I’m curious what brought this change about.

    I’d prefer 4 days telework, I could live with 3, and I’ll be pissed with 2. One option being talked about is 7 telework days per pay period and that would be good as well.

    The thing that is irritating me right now is equipment. Prior to March 2020 when I worked at home, I just worked on my laptop and it was fine. After a month of telework I brought my docking stations and monitors home (ironically enough I debated doing it in case we were back in the office soon, who knew that 14 months later we’d still be here?). Now I want my equipment at both places. I’m even willing to buy the extra equipment. But I want my org’s discounts with Dell to do it. I’m not sure they’ll give it to me.

    The other thing that I’d like is some final decisions being made. We’ve taken at least 7 telework surveys. I feel like they could make a decision at this point. And then don’t back track…..i.e. don’t tell us expect to telework until January and then tell us to come back in September.

  36. Database Developer Dude*

    As a man, I fail to see why I should have or express any kind of an opinion on whether or not a woman should wear a bra going back into the office. I would hope I’m not fixated on my colleagues’ breasts like that.

  37. ToodlesTeaTops*

    I feel for the person who can’t unsee their coworker’s ugly sides. I had a coworker yell at me in the office (we were alone) because I said I wouldn’t step foot in the church at the beginning of the pandemic due to numerous scientific reasons. I still had to come to work. I just ignored her after that. I didn’t purposely freeze her out of conversations, but I didn’t start conversations with her unless it was work-related. I removed her from any social media stuff and stopped speaking to her outside of work. I fully recognize that she was also in a mentally bad place. Many people were during the pandemic, even those who did follow guidelines.

  38. anon e mouse*

    I think employers who are choosing to do this poorly are in for a rude awakening over the next 6 months. We all just saw ourselves do our jobs as well as we ever have for 15 months without ever once entering the office, and a lot of us simply aren’t going to be gaslit with assertions that we actually were more effective in the office and therefore no more remote work for you. I know at least three people (plus myself) who are planning to leave jobs this summer because of employers botching this. Total own-goal. (Really looking forward to a bunch of media stories parroting employers saying millenials/Gen Z are lazy and entitled for not just accepting the word from on high once that starts happening, which I’m confident will be written.)

  39. Tired*

    I admit I’m really intrigued by anyone who actually wants to go back to the office, especially full time, with the obvious exceptions of those who do not have a suitable/safe place at home to work from, or those that live alone.

    1. allathian*

      It really depends on the job. Many people whose jobs involve a lot of brainstorming and collaboration thrive in the office environment. Lots of people, especially extroverts, prefer to work in an environment where they’re surrounded by other people, even if they aren’t interacting with them constantly. These are the kind of people who if they were able to WFH before the pandemic preferred to go to a coffee shop rather than sit at home and who at college would rather study in the library rather than at home, even when they had a reasonably quiet space at home to study in.

    2. EventPlannerGal*

      Well, your exceptions cover a whole lot of people! Huge numbers of people don’t have a suitable WFH space and have been making do with crappy setups but don’t want to use them for longer than necessary. And as well as people who live alone, consider people living in shared houses with lots of roommates all trying to WFH at once, or with young children or with a partner also trying to WFH or a partner on night-shift trying to sleep while you’re doing Teams meetings…

      Also I personally find WFH really distracting – it was hard for me to stay in ‘work mode’ when I was constantly right next to my snack drawer/own laptop/TV/bed. I like having a clear delineation between work time/space and my own. I like being able to have quick casual chats with my coworkers instead of scheduling a call, I find that issues get resolved faster, my step-count is up, etc etc. There are a ton of downsides to office working and I didn’t like having to come in through lockdown, but I’d prefer being there to perma-WFH.

      1. Tired*

        Yes, the people you mention in the first paragraph are some of who I was referring to.

        I’m glad that working in an office works for you! I’m please that you’re happy to go back.

        I’m a natural extrovert, but as someone with ADD who is forced to work in an open-plan office with extremely loud and disruptive colleagues, and as someone who has between two and three hours of commute to and from the office each day, I’d be happy if I had to go in once a month, or once a quarter.

        Working from home allows me to cook, relax and for the first time, I am not constantly exhausted from being forced to comply to a “morning person” sleep pattern that is not my natural rhythm.

        The couple of times I’ve been forced back into the office in the past couple of months, I have not been able to get anything done whilst there, due to the constant interruptions. It left me exhausted and cranky.

  40. Anonymous Today*

    I am not fatphobic. My mother was overweight for most of her life. However, she also had extremely high BP and her doctor really wanted her lose weight for that reason. She just could not. She was a chunky child who slimmed down some when she became an adult, but then gained weight as she got older. Pregnancy may have contributed.

    While I am very sympathetic to people who are genetically predisposed to being on the heavy side, I believe that people who are tremendously overweight really are eating way too much. Anyone who doubts that should watch “My 600 Pound Life”. None of those people fit the description of “overweight, but healthy” and most of them have multiple medical conditions associated with obesity, such as high BP, Type 2 Diabetes, heart problems, etc.

    I would never comment on another person’s weight unless we were close friends and talked about everything with each other. Then, if I thought they might be at risk due to their weight, I would tell them that I am worried about them.

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