can I work from a museum or the zoo if I’m remote, how open should I be about retiring really early, and more

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

1. Can I work from a museum or the zoo if I’m remote?

After almost a year of remote work (now partially back in the office) and with things opened up, I came to the realization that I could logically work from anywhere in our local area. I already know my brother-in-law has remote worked at the zoo with his kid for part of the day and sometimes I go to my parents’ house and work there. But just because I could go out and work elsewhere, should I take advantage of that? I ask because as museums open up, I feel it would be a nice change of pace and with Wifi and hot spots, there’s no lack of connectivity. What do you think?

Well, there’s there’s the theoretical answer and the real one. If your employer doesn’t have an explicit rule against it (some do, some don’t), in theory it should be fine as long as (a) your productivity is 100% unaffected, (b) you’re as easy to reach as you’d be at home, and (c) your background on an unplanned Zoom call doesn’t look obviously Not Work to coworkers (like taking a video call with giraffes in the background).

But in reality … working from somewhere like a zoo or museum isn’t a great idea for most people. You might be exactly as productive and accessible at the zoo as you’d be at home, but there’s a pretty high chance that your manager would question that and think you’re taking advantage of the policy. (Worst case, with some managers it could even get your remote work privileges yanked altogether if it did come to light. I wouldn’t take that risk.) Coffeeshops or even a park are probably better choices if you want a change of scenery.

For what it’s worth, I’m skeptical that your brother-in-law’s zoo trip qualifies under either A or B above; it sounds like a trip for his kid more than a fully focused work day for him.

2. How open should I be at work about my plan to retire in my early 40s?

In the past few years, I’ve been learning everything I can about the FIRE movement (FIRE stands for Financial Independence / Retire Early), and beginning to experiment with adjusting my savings/spending. The situation with the pandemic really ignited (pun intended) this pursuit, and the past 16 months of working from home has opened my eyes to how much I crave more freedom and flexibility. I’d love to either work part-time or not work at all.

I’m currently full-bore on the path towards FIRE; I’m saving/investing more than half of my income, significantly reducing my monthly expenses, and am preparing to have enough to “retire” comfortably within the next 5-8 years (in my early 40s).

My question is about whether it’s wise to mention anything about this at work, even in a casual conversation. For example, one of my coworkers/friends and I were discussing our 401(k) contributions and employer match since our company just recently changed plans, and when I mentioned what percentage I was contributing, I could see her eyes go wide. I ended up telling her about my plan to FIRE to explain the percentage.

I’d never go to my boss and say “hey, I plan to retire the same year as you!” … but I wonder if saying anything about it to anyone comes off as me not caring about my job? I’ve worked with plenty of people who have retired at the expected age and they usually talk about retiring “in the next few years” and then they make their announcement a few months in advance and everyone is happy for them. I guess my situation just feels different since it’s going against the social norm.

What do you think: should I keep mum about retiring by 2030? Or just smile to myself when people laugh because they think that I’m joking?

I wouldn’t be terribly worried about people concluding you don’t care about your job. If you do good work and are reliable and conscientious, no reasonable person will decide you don’t care about your job just because you’re working toward an early retirement. (Lots of people who care about their jobs are very happy to stop working once their finances no longer require them to work. It’s not shameful to work for money!)

But I also don’t think your finances are anyone’s business at work and by sharing your financial decisions you risk people drawing all sorts of conclusions that aren’t their business either.

And once you’re one or two years away from your goal, I’d definitely keep quieter about it at that point. If you’re open about being that close to leaving, there’s a risk your manager will start leaving you out of projects you’d want to be involved in or not consider you for promotions or do things to retain you if she figures you’re on your way out anyway.

3. Our cleaners keep blocking the hall with their enormous cleaning cart

I think I’m either overreacting or maybe I’m suffering from COVID induced germaphobia.

Since we returned to the office last June, things that never bothered me before have started to really bother me now. My anxiety has increased recently since the restrictions in our state have been relaxed. There are many examples but the most bothersome is this: our housekeeping staff has started to park their cart (often at an angle) in the hallway between the office and break room, where our staff restrooms are located, and you have to “shimmey” around it to get to the break room or the restroom. The hallway is maybe 5-6 feet wide and the cart is easily 3 and half. It’s the biggest cleaning cart I’ve ever seen. Often, they have a plastic bag tied to the handle to throw their used cleaning clothes in and toward the end of the day it bulges further into the already tight space. On the front part of the cart, they have their mop bucket and sticking out from under the mop bucket is the toilet brush they use.

I’m uncomfortable trying to always “shimmey” around the cart. We have to wear regular office clothes and they get uniforms paid for by the company and are allowed to wear street clothes in and change in their locker room and then change back at the end of the day.

They don’t like it when we move their cart even an inch and if you ask them to move it or put in the hallway by their cleaning room (out of the way), they grumble and rant about you behind your back. Should I ask them to move the cart and incur their wrath, email their manager, or just not use the restroom or break room all day?

If the cart is blocking your path and you need to get by, the easiest and most direct thing to do is to either move it yourself or ask them to (“It’s hard to get by when the cart is here — can you keep it against the wall instead?”). If they want to grumble about it, so be it. But if you explain the problem to them and it keeps happening, or if the grumbling is over the top, asking their manager to intervene is reasonable too.

I don’t know that you’re overreacting exactly; it’s more that you’re not taking advantage of some pretty easy solutions! It should never be necessary to avoid the bathroom for the day.

4. Hiring for a job requiring a religious background

I’m in an interesting situation, as the company I currently work for has developed a product that caters to a niche market of people who are of a certain religious persuasion. Let’s say we make a product line for people who worship Zeus. We are not actually a religious company, and we have people of various religious persuasions (and none at all) on our team. However, we need to hire someone who has a very strong background in Greek gods for this particular product line, and for the sake of accuracy and staying current, we would prefer someone who is a current worshipper. I have been the one assigned to screen applicants and I’ve been struggling with how to get this information without causing any sort of legal issues. Any ideas? (We are a very small company and do not have a “legal team” per se where I can ask this question.)

It sounds like you could get what you need if you say something like “must be deeply knowledgeable about Greek gods and actively stay up-to-date on current Greek god worship practices.” It’s likely that may end up being a current worshipper but who knows, and this way you’ll be focused on what you really need from the person, not on their personal faith (or lack thereof).

Of course, with any candidate, make sure to assess their level of Greek god fluency in the interview and talk about how they stay up-to-date (throw some current issues at them and get them talking about those as part of your evaluation), since even current worshippers will have wide variations in their knowledge and level of observance.

Read an update to this letter

5. My predecessor set up a damaging process that I now have to fix

I was hired as an admin/assistant to one of the system administrators, Sherry, of a particular system. It is a system that I had a lot of experience with.

We have a process that occasionally errors out on the backend, and some business-side info ends up needing a business-side user to handle it before it can continue. When I saw the errors in a folder in our monitoring system, I asked Sherry about it. She told me that the system flagged the relevant user to check it and they were being handled by a certain group of users. Okay, no issue, right?

Sherry resigned suddenly. I was bumped into the admin role. She asked me to a post-departure drink, where she just talked trash the entire time. I credit my mask for letting me have a decent pokerface.

A few months after Sherry’s departure, I realized that her “handling” of the above process was to set up a system that held the error for an amount of time, “reassigned” it to a fake profile for that team, and then deleted it. It was essentially a black hole that would make it look completed. My boss and I are currently working to repair this as best we can. This isn’t the first issue we’ve found like this and I don’t think it will be the last. Unfortunately a lot of them are hidden.

However, frustrated end users will demand to know why it’s like this and how long it has been like this. I just don’t have a good bit of verbiage for how to answer beyond “my predecessor set this up” and pointing to the documentation that she wrote. And while yes, either out of sloth or malicious intent, Sherry did set things up to cause damage, it looks really bad on me to just blame her for this mess I’ve got to clean up. Are there any better ways to answer these questions without looking like I’m just deflecting?

“Since I took over the role, we’ve uncovered some serious problems with how things were set up previously and we’re working on fixing them.”

But also, talk to your boss about this question because she should (a) know that your end users are frustrated and want answers and (b) be involved in how it’s messaged.

{ 785 comments… read them below }

  1. Elena*

    I wouldn’t personally work at either, but as long as you’re not on calls a museum would be better than a zoo- like, there’s plenty of places to sit quitly and type if you’re in the Met or similar sized art muesum, and they’re usually quiet. Zoo would be a disaster.

    1. Cora*

      I studied in the Met every so often, in the American wing. So I think you could work there perfectly fine. Calls might even be okay in the cafe area, depending on how long/intense they are.

      1. Lana Kane*

        Same. If you dont need to be on calls, a place like this could be even quieter than a coffee shop.

        The zoo I wouldn’t recommend – even a bench in a quiet, out of the way spot will still have enough disruptions/distractions. I’d also imagine more people looking at you curiously since it’s not the norm to work there – this will of course depend on how much you care about that!

        I miss the Met :(

        1. Former Child*

          BUT what if you are the client? Do you want to call and email someone who’s distracted in a public place all of a sudden by a stranger, or doesn’t have access to info. you need right then?

          If you start on the other side and think about if you can do the best job for those you work for, and ask yourself what could go wrong, that tells you something.
          If it’s strictly writing, and there’s never any interruption or interaction, maybe it works for you. If it’s all about you and no one else, fine.

          1. Former Child*

            Also, people on cellphones talk loud; even typing can be loud. If you find a quiet spot to work, then you’re the one making it not quiet.

            So think about those around you.

          2. JB*

            Why would a person working at a museum have access to less information than they would working at their house?

    2. LilyP*

      I think if you need to have any sort of scheduled or unscheduled video or audio calls it’s a hard no — you’ll either be bothering people around you, your co-workers, or both. But if you have the kind of job where it’s ok to be unreachable for a half-day here and there to do focused work I think it’s fine. Just stay aware of the traffic level around you and be conscientious about not taking the only seat or spreading your stuff everywhere or getting in the way of people trying to look at the art/animals.

      1. LavaLamp*

        I’d honestly be delighted if someone showed up on video call with giraffes in the background. Not professional but adorable.

        1. UKDancer*

          There is a farm in Lancashire that allows you to rent a goat for your video calls. You can for £5 pick one of their charming goat staff members to join the call.

          Google Cronkshaw Fold Farm if you’re interested. Not quite as fun as a giraffe but a great idea.

          1. Afiendishthingy*

            My team did this a couple months ago, lol. We got Sebastian. He was so cute

        2. Ermintrude*

          I came here to say likewise. Each call could feature a different creatures – I want that as a thing now, even if it’s just a video feed or recording playing in the background.

        3. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

          I’ve totally called into staff meetings from different places around Disneyworld parks, in the before times, but that’s less “working” and more finding an out of the way spot to sit with headphones for a half hour so I can be available in case anyone has burning questions, before going back to my vacation.

        4. ella*

          Came here to say this! I fully realize that I’m not a person with the best grasp on What Is Professional, but honestly, can there please be giraffes on zoom calls?

    3. Fried Eggs*

      I’m trying to imagine how you could work at the zoo with a kid, and all I can imagine are jobs where you can get by with a day of just answering the phone if someone calls with a question. I can’t imagine any deep work, meetings, or even answering more than a handful of emails is getting done at the zoo.

      1. Just plain Old Cat Memes now*

        I imagine it’d be the worst of both worlds. You couldn’t do any substantive work while wandering around a zoo with an excited kid, and being glued-to-your-phone isn’t spending quality time with them either.

        1. MusicWithRocksIn*

          Maybe it’s just that it is so hot and humid where I am right now, but I cannot imagine setting up shop anywhere in the zoo that would be comfortable to work for the day. Yea, you could probably set up in the one air conditioned cafeteria, but you wouldn’t see any animals. That or sit on the floor with your laptop in the corner of the penguin house, but I think eventually the staff would come over and ask you to move along.

      2. Amy*

        I could probably work at the zoo in a reduced capacity, if there was a cafe. And I can also work with my young child present in a reduced capacity. At the zoo with my child? That sounds like I’d be at about 1/20 of my normal work capacity. Mostly I’d just be reacting to things, not producing anything.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        “Wait… Sorry, I can’t check that, Bongo has eaten the Dreyfus report.”

        1. DoomCarrot*

          As someone who’s worked at a heritage site: please don’t do this, because you can’t just let your kid run wild in there, you need to supervise them. That isn’t the job of the staff.

          We even had a father demand tickets for just his three kids under ten, because he planned to just camp out in the reception area with his laptop and work while they “played”somewhere in our historical building…

          1. Worldwalker*

            Someone who thinks they should be able to use a museum as free office space probably thinks the staff should supervise their kids, too. It’s just another form of getting something without paying for it — real estate, babysitting, whatever.

          2. A New CV*

            I work at a toy store and you would be surprised how many parents treat it like a play place. Those toys are for sale! Kids can’t just run wild. Too many parents think that It Takes A Village means never having to watch their own kids in public.

          3. La Triviata*

            I work for a trade association and, years ago, we had a conference that had a comparable situation. It was an expensive conference, but the registration fee included printed materials, meals and receptions as well as educational sessions. That year, we had a man – whose employer had paid for him to attend – insist that his teenage son be given free access to everything – sessions, print materials, meals, etc., because he was just a kid. We pointed out that we’d had to pay for the space, the speakers, the materials and the food, but he kept repeating that his son was a kid and should get the whole thing free. The discussion went on for quite a while and we finally had to get a director-level person to get him to give up.

            1. JustaTech*

              Unless this is the coolest conference ever, I can’t imagine a teenager actually being interested in the whole conference. Heck, I get bored at the very interesting and technical conferences I go to!

              I had a high school classmate go to Las Vegas with her mom for a conference, back when Vegas was trying out the “family friendly destination” thing. My classmate said that the rollercoaster was fun, and the buffets were good, but mostly it was incredibly boring because she wasn’t allowed on the casino floor to even watch the gambling (tall as she was no one would have mistaken her for 18 for a single minute, let alone 21), so there was really nothing for her to do while her mom was at her conference.

          4. SweetFancyPancakes*

            Welcome to the world of public librarianship. We are definitely seen as free babysitting, whether it’s while the grown-ups are on the computers or trying to duck out entirely and leave the kid totally unaccompanied. I once had a mom swear at me and give me the whole “We are never coming back here” thing when I overheard her tell her kids that they needed to stay in the children’s section while she went to the grocery store and she would be back for them in an hour. These were two kids under the age of 6. I told her that was against library policy and she needed to stay in the building with them, she pushed back and I told her that if she left the parking lot I would need to call the police and report a couple of abandoned children. Sheesh.

        2. It's Growing!*

          I was thinking about being one of the other people at the zoo enjoying the orangutan exhibit while Fergus is next to me on the phone yammering on about the new run of teapot spouts. NO! Then there was the guy on a train loudly discussing the closing of a real estate transaction including the client’s banking numbers. I was once in a restaurant in the middle of the afternoon with a woman taking up a booth for work. She was on the phone discussing people’s medical conditions with enough details to track said people down. Zoo, train, restaurant, I don’t want to be part of someone’s work day, especially at the zoo or a park.

          1. Goody*

            I used to work for a court reporting agency. On the train home one day, the two guys in the seat in front of me were discussing a case – and my agency was the one taking the depositions. In face, I had been in the conference room THAT morning setting up equipment. As I got up, I dropped my business card in the lap of the guy on the aisle. They got real quiet REAL fast ….

          2. Gumby*

            This is my second biggest objection (past: are you *really* being just as effective? 100%? Truly?): How annoying are you to the people who are visiting the zoo or museum for their intended purpose?

            While you are camped out on the bench by the lions for hours at a time, no one else can use that bench. It feels rude to me though I can’t explain exactly why. If you set up in a café it’s even worse. Particularly during meal times as the place gets more crowded. Instead of a family with a toddler and an infant being able to sit down at the table you have commandeered and covered with your paperwork, they juggle food on their laps while sitting on a short wall and directing death glares your way that you don’t notice because you are so involved in your work.

            Museums could be even worse since in many of those quiet is expected. Or relative quiet. So you risk being annoying with your typing or muttering or not-actually-that-quiet-zoom-meeting in addition to the whole ‘monopolizing what was supposed to be a shared resource’ thing if you take up a bench for hours on end or the ‘displacing paying customers’ thing in the cafeteria.

            It’s probably not impossible to do, but it seems highly unlikely that one could be both effective and unobtrusive while working remotely at those particular places for any extended period of time.

            1. Paulina*

              Yes. I love museums and zoos, but they’re also very tiring, and a prolonged slow walk (as is often usual when actually going around the exhibits) is hard on my joints. The benches are there to provide momentary rest for many visitors, not a change-of-pace workspace for one individual. Paying admission entitles you to normal shared use. Most facilities have quite different rates for private functions that monopolize areas, and also make choices as to where and when they allow such monopolization.

            2. Sasha*

              Some museums are set up for this – Max Cooper famously wrote up his PhD in the British Museum members room (and I can confirm it is a great place to work – quiet, good wifi, plenty of tables, access to decent coffee and cakes, nice view out of the window when you are bored). I can imagine working in a few quiet spots in the Natural History and Science Museums too.

              I wouldn’t set up in front of the Rosetta Stone, or on the main steps, but lots of places have nice spaces to work in without bothering people.

      4. Colette*

        The only way it would work at all is if you go to the zoo with your child and another adult, who goes around the zoo with the child while you work.

      5. General von Klinkerhoffen*

        I imagined that the whole family went, and brother-in-law mostly sat in the cafe (free WiFi) while his partner took the child to point at the lions.

        Last week I went to an outdoor fitness class, and dragged spouse with me for some fresh air. I did the class, and he sat at a bench and answered emails/Slack on his phone with the sun on his face.

        Sometimes you do need a change of scene. But I agree with Alison that “working from the zoo” risks being neither working nor enjoying the zoo, and will be considered not in the spirit of the provision.

        1. Rayray*

          I don’t see why you’d even bother commuting to the zoo and paying for admission just to work from the cafe. I honestly find it so odd.

          1. Yorick*

            We’re members at the zoo so admission is free. I don’t have kids, but if I’d do this if I had someone with kids visiting. I could even see doing it alone, if the weather was nice enough to work outdoors.

          2. Hannah*

            St. Louis has an amazing free zoo with a pretty cafe on the lake. I haven’t worked there but I’ve made walking to the cafe for breakfast and a book an occasional part of my exercise routine.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              I STILL have not been to the zoo and I’ve been here for over a year. Stupid ‘rona.

          3. Midwest Teacher*

            Some places have city zoos with free admission, like Lincoln Park in Chicago

          4. Anoni*

            It’s really not any weirder than setting up at a coffee shop if you work from home and want to get out to some different scenery.

      6. Minerva*

        Maybe if you have an older kid, who is focused on animal(s) in one area, say taking photos or drawing them, and there’s a spot to sit out of the way? That’s assuming that child care isn’t an option regardless.

        1. Sciencer*

          I love that idea, though presumably a child of that age would be in school during the work day! But I could see it being a great after-school option to get that last hour or two of work in while kiddo is happier than they would be at home.

          1. KittyCardigans*

            It’s summer? Most kids aren’t in school right now during the work day, at least where I am.

      7. Amtelope*

        I feel like this depends on the age of the kid? Obviously you can’t get work done if your kid has to be supervised at all times, but if your kid is old enough to walk around the zoo on their own/with a friend or sibling, you could park yourself at a table and work.

        1. quill*

          Yeah, I grew up taking museum classes often and at about 8 was probably competent to go through one exhibit hall entirely and then come back to catch up a parent. Though that was at a smaller local museum where a parent camped in the entry foyer would have been able to watch all the doors and I stood no chance of falling into an exhibit.

      8. JB*

        My father used to do this often when we were young. (He’s worked remote for most of his career.)

        He’s a higher-level manager, so, yes, most of his day-to-day is being on calls and answering emails. It was pretty common for us to be on an outing and he would be on a call. He got a blackberry before smartphones were a thing so that he could answer emails remotely.

        I think it depends heavily on what your actual job consists of and how much control you have over your own schedule.

    4. Tryinghard*

      Many museums and zoos are still limiting attendance numbers so someone working at either while other patrons can’t use them to enjoy the exhibits really ruffles my feathers. There are other places to get free wifi but none that have the animals, sculptures or artwork. If you need a change of pace then hit up the library, coffee shop or free wifi at McDonald’s.

    5. BatManDan*

      I thought it said “work FOR the zoo or museum remotely”, and I was trying to picture how THAT would work. I should slow down. lol

    6. Fiddle_Faddle*

      This is very likely to be a data security risk and the company’s IT department would have conniptions. Not to mention that a worker may discuss information that should not be disclosed to random strangers. My advice: don’t even think about it.

  2. Artemesia*

    I selfishly remember back before COVID when the rather small members lounge at our local museum where during a visit members can relax and have a cup of tea, was often clogged up with people working on their laptops for hours. It was not unusual on a busy afternoon to find no places for members to sit and rest for a moment before continuing their day. Coffee shops are at least commercial establishments and if they permit this kind of abuse of space, their problem — but Museums are a public good and taking them over as work space rankles.

    1. Sleeping Late Every Day*

      Agree! And what if someone decides to sit in a gallery/exhibit space and a docent-led tour group comes in? Or a children’s group? Both can get pretty noisy. And if it’s an art museum, they welcome students to come in the galleries to sketch. The seating is limited and it would be pretty rude for someone to set up their personal office space there.

      1. Zelda*

        Aside from the space, the museum may have Opinions about people yoinking their free wifi for hours of business/for-profit use.

        1. Allonge*

          That is probably the best way for a museum to regulate this if there are a lot of people using them as office space: free WiFi is an hour / day for regular visitors and if you are a researcher who actually needs to work in the museum, you register with them for a day pass or similar.

      2. Mynona*

        True in normal times, but no museums in my (red state) area are currently holding in-person events, including tours, and unscheduled student tours (college classes showing up) are getting broken up because they violate safety policies. This is probably going to change in Fall/Winter.

    2. Elspeth McGillicuddy*

      Yeah, I can’t say I’ve ever looked for good work spots while visiting museums, but looking back I can’t really remember tons of appropriate space. I visited the local art museum a couple weeks ago and we had to look for a few minutes to find an unoccupied bench to rest our feet. Maybe in the cafe, but then what is the point? It’s not like you can see the exhibits from there.

      And please no work calls. Can you imagine admiring a canopic jar while some bozo is discussing 3nd quarter financials in the background? The mind shudders.

      1. quill*

        The temptation to start loudly talking about the mummification process would be too much for me.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Same, lol.

          “The third quarter is when we expect to see some dividends–”


          1. Hi there*

            I almost spit out my coffee laughing at this! Oh how I hope I have the chance to pull this out someday. Pun intended.

            1. quill*


    3. Tali*

      I feel like it’s such a waste of a museum/zoo to have magnificent animals and works of art and history on display and experts curating them, and there you are concentrating on your laptop.

      I’m not sure why you’d pay to sit in a space just to ignore all its benefits and use it for something it wasn’t designed for. It’s like using a movie theater to take naps. Why not just work from a workspace and appreciate the museum when you’re not working?

      1. Chocolate Teapot*

        Not only can school groups be noisy/take up space (as I witnessed last week in a very famous art museum) but there might not be appropriate space. Said art museum has padded benches in front of key exhibits, and wardens or security who would be likely to question why somebody was working on a laptop. (Research for the big art heist perhaps?)

        1. metadata minion*

          I would guess security would assume someone on a laptop was either using the free wifi like the LW wants to or is doing research on the actual museum exhibits. Seeing it as a security risk would be really weird.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        If OP1 has a museum/zoo membership extra visits are free to them.
        But I’d suggest finding a variety of libraries for change of scenery instead. Library & museum quiet policies equivalent. And you can reserve a library’s study room for your scheduled conference calls.
        (Please do be aware of peak student use there.)

      3. CaliUKexpat*

        I mean… I have used a movie theatre for a nap before. (It was a heatwave in the UK where aircon is rare, and I was 9 months pregnant so boiling and not sleeping well. I was paying for 2 hours in a cushy seat with aircon).

        But I agree, it’s not what the space is for and basically makes the museum a waste, especially if there gets to be too many workers and visitors end up getting pushed out.

        1. Buni*

          Ha! I’ve done the opposite – our heating went in winter so I spent 2hrs on the Circle Line (back when it was an actual circle) doing my reading while just going round ‘n’ round…

        2. UKDancer*

          I’ve done the same (probably in the same heatwave) a few times. I don’t feel bad about that. If I’m paying for the seat then I can nap rather than watching the film and just enjoy being cool. I’m not stopping anyone else using the cinema and it’s my business whether my eyes are open or shut.

      4. Lana Kane*

        I’m an art history major and definitely love and care about museums. Assuming there was a quiet spot where I’d be out of the way and not bothering anyone, I’d be delighted to be able to work for a while surrounded by lovely art that I can look at while I rest my eyes from the laptop. Or if I can’t see the art, sometimes the space itself is theapeutic for me. This is possible in large museums – the Met was referenced above and I can think of a few quiet areas there, since it’s such a large museum. Even just being around it without dedicating myself to it makes me happy. There are lots of different kids of people in this world, and not all of them experience their surroundings in the same way.

        1. Ann Non*

          Your point about “not bothering anyone” I think is crucial here. Lots of people in the comments, myself included, would definitely be bothered by someone sitting in a museum clacking away on their keyboard or shuffling their papers. Very different from a student making sketches!
          Of course it would be nice for the person working! But it would also be rude and selfish of them, and even worse if they personally had a yearly ticket and an actual museum visitor spent money for a day ticket and then wasn’t able to enjoy the exhibit.

      5. tamarack and fireweed*

        This question is such a prime example of “what works for one person doesn’t work for another”. For a lot of my work I like having a faint hum of people or nature busy with their or its own stuff around me. When I lived in a city, a quiet coffee shop was quite attractive to me. A similar environment can exist in some museums (SOME), as well as potentially some zoos…

        It’s also a good illustration why turning what works for one employee into a general rule can be quite counterproductive. “X sometimes works from the local museum” cannot be turned into “working from a museum is ok” and even less into “… so next time I’ll just take my nephew to the museum and answer emails from my tablet”. These things are best handled by giving team members the wriggle room to let them optimize their environment, while keeping a firm eye on fairness.

    4. Worldwalker*


      The museum is not your office. If you want an office outside your home, rent one; don’t take over other people’s space and claim it as yours.

        1. c-*

          Historically, though, cafés were used for literary discussion much more than for the actual process of writing, which writers mostly did at home.
          It is very rude to take up a 4-seat table with your laptop and papers and spend hours there with a paltry drink. It’s rude in a café and it’s rude in a museum. If one wants a change of pace, there are public libraries, coworking spaces, park benches, and offices for rent.

          1. 3co*

            I live and work near a university campus, so this might not be true everywhere, but it’s very common for people to work or study at coffee shops for a few hours at a time.

            There’s one local place that keeps the wifi turned off during higher-traffic times to encourage people to move along instead of settling down to study, but other places don’t mind if people stick around longer, especially if it’s a less-busy time of the day or they buy something else after a couple of hours.

    5. Forrest*

      You can be annoyed by them all you want, but I don’t get why this is “abuse of space”. It’s a public space for people to use as they want. If the museum or gallery wants to discourage this particular use of it, they can, but it’s not an “abuse” just because it annoys you!

      1. Cynicalmuseumworker*

        It’s somewhat against the principle of visiting to enjoy what’s there, though. It runs the risk of getting in the way of others who have come to use it for its intended purpose.

        It’d be on thing if you were having a meeting with someone who works there, and then carrying on working, but to specifically come in to use the WiFi, and not engage with the purpose of the museum is rude. Ditto. Answering an unexpected work phonecall, over actively making numerous ones in the space.

        People come to enjoy the space and objects, and not hear unrelated work….

        Not to mention, at the moment, because of civil, we’ve had to really curtail numbers in our museum buildings, . I’d be very annoyed if someone was taking up a slot that meant an actual visitor couldn’t come in….

        1. Forrest*

          Maybe it’s because I’m thinking of our publicly-owned museums and galleries, then. They’re very much about “there is no correct way to use this space, everyone is welcome”.

          1. doreen*

            Is it “there’s no correct way to use this space , even if it makes it difficult or impossible for others to the space for its intended purposes. So go ahead and have your hour-long Zoom call on a bench in front of an exhibit ?” Or is it more “we only have a few visitors a day and someone taking up a seat for a few hours tapping on a laptop doesn’t really impact anyone”? There’s a difference between those two attitudes , just like there’s a difference between working for a couple of hours in a mostly empty coffeeshop/quick service restaurant and doing so in a restaurant where people are waiting for seating.

            1. Forrest*

              I think it would be inconsiderate to have a phone conversation or Zoom call in nearly any indoor public space! that doesn’t mean it wouldn’t be OK to be emailing or working on a spreadsheet.

              1. workswitholdstuff*

                ‘There’s no correct way to use this space’ – which to an extent is how we work in museums – at least in the publicly funded ones I used, still assumes a certain expectation you’ve not come to completely ignore your surroundings, abuse the wi-fi and potentially deny others the opportunity to actual enjoy the space, as the space.

                Everyone *is* welcome, but please be considerate of others!

                1. Forrest*

                  so the “abuse of space” comment that I responded to said nothing about wifi or being in meetings or calls or anything — just about people being on laptops. Would you really count someone going to a museum cafe with a laptop and doing an hour’s quiet work there “abusing the wifi” and “ignoring your surroundings” or inconsiderate? I’m thinking of places like the People’s Museum, Manchester Museum, York Art Gallery, Leeds City Gallery and City Museum, and I really wouldn’t think of the “rules” of using those spaces as being different from a commercially-operated cafe?

                2. Autumnheart*

                  But it sounds like OP isn’t going to be doing an hour of work. They’re talking about a day of work, possibly on a recurring basis. That’s not appropriate for a museum.

                3. Forrest*

                  … based on what? All they’ve said is “it would be a change of pace” — so where are you getting “going for a whole day on a regular basis”?

                4. Forrest*

                  (Also I totally read the question as “will my boss mind / would it be unprofessional to” rather than “would it be an abuse of museums to”, which is also why I find it so weird that the commenters are talking about people abandoning offices to set up full time in a museum.)

                5. Zelda*

                  “Would you really count someone going to a museum cafe with a laptop and doing an hour’s quiet work there “abusing the wifi” and “ignoring your surroundings” or inconsiderate?”

                  It depends some on the capacity. If there are occupancy limits due to The Plague, then taking a spot away from someone who would be there for the museum itself is definitely rude.

                  Seating capacity is another big one– most of the museums (musea?) I’ve been in have, like, one or two benches per large gallery. As someone who needs to sit and rest frequently, I would be pretty torqued off about someone just camping for hours on the only seating within 200 yards. At a given moment those benches may be full of my fellow-travelers, but they will probably move on in 10 or 20 minutes or so and I’ll get my turn. Claiming a spot completely, so that I never get my turn, is rude– it doesn’t belong to one person. In an area intended primarily for seating, like a cafe, there’s going to be higher density of capacity, so hey, if you wanna keep buying pastries, and if there are a few empty tables available for the next person arriving, then you’re not shutting anyone else out; have a ball.

                  I admit there’s also an aesthetic/social aspect– I would prefer to enjoy the exhibits in solitude or the company of others who are also learning & looking, rather than feeling like I had somehow intruded into someone else’s office. There’s a thing here about “claiming” the space that goes beyond just the literal “is there physical space where I can stand or sit/ do I have to listen to this person’s conversation.” That’s not clear-cut, objective, or universal across all cultures, but I think there is something real to it even if not everyone feels the exact same way about it.

          2. Canadian Yankee*

            Even my local publicly-owned museum has a “no phone conversations in the exhibit areas” rule. They don’t explicitly say, “no laptop Zoom calls,” but that would certainly violate the spirit and intent of the no-phones rule.

            1. La Triviata*

              There’s also the issue of confidentiality – is your call something you don’t mind broadcasting to the public? In the “before times” I’d hear people on phone calls discussing business financials or, if they were doctors, discussing people’s health issues.

          3. GothicBee*

            Sure everyone is welcome, but it being a public space doesn’t mean there aren’t any rules for how to use the space. Just like public libraries often have rules about being quiet in certain areas, it’s not uncommon for a public museum or zoo to have rules about how to use the space, including not monopolizing a certain space for too long or being quiet in particular areas or not taking phone calls, etc.

            If you’re going to work in a public space, you do still have an obligation to make sure you’re following any rules. And even if a public space doesn’t have stated rules, there are still things that go against the spirit of the intended use. For example: a quiet art exhibit is not the best place to take a phone call or if there’s only one bench in a particular section of the zoo, it’s probably best not to monopolize it for several hours.

          4. Observer*

            Maybe it’s because I’m thinking of our publicly-owned museums and galleries, then. They’re very much about “there is no correct way to use this space, everyone is welcome”.

            There may not be one correct way to use the space, but there ARE *wrong* ways to use the space. These places are for public education and providing access to things like art and science. There is no one “right” way to appreciate art, or learn about whatever it is that the subject of the museum is. But activities that have nothing to do with art (or whatever)? That’s a problem. Activities that have nothing to do with art AND *impeded others from taking it in*? That’s 100% a problem.

            1. Pippa K*

              Seconding this. “Public” means “shared”, not “yours to do with as you like.”

              1. Lurker*

                Just because a museum is open to the public doesn’t mean it’s a *public* space. I would argue that other than the Smithsonian most museums are, in fact, decidedly not public spaces; they’re private spaces that cater to the public.

                1. PT*

                  And you still have to go through a metal detector and bag x-ray to enter the Smithsonian, Congress, and a bunch of other public spaces in DC.

            2. tamarack and fireweed*

              I think not doing anything against the rules or against other people’s ability to use the resources *is* a prerequisite for using a public-access space. But people seem to be focussing on the many ways to do this that are annoying when there are still many ways where to do it without infringing.

              If I were to go to the museum to get work done it would be work that *benefits from the surroundings present in a museum*. Creative work. Obviously no calls. And *of course* I would not monopolize a contested seat, or short-change the café.

              (Admittedly, 15 years ago I occasionally got some writing done in the National Portrait Gallery in London. Maybe even on three occasions.)

          5. quill*

            I’d consider it a larger imposition now, when so many public buildings have limited capacity and even more limited staffing, than it was pre-covid. Essentially: if in 2012 I wanted to study in a museum in my hometown, I’d be annoying maybe one person who wanted to use the table in the lounget, but generally there was enough room and as long as I wasn’t doing something rude like playing music without headphones or taking a call, it probably didn’t affect anyone directly. Now I’d be actively taking up capacity to let someone come in out of the heat / actually see the museum / increase the museum’s visitation numbers so they can get more funding. (A definite thing that’s been going on during COVID for libraries, for example: I have a friend who works in one and even though they have a time limit for people to move on in, they’ve had issues locally with “proving” that enough people come by to justify their budget.)

      2. Peter Piper Picked a Peck of Pickled Peppers*

        “It’s a public space for people to use as they want” – it’s not though. It has a specific purpose. People go there and use their time, and possibly money, to have a specific experience. You wouldn’t set out a picnic at the museum or have your jazz band practice at the zoo, would you?

        1. Klio*

          People would absolutely do that unless they are prevented from doing that. At the beginning it would only be one person, but as soon as your letting one person do that you’ll have many people doing it in short order and the people who wanted to use the museum as a museum or the zoo as a zoo will stay away.

        2. BubbleTea*

          I used to live in Birmingham (in the UK) where they built a fancy new library. I vividly recall trying to study in it while a brass band played in the atrium.

      3. Amy*

        Most museums really aren’t a public space in the vein of a public park.

        For example, the Met is currently on timed tickets, due to Covid. There are limits on the number of people per room. Cell phones should be on silent or vibrate. Voices should be low. No music, no food. Visitors must refrain from any conduct that disrupts others’ enjoyment from the art. Visitors must follow all instructions by staff members. Admission can be refused or revoked for anyone that violates the guidelines.

        It’s not a public space in the traditional sense, even those museums financed with public funds.

        1. Forrest*

          That might be a local difference, then– in my English city, the public library, gallery and museum are all the same department and complex and have the same “more people the better, use the space however you will” attitude.

          1. Ferret*

            Where are you in England? Because in London, certainly all the big museums are still ticketed
            and restricting numbers and I can’t imagine they’d be thrilled about people parking all day and using up significant amounts of wifi who aren’t actually there to see anything in the museum.

            Even in normal times seating is usually pretty limited and cafes can get very busy – I can’t see how anyone reasonable would think it is more appropriate to use as a work space than a library or cafe. There are sometimes desks or reading rooms available but these are usually linked to the museum’s work and require specific arrangements

            Museums&Galleries serve the purpose of enrichment and education for the public, they shouldn’t be treated as a free replacement for WeWork. Especially as publicly funded institutions which have seen a horrific hit to their finances from Covid

            1. Falling Diphthong*

              “Not a free replacement for WeWork” is where I come down on this, for both cultural institutions and coffee shops. Also the local grocery store if it has wifi, for that matter.

              1. General von Klinkerhoffen*

                “Not a free replacement for WeWork” – Agreed, and very well expressed.

                Using the free Wifi for an hour or so while you’re eating lunch in the cafe, totally fine. You’re not using significantly more resources than are nominally allocated to you in their business plan. Camping out all morning on the biggest table with one single cup of filter coffee, c’mon now.

                1. workswitholdstuff*

                  Yes, this is precisely it!

                  (Museum worker in the UK – we are most definitely still on limited capacities in our buildings – and so are most of the sector at the moment!)

            2. Worldwalker*

              “A free replacement for WeWork” — YES! That’s what I’ve been trying to say.

            3. Forrest*

              Leeds. Obviously, space is at MUCH less of a premium here in London, so maybe that’s the difference? We’ve got a gallery, museum and library in the city centre, all owned by Leeds Council. I don’t think I’ve ever been in any of them to work because my actual employer is pretty close by, but I’ve been to all of them as places to hang out with small children for a few hours whether you engage with the exhibits or not and not felt any pressure to move on, and I certainly wouldn’t find it weird to see someone working on a laptop in the Tiled Hall or the Museum cafe.

              1. workswitholdstuff*

                For an hr or two, yes, – as others have said – that’s ‘budgeted’ for in the business plan. The Museum Cafe is one thing – the exhibition spaces is another.

                Hanging out with kids in the them? Part of the plan of running museums.

                That’s fine. What people are objecting to is the suggestion it’s ok to take advantage of the provisions in place to make visits better for everyone, in order to do work you get paid for.

                You do have lovely Museums and Galleries in Leeds – but they aren’t a replacement for a workplace, and nor should they be. Leeds has plenty of co-working spaces that could be use, and would not be denying others access to the publicly funded museum spaces (given the limited numbers in place in most museums at the present)

                1. Forrest*

                  I mean, LW’s question was literally “can I go and work in the museum, it would be a nice change of pace”– isn’t a massive overreach to suggest she’s planning on being there all day every day and treating them as a “replacement” for the workplace?

              2. LaylaV*

                Honestly, as both a librarian and someone who has worked in several small local history museums, having someone come with their small children to hang out for a couple of hours would 100% be considered a vital part of the mission of any of those educational institutions, and would be encouraged, not dissuaded. I think, for example, of the National Building Museum in DC, where you have to pay for admission to the main museum, but the building has a huge open atrium in the center you can access for free, with access to the cafe and bathrooms, and with giant foam building blocks for kids.

          2. Bagpuss*

            I’m also curious about where in England you are – I’m also in England and all the libraries, galleries and museum have had rules about what you can and can’t do. They are certainly open to uses beyond “come and in and Shush”, and most have events and activities to encourage more visitors and make people welcome, but I think still with an expectation that you act with consideration for other visitors.

            1. Forrest*

              I’m not intending to say that you can act without consideration for others! The original comment about “abuse of space” apparently included anyone working on a laptop in a museum cafe.

              Like, everyone’s saying, “well you can’t just sit there for hours and have noisy conversations!”, but I don’t think LW suggested anywhere that they were planning to do that– they just said, is there anything wrong with going to a museum to work, and got the response, “this is an abuse of the space”. That seems like a wild over-reaction to me! Like, maybe inappropriate if you’re talking about a tiny private museum with 3 tables, but going and working on a laptop in the Manchester Museum cafe or the Tiled Hall in Leeds or whatever just seems so massively unexceptional to me.

      4. Another British poster*

        It’s not a “public space” it’s owned by the museum and public usage is permitted according to whatever rules the owners put in place.

        Just because the people who own a building let the public into it, doesn’t mean they can do whatever they like.

        1. Boof*

          Some museums are publicly founded and funded etc – but i agree plenty are private too.

          1. MCMonkeybean*

            But “publicly funded” is not the same thing as “this is a public space so I can do whatever I want.”

            If a school is publicly funded that doesn’t mean I can show up and set up office there…

            1. UKDancer*

              Definitely. There’s an old Georgian house near me that belongs to the local authority. I can go there as often as I like for free and wander around and part of my council tax funds its upkeep. I can’t go there and use it as a workspace, nor can I decide to have a party and invite all my facebook friends.

              I can patronise it for the purposes it’s been established for (historical knowledge and promotion of understanding of the Georgian period) and if I try to do other things (the aforementioned party) I’ll get kicked out.

        2. Worldwalker*

          And anyone who believes otherwise should just try throwing a rave party in City Hall!

      5. Colette*

        A lot of museums and zoos have limited sitting space (because people spend a lot of time moving around to look at the exhibits). Someone taking over a seat for 8 hours is not using the space the way it’s intended, and are blocking other people from using it appropriately.

        1. tamarack and fireweed*

          OTOH a lot of zoos have virtually unlimited lawn space. Sitting on your seating pad under a tree and get some focussed work done might be nice for an afternoon.

      6. Mockingjay*

        It’s not a public space for people to use as they want. It’s a public space dedicated to preserving and instructing knowledge or art. It has a specific purpose, which is not office space.

        Just because a museum added WiFi doesn’t change its mission.

        People are getting ridiculous about “Work Anywhere!” Offices were created because workspaces ARE needed. Want to work at home? Fine. But when patrons go to a museum or gallery, they want to enjoy the exhibits and not be frustrated that they can’t sit on a bench to view a painting because someone is parked on it with a laptop all day.

        1. Nancy*

          Agree. People shouldn’t just be plopping down with work at any old place just because they can work from home. Go to a library. Go to a cafe for an hour or two (just buy enough to justify staying there). Go to a park. Pay for one of those share spaces. Or if you really need to be somewhere other than home, the go back to the office for a few days.

        2. meyer lemon*

          If you aren’t being rude in other ways (talking loudly, taking up limited space), I don’t really see how working in a public museum is that different from working in a public library. Libraries are theoretically there so you can take out and read books, but there is a pretty wide range of nondisruptive tasks that many people will do in them, which I think is kind of great. If you want to work in a museum and you’re not bothering anyone, I don’t see the big deal.

          1. Charlotte Lucas*

            But libraries have space dedicated to studying, writing, etc. It’s part of their mission. With a museum, it definitely depends on it’s size & purpose. (Some have quiet places for research, some don’t.)

            I think a park or library would be a nice place to work for a few hours. But a museum or zoo (!) would be a stretch, to say the least.

      7. Worldwalker*

        It’s not a public space for people to use as they want.

        It’s a public space to use *as a museum* — for viewing exhibits, studying those exhibits, etc. Small amounts of not-museum use are unavoidable. But choosing to take over this public space as your office is not one of those.

        Let’s take this particular tragedy of the commons to its (il?)logical extreme: If museums are expected to serve as office space for those who want it, providing everything from a roof to WiFi for them, what happens when several big companies in town close their offices because, hey, everyone can just go work in the museum? There are now a thousand people trying to use that museum for office space. People who actually want to visit the museum no longer can, because it’s all full of these workers. “But that’s not happening,” you say; “It’s just one person.” Look up “tragedy of the commons.”

        1. Forrest*

          I mean, that’s an argument against public libraries.

          I’ve only ever seen “the tragedy of the commons” cited in US contexts, and it mostly seems to be used as an argument why you can’t have public space or public ownership of pretty much anything. I find that terribly sad!

          My city has a council-owned library, art gallery and museum in the city centre, and it certainly wouldn’t be an “abuse of the space” for anyone to spend a couple of hours working in them. If dramatically more people started using them, the council would have to decide whether or not to allocate more space and funding. I don’t find that a very convincing argument for not using them!

          1. workswitholdstuff*

            I wish I had your confidence that more funding would be found for the museums & libraries.

            It’d be bucking the trend (and in Leed’s case, they’re already consulting on cuts – it was in the news not that long ago )

            1. Forrest*

              sure, but they certainly aren’t consulting on cuts because *too many people are using the space*. The more people using it, the stronger the case for keeping it.

          2. MCMonkeybean*

            That is not at all an argument against public libraries because unlike most museums libraries specifically ARE designed to provide that kind of space for people.

          3. tamarack and fireweed*

            I consider “tragedy of the commons” as a fallacy. In the US, slippery-slope type arguments are very very frequently employed, and that strikes those of us who don’t believe that everything is usefully taken to a logical extreme as odd. The commons only become a tragedy when there is not sufficient regulation – formal or informal – to keep the commons functioning.

            Making a general rule out of “work can be done in a museum/zoo” is ludicrous. But conversely sniffing at even the idea is, too: it doesn’t preclude an occasional use of the inspiration that they provide to produce something creative. Scores of artists have done this. It’s harmless when it’s rare enough and respects everyone else’s enjoyment of the environment.

      8. Artemesia*

        There are two types of people: those who say ‘this is a public space, I can do anything I want’ as they play their radio loud enough to wake the dead, let their kids run and shout, hog all the seats for hours, and generally make nuisances of themselves. AND people who say ‘this is a public space, so we have to share it and be considerate of others.’

        The space at a. museum is for people to appreciate art and in the case of the members lounge or cafe to take a break while enjoying art. Turning it into your office for hours is an abuse of space and the reason we end up with rules where basic consideration should suffice.

        1. Forrest*

          Like, where are you getting “hog all the seats for hours” “play their radio loud enough to wake the dead”? What makes you think OP isn’t talking about taking their laptop to a museum cafe for an hour and quietly working on editing a document or messing about with a spreadsheet?

          I can’t work out whether you’re fundamentally opposed to anyone using a museum for an hour’s quiet work, or are you just assuming the OP is planning to spend entire days there?

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Obviously we don’t know for sure, but it’s more likely that if she meant only an hour, she would have mentioned it. Let’s not derail on that, please.

      9. Observer*

        It’s a public space for people to use as they want.

        Actually, no it’s a public space for intended to be used for the mission of the museum, which is generally to educate about a certain area or topic.

      10. Brooks Brothers Stan*

        > It’s a public space for people to use as they want.

        And thus we get to the Prisoner’s Dilemma and the Tragedy of the Commons with this level of attitude. Just because you *can* be doing something it doesn’t necessarily follow that you *should.* In the same way that just because there isn’t a law or a rule or a memo that says not to do something doesn’t mean you’re a jerk for doing so. The world on paper may work on Air Bud logic, but the social contract certainly doesn’t.

      11. Anoni*

        There is a LOT of policing of people here. It’s weird. It reminds me of the conversations around the “deserving poor.”

      12. Acronyms Are Life (AAL)*

        I feel like the threshold is if a homeless person is not allowed to stay in a common area of a museum for a long period of time to be sheltered from the elements, then a person who is working in the common area shouldn’t be allowed to either.

        1. tamarack and fireweed*

          Or maybe we shouldn’t be hounding homeless people out of public museums.

      13. Elitist Semicolon*

        But it isn’t a space for people to use as they want – it’s a space created and maintained with a specific purpose, i.e. to view and appreciate an exhibit and then move on. You wouldn’t play kickball in a museum and claim it’s a public space to use as you want, even if it’s free and/or a public/municipal facility. For that, or for many of the other activities that are not viewing an exhibit, you’d go to a more appropriate space, like a park. If your goal is to work somewhere for 8 hours, then find a space whose purpose, intent, and design better supports that goal.

    6. Asenath*

      As a sometime museum visitor who has had to search for a bench on which to sit to rest my feet (museums are hard on the feet!) and/or spend some time admiring or examining the particularly interesting piece that is often located in front of a bench, I would not appreciate someone sitting there working. And I can’t imagine anything less conducive to concentrating on work than supervising a child on a zoo visit. I’d say stick to working in a quiet space at home.

    7. Harper the Other One*

      Yes, this is what I was coming to say. It’s not just about whether the space is appropriate for your work; it’s also whether it’s an appropriate place TO work without using up resources/space and making the area more uncomfortable for others. I could see some quiet spaces in a large museum being appropriate for solo work (no Zoom/phone calls), for example, but it’s hard to imagine any space in the zoos I’ve been to where it would be reasonable to sit down and work for a few hours. And IMO if you do have regular/lengthy Zoom or phone calls, I think you should keep those out of public spaces unless you have access to something like the soundproof small meeting rooms my local library lets you book.

      1. EPLawyer*

        The National Zoo in DC is a very open parklike space. It is also free. People jog through it, have picnics, etc. So someone grabbing a bench to enjoy the open air and work would not be considered unusual. Just be mindful that if you take up the bench for hours, you are preventing someone else from using it. Move around and pick different spots.

        Watching a kid and working at the zoo is a whole OTHER matter. You just can’t.

        1. Brooks Brothers Stan*

          If they can work in this humidity for hours at a time they’re a better man than I, Gunga Din.

    8. No Name Today*

      This a my first thought. Setting up shop on the museum is going to inconvenience others in some way. Either you are taking a call, using a table meant for for, blocking an exhibit for others to view while use work on your computer.
      Just not good sportsmanship.

    9. Falling Diphthong*

      I’m still salty about the commenter (pre-covid) who explained that his internet went out; OBVS he and his employer needed to fix this via him taking over a nearby coffee shop–and the other patrons, workers, and eventually management who kicked him out: like, they didn’t even care about his work!

      1. Worldwalker*

        How awful, to consider the needs of their own business over his … in their actual place of business.

      2. Artemesia*

        Years ago I did a lot of collaboration with a co-author at a local small restaurant/coffee shop. We arrived in the morning and got coffee, then we got breakfast, then we got another coffee, then we got lunch. The place also never got so full that patrons could not find a table.

        And then at a favorite Pub where our book club met and had dinner I mentioned to the owner that he should market the place for book clubs since it was such a perfect venue and he said ‘you would not believe the number of groups that will come into a place like this and not even order drinks much less dinner. Maybe two people will order a drink and the rest will just stick with the water they are served when they sit down. And they take up a table for a couple of hours.’

        1. Elizabeth West*

          In my old city, a group I belonged to would go to a coffee shop after our weekly meeting; the majority of us would get something to drink at least while we continued our discussion. Several of us regularly ordered lunch as well. We usually sat in the back at a larger table, as the front of this shop had limited space.

          Every once in a while, they hosted private parties or some kind of small event. The worst offender was a monthly LuLaRoe pop-up shop that would fill up nearly the entire back room with shitty leggings. They shoved all the tables over; we would sit crammed in while their kids ran around screeching. This was on Saturday, one of their busiest days due to people hitting up the street’s secondhand markets. We tried to find an alternate meetup spot on MLM days, but nothing else worked as well location- and space-wise.

          I’m sure the coffee shop made money from this somehow, but it sucked. After a while, they stopped coming; I don’t know if they finally gave up on the MLM or the shop decided they didn’t want their entire backroom commandeered for most of the day.

        2. tamarack and fireweed*

          There was a coffee shop in my town that used to cater to a lot of groups. There were regular trad music jam sessions, knitting groups met there, author readings, public science talks, study groups by students from the nearby university… I’m sure some abused it, but I know a lot of people who made a point to make sure they would consume a meal and a couple of drinks, similar to what they would otherwise. I certainly left a lot of money there – I liked to grade papers there during a semester I was teaching.

          Then the owners changed and the new team clearly considered a lot of this as abuse. The jam session was kicked out and so were the science talks. I didn’t mind the introduction of 1h-WiFi tickets with a consumption – it helped with congestion because before I’m sure everyone who lived nearby could get on their WiFi. But the attitude became less welcoming. I stopped coming. The knitting group moved out. A lot of others seemed to, as well. The café closed down 9 months later and is now a pizzeria.

          I’m sure table hoggers in coffee shops can be a problem, especially during the times that the business makes most of its revenue (lunch hour etc.). But the behavior also reflects a demand – a place to sit and focus quietly, with a bit of a buzz around and an unlimited supply of coffee. A smart business finds a way to meet the demand in a way that is lucrative. Customers understand that too. There are other ways of canalizing the coffee shop workers without undermining your most loyal customer base.

      3. LITJess*

        I used to study at the cafe in B&N in the Pru. The manager would come around every hour to make sure I had purchased something – which is totally reasonable! I would only ever plan to study there for a couple of hours because I knew I was taking up space for customers. I remember the Peets in Harvard Square used to give you a Wifi password with your receipt and it would expire after an hour.

        OP, you don’t want to go to the museum or the zoo. You need to go to the library. And even then, you need to be able to work with minimal calls or have access to a library with study rooms you can duck into for a call.

    10. Mynona*

      As I work in a larger museum: it depends on the type of work and duration. Phone calls (and pens) aren’t permitted in the galleries, and neither our cafe nor galleries have accessible outlets. Don’t camp out for hours at a cafe table that might be needed by another patron–lack of seating does turn away customers and our caterers who run the cafe are really struggling right now. It would probably be fine for an hour or two if you have an offline project (like writing) and need to focus.

      1. pugsnbourbon*

        This is where I come down too (as a former museum worker and lover of museums). On a weekday afternoon, when school groups are usually gone, working from a museum would be do-able with certain constraints. Follow the general rules for conduct in those spaces (buy something from the cafe, etc) and I think you’d be fine.

    11. Dust Bunny*

      Also, the small noises add up. One or two people typing isn’t a problem, but a bunch of them . . . a lot of museum spaces echo, and actual patrons might need the seating to rest.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I once stumbled across a performance of manual typewriter music in a museum.

        And you’re right, the museum’s architecture really worked to amplify the sound.

    12. Lindsay*

      The art museum where I live had deliberately set up co-working space a few years back and has a coffee shop where pre-pandemic lots of people go to work for an afternoon (me included). I’d say know your museum before deciding.

      1. workswitholdstuff*

        But if it’s specfically set up for co-working spaces – that’s fine!

        Most museums aren’t – and it feels like it’s not quite in the spirit of things to abuse the provisions given to enhance a visit to instead do your job.

    13. Retired Prof*

      You raise a good point. I was thinking about all the lovely spaces in the museums in DC that are all free of charge – I could spend a nice afternoon working (without calls or Zooms) in the National Building Museum – one of the most spectacular spaces I’ve ever been in. But it would be very rude to tie up a table for all that time.

  3. Can Can Cannot*

    LW#4, you need to find an lawyer to discuss this with immediately. You are already considering discriminating on the basis of their religious beliefs (“we would prefer someone who is a current worshipper”). This could put you and your employer in serious legal trouble. Don’t rely on the internet to advise you on this, you need to hire and pay someone with experience in employment law. It might cost you some money now, but it will save you in the long run.

    1. bishbah*

      Religious employers have different rules and are likely exempt from the types of discrimination that you mention. (They’re exempt from other things, too, like COBRA and unemployment, as I discovered upon leaving my church job.)

      During my time working there, I was involved in hiring an assistant role, which didn’t strictly need to be a member of our faith. But since the job involved creating our worship leaflets, we advertised a strong preference for “familiarity with liturgical worship.” None of our final candidates were of our particular denomination, but all showed a base level of understanding of it. The rest, we could train for.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Religious organizations, yes, but it doesn’t sound like the OP’s organization is religious. (But they just need to define the requirement as being around the knowledge they need, not the faith.)

      2. allathian*

        That’s true for churches and schools that are affiliated with a particular religion, but this LW said that their employer isn’t a religious company, they’re just serving a specific religious population. I think that talking to an employment lawyer would be a good idea here.

        To be honest, I think it would be weird if, say, a Catholic school couldn’t require all staff, at least teaching staff, to be members of the Catholic church in good standing.

        1. D'Arcy*

          A school that is *formally affiliated with* a religious institution is allowed to discriminate, and in many circumstances is allowed to do so while taking taxpayer money. However, this does not apply to businesses that are only informally associated, much less cases like the OP’s where a non-religious organization rolls out a particular product or program that just happens to be is aimed at religious customers.

          1. allathian*

            Yeah, that’s what I figured. I’m not in the US, but our legislation is similar in this respect.

        2. MassMatt*

          “ To be honest, I think it would be weird if, say, a Catholic school couldn’t require all staff, at least teaching staff, to be members of the Catholic church in good standing.”

          So much to say about this, but I don’t want to derail the thread. Let’s just say “member in good standing” has usually meant two very specific hot-button social issues, while ignoring all else, and leave it to a weekend discussion.

          1. quill*

            And catholic schools increasingly don’t require their teachers to be catholic. Harder and harder for them to find licensed and qualified teachers by putting a religious requirement ahead of the licensing requirement.

            1. Anoni*

              This. I live near a Catholic university and none of their staff or academic job postings require applicants be Catholic. There’s a good chance if they find a good candidate who is ALSO Catholic, that person will get the job, but it’s not a requirement to work there. Same with the local Catholic high schools.

            2. PT*

              Religious schools don’t always require teachers to be qualified or licensed. That’s going to vary a lot based on the educational landscape and market they’re competing in, though.

              1. Mannequin*

                That would explain why the Catholic school I went to had so many terrible teachers!

                I’ve always described them as ‘bargain basement teachers nobody else would hire’.

          2. Pool Lounger*

            I have friends who work for a Conservative Jewish school. Neither of them are Jewish. They’re teaching math and literature, not Judaism.

            1. ShowTime*

              Totally! It’s extremely common for Jewish day schools of all denominations to hire teachers who are not Jewish for the “secular” subjects (English, math, science, history, etc.).

            2. Pennyworth*

              I had a friend who taught at a school run by a religious sect that didn’t believe in tertiary education, so all the teachers were non-sect members.

          3. Mannequin*

            When I was a kid, my mom sent us to the Local Catholic School for a couple of years because she heard that private schools have better education.

            I was in 1st grade and last halfway during 2nd because by that time my mom was D-O-N-E with the BS, hypocrisy, and terrible behavior exhibited by almost EVERYONE there.

            The kindly old Irish priest was a drunk who tippled on his whiskey bottle while he taught her catechism.

            The married, MEAN AF 2nd grade teacher who looked like the red headed ugly witch version of Mrs Brady in paisley micromini dresses (this was early 70s) was having an affair with the (married) principal- who HIMSELF looked like an aged version of Fred from ScoobyDoo- and EVERYONE knew about it.

            The nasty, past retirement age 3rd grade teacher whose class my brother was in flat out told my mom she hated little boys, they were all rotten, and that’s why she disciplined them harshly over every little thing.

            I used to tell the PE monitor that when I ran laps, I couldn’t breathe. She told me I was faking it to get out of running. I was SIX, and had not been diagnosed with my SEVERE ASTHMA yet.

            On top of tuition, they always wanted the kids to do fundraising by selling way overpriced Helen Grace chocolate door to door, and my mom was livid that they 1. Expected first & second graders to walk the neighborhood knocking on strangers doors OR 2. expected moms to take time out of their day to walk their kids around knocking on strangers doors OR 3. Expected people to impose on friends/family/coworkers/etc by asking them to buy crap.

            Then they sent a letter asking to donate blood and my mom told us that she just collapsed on the couch laughing because all she could think was “first you want all our money and now you want my blood too?” and that’s when she moved us back to public school.

            I later met someone who did all their schooling there, and they told me SO MANY more scandalous stories- but the one that stuck with me was when he told me about Mrs B. She was a widow, and was a super kind, genuinely nice person who played guitar and was in charge of the children’s chorus. Her daughter, Mary B, was quite literally the ONLY kid who was ever nice or friendly to me the entire time I was there. My friend told me that Mrs B later got remarried to a Black man…and was then ostracized by the ENTIRE church. (This was sunny Southern California, circa 1980s!)

            That place was swarming with the worst & most hypocritical people EVER, and as awful an experience as it was at the time? It was INVALUABLE for me in learning what religion (ALL religion) is REALLY all about.

            1. Zelda*

              I’m sorry those people were jerks to you when you were a kid, but that’s a mighty broad brush you have there.

        3. Leah K*

          And yet somehow my very Jewish friend spent years working for a Catholic school teaching Hebrew and coaching soccer. It’s almost as if his personal faith has nothing to do with his work qualifications.

          1. Myrin*

            Allathian didn’t say anything about someone of faith X being somehow unable to teach at a school belonging to church Y. She said that it would seem weird to her if a school belonging to church Y wasn’t allowed to require their staff to be of faith Y if they so choose; very different scenario.

          2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            What some religious schools do is have a divide between “called teachers” (those who attended a college of the religious branch the school is affiliated with) and “contracted teachers” (those who didn’t attend one of religious institutions colleges). Both are full teachers, but the contracted ones are frequently kept from teaching certain subjects because those are felt to carry religious importance and are therefore taught by one of the called teachers.

          3. Mannequin*

            This was over 45 years ago, but I’m pretty sure that the very kind & wonderful 1st grade teacher I had during my short (1.5 yr) tenure at Catholic school was Jewish, lol. Considering most of the teachers there were mean AF, completely bat guano, past retirement age, or had some other qualification that made them unsuitable for teaching at regular schools, she stood out as a shining beacon for me.

        4. CatMom*

          It’s actually pretty common that not all staff and faculty at Catholic schools are Catholic (or Catholics “in good standing,” as you put it, though those details tend to be between the individual and their conscience). Religion teachers are nearly always Catholics of course, but in my 13 years at Catholic school I had many teachers who weren’t. Hiring for expertise over identity is pretty normal, and it can be done here, even if the person who has that expertise is likely to be a member of the religion OP’s company serves.

          1. BigTenProfessor*

            I once interviewed at an Evangelical college for an adjunct position in Business Statistics, and they asked me how I’d incorporate the teaching of Jesus in my classroom. I then took a similar position at a Catholic university, and they invited me to their Jewish high holiday services.

            All of which is to say, this differs SO MUCH from institution to institution, at least in higher ed, but my experience has been that the Catholic institutions are waaaaaay more liberal than those affiliated with Protestant branches.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              The evangelical college in OldCity required employees (not just teachers) to be adherents to the faith or at least follow the rules in their personal lives as well as at work. These included no alcohol, no pants for women, no dancing, no premarital or gay sex, etc. They actually had this in their employment criteria.

              They’ve since amended it, but not much. From the website:

              The University does not seek to dictate how employees conduct themselves in their personal lives outside work. However, unlawful, anti-social, or other conduct by employees contrary to Christian beliefs or University policies which may jeopardize the University’s reputation or position will be dealt with through the disciplinary procedure.

              “Or other conduct contrary to Christian beliefs” leaves their personal control over you wiiiiiiiide open.

              1. BigTenProfessor*

                Yeah, the application and interview process was comical — they wanted a letter of rec from my clergy, but nothing from anyone who had seen me, you know, TEACH. I think it’s a disservice to their students, but this was an extreme even among religious schools.

          2. doreen*

            In my experience, that depends on how the school is organized . My kids had a number of non-Catholic teachers in high school but not in grade school. But at the grade school , all the teachers taught religion to their homeroom class which was not the case in high school.

        5. Nanani*

          Not in the US but in a place that has catholic schools – it’s been decades since they stopped enforcing church membership because they would not be able to find enough teachers otherwise. Keeping the doors open is more important.

        6. Mannequin*

          I would think it was a lot weirder if a Catholic school DID require people that worked there to be members of the church in good standing- especially teachers! They would exclude a lot of really good applicants that way.

          Of course, if it’s like the sh!tshow Catholic school my brother & I went to for a couple years (and my family wasn’t even religious, let alone Catholic), they’ll just hire all the terrible bargain basement teachers nobody else wants so the kids have to deal with a poor education AND their nasty attitudes. And considering the antics that went on there that EVERYONE knew about (the kindly old Irish priest that gave my mom catechism drank during their lessons, the principal & 2nd grade teacher- both married- were having a torrid affair, etc) even if they wanted “members of the church in good standing”….well, I’ve seen how that plays out.

          (Much later, I found out from a friend who went their got their entire schooling that the one really truly nice & kind woman I knew of in the congregation, whose daughter was the ONLY kid who was nice & friendly to me and did not totally ignore me like everyone else (I was 6/7 yr old), ended up being ostracized by the church for marrying a Black man. This was Southern California, 1980s!)

        7. Heathen Protestant*

          I currently teach at a Catholic school and am not Catholic. I am expected to “respectfully attend” any school-wide religious observation. I’m probably also expected to avoid making negative comments about the Catholic church, but no one has actually told me that. My school (and the other Catholic schools in my metro area) require that the religion teacher be Catholic, which strikes me as reasonable because the primary focus of the religion classes is Catholicism.

      3. JustAThought*

        My read of the original letter here is that this is not a religious employer, rather a regular company selling something targeting a specific religious audience.

    2. hoya lawyah*

      Employer-side employment lawyer here. Alison’s advice is correct: focus on the required knowledge and skills and leave religious membership out of it.

      1. Eye roll*

        And a focus on the knowledge may yield surprising results. I know a number of atheists more versed in religious practices and traditions than current adherents, because they did a deep dive before leaving their religion.

        1. Allonge*

          This is what I wanted to mention – and someone who actually, consciously studied a religion (regardless of their own belief status) could have a better understanding of what is part of the religion and what is more of a local custom or family tradition – these can be pretty hard to separate out at times if you have not thought about it!

          1. AnotherAlison*

            That is what I was thinking. Couldn’t someone with a religious studies type of degree/education be more formally qualified than a worshipper. Focus on the knowledge.

            1. Observer*

              That really depends on the community and product.

              I’ve had more than one conversation with people who hold advanced degrees in in fields supposedly related to Judaism, who have no real clue what Jewish religious life actually looks like, especially once you start look at the Orthodox streams, and / or who apply a sort of anthropological lens and vocabulary that’s just not appropriate to dealing with actual active communities.

              1. Lucy*

                Yes! As an Ultra Orthodox Jew, I can tell you that the nuances in the community can be very slight and difficult to understand if you haven’t lived in it for a bit. Someone who studied religion/Judaism in depth in college might understand the background and the history, but I’d be skeptical that they’d be able to pick up that, say, a certain advertising campaign would be considered offensive or inappropriate.
                It’s possible other religious groups are different of course.
                I wonder if the best case would be to find someone with the degree/education AND someone who lives with people who practice for the full picture.

            2. Buni*

              I’m an active, practising Christian who actually works for the church. I also have a degree (BA(hons)) in Islamic Studies. Defo focus on the knowledge and not the person’s own religion.

          2. Not Today Satan*

            This was my thought too. While there’s not much difference in the understanding of the role of Zeus and Jupiter, there is in the difference in the roles of Athena and Minerva. If the product were focused on Athena, the person’s knowledge base would have to be strong and not colored by what grandma taught them about Minerva.
            As you say, current understanding and knowledge of “official” teachings about Zeus would be more important rather than bringing local custom, family tradition, or some extreme view.

        2. Chinook*

          And the flip side is that active practitioners may lack core knowledge. For example, there are surveys of Catholics showing that a large number do not understand basic tenets of our/their faith such as transubstanciation. But, a non-adherent interested in Catholicism woul probably have done basic research into this and be able to explain it better than and Sunday worshipper.

          OP, as the lawyers days, advertise for a SME, ask knowledge based questions and hire the most knowledgeable person regardless of religious practice.

        3. D3*

          While this is true – it also means that they still might not be the best choice for the job. There’s academic understanding of a religion’s history and beliefs, and then there’s the understanding of the current social aspects.
          If, for example, the company is looking for someone to help with marketing, a person with a deep dive into the history and details of beliefs – who then left the faith after that deep dive – might not have a good understanding of how to market to current believers, because they no longer are part of a congregation and connected to that area.
          I know a few people who have left a religion, and they’re quite fond of saying that they know the religion better than people who practice it because they did a lot of research. Which may be true in an academic sense, but also, they are pretty disconnected from the culture & trends of others who are practicing. They would not be a good hire for a role marketing to that crowd.

        4. Pam Poovey*

          I took a religion class in college, and the professor told us (at the end of the semester) that she’s an atheist. She viewed religions as interesting stories to study. It was a big university in the Bible belt so it kind of tickled me.

      2. Thornus*

        I know it’s a bit of a stretch (but one much less of a stretch than normally applied), but we’re also getting close to BFOQ territory. I know BFOQs ont he basis of religion are rarely successful, but this one at least has a squint-and-it-seems-plausible aura.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          For people who don’t know, BFOQ = bona fide occupational qualification that creates an exception to normal laws against discriminating based on sex/religion/etc. (like requiring that a hire be a woman for a job as a bra fitter, or be Catholic to be a priest). I don’t think the LW’s situation would qualify though, because what they need is the knowledge, not the faith itself.

          1. Thornus*

            Oh, I agree. I don’t think it’s quite there, but it’s about the closest I can think of that a religious BFOQ could apply to a secular job.

      3. Elilar*

        OP here. In the end we don’t care what their faith is, we just need them to be very familiar with the subject matter. I really appreciate the advice of just sticking to knowledge requirements. We’re even willing to teach that knowledge to the right candidate who has other skills, so treating it like any other sort of knowledge (like a computer program, for example) sounds like the way to go. Will probably use it this advice today as I have some interviews to conduct. Thank you!

    3. Bugalugs*

      I think that’s really why the advice is the best since it eliminates the need to be practicing said religion and the need to know that. If the job needs are the knowledge of said religion as long as they have that it doesn’t matter what religion they. They are more likely to be of that faith then someone who just enjoys knowing about all religions.
      Assuming the position has to have that knowledge to complete the job there shouldn’t be any legal issues since they wouldn’t be discriminating against anyone because everyone with that knowledge has the opportunity to succeed no matter what religion they practice if any.

      1. BubbleTea*

        There’s also the fact that being a practising worshipper doesn’t guarantee the required knowledge anyway, so this is a more effective way to screen for it.

        1. Sara without an H*

          True! A lot of practising believers in my own faith have a very superficial knowledge of the history and theology behind it. Somebody with an academic background in religion would probably have more in-depth knowledge.

    4. Another British poster*

      FWIW I was looking at a casting call from the Royal Shakespeare Company yesterday that specified they were interested in hearing from actors who are from a religious minority background because it relates to the play they are producing. I know acting is the exception to a lot of discrimination rules (it’s legal to state that only black people can apply or only white people can apply if the role requires) but there are exceptions in law. But yes, check laws in your country.

      1. Bagpuss*

        YEs, under the Equality Act (UK) there are exemptions from the general rules for “Occupational Requirements” The way it is framed is that the factor you are selecting on
        – must be crucial to the post, and not merely one of several important factors.
        – must not be a sham or pretext.
        – must be proportionate so as to achieve a legitimate aim
        Acting is one of the examples, citing the need for authenticity and realism (with the specific example given being selecting a black man to play Othello) but it can also apply to other types of work – for instance, if you are recruiting for counselors for victims of domestic abuse or sexual assault it may be appropriate to take gender or sexual orientation into account.
        The exemptions for religion are fairly narrow – for instance, you can lawfully require that a Catholic priest be male and unmarried, but not that your church’s accountant be celibate if he is gay.

        Here (UK) I don’t believe that the kind of role that OP is describing would fall within the exemption so Alison’s advice that the recruiting should focus on knowledge not belief would be correct here as well.

      2. Forrest*

        “Interested in hearing from” is like “we particularly encourage applications from” and outside the scope of the Equality Act, though, isn’t it? It’s what you can say to encourage applications from particular groups when the exemption doesn’t apply and you can’t specifically discriminate on those grounds.

        1. Bagpuss*

          Yes, I think if you are applying an exemption your are supposed to explicitly say so in the advert.

      3. Artemesia*

        They call it acting for a reason. It makes sense to have racial qualifications for certain roles because you are casting for a character with that appearance, but I can’t see where religion should matter beyond hiring at least one person who actually knows and can advise on the religion. A good actor can play gay or straight, Muslim or Christian or Jew etc.

        1. Bagpuss*

          True, but I think it also intersects with the issues of under representation and exclusion, so (for instance) while a good, non-Muslim actor could play a Muslim character, it’s not unreasonable to take extra steps to make sure that actors who are Muslim are aware of the role and that you are are actively encouraging them to apply, particularly where people in that class re generally under-represented in the profession and /or typecast

          My impression is that the RSC is, and has for the last few years, been working hard to try to ensure that they are employing people from more diverse groups and backgrounds and to look at more diverse productions and interpretations generally – they are getting some incredibly talented people onto their stages who might not have been given the opportunity elsewhere or a few years ago.

        2. New Jack Karyn*

          Sounds like they’re producing The Merchant of Venice. The character of Shylock has a lot of anti-Semitic referents, so the RSC may be looking for a Jewish actor who can collaborate with them on how to handle those tropes.

          1. Another British poster*

            It’s actually a new play, not a Shakespeare play, so I’m not certain exactly what the religious content is.

        3. Anoni*

          Sure, and if the roles that were written as Muslim, Jewish, Asian, or gay didn’t frequently go to white actors who looked “ethnically ambiguous” or what have you, then it wouldn’t be such a big deal to cast them. However, that’s not where we are and so it does matter, even if the white, cis, straight actor is good.

    5. Religious Studies Professor*

      I am a professor of religious studies who has worked with graduate students in my discipline for many years, and as a longstanding and passionate mentor of grad students in religion who are very often looking for career opportunities outside of the academy, I definitely have something to say to LW4.

      The advantage to hiring a subject matter expert on a particular religion rather than a practitioner is that a subject matter expert will have expertise on the variety of current practices to be found, and in which groups (geographic, sectarian, gendered, etc.) particular practices are likely to be found.

      A practitioner, on the other hand, will be very familiar with their own practices, and perhaps with local practices in general.

      The biggest difference will be that the subject matter expert will know how to discover, track, and potentially even predict changes in practices in the many present-day religious communities that might be of interest to your company. Further, the subject matter expert will know about — or know how to find out about — new markets within those religious communities.

      Call or email your local university with a graduate program in Religious Studies, and ask to be put in touch with the director of graduate studies in that department. That person can probably give you a list of potentially outstanding applicants — including ones with business experience.

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Great point — and maybe they have a place for you to post it for students to see and spread the word.

      2. Harper the Other One*

        Absolutely agree! My husband has an M.Div. and he learned about/engaged with religious texts and practices in an entirely different way than he ever did as a practitioner of his faith. He also met people from a much broader array of backgrounds and has very diverse contacts both within his own faith and in others. It’s not impossible to find a practitioner with the kind of breadth/perspective you get through a religious studies program, but it would be pretty unusual, I think.

        1. purplehawke*

          Yes! I got a fairly rigorous grounding in my religious tradition for a lay person, but getting my M.Div. has been a whole ‘nother level of analysis and–well, I hate to use the word “distance,” but there’s something to it. I imagine it would be even more so had I gone to an unaffiliated divinity school rather than a seminary affiliated with the denomination in which I’m about to be ordained.

      3. straws*

        Absolutely. I still remember taking a biblical literature course in college with a professor who was not Christian. I learned SO much from her, despite having a very… Christian-immersive childhood, simply because she covered everything and it wasn’t biased with her beliefs or opinions. There are so many branches in most major religions, and a practitioner will only be taught the pieces that apply to their particular branch.

        1. Worldwalker*

          I enjoy the Great Courses DVDs. They are, however, not inexpensive. (by a lot) So I look for them at library book sales, estate sales, and so on. (this at least keeps my purchases from the company down to a few hundred dollars a year … hey, compared to smoking, it’s a cheap vice) I also live in the Bible Bellt (South Carolina). In consequence, I’ve gotten several Great Courses on the history of Christianity at yard sales, apparently from people who expected an affirmation and celebration of their own beliefs rather than a rigorous examination of how those beliefs came to be.

          1. Artemesia*

            Look for sales. I am paying $10 a month which is like one more TV channel like Netflix or Britbox or whatever. The public library here also has a handful of great courses you can download on line; that is what sucked me in to subscribing. Both my husband and I use the courses so it is economical for us.

          2. Old and Don't Care*

            Or they finished the course and had absorbed the knowledge. Or were moving, or decluttering. Quite a leap to “did not want to have their beliefs challenged.”

            1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

              It’s also possible Worldwalker’s comment was based on conversations they had with the sellers at the yard sale.

              That seems like less of a leap than what you’re implying about Worldwaker’s perspective, @Old and Don’t Care.

      4. Drago Cucina*

        Yes. As others have mentioned having a degree in religious studies often requires a wider range of knowledge than assumed. My husband’s degree in Catholic Canon Law (JCL) required course work in cannon law of Anglican, Greek Orthodox, and another much smaller denomination’s.
        It actually might be a better fit than the usual “sales” person. Not everyone with a this type of degree wants to work in a church.

      5. BluntBunny*

        Yea I was thinking they could mention in desired qualifications a degree in Theology or perhaps held a position within the faith.
        I’m not sure whether the product is a new thing that they are creating for followers of a particular religion or it’s just adapted. As I can’t think why they would need to “keep up to date” the requirements are either set or opinions vary enough between followers that it would be better to speak to a group rather than an individual. But I can see why they would maybe want someone who practices the faith to be involved to avoid claims of cultural appropriations and profiting of another cultures religion. Maybe there’s wording about encouraging people who would be the target audience or would make use of this product. Then it would be similar to perhaps a person who actually has periods designing feminine hygiene products or a black person working on Afro hair products.

        1. Religious Studies Professor*

          You’re very welcome.
          I’d just like to add one thing – “Religious Studies” is not at all the same as “Christian theology” or “Church History.” Religious Studies scholars can have expertise in any religious tradition, from Asatru to Zoroastrianism.

    6. LTL*

      The preference for a current worshipper is really the issue. OP, please do not look at someone’s personal beliefs as a part of the hiring process. You need someone knowledgable in the religion. Don’t assume that being a current worshipper and being knowledgeable are synonymous. That’s a fairly problematic assumption.

      1. ShowTime*

        This. And don’t assume that not being a current worshipper means not being up-to-date on relevant knowledge. You might find both in one candidate, or you might not. But the way to assess that is to probe the candidate’s knowledge (like Alison suggested), not to inquire into their current beliefs and practices.

  4. Manana*

    LW2- keep it to yourself if only for the sake of pleasant coworker relationships. No one cares about what you eat, who you worship, or what you do with your money.

    1. Willis*

      This. I’d add exercise regiment and diet to that list too (other than what may be relevant to someone organizing an event or something like that)! Most people don’t want to hear about that stuff and you probably don’t want to hear other people’s opinion on it. Just don’t open the door.

      1. Worldwalker*

        How can you tell if someone is a [dieting] [religious] [exercise enthusiast] [investor]?

        Just wait; they’ll tell you. If they’re involved in MLM too, they won’t shut up.

        1. Purple Princess*

          I know it’s a popular joke/meme, but it’s really a bit unfair. The vast majority of people who are religious/dieting/exercise/investing/whatever else aren’t just announcing it out of the blue, apropos of nothing. They’re more than likely just responding to a question that’s been asked. If I’ve entered a triathlon on a Sunday, when Susan asks me what I did at the weekend of course I’m going to say I did a triathlon. It’s not to brag or show off or make others feel inferior, it’s just responding to a question that was asked in a conversation.

          That’s not to say no-one announces these things without being asked.. but that’s down to the individual, not the activities/diet/religion they’re a part of. They’d still be mouthing off about something, whether it’s the marathon they’re training for, the episode of Love Island they watched last night, the football game that’s coming up this weekend or whatever else.

          (the one exception to this is MLMers; but that’s down to their “training” and whole load of other factors, and is a different kettle of fish altogether).

          1. allathian*

            Yeah. That said, some people are really into their diets and say nasty things about the food others eat, both at work and elsewhere.

          2. Forrest*

            I read it as “[dieting/religious/exercise] [enthusiast/investor]. That is, you can be religious, on a diet or into exercise and that’s cool, but it’s the enthusiasts and the investors who need to tell everyone!

            1. Worldwalker*

              “Investor” was meant to be another condition. I’ve met people who were so fired-up about their investment strategy that they would.not.shut.up. about it, the same way some people do about whatever fad they’re following right now.

              It’s not “I did X last weekend” — it’s the attitude of “I do X so I’m better than you” or “I do X so you should do it too.” If you haven’t worked with one of those people, you don’t get it; if you have, you’re getting flashbacks right now.

          3. sb51*

            And food comes up SO OFTEN. As someone who follows some dietary restrictions for religious/ethical reasons, I get very tired of the pattern:
            Other: would you like some X?
            Me: no thanks
            Other: but it’s really good/my grandma’s recipe/a sign that we’re friends
            Me: sorry, I’m sure it’s wonderful but no
            Other: but whyyyyyyyyy?
            Me: I don’t eat X
            Other: but whyyyyyyyy?
            Me: Personal reasons.
            Other but whyyyyyyy?
            Me: Fine. Because I think it’s unethical to eat X

            Other: ugh, these anti-X people are so pushy always preaching and being weird


          4. Marie*

            As someone who diets/exercises and does FIRE, I agree with this completely.

            I recently made a new work friend, and we sometimes eat lunch together. The “problem” is that I don’t eat very much for lunch, and the things I eat are…odd. An apple one day. Some cheese the next. Half a can of diced tomatoes. It doesn’t go unnoticed, and she has asked if I forgot my lunch/if I have enough to eat/etc. and I’ve told her I’m trying to lose weight and don’t eat very much during the day. I’m not trying to come across as judgmental of *her*, but if you want to know why I’m only eating an apple instead of a sandwich and a bag of chips, well, that’s why.

            Money is similar; if you get into investing, it becomes a hobby, and people talk about their hobbies. That said, I typically don’t talk about FIRE/money at work/with colleagues. There’s an interesting double standard in society where it’s acceptable to announce you’ve paid off a student loan, a mortgage, or became debt free, but mentioning you hit a major savings milestone in the black makes you look pompous and braggy (I saved $100k in 3 years, from 22-25. I’m pretty proud of that! But I can’t really talk about that, you know?).

            1. GothicBee*

              I highly doubt she thinks you’re judging her. She’s probably concerned about your health if you’re only eating a half a can of tomatoes for lunch. And I think bragging about paying off debt is really only something I’d do with family or close friends. It’s still not something I’d announce at work, so I don’t feel like it’s that much of a double-standard.

              1. Marie*

                Yeah, she’s expressed concern about my health and outright told me that restricting calories “isn’t sustainable”. I’m charitably considering the possibility that perhaps she has her own insecurities around body image, rather than come to the conclusion that she’s just a judgmental person who makes inappropriate comments about her coworkers’ eating habits (:

                Maybe we run in different social circles, but talking about student loans and celebrating mortgage/debt payoffs are fairly common topics of conversation where I live and among people I casually know on social media. If you know anyone who does Dave Ramsey, it’s even more of a thing.

                1. Willis*

                  Some people are annoying cause they overshare about their diet, exercise routine, finances, wedding plans, religion, etc. Other people are annoying cause they probe around these types of things or offer comments beyond the bounds of polite office chit chat. It sounds like you’re within the bounds of normal sharing and your co-worker is in the latter group.

                  I don’t think there’s anything wrong with saying you’re on a diet or saving for retirement or volunteered with your church or whatever vague statement. It’s when people get too into the weeds on the details or start evangelizing about whatever system they’re using that it gets weird, and I think OP is on the border of that if they start going into their savings plan in much more detail than “oh yeah, I’m trying to concentrate on retirement savings” or something equally innocuous.

                2. Marie*

                  @Willis It won’t let me reply to you so hopefully you see this…

                  I see what you and everyone else are saying. The problem is when dieting, exercising, etc. ARE your hobbies, you almost have to get into more detail if you’re engaging with the person in any more than a passing conversation. If someone tells you they’re selling at a craft fair this weekend, you’ll probably ask what they make/sell. Next week, you’ll ask them how it went. Maybe you’ll ask if they have any more lined up. Etc.

                  People get into their hobbies. They get excited. If John is able to be excited about a new TV show he watches (which is almost always of no interest to me, btw), then Susie should be able to get excited about her kickboxing class, and OP should be able to be excited about his investments. Hitting 67% savings in a month, or beating my monthly weight loss goal by a couple of pounds was/is a huge deal for me; it might be the highlight of my week. But I can’t share that, because my hobbies and goals are deemed inappropriate for polite conversation. But sure, let’s talk about the billionth Marvel movie that just came out, that I “totally need to see”…yawn.

                  As with anything, you should try not to bore the person, and you should really try not to evangelize. The problem is there are some things that people do, and get into, that are deemed socially unacceptable for conversation, and that’s a tiny bit unfair.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Yes, I think one objection to this is that you sound like a new dieter who will lose 65 pounds over the next year–people fear evangelizing.

        OP, in the specific context–401K contributions–it makes sense to say “Eh, I want to retire early.” No one needs to know whether that’s “at 42, specifically” or “at 60 rather than 67.”

        1. socks*

          I agree. In particular, I wouldn’t specify you’re following the FIRE movement unless someone asks specifically how you’re planning to save enough money to retire early.

          “I want to retire early” = ok cool
          “I plan to retire at 42” = I’m starting to worry about where this is going, but it’s fine if you stop there
          “I plan to retire by 42, using the FIRE method. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s…” = I’m trying to find the politest way to escape immediately before you start trying to convince me to buy someone’s book

          1. Empress Matilda*

            Yes, thank you! I’ve been trying to figure out why this was bugging me, because I truly don’t care when OP or anyone else retires. If they’re on track for an early retirement, that’s great – if they’re holding out for their 80-factor, that’s great too. Makes no difference to me.

            But yeah, it’s definitely the acronym that’s tripping me up. It does feel a bit like evangelizing, and I’d be worried that OP was about to start selling me on how great it is and how soon I could retire if I just started saving $X and have I listened to this guy’s podcast?

            It’s very subjective, and I certainly don’t want to tell OP how to talk about their own retirement plans! But there’s a difference in perception between “I plan to retire early” and “I am going to retire early using the FIRE method.”

            1. Kate*

              There is absolutely a “bro” contingent that latches on to FIRE and won’t shut up about it; they get heavy into “finance podcasts” and obsessively broadcast their own $$$ progress, and their fav FIRE blogger/personality/hero is lionized at length. (Some compete with each other as to who can spend the least on food, to the degree that they’ve developed eating disorders. That’s the saddest to see.)

              There are other FIRE people who are just quietly working towards FI (or who are at FI) who find these types exhausting. I don’t talk about *any* of my personal financial details at work. Nope. I would never mention *at work* that I am currently “25x and aiming for 33x.” No, I would never tell anyone I plan to retire in 4 years (at 51)! No, I do not broadcast that I paid off my mortgage at 41 and I have no debt. Not least of all because I know that I’m extraordinarily privileged to be able to get to this point and it would be both hurtful and in poor taste (at best) to talk about those personal financial details.

      3. GothicBee*

        Most of these topics are fraught because people who do well at them will say that it’s all about your choices (you can choose to save money, you can choose to lose weight, etc. etc. etc.) but in fact it’s often a combination of personal choice and a lot of other stuff that’s out of your control. So when people wax on about how they’re saving for retirement, people who can’t save money for any number of reasons feel judged because they’re not doing the same thing. It’s really hard to avoid coming across that way even if you’re not actually judging them.

        1. Data Bear*

          A thousand times this.

          It’s great when people find things that work for them! But these things are often framed in ways that deny the reality that they don’t work for everyone, and when the outcome is something seen as virtuous, there’s an implicit casting of aspersions.

    2. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      Also remember that if you bring up your finances proactively, other people may see that as an invitation to comment on them or adopt an understanding that this topic is on the table going forward.

      It’s hard to put that cat back in the bag.

    3. John*

      So you don’t engage in any small talk about your lives with people you spend 40-60 hours a week with? Ever? That’s really bizarre to me.

      1. RabbitRabbit*

        That’s hardly what the commenter was suggesting. Religion, money, and (frequently) diets seem to be fraught for conflict when discussed, and few people really want to hear others spout off about theirs. There are a multitude of remaining small talk topics.

      2. UKDancer*

        Yes people engage in small talk but there are appropriate and inappropriate topics for small talk. Religion, money and politics tend to fall under the “inappropriate” heading for most places I’ve worked in the UK. So in my company we talk mostly about

        weather (a lot, because we’re British)
        football / cricket/tennis
        what’s on tv
        cute pets

        There are specific people I have more specific discussions with where we have an established shared interest but the general small talk topics are as above. Obviously this is specific to my company.

        1. allathian*

          I’m in Finland, and our practices are sound very similar. That said, because I work for the government, politics is occasionally mentioned during our meetings, but I haven’t come across it in small talk. But then it’s always related to how the current government program is going to affect our agency.

          We also often talk about what we did during the weekend or vacation plans, but that’s more between work friends. I only talk about my son with coworkers who have children or grandchildren of a similar age, and who’ve broached the topic with me before. I also keep a picture of my family on my desk at the office, so occasionally someone’ll mention that.

        2. Falling Diphthong*

          I think Hawaii is the only place I’ve been where there wasn’t much weather discussion. It was sunny in the morning and rainy in the afternoon and a pleasant temperature all day.

        3. So they all rolled over and one fell out*

          My team talks a lot about traveling around to local hiking (and one guy, climbing) spots.

        4. GS*

          Religion comes up every so often in our office – for example, I’m out on days Christians aren’t out. This is sometimes confusing as a whole handful of us will be out on “random” days and we have a culture of checking email a bit even on days off, but I make it known that from sundown on x date to sundown on y date, I will be unreachable. Also, people have a PASSION for scheduling things through the holiest days of my calendar year so I do a lot of like “you can have that event then but you’ll lose my entire group.”

      3. Pennyworth*

        I would never talk to colleagues about my finances. They can know that I own a house, but not whether it is paid off or if my mortgage runs for the next twenty years. They can know that I plan to retire in X years but not my projected retirement income.

        1. JustaTech*

          Yeah, I wasn’t thrilled that my coworker figured out the cost of the house I bought and brought it up on a regular basis. Yes, the purchase price of the house is part of the public record, but don’t bring it up all the time as a way of criticizing other things like my car.

          1. BeenThere*

            This is the reason everyone where I works keeps quiet about purchasing a new house, the second someone knows where you bought they will look up the purchase price.

    4. Quickbeam*

      Yes! I got a “wow, I’d avoid this guy!” vibe from the letter, sorry. It comes near to zealot territory. For those of us who had life throw them enough curves (I’m 60’s in my second career) that we’re crawling to the retirement finish line, listening to someone I work with expound on a 40’s retirement would seem annoying and unhelpful. Keep it all inside.

      1. Ali + Nino*

        Yep, got the same vibe. No one enjoys being bragged at, and almost 10 years out I can’t imagine a conversation where this would be relevant or appreciated.

      2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        Interesting! To me, the fact that LW2 wrote in gave me the impression they had the self-awareness to know, “Maybe I shouldn’t talk about this. Let me check.”

        A lack of self-awareness is what leads to me wanting to avoid someone.

        1. OP #2*

          Thanks – I’m definitely not planning to go around talking about it out of nowhere; like I said, it came up with a coworker who I happen to be close to outside of work (we’ve had other conversations about our company’s lack of transparency when it comes to salary, etc.), so it felt “safe” to mention it to her in larger context of what we were discussing.
          But then I started thinking about it in terms of down the line when I get closer to my goal, if I wanted to give a few month notice period or something, would it be weird to say it’s because I’m “retiring”?

          1. Retired Prof*

            My brother did something similar to your plan. Hearing someone talk about retiring at 35 is very jarring and makes people ask questions. And you aren’t retiring in a formal sense – no pension, no Social Security, right? Really you are just quitting your job and not taking another. So what you call it depends on how much you want to talk about it. Call it retiring and a lot of people will ask you about it. Call it a sabbatical (that you don’t return from) and you’ll get less interest. Call it quitting and you’re taking some time to consider your future and no one will be curious. Good luck with the plan.

          2. mskyle*

            Late to the party but I’m on a similar track, OP, and I think when I “retire” I’m going to probably frame it as “downshifting” or “taking a sabbatical.” This is not that unusual in my industry (tech) – there’s certainly a subset of people who are like, “I’ll be taking the next year to train for my round-the-world sailing trip” or whatever. If I can keep the sabbatical going for the rest of my life, hooray!

            I was initially very inspired by the “FIRE” movement and it did help me make the decisions that have gotten me where I am today but I’ve taken a big step back from regularly reading forums, MMM, etc., because it can get really judgy and toxic! And I avoid talking about money in general, because I don’t want to be like that (yes, I have friends and relatives who I think are making financial decisions that range from “unthinking” to “outright terrible” but they also have cats and kids and hobbies that we can talk about instead).

            1. Kate*

              Oh yes…some of the FIRE bro’s [shudder].

              I’m close to FI and I highly recommend Ali and Allison’s blog “All Options Considered.” Their thoughtfulness and writing is incredibly refreshing and informative and contains none of the hype, absolutes, brashness (and tech bro’s) that seem to be everywhere in the FIRE space.

          3. Kate*

            I’d advise not to use the word “retire” – to be honest you’ll likely be doing something, it’s just that you’re not going to be salaried, right? “Taking a sabbatical,” or taking a year to spend time with family…that’s as far as I would go (and I actually would NOT share that at work, just with closer personal friends). You absolutely do not want to be passed over for promotions, or opportunities, or salary increases because anyone at your office thinks you’re just eyeing the clock and leaving as soon as you can.

            I’m 25x and waiting until I’m around 33x before I dial back altogether, but *no one* knows that at work. Similarly no one knows I have no debt and paid off my mortgage and I’m in my 40s. We all have different levels of privilege, and those privileges got us to this point where we could even begin to make these choices, right? For example, I exited college without any debt 25 years ago due to my parents. That’s an extraordinary step up! Tooting my horn today about my ROTH or my brokerage account would be deeply unkind. Most people aren’t at all in the position to make some of the choices I’ve made, and it’s important that I recognize that before I talk about money in broader circles.

            Yes, talk about FI with FI people! But I recommend keeping it out of your work life entirely.

    5. Archaeopteryx*

      Especially a lot of FIRE-related culture can turn into being either very judgmental of what others spend money on, or patronizing of the poor saps who didn’t learn about FIRE early enough to retire in their 40s. Even if you don’t have that attitude, others may perceive it in you if you start talking about your finances that way.

      I’d say if someone hasn’t heard of it and asks what it is, or if someone else mentions an interest in it, then a low-key “I’m doing that myself, actually,” is fine. But don’t come across as either proselytizing, or like you’re one of the guys who posts the ‘ridiculous’ things their spendthrift coworkers buy on internet forums.

      That said, congratulations on being on-track!

      1. OP #2*

        Thank you – I realize how lucky I am to be as far along as I am at this point, and for sure wouldn’t want anyone to feel like I’m judging them for their spending choices. I still spend money on plenty of things that the “hardcore” FIRE crowd would judge me for, that’s for sure!

    6. Malika*

      Good for you for being able to retire in your 40’s (and to have such discipline!) that’s a fantastic goal.
      I do not talk with colleagues about my finances, i find that people are often quick to judge no matter what state they are in, whether you are paying off consumer debt, the bank of mama and papa paid your mortgage down payment or you are saving substantially for retirement. Our financial choices are complex and we have all been exposed to different influences and turns of fortune. Yet with people we barely know, blanket judgments can leave a bad taste in the mouth. Supportive friends and family – as open as i want to be, but colleagues need not know. I make an exception when speaking about pension plans with my younger colleages, as i feel they should know of an under-publicized tax repayment in my country if you save extra cash for your retirement and they would benefit from knowing it. But any other information is of no benefit to anyone.

      1. So they all rolled over and one fell out*

        I have definitely encouraged my fellow employees to sign up for the 401(k) and at *least* get the full employer match. If they asked I would encourage them to max it out, but that’s come up less often. A few times I have mentioned that my wife contributes almost all her paycheck to her many tax-advantaged savings accounts (government employer) but if anyone’s ever connected the dots what it means for her to do that for 15+ years, they haven’t mentioned it to me.

      2. JustaTech*

        It’s also possible to say something about finances that can end up having a big negative impact on your relationship with a coworker. I had a coworker announce a lunch one day that “anyone with credit card debit is an idiot”. That’s rude, but it was especially heartless when our other coworker (sitting right there) was stuck in credit card debit while waiting for her insurance to pay out after having been hit by an uninsured drunk driver.

        Coworker1 was completely oblivious to how rude he’d been and never apologized, and coworker 2 never forgave him.

    7. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      Oh there are plenty of people who care what you do with your money! Which is precisely WHY you keep mum, otherwise there’ll always be someone who has a better idea, or who is racked with jealousy because they can’t see their way to doing likewise.

  5. EPLawyer*

    LW 1 — technically you can work from anywhere. But like Alison said there are a lot of considerations, including confidentiality. You don’t want to be doing company work on a public wi-fi ESPECIALLY if you are dealing with financials or personal information. I use the hotspot on my phone which is at least is password protected.

    That said, I do work from places other than my home office. Hubby and I like to travel so I have worked from various locations. My boss’ only complaint is that I don’t do more. We are working on a detente on that issue.

    Whether you can work from another location than home is very much a know your office kind of thing.

    LW 5 — What the What the?????? Your predecessor programmed problems to just … disappear. This didn’t cause issues with actual work? Not blaming you, just trying to wrap my head around it. Definitely take Alison’s advice and discuss this with your manager. You want to know the company line on this one if only to avoid screwing up any legal steps that may be happening.

    1. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Public WiFi tends to have either very poor security or security so tight you’re blocked from a lot of things that you need. We actually had a security breach tracked back to someone sat doing pretty confidential work in the middle of a public place. We all got to sit through training regarding that.

        1. starsaphire*

          Also, have a robust VPN, if your company (for some odd reason) does not already.

      1. High Score!*

        You can use your phone as a hotspot and have a private network anywhere that you have data.

    2. Canadian Yankee*

      Yes, “know your office” is key. I’m a manager for a very bureaucratic, highly regulated company and, while my entire department is still WFH, we track all of our equipment very carefully and we have told all employees that it is expected that their equipment is located at the home address on record with us. If it’s not (and I have had employees temporarily relocate to family summer cottages or something like that), they have to let us know the new address where they’ve moved their laptop or other equipment.

      If a corporate laptop were damaged or stolen while an employee had it in an unregistered place, that would at the very least prompt some uncomfortable questions and, in the worst case, could leave the employee liable for the cost of repair or replacement.

    3. Persephone Mongoose*

      My thoughts also went towards InfoSec when working from a public location. Even if LW1 was using their own personal hotspot instead of public wifi, their company may frown upon members of the public being able to see what they’re working on and overhear phone/zoom conversations.

      Quite aside from the potential of a data breach, how much are you really going to appreciate the change of scenery? Unless there’s a lot of downtime in the job, working at normal productivity levels wouldn’t leave a lot of time to sit and enjoy a new location.

    4. PurplePeopleEater*

      LW1 — Agree. The cliche is to work from a coffee shop, which I can’t really do because I take a lot of calls for work. But I’ve worked from hotels, friends houses, and relatives’ houses, just as I would from home: secure internet, a private space to take calls, and a full work day.

    5. Aggretsuko*

      Oooh, #5 reminds me of a super two faced programmer who caused us all kinds of trouble (I’ll note this person definitely had some good reasons to hate on my company, but still) and then quit to avoid getting fired. Much to my disgust, they spent a couple of years working elsewhere and then got rehired here AGAIN. At least I don’t have to deal with them in their new job.

    6. Anonya*

      LW1, I’d be very careful with assuming that it’s OK to work from anywhere. I don’t think that’s what most companies have in mind for remote work; in fact, our remote work agreement specifically states that the worker needs to have a dedicated work space, proper equipment, grounded outlets, etc. It’s not a free-for-all.

    7. Julianna*

      I mean almost all web traffic is encrypted. Its very unlikely for anyone to know more from public wifi than what websites you visited unless you regularly visit http sites (in which case you have a bigger problem). Its important not to overstate the dangers.

  6. Ana*

    The difference with zoos and museums to coffeeshops is the assumption that you are more likely engaged in what’s in front of you, e.g. animals, artworks, your laptop/phone. Sure the scenery is nice but you’re bleeding your attention elsewhere if you work in a zoo/museum, which is a good thing for you and sure you can be just as productive but maybe your boss would think you can use your time for work rather than admiring the scenery.

    I guess, it all depends on your manager and the nature of your job?

    1. Worldwalker*

      And maybe other people who would like to visit a museum, not your office-away-from-office?

      1. Ana*

        That is also true, coffeeshops can get away with it because it’s been happening before and people deal with it. But as other commenters have already said, no one wants to hear someone talk business in a leisure place where people go to get away from work.

        If it’s just typing away in your laptop or phone for long periods of time, you’d alsobe taking away from the experience of actually being in a zoo or museum.

        1. Pennyworth*

          Spending hours working in a coffee shop is also affecting the viability of the business by taking up space that could be used by people who would spend more every 30 minutes than the lap-top-worker would spend in four hours.

          1. High Score!*

            There’s a coffee shop here that’s awesome that I rarely go to bc there’s never any seats. People come in first thing, purchase a plain coffee and sit one to a table for four and work ALL DAY LONG. So there’s never tables for customers.
            If there was a place for us to sit, I’d bring my kids, and we’d all buy a fancy expensive drink and food.
            I’m looking forward to the day coffee shop owners stop this crap.

            1. Dust Bunny*

              You should round up your friends, go early, take all the tables, and buy drinks and all three meals there, all day long. Stage a for-profit (for the coffeeshop) sit-in.

            2. Canadian Yankee*

              A friend of mine is a part-owner of a coffee and sandwich shop. During the pre-covid era, they would shut off their WiFi hotspot every day from 11:30 AM to 1:30 PM to increase turnover during the lunch rush. Otherwise they would have people parked there all day with one cup of coffee while people who intended to buy a full lunch walked away because no tables were available.

              1. UKDancer*

                My favourite cafe near work does this for the same reason. The WiFi goes off at lunchtime and people using the tables need to spend a minimum sum on food / drink. I think it’s quite sensible. Their food is really good so they want people at lunchtime eating their food and turning the table rather than having someone occupying it for ages at a time with a coffee.

              2. Nanani*

                Thats honestly genius.

                Probably wouldn’t work for a non-restaurant because there is probably more reason to provide the wifi (like a guide app) but, genius.

              3. DarnTheMan*

                A coffee shop I frequented in university had a rule of minimum spend purchase = one hour bought at one of their tables; it was mostly to deter students from camping out while either not purchasing anything or purchasing a small coffee for $2 so they could keep sitting (I think the minimum spend was maybe $5 so it wasn’t onerous). My friends and I liked working there because there actually was tables and staff weren’t afraid to chase anyone out who was trying to camp out without paying.

            3. Aggretsuko*

              There is/was one cafe in my town where people did that constantly and they had four tables restricted to “only drink coffee and read the newspaper, no working” there. Nobody ever sat there and drank coffee and read the newspaper, though. I was once in there during a power blackout and the place was still 3/4 full of working.

              Coffee shops are for working away from home these days, I think. That’s what people want them for.

            4. Mannequin*

              “ I’m looking forward to the day coffee shop owners stop this crap.”

              1. How is it the fault of the coffee shop OWNER that people decide to park their asses there all day?

              2. If it was really hurting their bottom line, they WOULD stop it.

              And don’t hold your breath waiting for it to stop, because “people working all day in coffee shops” isn’t going anywhere soon. The world is changing, learn to adapt.

          2. Another British poster*

            On the flip side, there are coffee shops that are completely empty outside of meal times so taking up one table and ordering coffee and a snack is bringing in business and taking up a table that otherwise would have been empty. The coffee shop I work in is usually almost empty, so I’m not taking up space that someone buying more could have used.

            1. Mannequin*

              Right? And I’ve been to plenty of coffee shops where the line is packed but the tables are 1/2 empty because people are just getting stuff to go.

  7. Viki*

    1) 100% if I find out someone on my team who is doing remote when we handle confidential, privacy protected files that include cx data, including credit info (ie SIN, DL etc.) in a public insecure network, even with VPN, they would lose remote access, and their butts would have to be in office for this huge violation of our remote policy as well as the liability and potential data breach.

    That’s my company, because we work with highly confidential data. But also, there is no illusion of privacy in work calls at the coffee shop/museum/zoo. It might make sense on a day where there’s no meetings and like just admin/email/fight with an excel sheet with no confidential data on it; but for day to day work-bad idea.

    Know your remote policy and your company, and your work well. Because your scenario would not work at all for my industry.

    1. Willis*

      Yeah, I think this depends a lot on the type of work OP does and how much time she’s planning to spend in these places. I have staff who have flexible schedules and could easily spend a couple hours one morning doing non-confidential Excel work in a location like that. But, like, if they were camping out there all day while trying to watch kids or taking client calls with elephant feeding time in the background, that would be a big problem. (And I agree with others that it could be rude to take up limited space in a museum for long periods of time.)

    2. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

      It’s probably very rare that your work even during one day would 100% consist of things absolutely anyone is free to see. This is definitely an issue with people working in public places, though some people don’t think about it as much as others. Also even if you don’t have any meetings scheduled, they can still show up at a short notice or someone may call you, and it could be about a topic that it’s hard to discuss properly with a hundred strangers around you.

    3. Keymaster of Gozer*

      Our place suffered a security breach because someone took their laptop out to a pretty busy public area and decided to do their work there. Someone else managed to get username and password and took a lot of information.

    4. Scarlet2*

      Yeah, re. LW1, my first thought was about network security. Those wifi networks generally have no password, or their password is publicly available, which kind of defeats the purpose. That would be a big no-no for most of our clients.
      I also seriously doubt the BIL actually worked “at the zoo with his kid”. How would that work out? He sat somewhere with his computer while the kid visited the zoo on their own? I also agree with the other commenters who think using a museum as a workplace is not really appropriate, for all the reasons already stated.

      1. DireRaven*

        Yeah, on the “working at the zoo with his kid,” I imagine this would only work under one of the following conditions:
        1) the son was a rather young infant who slept in his stroller the entire time
        2) the son was old enough to handle himself (probably at least 11-12 years old – give him some money and a phone and turn him loose with instructions to check in regularly)
        3) he had another adult/teenage sitter hired to accompany him to be responsible for the child (and needed to be present to use the annual pass)

    5. Another British poster*

      Presumably people who work from public places (unless they are complete idiots) aren’t in industries where they handle confidential data, though.

      I mean, yes, idiots exist. But working from coffee places is extremely common and is an accepted norm in plenty of industries.

      1. Another British poster*

        And my work involves zero confidentiality data and zero unexpected meetings. I very rarely have meetings at all and they’re always off-site and booked weeks in advance. I don’t know what’s so surprising or rare about that.

        1. pleaset cheap rolls*

          But people here love to bring up this sort of stuff. Also what about HIPAA? And nuclear missile launch codes? In the US it’s a violation of Federal Law and a huge range of military policies to be handing nuclear launch codes in a public place, so the OP1 really should THINK ABOUT IT.

          1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

            Quite. I’ve worked in public spaces like this at various times, and some of the objections seem quite silly. My tasks were either copy editing or research and writing, which needed minimal access to WiFi, no phone calls, and were not at all sensitive. The places I used encouraged the public to come and use the space, even if they weren’t actively looking at art or animals or what have you, not least because higher visitor numbers = more funding. Museums and similar often function as community spaces and smaller ones especially are happy to have people use them for purposes other than a rigidly proscribed function, not least because it helps raise their profile which in turn boosts visitor numbers. And of course there is often the on-site cafe and shop, which you are more likely to use if you are hanging out to work for a few hours. Perhaps extremely busy places that often have huge numbers of tourists will object, but a local museum that only gets a few dozen visitors on an average day will be unlikely to object to someone quietly working for a few hours.

            1. Accidental Itenerate Teacher*

              I don’t know about that. I’ve worked for a couple of small museums- the kind that only gets a dozen visitors a day. While I don’t know that we would have kicked someone out for doing this, we would have found it really weird and definitely would definitely all have gossiped about it.
              Also, the thing about small local museums is that they tend to be, well, small. Which means they don’t really have the space for someone to set up and work in them.
              In fact, of the ones I’ve worked at, the only one with space would be the living history museum. Someone pulling out a laptop and working on the porch of the log cabin is going to cause comments – not just from staff but from visitors. I can also say, as staff, I’d definitely resent it. As long as a museum visitor is on my site, I have to act as though it is whatever time period my site is set in – which is fine if the visitors are there interacting with me and the site. If someone is just sitting there working for three hours…. Well, that’s three hours I can’t even have an uncensored conversation with my co-workers.

              1. Miss Pantalones En Fuego*

                Depends on the place, I suppose. I regularly go to (well, I did before covid anyway) several different places like this in my city and they all have an area set aside for study. They are an art gallery, a concert hall with a public pavilion area, a living history museum, and a natural history / archaeology museum.

                1. Accidental Itenerate Teacher*

                  Probably that and design philosophy- most of the local museums in my area are trying to get as many items from the collection on display as possible, so having a public area set aside for the occasional studier would be seen as taking away exhibit space.
                  Anyone wanting to do an in depth study of the collection would likely be working with the museum and be doing it from the staff areas

          2. Just plain Old Cat Memes now*

            I don’t know. Even if all they get is your work login/email or contacts, there’s still a fair amount of damage they can do with that. Maybe not to you or your company, but to your clients, suppliers etc.

            (I’m referring to the risk of using public WiFi, not working in a public place using your own connection).

          3. Scarlet2*

            Confidential information is way broader than nuclear codes or classified information though. For example, I work for a translation agency. By definition, all the documents that client send us for translation are considered confidential, even seemingly mundane and innocuous ones. Are there really many industries where security is not a concern at all and where nobody would care about using unsecured networks to share work information?

            1. pleaset cheap rolls*

              “Are there really many industries where security is not a concern at all and where nobody would care about using unsecured networks to share work information?”

              That “at all” is doing a lot of work here.

            2. KRM*

              Exactly. I work in science, and I could send what seemed to be an innocuous power point to someone, but could thereby expose our targets of interest, IP related things, mechanism work that isn’t public…it’s not classified, but it could certainly hurt our interests if someone got it and released it. Confidential doesn’t mean STATE SECRET or CLASSIFIED INFORMATION, but it is stuff you don’t want to share or don’t want others to see.

            3. meyer lemon*

              It also depends on how frequently you’re working in public, though. I’ve often put in a few extra hours on public transit, and it’s generally not that difficult to put aside a few non-confidential tasks or ones that don’t require wifi at all.

          4. Worldwalker*

            Public WiFi is notoriously insecure.

            It’s not whether you are dealing with nuclear launch codes in public — it’s whether those nuclear launch codes can be accessed with your login credentials. Because the risk is that your credentials can be jacked and used to penetrate your company’s system. Next quarter’s sales projections, a list of clients, details useful to spearphish people with higher-level access … they’re probably more valuable to the bad guys than nuclear launch codes would be, and *that’s* what you’re putting at risk.

            1. myswtghst*

              Exactly this. On a day-to-day basis I might not access much of anything sensitive, but I have access to sensitive information with my credentials. So if I use insecure WiFi in a public space and someone gets a hold of my credentials, they can now access all kinds of personnel data and patient data that I can access.

              1. Another British poster*

                Sure but again that’s a “know your industry and don’t be an idiot” thing.

                None of these things apply to me. I’m sure there are loads of people they don’t apply to. My work doesn’t even require Internet access. Not everyone does a standard office job.

                1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

                  “None of these things apply to me. I’m sure there are loads of people they don’t apply to.”

                  Another way to look at it is this: When a situation like this is brought up, there are many comments asking about security issues. So, how likely is it that you* are an exception, rather than the rule?

                  Alternatively, how likely is it that because you don’t work in IT, there are issues you just aren’t aware of because you don’t need to be?

                  *Those are general “you’s”, not mean to be specific to anyone.

        2. Cthulhu’s Librarian*

          It is a lot rarer than most people outside of information security fields think, because most people think of confidential information as an explicit and defined category. In reality, what is confidential/private is a much more nebulous thing than simply “what the law or my employer says should be”. In general, any information you handle on behalf of your employer which is not intended for public consumption is something you should assume they mean to be kept private – even if that is as minor and innocuous as the number of widgets produced last month.

          most of us think of our job and the information we handle as being mundane and open because it is to us. That doesn’t mean it would be to outsiders.

          1. pleaset cheap rolls*

            Sure. And there are tradeoffs between security and cost. I think a little more attention to security is probably a good thing, but I don’t see the need to jump up in a conversation about the perception of someone working in a museum or zoo and start going on about all sorts of stuff that probably apply working from home and in most public places.

            I took a class on management of electronic records from a professor whose company managed, among other things, nuclear power plants. And she straight-up said the practices they used for some documents would be completely wrong and wasteful in my little nonprofit organization. So yeah, the material we worked on was in some ways confidential. But that doesn’t mean it’s the same as, say, private medial info or nuclear plant information. She could have totally bombed so many comments here saying “That would result in being fired where I work” but what would be the point?

        3. Yorick*

          I do handle confidential data at work, but I can easily plan a day of work that wouldn’t involve that so I can work at the coffee shop or library or wherever.

          1. Willis*

            Yeah, there are times I don’t even use the internet for work and wouldn’t even bother to connect to public wifi. (Actually, I might work MORE efficiently that way….)

            1. WhatAMaroon*

              I would point out that public WiFi isn’t the only way data gets breached; shoulder surfing (people reading screens over your shoulder) does happen. Our company requires us to use privacy screens if we’re working in semi-public places and I think it’s a good and easy solution to many of those concerns as well. But once again as Colette pointed out below the need for such safeguards will be job and company specific

              1. Yorick*

                This would not be an issue for me – as I said, I would plan to not be working with confidential data in a public place.

    6. Madeleine Matilda*

      This was my first thought as well and I was surprised that Alison didn’t bring up the possible IT security risks of working on public wifi. I just took my annual IT security at work training which clearly told us not to use unsecured public wifi for work. Given the ransomware attacks happening recently I wouldn’t risk accessing my work systems in a public place even if I didn’t work with sensitive information.

      1. Colette*

        That’s really a job-specific issue which won’t apply to all jobs. A job planning summer camps will have different security risks than one dealing with personal medical records.

        1. WhatAMaroon*

          But a job planning summer camps likely has access to personal data/information like names, emails, credit card information, etc. and just because you specifically might not have access to that credential hopping and access escalation are real things that companies want to avoid. More people’s jobs than not in many corporate settings are points of access to data that companies do not want others not working at the company accessing. That is not an individual’s personal call that is your organization’s call. I would say it is negligent to not consider if your company has shared specific restrictions about doing work on public work connections without screen protectors. The vast majority of confidential data is certainly not nuclear codes but there are still consequences for it being breached.

          1. Colette*

            You don’t need any of that information to plan a summer camp (although you would need it to run a summer camp. Not all businesses have the same security concerns or policies. Of course the OP should follow the ones that apply to her.

            1. WhatAMaroon*

              Absolutely in agreement that not all jobs have the same security concerns. I wanted to point out though that you as an individual may not necessarily know which ones are at play so it’s not an individual call but a business call and why it’s important to ask and know. Going back to the planning a summer camp hypothetical; while the individual role may not have access to that data there could be scenarios where there credentials could be used to escalate access or access systems that do. And you as an individual doing work for your business might not fully know that. (Not to say if you specifically in the course of giving this example were using a lived experience that I somehow know that specific answer better than you; more so speaking the sort of hyperbole above that if it’s not nuclear codes it can’t be confidential and so not a security risk which isn’t true)

        2. Observer*

          A job planning summer camps will have different security risks than one dealing with personal medical records.

          Yes, but not as much as you think. Especially if an organization does multiple things.

          That’s the thing that people overlook. If you are in a place like NYS, *ANY* personally identifiable information (birth date, address, etc.) needs to be protected. If you are running a summer camp, guess what? You’ve got that kind of data on campers and staff. And even someone who is not working with either set of data can pose a risk because some (well exploited) security flaws use something called “escalation of privilege” where someone’s more limited credentials get compromised, and then the hacker is able to assign higher level access to those credentials. So suddenly the credentials of AP guy who only should have access to information about companies that the organization works with, has access to EVERYTHING. Whoops!

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        My assumption is that you’re following the rules of your employer, if relevant. A lot of people have company hotspots or VPNs that they’re instructed to use when working in non-private spaces.

        1. WhatAMaroon*

          I would say given my experience in industry that might be a more optimistic assumption than not! To the point that when colleagues ask and I direct them to that they are sometimes surprised; so I’m glad someone brought it up explicitly.

    7. The Gollux, Not a Mere Device*

      Yes, know your scenario. I’ve had freelance proofreading work that was so far from confidential that it was reasonable for me to do it sitting on a rush-hour subway train. That’s probably lower risk than sitting with a laptop in a cafe, because looking over my shoulder at an article on good coding practice won’t let you get at my, or the client’s, computer system, and “$publisher is going to have this article in their magazine in three weeks” wasn’t something they cared to keep private.

      But that’s a specific client. It doesn’t mean I’d do all my work, or even all my non-computer work, on the subway. (Mostly I read fiction, study French, or look out the window.)

    8. Julianna*

      Yeah, if you’re dealing with information so sensitive that it would be a big problem if someone glanced over your shoulder, a public place is a no-go. Similarly, if you’re logging into stuff and someone could be recording you/your keystrokes, that’s a big risk.

      I do see some of these comments talking about how insecure public wifi is and I want to push back a little. All traffic to https sites is encrypted–that means even if someone is packet sniffing, all they’ll get is the URL of the websites you visit and a bunch of encrypted data. Things sent over the web in public wifi are marginally less safe, but only really marginally. The biggest risk might be someone who is physically at the same location as you compromising your data. But even if you’re on a spoofed wifi network, if you log into a HTTPS site, no attacker is going to steal those login credentials, that’s the point of HTTPS.

  8. AcademiaNut*

    For #1, I’m curious as to how this is going to play out on a larger scale, because I doubt that the OP is the only person who is thinking of fun places to remote work from. Working from the museum coffee shop, or sitting on a bench in the exhibits, is doable if only a few people have the idea. If it becomes too popular, the benches and coffee shop get taken up by remote workers, the WiFi gets stressed, and there’s no room for people who want to look at art.

    On a practical level, the things I would consider are
    – WiFi: public wifi is often fast enough for checking email, not so good for streaming, and not particularly secure
    – background noise: if the environment is quiet, having telecons is going to annoy people around you, if it’s noisy, it can interfere with the call. It’s also amazing how much noise a school field trip can make in a quiet place like a museum.
    – access to power to recharge your laptop
    – ergonomics: working on your lap while sitting on a bench is okay for short periods of time, not so comfortable for long times. Tables and chairs tend to be used a lot, so you might not get to stay at one as long as you want.

    1. Worldwalker*

      Not “not particularly secure” — more like “particularly insecure”.

    2. KHB*

      I’m curious about it for a different reason. Back in the Before Times, one of the reasons many companies were hesitant to allow remote work was that so many people had the idea that working remotely meant a chance for a fun day out that was maybe 50-60% centered on work. During the pandemic most “fun days out” were off the table, but now that things are opening up, I wonder how long it’s going to take to come full circle on this.

      1. myswtghst*

        My thoughts were similar. Even for organizations hesitant to allow remote work, it was likely easier to give it a shot during a time where the potential remote work locations were limited. If a leader was hesitant to begin with, and now sees their employees “working” from public locations, their concerns about security/productivity/etc… are validated (at least in their own mind).

      2. Salsa Verde*

        Right. This question immediately made me think: what exactly are we talking about here? Checking emails and being available for calls? I can do that and have done from the beach, Vegas, the gym. Actually completing tasks that don’t involve email or phone calls? I don’t think I’d be comfortable doing that from very many places outside my home office.

        I did have a supervisor once who definitely believed she was ‘working’ as long as she could answer calls and check emails on her phone. She regularly listed time at the hairdresser as work time, because she was available by phone and email. I don’t think this is what employers have in mind for WFH.

    3. General von Klinkerhoffen*

      There are many situations where the question isn’t “is this strictly allowed?” but “what would happen if everybody did this?”

    4. Drago Cucina*

      Yeah, this is why when my home Internet goes down the only alternate I go to is the public library. I know the firewalls they have in place to protect data. I can also sit in a study room with the covered drink, plug in, and close the door.

    5. SCManager*

      I have worked remotely in places like my mechanic’s lobby, urgent care, my friend’s house when she had an urgent childcare issue, etc. Obviously, these are all times that something came up unexpectedly, and the flexibility to do this is not something I would risk by taking advantage of the policy on a regular basis.

      (and personally, I HATE working in a coffee shop or something, because the second I have to pee, I have to pack up my entire office)

  9. MassMatt*

    L#5 you need to document everything you can and make sure your bosses know what happened, and how things may now crop up unexpectedly moving forward as more of these holes are discovered. The first instinct of many bad bosses would be to fire whoever is left holding the bag. This sounds really malicious, maybe your company will need to hire specialists to repair the system.

    Or nuke it from space. It’s the only way to be sure.

    1. Hazel*

      After reading Alison’s answer to #5, I realized that I have learned from AAM to check in with my manager about how he wants me to talk about certain issues to our colleagues (who are our internal clients). I think in the past I would have just fumbled through a conversation, but now I ask him about anything I’m not sure of, and then I know what I can and can’t say. It’s such a RELIEF.

      In doing this, I have also learned that not knowing something is not a problem! I’m still a bit surprised when, after I’ve asked how to handle a situation, my boss has no problem giving me the answer – or sometimes he realizes that he’s not sure about it either or hasn’t thought about that angle before!

      1. waffles*

        This this this. Between Alison’s answers helping me understand that it’s okay to be unsure sometimes and my new manager being incredibly upfront/helpful, I’ve gotten much better at communicating clearly with my clients instead of hedging. And it’s so much less stressful!

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          One of my former bosses (former only because we had to move) put it – “I don’t know (am not sure) is fine, as long as it’s followed by I will look into/find that out.”

          He considered it a mark of your intelligence- you knew what you didn’t know and were willing to admit it as well.

  10. Sleeping Late Every Day*

    OP3, I hope you’re not conveying a disdainful “Ugh, housekeepers!” attitude to people who work hard to keep your space clean. Just wondering if that’s why they’re not so cooperative when you ask them to move their work equipment. Do you ever speak to them otherwise, like to say hello or thank you or good night?

    1. calonkat*

      There’s no real indication of condescension, just exasperation at the blocking off of a needed hallway.

      I confess, I’d be tempted to use painter’s tape and mark off a “parking spot”. Or call the fire marshall (I’m pretty sure you can’t block hallways like that…

      1. John Smith*

        I like that idea of creating a parking spot! The main issue here for me is safety and I think that needs to be raised with management or HR to deal with. I’m sure the company’s insurer won’t be impressed with claims mentioning hallways were blocked with off. On saying that, my manager on warm days uses fire extinguishers to hold open doors… doors that are supposed to remain closed.

        1. NoMoreFirstTimeCommenter*

          The parking spot is a good solution if the cleaning cart stays in one place for a longer time. But often cleaners will move it around, and asking them to keep it in one place would create the need for a lot of extra steps and slow them down significantly. I’m also not sure if it actually blocks anything – I got the impression that OP is just too germ phobic to go too close to it.

          1. Dahlia*

            If you have to “shimmy” past it, it’s not accessible for many fat people and disabled people, and it is blocking the way

              1. Dahlia*

                You shouldn’t have to do that every day. No one should have to beg for access to the bathroom.

                1. Dahlia*

                  No one should have to ask for permission to use the bathroom every day period!

                  And it is when the person you’re asking snap at you for asking them to move.

        2. Snow Globe*

          Agree with the safety concern – the issue here isn’t that people may need to brush up against a dirty cart, it is that the cart is blocking a hallway, which is a fire hazard.

      2. SarahKay*

        Yes, my first thought was that parking the cart like that would never be allowed on my site because HSE would be all over it for blocking the hallways.
        OP3, is this something you can raise as a safety risk with your facilities leader or office manager?

      3. cafe au lait*

        Due to assaults cleaners can experience when they’re in a remote and secluded space, the diagonal cart is purposeful. If you can hear the cart move, you know someone is entering your space.

        1. MassMatt*

          This is a disturbing thought. But the letter seems to indicate that the cleaners (plural) are doing this during the day, not in isolation. Parking this large cart in order to take up the largest possible amount of space in a high-traffic area is just inconsiderate and rude. If they are reacting poorly to having LW away something, maybe have someone bring it to their supervisor’s attention and they will pay more attention.

          1. Cafe au Lait*

            The diagonal cart as security measure came from an interview I read shortly after Dominique Strauss-Kahn was accused of rape by a hotel housecleaner. The housecleaner in the article outlined what steps she and her peers took to keep themselves safe. The biggest one was keep the door open but blocked by the cart.

            1. I'm just here for the cats*

              A hotel housekeeper job is different than housekeeping in an office. First, it sounds like the housekeeping is going on during the day. This means they would not be isolated as they can be in a hotel. Second, there are not going to be strangers coming up to assault you while you work in your office ( at least I hope not.)

            2. Ellen N.*

              Just in case others reading these comments don’t know; the accusation of rape by the hotel housekeeper against Dominique Strauss-Kahn was determined to be a false accusation.

              1. Snarkaeologist*

                No, it was not. The accuser was deemed not credible because she had inconsistencies in her background and asylum application. Physical evidence supported her story.

                I wouldn’t usually get this far off-topic from the original post, but I think it’s important not to not conflate prosecutors deciding they don’t have a case with a proven false accusation.

              2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                And DSK had that reputation already, it was one of those open secrets, much like Weinstein.
                Oh and they settled out of court, thanks to his (now ex-)wife’s fortune.

      4. AKchic*

        If it’s blocking the hallway and people need to shimmy around it, it IS a fire hazard because it’s blocking the exit/fire escape/egress.

        I would assume that the janitorial staff are resistant to the idea of having the cart against the wall because it could damage the wall or scuff the paint (meaning maintenance would have to touch up the paint), but in order to be safe, they have to keep the cart out of the majority of the walkway. Put a bumper on the cart if necessary.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          Actually, cleaners probably need easy access to equipment on both sides of the cart.

    2. Unkempt Flatware*

      I didn’t get that impression from the tone of the letter so I’d give the benefit of the doubt that such an attitude exists. In my office, the GIS team I’ve never spoken to has gotten in the bad habit of now taking up more than half of the waking space with their equipment in the exact way the OP describes. I don’t feel like I had to make a bunch of social deposits before asking them to please move it. It’s all in the tone. “Would you pass the salt, please?” is the tone.

      1. Unkempt Flatware*

        And yes, I agree though—I know the names of and say hello to all maintenance staff.

        1. allathian*

          Yup. I don’t know all their names, admittedly, because they change frequently. But I always greet them when I see them, and I always thank them with a smile when they’ve cleaned my workspace if I happen to be there at the time.

    3. Teapotcleaner*

      Fellow housekeeper here agreed +1. Bringing up the uniform “paid for the company” seems odd.

      1. WellRed*

        That was so odd! They “get uniforms” vs “we have to wear our work clothes” OP you do know people typically prefer their own clothes? What exactly is going on here for you? And why are you painting your options so extremely? (Not go to the bathroom all day? How long are the cleaners blocking the hall?)

        1. ecnaseener*

          I was confused by that too — I think LW’s point was that the toilet brush might get on their clothes. But the “paid for by the company” detail is totally irrelevant and comes off as…weirdly jealous? Of cleaning staff during a pandemic?

          1. Llama Llama*

            I think what OP meant was “they can go near the gross cleaning cart in their work uniforms and get dirty but I don’t want to go near it because I am wearing nice office clothes.” TBH OP sounds to me like they are really overreacting to the fact that there are…cleaning things on the cleaning cart and they don’t want to go near it.

            1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              yup, I’m thinking… does OP clean her own toilet? You’re on your way to the toilet, you can wash your hands there!

        2. Mockingjay*

          As a former janitor, I would have loved having a uniform instead of wearing my own clothes. The things housekeeping and janitors have to clean…We’re not dirty, John Q. Public is.

          1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

            Yes, you’re quite right there!
            (Mind you if the public weren’t dirty, there wouldn’t be any need for a cleaner)

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        We have to wear regular office clothes and they get uniforms paid for by the company and are allowed to wear street clothes in.

        This seemed like such an odd detail to include–I think the point is whether any cleaning products get on clothes, but having to wear a maintenance uniform is not considered a perk in most contexts. (Barring your Lupin-like museum heists.)

        It’s odd to me that this is an ongoing problem–why is the cart not moving around all day? I would actually expect it to spend a lot of time near the bathrooms and the breakroom, which are more likely to be cleaned midday.

        I think Cafe Au Lait has come up with a reason for the diagonal cart, one that should not prevent people working in the office going to the restroom from saying “Hey, I’m going to move this so I can get by.” (Unless… Are the restrooms being cleaned, and the cart is supposed to block traffic, but people are trying to nip in rather than go to another floor?)

      3. Dust Bunny*

        I think because the LW has to brush up against the cart (with its chemicals, trash bags, etc.)? So if something rubs off on his/her clothes, s/he has to pay to have it cleaned off because she doesn’t get a company smock.

        1. OP3*

          This is it exactly. Some of the cleaners they use have stuff in them that bleach or chemicals than damage your clothing. The housekeepers to wear uniforms so if bleach or chemicals damage their clothing, it’s not a big deal and the company just supplies them with a new item. If I get bleach or chemicals on my pants, I pay have to pay for a replacement.

          I don’t think the housekeepers are dirty and I’m not rude to them. I know them all by name, know their families and I speak to them everyday – hello, how are you, how’s John & Susie, is your dad feeling better, etc. It’s just this one thing they are super touchy about.

    4. OP3*

      I’m OP3. No, I don’t have a disdainful attitude with the housekeepers. I realize they have a very tough, sometimes unpleasant job and we all are very grateful for our housekeeping staff. They are usually fine but they get super touchy about the cart. There is actually a rather long hallway just outside their cleaning room, about 10 feet from the break room hallway, that they used to park their cart in and the hallway wasn’t obstructed. I don’t know why they park it in the hallway angled and why the get so upset if you slide it over. They got very upset at a coworker who slide it over and against the wall so they could get by, so I try not to bother it and if you ask if they could move it over, they get upset about it.

      1. katertot*

        I would talk to their manager if you can to ask if there’s a way the cart can be closer to the wall- I work with hospital environmental services and we’re super careful about cart placement since we’re in hospitals but generally the only reason they’ll have it at a weird angle is to block off an entrance to a space they’re cleaning. This doesn’t sound like the case, but sounds like Alison’s approach would be fine and/or talking to the manager if they continue to get upset when you ask them to move it.

        1. Empress Matilda*

          generally the only reason they’ll have it at a weird angle is to block off an entrance to a space they’re cleaning.

          I was actually coming to ask about exactly this. Is it possible that they put the cart that way on purpose, to indicate that they’re cleaning the washrooms?

          The action item for OP is the same either way, of course – as long as you’re polite, it should be fine. But you have to work in their space as much as they have to work in yours, so hopefully you can think of it as a shared problem to solve, rather than just them being inconsiderate!

      2. LTL*

        This sounds like it’s moved into the territory of ignoring how they feel about moving the cart. Deal with the situation in a way that’s polite of course but part of setting boundaries is that you don’t need to convince others that they’re reasonable. The hallway is a shared space. It sounds like you and your coworkers have tried being direct and it didn’t work.

        At this point, I would move the cart and if they grumble, brush it off, tell them you need access to the hallway (you could also mention the potential fire hazard), and keep walking. Or insist that they move the cart when you need to get by and don’t let their grumbling stop you. Easier said than done, I know. It would also be fair to jump straight to their manager at this point. If you don’t know who it is, you can ask your manager. If it makes you more comfortable, you can say that you’re concerned about the potential fire hazard and that y’all have tried speaking with the housekeepers directly but they refused to budge.

      3. meyer lemon*

        I’m guessing the cleaning staff probably have some reason for preferring to have the cart there that may not be obvious to an observer. Maybe you could try asking someone you’re particularly friendly with if there is some way that the cart could be positioned so it’s easier to pass by without being a hassle to them?

        As someone who used to work as a housekeeper, it can be a pretty fast-paced job, so I imagine that it gets old pretty fast if you need to haul the cart away from the wall every five minutes to access it. But hopefully there is some way that it can be placed where it’s not blocking the hallway.

      4. Maxy*

        As a former glorified janitor (at a zoo, funnily enough) – are they parking the cart there all day? Or when they’re cleaning specific rooms in that hallway? I used to use my cart/trash well to stop guests from entering somewhere I was cleaning if there was a biospill or something similar. I also used to use my broom and dustpan to block off restroom stalls that needed supplies while I ran to grab them. So I would suggest asking them if there’s a reason they leave it that way – there might be, and there might be a better solution that doesn’t involve blocking the hallway.

        If it’s an issue of them parking it there all day, though, I would definitely be polite but firm that the cart needs to not block the hallways for safety reasons and suggest some places they could leave it (most janitorial staff are trained to be wary of safety hazards and tend to take them seriously). If they don’t respond, definitely bring it up to their manager as a safety hazard. It’s definitely against fire code to leave something blocking most of a hallway.

      5. Calliope*

        So when you say they “get upset,” what does that look like? Do they say something? Is it a reason why they don’t want to move it? Or do they just look a little put out? Because if the former, I feel like what they say matters – if it’s outright hostile, that’s a problem to address. If they just look a little put out, they might just be surprised at having their groove interrupted and I think you can classify that as not a “you” problem and move on with your life.

    5. fhqwhgads*

      Nothing in the letter says to me “ugh, housekeepers”. It’s waaaaaay more to the side of “ugh, toilet brush” and “ugh, mop” and “ugh, open bag of trash”, that the OP doesn’t want to touch them, but because of where the cart is, and its size, and the path’s size, it feels impossible to pass it without coming into contact with those things. That’s why the letter mentioned germphobia. And since the housekeepers get snippy if someone who isn’t them moves it – even if the moving is to get by – I see why the OP is uncomfortable. It’s also not minor that it’s blocking the path the to restroom, as opposed to say, a not often needed storage closet or something.

  11. Miss Anne*

    LW 1- I think it would be rude to disrupt people who are actually trying to enjoy the museum. Trying to enjoy an exhibit while listening to you tap away at your laptop or have a work related phone call sounds like a nightmare. I understand the desire to switch up locations occasionally, but it seems selfish to take away a space from people who want to use it for its intended purpose.

    1. Dark Macadamia*

      +1 my immediate reaction was that this sounds super rude and annoying to patrons who are actually there to enjoy the exhibit. I’ve actually done work in museums before, but more like “I’m going do my NaNoWriMo writing for today while I eat a muffin between exhibits.” I think if more than, say, 25-30% of your time there is not about BEING there, you’ve chosen the wrong venue for what you’re doing.

      1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        I’ve done HW at museums but this has typically involved engaging with the exhibits.

        I did live near a museum with a lovely cafe that I used to work at sometimes, but it was separate from exhibits (and it wasn’t an overly popular museum, so space wasn’t at a premium).

    2. Xenia*

      Agreed. The point of public sights is not to be a second workplace. A lot of them get crowded enough already—if people start regularly working from home there it will become a safety and capacity issue.

    3. tra la la*

      Yes, this is what I was thinking, too. Coffee shops seem better suited for this kind of thing. If I’m at a museum, I don’t want to hear someone working.

      1. Worldwalker*

        Exactly. It’s a museum, not your @#$& office. If you need office space, rent some!

          1. BigHairNoHeart*

            I’m lost, what about this is privileged? If OP had truly no other options than to work somewhere with free wi-fi, then sure, I understand. But that’s not the case, they said it would just be a nice change of pace to work at a zoo/museum. If they’re that eager to work somewhere else, then renting a space specifically for that purpose isn’t a wild suggestion.

          2. Allonge*

            In context this is not privileged. LW1 has an office to go to and a home working space, sounds like. Variety beyond that is a luxury item for anyone.

          3. Worldwalker*

            Because I think someone who has both an office office and a home office shouldn’t also take over a museum, to the detriment of actual museum users, as yet another office space?

      2. DyneinWalking*

        Or libraries! If you can reasonably expect that there won’t be a work call, or at least not a long one, libraries would seem like the best option.

        1. Mockingjay*

          Most libraries forbid calls. The libraries I belong to require patrons to silence cell phones upon entering. Even the conference rooms don’t permit calls. You can reserve rooms or carrels only for an hour or two – this is specifically so ALL patrons have a chance to use the spaces or computers.

          Simply put: most public spaces are not suitable for work.

          1. I'm just here for the cats*

            Wow, you must have really strict libraries wherever you are. Our library has quiet zones where they ask you to silent your phones and talk and low volumes but in the rest of the areas you can talk on your phone as long as it’s not super loud and I think there might even be rooms that you can reserve and use that have no limitations.

      3. Another British poster*

        I used to work in a museum, and while it never came up, I don’t think it would be smiled upon.

        Coffee shops and libraries are a much better bet if the work is quiet and not confidential.

        1. Cynicalmuseumworker*

          Absolutely. A quick answer to an email on your phone? Fine (indeed I’ve got a work phone, and u work in a museum, so have fired off quick emails on occasion when I’m on site, but not in office.)

          Getting everything out to work in our public spaces, and it’s not related to the museum? Please don’t. I.e An exhibition designer doing a bit of work in the space they might be fitting out is going to be fine, as it’s sometimes easier to plan where you can quickly check layouts, remeasure spaces. Someone doing something unrelated? Please go find a suitable co-working spaces if you don’t want to be home…..

      4. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        Yeah, I’m genuinely confused about the question. The only situation I can imagine would be a museum that had a dedicated coffee shop in which case…you’re basically working in a coffee shop?

        Otherwise where would you even work? They don’t have desks in the galleries.

        1. KHB*

          A lot of museums have big open entry halls, atria, or courtyards, often with tables and chairs set up for people to sit and rest. I assume what OP has in mind is something like that.

          1. KHB*

            (Personally, I don’t think working in a museum is a good idea for all kinds of reasons. But the existence of spaces where you could possibly sit and work isn’t necessarily one of them.)

    4. LilyP*

      I agree that phone calls would be rude, but someone sitting and working quietly on a laptop isn’t any more disruptive than someone sketching or reading. I wouldn’t be at all distracted or bothered by seeing that in a public space.

      1. I can never decide on a lasting name*

        *You* might not be, but what about other people? The ambience would most definitely be disturbed and entering that museum room would feel entirely different.

        1. BRR*

          But is there any difference between someone typing away in a corner doing work and someone doing something like an art research project?

          I don’t think the lw should work in a museum anyways though due to the wifi speed/security and taking seating away from other visitors.

          1. I can never decide on a lasting name*

            BRR, yes, there’s a big difference in ambience – how the room feels to other visitors. The ambience is to me an important part of the enjoyment of art museum exhibits. It’s not about sound level.

          2. Jules the 3rd*

            Keyboards click. It’s a huge difference from sketching with a pencil / paper.

      2. Bagpuss*

        I’d be less bothered by someone working quietly on a laptop or tablet than by someone making phone or video calls, which do think would be extremely rude and inconsiderate , but it can still be pretty distracting – typing isn’t normally silent, you may have glare for the screen and may take up space in seating areas that make it harder for people to sit down to take in the art work or other exhibits.

        I do think, however, that it depends on the context to some extent. For instance, someone sitting working on a laptop in the great court at the British Museum wouldn’t be much of an issue – it’s a big, relatively noisy space already, it’s where one of the cafes is and there are no many exhibits, so it’s unlikely that you’d be blocking or disrupting anyone’s view or preventing their use of the museum. On the other hand, someone doing the same in many of the galleries would be inappropriate and disruptive.

        I think that at the zoo you would be less likely to disturb other visitors (unless you were making or taking phone calls or video calls) but for most types of work would think it’s less likely that this would be practical – although I think it depends on the venue. Some zoos have areas which are effectively like parks, and I don’t think working there would be much different to working from a ‘normal’ park.

        1. Yorick*

          Both of the zoos in my area have large outdoor areas with many tables – I’ve never seen them even close to full. I’ve never gone there to work but I think it could be nice. Some overlook exhibits (from a distance) so you’d have a nice view. I’d definitely keep an eye out to make sure there are still tables available for others, and leave if there weren’t. I wouldn’t go there on a day I had meetings (I almost never have unplanned meetings).

          Working there with your kid doesn’t seem doable, unless you have a family membership and you’re gonna go for a short time, work while the kid has lunch or plays in the playground area that you can see from your table, and then maybe walk past the kid’s favorite animal on the way out.

      3. Worldwalker*

        Tragedy of the commons: When one person does it, it’s a significant advantage to them and only a little detriment each to everyone else. When many people do it, the commons — the museum, in this place — is ruined for everyone.

      4. GothicBee*

        Sure, but it would also depend on where they’re doing that. Because if there’s out of the way seating where you can sit and work for a long stretch of time, great, but if you’re monopolizing a bench that’s meant to be used by people who need a break from walking, that’s still disruptive even if it’s done quietly.

    5. Blomma*

      Yup. Also, as someone who loves museums but is mobility impaired and needs to sit frequently, I’d be really annoyed if the limited seating at a museum was taken by someone not even there to enjoy the exhibits.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer*

        That’s exactly what happened to me the last time I went to a museum – I was wobbling on my stick and all available seating was taken up by people on laptops with paperwork strewn around. Although, to be fair, I have no idea if they were staff or visitors.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        Yes, as a member of the public who sometimes really needs to sit down, a museum papered with remote office workers would be one I crossed off.

        Context matters, though–as others have said, I could see this being fine if it’s rare and a problem if dozens of other people realize this is a great idea.

    6. Dust Bunny*

      this. I know art students often set up to do studies but a) they’re art students and b) sketching is a lot quieter than typing.

      Also, where I am, at least, a lot of museum patrons need the seating, too, so a bunch of people parked on the benches working would be a problem. (The museums in my city are large and also some of the most heavily-used in our part of the US, and are never not full of people, including older folks and families with kids. It’s a lot of walking on hard floors. People need to sit down sometimes.)

      1. Pennyworth*

        Art students are engaging with the museum, people working on laptops are not.

    7. Chauncy Gardener*

      +100! I don’t go to a museum to listen to people typing and having any kind of phone call!

  12. WS*

    A friend who has a three-year-old was spending every morning in the park while working from home. I asked her about this (in a friendly way, not in a confrontational way!) and it turned out that the only way she could work from home while all childcare and kindergartens were shut was to take her child to the park for 2-3 hours, run him ragged, then have a quiet afternoon with him at home where she could work again. Then in the evening, her partner (who could not work from home) would take over and she could finish up her day. She had worked this all out with her manager (who was also struggling with a partner home but three kids in different grades in primary school). So WFH may look different for everybody, and depending on his child’s age, your brother-in-law may indeed be working rather than supervising. But public wifi and hotspots aren’t secure, and it may or may not be safe to be out in public where you live.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      That strikes me as a very pandemic specific situation – people were working in all sorts of situations which would normally not be allowed and doing what they needed to get by. Post pandemic, remote work is going to settle down into something more regulated. People will need childcare during normal office hours, a quiet and uninterrupted environment for calls and Zoom meetings, and need to follow restrictions about privacy and security when working with confidential information.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        Yes, I remember pre-pandemic a debate on handshakes, and how some people would judge you negatively for refusing–a few months later, and skipping the handshake for a bow became a norm.

      2. Lana Kane*

        In some situations – should it return to pre-pandemic norms, though? If the work can still be done and done well, many parents could really use a bit more flexibility. (And so can many child-free people.) I would hope that COVID has taught us that we all need a little more leeway in our lives, and not be ruled by work as much as we have been. Each workplace can decide what that looks like for them, but I can say that my manager has made some changes permanent because it’s clear that they didn’t actually impact the work the way we all thought they would – and it’s made a difference for me and my coworkers.

    2. Bagpuss*

      But it sounds as though she isn’t working form the park – she’s working flexible hours and taking her kid to the park during the period she *isn’t * working for her employer

      1. J.B.*

        Oh I would do that during the pandemic. Not for as long but my kid needed physical activity and I would bring a laptop and work on something not requiring wifi, or respond to teams messages. It wasn’t very effective but meant I could do more later, without needing to explicitly tell everyone at work that’s where I was during her lunch break. My boss had cleared it.

        Now that more things are open I flex around late afternoon pool times and am happy not to bring the laptop.

      2. WS*

        Yes, exactly – she wasn’t working from the park, despite being in a WFH job and it was in work hours. Brother-in-law may also not be actually working at the zoo, either, and people you see out and about on laptops may also not be working.

  13. Galgal*

    LW1 and LW2, your employer pays you for your work, and that’s it. They are not owed explanations, nor for an insight into your personal business.

    LW1, if you have need for Zoom calls and the like, I would start using images for your background, instead of your physical surroundings. If there is no policy in place wherein you have to share your whereabouts as to where you are working remotely, do not say anything.

    LW2, I would tell your employer about your plans when you are ready to file your resignation, and that’s it. The only other time you might consider offering that information up is if you hear layoffs are “required” and you are near your desired retirement. You may wish to step up to the plate if, and only if, you want to spare your colleagues who are not ready to quit or retire.

    1. WhatAMaroon*

      I would not agree with this “ LW1 and LW2, your employer pays you for your work, and that’s it. They are not owed explanations, nor for an insight into your personal business.” as it applies to LW1. I work in cyber security. The where of where you do your business is often absolutely your company’s call and their choice. Ultimately is their data and their risk decision and if a company had to pay fines or notify users because of a security breach because you did something that really shouldn’t have been doing that would likely be a fireable offense.

      1. GalGal*

        Yes, but I have a feeling that the part of my comment regarding a workplace having a “policy in place wherein you have to share your whereabouts as to where you are working remotely” would come into play if LW1 works for a cybersecurity firm.

  14. Ana*

    OP3, it seems this happens to your other coworkers too. Before you escalate it further, inquire /why/ they positioned the cart at an angle? If the answer isn’t substantial enough to warrant shimmey-ing over every time you pass by, maybe suggest to their manager to use smaller cleaning carts that would still be sufficient for their cleaning needs.

    1. AcademiaNut*

      I would go further and say that the cart shouldn’t be blocking the hallway, period, for fire safety and evacuation reasons. It might be more convenient to be there for the cleaners, but that’s not a good enough reason, and a solution needs to be found.

      1. Ana*

        That’s a good point. I never thought about that but now I do wonder what the cart situation was before the pandemic happened. OP mentioned that the cleaning cart is huge, so did they just put up with it before or did they use moderate sized ones?

        So the reason why they positioned the cart in such a way should indeed be more substantial so as to warrant a work hazard. For example, someone is disinfecting the comfort rooms at regular intervals and are purposely blocking the hallway so no one will get in while they clean. This may not be the case of course, but a solution other than just putting up with it and possibly endagering the office is certainly needed.

      2. Snarkaeologist*

        It’s also an accessibility concern. Someone with limited mobility or a larger frame would have a very hard time contorting themselves to get past.

    2. katertot*

      I will say- new cleaning carts are surprisingly expensive- like between $500-$800 per cart, so that would be a decent investment based on the number of cleaners whereas moving it over should be a much easier fix…

    3. OP3*

      OP3- I’m not sure why they position it at angle. They do our restrooms first thing in the morning and then again mid-afternoon, so it’s strange they have it parked in the break room hallway. They used to park it in a hallway just outside their cleaning room when they were on break or in a meeting (and this is an actual room, not just a closet) and it was not an issue. I don’t know why they park it angled in the hallway now. They got so upset with a coworker that moved it and I’ve heard them make…remarks… about others who have moved it so I just don’t bother it. It’s really strange because they are usually very reasonable people and we all get along. I know them all and their families and speak to them everyday. Maybe I’m just overthinking it.

      1. Archaeopteryx*

        If they’re disparaging people who move the cart and who ask them to move it, I would bring this up with your or their manager. It’s one thing to object if people move your stuff but to be willing to move it yourself, but objecting to both is unreasonable.

        As people have said, it’s a fire and sanitation issue, and not everyone may even be able to shimmy past the cart, either due to size or ability.

        I’m also confused as to why the cleaning cart sits in the hallway all day? Usually those move around with the cleaning staff. We’ll sometimes have to sidle past our office’s cart if it’s a certain time of day, but it’s never there for more than 15 minutes or so.

      2. I'm just here for the cats*

        So are they not in the area while its parked? So is sounds like its parked in the hallway going to your breakroom but they are not in the break room or anywhere near cleaning? I could understand if someone moved it while they were cleaning because they may have it parked at an angle to get at certain items more easily. But if they are not actively cleaning in that space then they need to put the cart somewhere else.

      3. Observer*

        It’s really strange because they are usually very reasonable people and we all get along. I know them all and their families and speak to them everyday.

        I don’t understand. If you are that friendly, why have you not asked why the cart is parked there?

          1. Another JD*

            “Hi X. The cleaning cart is blocking the hallway, so I can’t get by. Can I move it?” *Grumble Grumble* “You seem upset that I asked to move the cart. What’s going on?” If you know the reason, maybe it can be addressed.

            1. Massive Dynamic*

              Yes, this. I’m admittedly fascinated by this one and want to know what the janitors’ take on this is. Surely the janitors don’t want to be summoned each time someone needs the cart moved to get by… or do they? Or do the janitors think that there are sufficient alternate routes that everyone else should take? What exactly is ideal here, in their minds?

  15. Goody*

    LW3: that cart is a potential fire hazard – if there is a need to evacuate, it may impair egress – and needs to be addressed. If maintenance is truly that non-responsive or antagonistic to polite requests from employees, then their supervisor should be informed so s/he can talk to their team.

    1. Batty Twerp*

      This was immediately where my brain went to upon reading. Forget germophobia, if your corridor is 5-6 feet and the cart is 3, that leaves 24-36 inches clearance, and I’m very much reminded of plane evacuations (not the same thing I grant you) which mandated an *increase* in clearance from less than 36 inches after people died. 36 inches is the bare minimum by any health and safety measure.

    2. ecnaseener*

      I might try pointing it out to the cleaners before going to their supervisor – just a brief polite “you know, this is really a fire hazard when it’s diagonal like this.” If that doesn’t change anything then sure, escalate it.

    3. Dust Bunny*

      Yeah, this would not be OK in my workplace (I’m the fire person for my department). I’m not sure where it would fall legally since the cart is movable, but our company policies wouldn’t permit it.

      Maybe you need to set up some designated parking spaces for the cart, or decided if that specific cart is necessary or if a smaller or differently-shaped one would do.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        The thing is it sounds like there already is a designated parking spot for the cart, but it’s not in a convenient spot for the cleaning crew (over on an unused hallway by storage areas if I remember the letter correctly), but what is happening is the cleaning crew is leaving the cart over by the bathrooms where they need the cart to clean.

        I agree it sounds like a calm and polite conversation needs to happen – but if that doesn’t work then going to a manager is probably the best bet. They really can’t block the break room and bathroom access (and making it hard to get to is also bad) for as others have stated a myriad of reasons.

    4. Blackcat*

      Yeah, this is where my mind went, too. It’s a safety hazard. I’d discuss with whomever is in charge of safety issues for your building.

  16. Tali*

    OP2, I would talk about FIRE as often and openly as you want to hear about your coworker’s Crossfit hobby or Keto diet.

    There are times where it’s genuinely relevant and interesting, but most of the time people barely care about shallow details, or they don’t want to hear it at all. And things like financial planning, like diet and exercise, can be really fraught issues for all kinds of reasons.

    I would suggest diagnosing situations to see what level of sharing is actually needed. I bet most situations would be satisfied with “I’m really into saving for retirement”.

    1. The Cosmic Avenger*

      I agree, although I have enjoyed finding opportunities to bring up retirement planning with friends at work (not just coworkers, but people with whom I have shared more detail about myself), and I think I was able to help some of them plan better, because more than a couple have said they felt like they didn’t really know much about it because “no one ever talks about that”. Like most of those topics, I usually wait for someone else to bring it up, and then say that it’s something I’ve read up on, would they like to know more? And you can talk about the principles of personal investing without revealing your own finances. But yes, it’s a lot like a religion or diet, in that it’s hard not to be enthusiastic about it!

      1. Tali*

        Yes, it’s one thing if people are talking about kinds of investment accounts to help accumulate money, or swapping low-calorie recipes. But once you throw in a brand/plan name, all of a sudden things get heavy. Many of the intense enthusiasts think they’ve figured everything out and can get judgy about how others live–the important thing is to keep it judgment free and remember it’s a hobby/lifestyle choice/passion, not “I’ve figured out a fast-track to the good life and I’m here to spread my gospel among the dumb folk”!

    2. Sara without an H*

      Yes, OP#2, if you start talking about your plans at work, be prepared for a lot of questions, some of which you will consider nosy. (“Don’t you ever do anything fun?!”) Unfortunately, once you’ve opened up about FIRE (or CrossFit, or anything else), it’s really hard to suddenly dial back to “That’s personal.”

    3. rachel in nyc*

      I had a former coworker whose goal was to retire in his 40s (they left our office to take a promotion elsewhere.) It was open knowledge that was the goal- to the point that it wasn’t uncommon to hear him on the phone with the contractor who was building- what I presumed to be- his future retirement home.

      But my office is (1) in finance and (2) ridiculous healthy from a management-employee perspective.

    4. pbnj*

      I’d leave it at that. Plus there’s the general advice that you don’t advertise that you want to leave the company. Why take the risk of being pushed out or not receiving good raises? I’d only mention it if I knew the person was genuinely interested, and I trusted them to be discreet.

  17. Allonge*

    LW1 – ok, so was I the only one who first read the title as working _for_ a zoo or museum remotely? ‘Cause I was… trying to figure out the logistics of that. Nevermind.

    But for the actual question: this may be problematic both from the ‘work’ side and the ‘museum / zoo’ side. Work: security, reliable connection and power supply, distractions both for you and occasionally others if you Zoom with cameras on (is that a hippo in your background?). It also… let’s say, if the argument for remote working is that you can concentrate so much better at home than in the busy office, this really goes against that, whihc may or may not matter in your particular workplace.

    And the museum or zoo is probably not equipped for remote workers showing up in packs either, so they might want to stop that (e.g. by limiting the time of Wifi sessions). A couple of days per year is fine, probably.

    1. WoodswomanWrites*

      You’re not the only one who misread the title and thought the question was remote work for a zoo or museum!

    2. AnneMoliviaColemuff*

      Same, I was thinking “I guess maybe accounting roles, but are you planning to zoo-keep remotely?”

    3. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      I had the same thought! I was like…well, I suppose for the finance team?

    4. arjumand*

      So not the only one! For a second I pictured a meme one of my students sent me in 2020, called ‘everybody in zoom class’ with a little furry animal in every pane (and one goldfish, I think)!

      For the actual question; yeah, that would be a no from me. Going to the museum/zoo on your day off and having all the seating taken up by people tap-tap-tapping away at their laptops: no thanks.

      I already got irritated when I took my mother out for lunch at a restaurant attached to a hotel and found an interview in progress, where the interviewers had sort of arranged themselves into a board and were facing the interviewee. So awkward. For me and my secondhand embarrassment – the interviewers were so full of themselves they just let the cringe happen.

      1. Allonge*

        Yes, my personal issue (which obviously does not apply to OP) with working from random places is: is there not enough invasion of work in our lives already, now we take it to the zoo and museums and the beach? For me this does not compute: I prefer to go to the museum to enjoy the collection or their events, and to the office to work and am perfectly happy not to mix the two. And don’t particularly want to have to listen to other people working at the same time, if possible.

      2. identifying remarks removed*

        Had that happen recently at a coffeeshop – someone had set up their laptop and was interviewing someone on skype. And every so often would glare in the direction of my friend and I who were chatting. A coffeeshop/museum/zoo is a place for people to meet/socialize/experience art/animals etc – not an extension of someone’s office.

        1. identifying remarks removed*

          And my friend and I were already there – the interviewer arrived after we’d settled down with our coffee/cupcakes.

        2. Pennyworth*

          I’d be tempted to get very loud and inappropriate. A coffeeshop is not a private office and they have no right to expect ordinary customers to accommodate their desire for office-like hush. Especially if they arrived after me: the very least they would need to do to get my co-operation is explain why they need to conduct an interview there and could I please tone down my volume for 20 minutes. Just glaring at me would not cut it.

          1. identifying remarks removed*

            Lol – I ignored him this time. Though I have been known to repeatedly flush the toilet when someone took a conference call in the office restroom.

          2. Me too*

            I would definitely do this. Talk a bit more loudly. Look like I’m eavesdropping. Make a phone call where I describe what’s happening in the interview. I’m also a person who flushes whenever someone is having a phone call in the bathroom. Because really????

        3. Falling Diphthong*

          A fictional version of me definitely came over to look over his shoulder and weigh in with my thoughts on the interview. And any other passing topics.

        4. arjumand*

          So fricking annoying! I haven’t been to many coffeeshops recently (for . . . err . . . reasons) but back when I used to go to one in particular, there’d be so many guys settling down with a mobile phone and a list of clients, having really loud work conversations.

        5. Sleeping Late Every Day*

          When cell phones were first getting popular, it seems like people who had them felt they had to bellow into them. When I was someplace with a bellower in close proximity, I’d just join in the conversation. “Hey, is that Bob? Tell him hi for me! How’s the weather there?” Sometimes the easiest solution is to out-obnoxious the original offender until they stop or move.

          1. Mannequin*

            People yell into mobile phones because the sidetone (a feature whereby a caller can hear their own voice in the phone’s speaker when talking) isn’t always at a high enough volume to be heard over the sounds around them.

            Apparently this was a problem with original landline phones before sidetone was added.

    5. Falling Diphthong*

      I was absolutely trying to figure out how you would feed the wombats remotely.

    6. Deborah*

      I was trying to figure out how Allison would know more than the LW or the zoo/museum about whether their employees could do their work remotely!

    7. Nanani*

      Instead of painting, the elephants will now be operating a laptop so the tropical birds can zoom with their relatives.

      1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        Awww! Interspecies cooperation warms my heart and I treasure this image!

  18. nekosan*

    For #5, my answer has just been “It’s been a long-standing issue that I’ve uncovered and am working to fix.” I’ll happily take blame for something I did myself, but I avoid blaming others. (I will bring up things in private with my boss, but even then I try not to be overly judgmental.)

    1. Ashley*

      Totally agree. I’m not going to throw anyone under the bus, but I’m definitely not going to take the fall for something that I didn’t do.

    2. rachel in nyc*

      yeah, language matters there. the goal is not to blame others- to people outside your group. “We’ve also noticed that issue and are working to resolve it.” (Possibly followed by a “please let us know if you notice any other issues.”)

      my office ran into problems along these things after a colleague passed away. things he didn’t get to or were marked completed but as done. we’re still finding stuff 5 years later. anyone who asks just gets vague comments.

    3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      How about:
      We’ve just recently become aware of this fault and are working as rapidly as possible to repair it. Would you be willing to give us details about what this fault looks like for you, so we can better address all the issues?

  19. Jen*

    Genuinely surprised at the number of people who think it’s ok to work from the zoo or museum.
    It was a whole issue at the beginning of the pandemic with people complaining about a lack of dedicated work space in their homes and now they want to work out in public at the zoo? Many jobs require some level of focus, and taking the kids to the zoo is certainly not that.
    Honestly, if people at my job found out others were doing that, they would be angry and would absolutely NOT let it go. Working from home is a privilege and trying to work from the zoo or a museum would be construed as taking advantage of the policy as well as a violation IT wise for working via a connection that is not secure.

    If you want to go to the zoo, take a vacation day.

    1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

      The museum I can kind of see….I live near some museums that have cafes where you could set-up with a laptop (although functionally, I suppose it’s the same as working at a coffee shop)

      But the zoo genuinely baffles me. How would you work at the zoo? What sort of zoos are these with wifi and tables?

      1. Used to work at a zoo*

        Every zoo I’ve been to that I can think of, across several states, has WiFi throughout the facilities, a cafe, and several areas with tables and chairs (many of these in attractive locations outdoors next to small lakes or gardens, or inside among lush jungle vegetation and birdsong.) These areas get busy with families eating lunches at lunch time, but are otherwise pretty well deserted. Honestly seems like an amazing place to work, assuming your work is non-confidential – and more/entirely independent work on a laptop rather than video meetings.

        1. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

          I think it’s the deserted part that I have trouble picturing — but I guess maybe zoos in off-peak times are emptier than I’m imagining.

          1. Harper the Other One*

            I don’t know, I’ve been to a big zoo during off-peak hours and while it’s terrific for seeing the exhibits and animals, in my experience seating is still at a premium, especially at the indoor cafes. And because the tables usually seat 4, for families, one teleworker would effectively use up 4 seats.

            1. Used to work at a zoo*

              Believe me, zoos can have relatively empty seating areas for many hours of the day, ESPECIALLY during the school year. I’m not saying the zoo would be a ghost town, but I’m saying there’s plenty of empty seats to go around, especially if one avoids the hours of 11-1 and doesn’t sit right in the main food court.

          2. Dust Bunny*

            I have never seen a deserted zoo. I went to the zoo on Tuesday when it was 110 degrees outside and threatening rain and it was peopled up to my eyeballs.

            1. Worldwalker*

              Atlanta Zoo, a couple of years ago, on a rainy, drizzly day. It was great.

              I think I saw about three other people there, plus one family sheltering from the rain in the lemur exhibit.

      2. Dr. Rebecca*

        I studied for my stats final at the National Zoo. Sat by the elephants, set up my laptop and my notes, and reviewed/typed formulas while occasionally glancing up at the elephants as they wandered around their enclosure. Just because YOU couldn’t…

    2. ecnaseener*

      It was a whole issue at the beginning of the pandemic with people complaining about a lack of dedicated work space in their homes and now they want to work out in public at the zoo?

      Let’s not treat the entire WFH population as a hive mind. We have seen over and over again that people are divided on various issues about WFH — is it really so outrageous that *some* people want a dedicated work space, and a *different group of people* want to work in public spots?

      1. Lana Kane*

        Agreed – and also, every workplace ahs it’s own situation and needs. What seems outrageous for your own workplace might not be outrageous for mine. Or the OP’s.

    3. Drago Cucina*

      One of the questions my company specifically asked people about continuing to telework is, “Are there issues at home that would prevent you from teleworking?”
      It could be Internet, lack of office space, young children, etc. I think the zoo would be a no go. They don’t mind if I go to the beach as long as my Internet is reliable and I’m still doing my core hours. I can put my toes in the surf on my own time.
      I’m reminded of all the AAM questions about teleworking with young children pre-pandemic. The reasonable expectation was that the employee is engaged.

  20. staceyizme*

    LW3- the issue of the cart sounds annoying. But rather than making this a major issue, treat it as a minor inconvenience. Moving it yourself is probably easiest. (And how are they going to know who moved it unless they’re tracking it very closely?) Nudge it with your toe. Even large carts should move easily unless they’re locked.
    The other concern might be how much this feels like a big issue. Resolutely turn your focus elsewhere, except for minimally necessary actions to manage safe/ comfortable access. Some time and energy spent in reflection and on self-care might ease the sense of this being a “thing” and you feeling as if you “must” respond.

    1. Allonge*

      Well said. LW3, this seems to take up a large space in your head compared to how much of an issue it is (not). Move the thing if it’s in your way, and don’t spend more time thinking of it.

    2. Joielle*

      Agreed. If someone grumbles about you behind your back because you did something perfectly reasonable, that’s not your problem to worry about. It just doesn’t need to matter to you at all! Be secure in the fact that you’re not doing anything rude, and do whatever solves your problem with the least amount of mental energy.

    3. OP3*

      They know who moves it because they sit facing the hallway. They threw such a fit over it when a coworker moved it that I’m scared to even nudge it. They sat “Do not move our cart”. When the coworker tried to explain why, they said “Just don’t touch it, ok?”. Maybe they were just having a bad day or something.

      1. Dr. Rebecca*

        It is at that point that I would *loudly* make it their problem. Oh, the hallway’s blocked, but they don’t want you to touch the cart? “PLEASE COME MOVE THE CART, WE’RE HAVING DIFFICULTY GETTING THROUGH.” And then stand their until they do.

      2. scooby dooby doo*

        i’m not saying they’re being 100% reasonable here but from your description that does not sound at all like “a fit”

      3. Rhymes with Orange*

        OP3, you know how some people say “my boss yelled at me today” when if fact, she didn’t actually raise her voice? You’re saying “they threw such a fit” in several comments, but all youve shared that they actually said so far was “Do not move our cart” and “Just don’t touch it, ok?”

        That is not a fit. That is not such an over the top reaction that it would keep you from having a two minute polite conversation about keeping the hallway clear! They could have a perfectly reasonable explanation for that. You said yourself that it only happened once and they may have been having a bad day. Talk to them about it. Nicely.

        1. OP3*

          They raised their voice loud enough for half the admin office to hear it and it was said in a very mean/hateful tone. Then a couple of them made passive aggressive remarks in a mocking tone whenever near that person for a few days.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            I think that alone is enough to go to a manager and report. It’s not okay to mock a coworker for moving a trip hazard that belongs to you/your job.

      4. myswtghst*

        Based on what you’ve shared, I think this is going to have to go one of two ways:

        1. If they were having a bad day but are generally friendly with you, you bring it up in a low key “hey, the cart is blocking the hallway and making it difficult for people to get to the break room. Is there any way we can go back to parking it in the other hallway over there?” kind of way and see what they say.

        2. If they really are being jerks about it, you need to talk to their manager, or someone at your workplace who can talk to their manager, about this being an issue. In my workplace, I’d go to the facilities person who manages the relationship with the cleaning company, mention that it’s a fire hazard and they’ve been uncooperative about moving the cart or letting others move it, and ask him how we can follow up.

        Regardless of which option you choose, remember that you are making a totally reasonable request with no reason to believe it can’t be accommodated, and if it somehow ends up being a big deal, that’s on them making it a big deal. Me and my anxiety are absolutely guilty of building up something minor into something major in my head, so I feel for you, but if they make this awkward, remember that it isn’t your fault.

  21. Teapotcleaner*

    Letter writer 3 – the cart- I am glad an easy solution was recommend by Alison. I am a hospital housekeeper with a similar cart with mop bucket and much more. It has deeply hurt my feelings when a nurses aide hid my cart because seeing it in the hall was offensive. However, that cart is the cart that keeps the unit clean and the rooms ready for expectant mothers and their babies or any other needs at the hospital. That cart gets the job done and it keeps lw3 job clean. The fact that LW brought out their increase in pet peeves since covid and the fact that the company pays for the housekeepers uniforms seems like a micro aggression. As housekeepers we would love to dress lovely to work but we have to wear practical uniforms. Also take into mind that housekeepers had to work through the pandemic when some professionals stayed home and we cleaned proudly through body fluids risking our health to an unknown novel virus. We have cleaned covid positive areas and much more. We know clean and disinfectants. Might want to reconsider your stance and be more compassionate. All you have to do is ask or say it nicely but no need to put microagressions on houseekeeping like they are dirty.

    1. Peachtree*

      I admire housekeepers and cleaners for all the work that they (and you!) do. I’m just not sure that moving a cart is offensive (in the sense that it’s targeted against the person doing the cleaning) and perhaps more a recognition that cleaning products and (potentially) dirty/unclean used products are not at best not that nice to be around (in terms of smell and appearance) and at worst unhygienic. OP is saying that a used toilet brush is on the cart which she needs to squeeze by – and she is wearing the clothes she needs to wear all day at work, so if there is a spill or accident, she can’t change into her regular clothes. I can’t speak to whether this reads as classist in the US – I’m from the UK – but I don’t think we should swing so far in the other direction that leaving dirty products in the hallway next to the break room is not only allowed but encouraged!

    2. MangoTango*

      Can we please not co-opt the concept of microaggressions to describe someone needing to move an object in order to walk down a hallway?

      1. Felis alwayshungryis*

        Is the person experiencing it not allowed to feel that it’s a microaggression? We’re asked not to nitpick word choices here.

        1. The Original Stellaaaaa*

          People can feel whatever they want but words have meanings and that simply is not a microaggression.

          1. BRR*

            The letter is really just filled with very strong wording to support the LW’s stance. And to teapotcleaner’s suggestion, The lw mentioned the cleaning staff react poorly when the lw asks them to move it. In an ideal world the cleaning staff from the letter and the nurses aid who works with teapotcleaner would work together and be miserable.

      2. Temperance*

        It’s projecting the idea that housekeepers and other maintenance staff are, themselves, “dirty” for cleaning up after others.

        I think it could very well be class-based.

        1. Amtelope*

          But the cart is, actually, literally, dirty. It’s reasonable for people who aren’t maintenance staff and are dressed for office work not to want to get close to a cart full of used cleaning supplies/toilet brushes. If the housekeepers are complaining when people move the cart so that they can get by without brushing up against it, the housekeepers are the ones being unreasonable.

          1. Temperance*

            It’s really not, though. The one at my office has cleaning supplies, two trash cans, and a broom and dustpan.

            1. Amtelope*

              And … the broom touches the dirty floor? The trash cans are full of trash? The LW said this cart has a bag full of used cleaning clothes and a toilet brush on it. I mean, “used cleaning supplies are literally dirty because that is the purpose of cleaning” shouldn’t be that controversial. Neither should “people cannot get past a cart that is blocking the hall without moving it, so putting the cart so that it blocks the hall and then getting mad when people move it is being a jerk to the people around you.”

              1. Temperance*

                The cart in my office never looks dirty to me, and I’m a germaphobe. It has handles and they keep it clean and organized.

                I don’t know what you mean by “used cleaning supplies”; how could a bottle of Windex or Clorox be “dirty”?

                1. Quantum Hall Effect*

                  OP3 is not talking about the cart at your workplace. They are talking about the cart at their workplace. Can we take their word for it that there is the risk of getting some thing on their clothing?

                2. Amtelope*

                  From the specific letter we’re talking about:

                  Often, they have a plastic bag tied to the handle to throw their used cleaning clothes in and toward the end of the day it bulges further into the already tight space. On the front part of the cart, they have their mop bucket and sticking out from under the mop bucket is the toilet brush they use.

                  We’re not just talking about “a bottle of Windex,” we’re talking about used cleaning cloths (they’re dirty! because they were used!), a mop bucket full of dirty water, and a toilet brush.

          2. katertot*

            It really shouldn’t be- housekeeping carts need to be kept clean in order for the cleaning supplies to be clean. The dirty items (emptying trash can, toilet brushes) should be contained. If the cleaning cart itself is that dirty then there’s a different problem but if they’re doing their job right, then it’s a clean cart.

        2. OP3*

          Nope, I don’t think the housekeepers are dirty and I don’t understand how it could be class-based since they make the same, and in some cases more, than I do and we all are relatively the same as far as housing, vehicles, etc. I don’t think they are beneath more or anything like that. I just want to go to the break room or use the rest room with out squishing against the wall or making them mad.

          1. Temperance*

            I was explaining how it could come off, and how, sadly, many people do treat cleaning staff.

            I would just push it a few feet down the hall. Our cleaners never have a problem when we do that.

            1. Dahlia*

              OP has said that the cleaners at their workplace do have an issue with people touching the cart. It sounds like OP doesn’t work at your worksplace.

          2. Quantum Hall Effect*

            About the classism: lots of blue-collar jobs pay really, really well, at least as well and sometimes better than white-collar jobs. Classism isn’t based on salary. While you may not intend to be classist, if you are saying things that follow patterns of classism, it won’t kill you to acknowledge the pattern and re-state your point in a different way that avoids that pattern.

            1. Mannequin*

              I’m not only poor, I’m a slob that sleeps with animals in my bed- and I wouldn’t want to have to risk rubbing my clean work clothes against dirty trash bags, dirty cleaning cloths, dirty mops, or dirty toilet brushes either. How TF does not wanting to get your office work clothes dirty for no reason make someone CLASSIST?

              She pointed out that they get uniforms because if the uniforms get dirty, they can change into a new one & then put on street clothes when they leave, but she would need to stay in dirty clothes all day. THAT’S NOT CLASSIST.

    3. Asenath*

      Hiding a cart is absurd and wrong on the part of the nurse’s aide since she overstepped her authority by interfering in your work. But in this letter, it seems like the cart is routinely blocking what must be a busy corridor, since it provides access to the bathrooms and break room. That’s a problem, especially in case of a fire (I’d be less worried about germs than the OP is). If the cart is in use, it would surely be moved down the corridor as work progressed. The housekeeper and, if necessary, the manager should be approached politely. Of course, the problem might be due to something outside anyone’s control. I noticed a large cart in one building that always seemed to be out, and eventually concluded that the building must lack the storage areas for cleaning carts that I’d seen in use in other buildings in the same institution. But it was generally pushed almost underneath a stairway, not blocking a corridor. Well, except when it rode up and down on the elevator, unattended, but even so the elevator was quite large so it wasn’t a problem.

      1. Cafe au Lait*

        But is it blocking a busy corridor? From what LW wrote, it sounds like it’s a huge company if they have a locker room for house keeping to change clothes. LW doesn’t also say which hours she works. Or if there are other breakrooms and restrooms nearby but not as convenient as the one LW uses. LW mentioned “Not use the bathroom all day” which makes me think she works an off-shift. As a off-shifter myself, it IS annoying when events (bathroom cleaning, lightbulb replacement, etc) happen during your work time that’d never fly during an 8-5 schedule. It’s the nature of the shift, and it’s best to make peace with it.

        To me the letter writer and a bunch of commenters sound more along the lines of “Someone in a lower caste is doing something I don’t like.” As someone who worked in lower-level jobs for years it always grated me when someone who perceived themselves as superior up disliked the way I handled a task. It was never about the way I handled the task but rather I was infringing on their convenience. Or in someway challenged their authority.

        LW mentioned her anxiety at returning to work, and I think that is what’s driving this issue. It’s not about the cart, or having to shimmy, or how the cleaning staff reacted last time LW moved the cart. It’s that LW is choosing to focus her anxiety over her lack of control on larger issues towards the housecleaner’s cart.

        1. Amtelope*

          I mean … typically we give LWs the benefit of the doubt and accept the facts they present. LW says the cart is blocking the hallway and blocking her access to the bathroom, that it’s not possible to squeeze past without potentially brushing against a toilet brush, and that the housekeepers complain when it’s moved. That’s not OK.

        2. Amtelope*

          It’s possible to both respect housekeepers for the hard work they do and to want them to move the housekeeping cart when people need to get past, or at the minimum, let other people move the cart without complaining. Doing an essential job is not a free pass to do it in the most inconvenient way possible for other people who have to use the same space.

        3. OP3*

          The housekeepers are the only ones with a locker room. I don’t think I’m better than the housekeepers. Our employer is open 6am-6pm, with most of us working 8am-5pm. We were requested by management to use the restrooms designated for us, including the front line staff. There are public restrooms much closer that the front line staff could use, but management strongly discourage that.

          The housekeepers used to park their cart in a hallway outside their cleaning room, and it’s a whole room right beside their locker room not just a closet. But for some reason if they are on break or lunch it’s in the hallway. I could understand if they were cleaning the restroom and I would just wait, but they aren’t. They are either on break or in a meeting and it’s partially blocking the hallway to our only break room and the rest room that management told us to use.

          1. puzzled*

            So is this happening when they are on break, and using the same break room? I wonder if the issue is that their managers have told them to keep the cart within eyesight at all times or something like that? The more you describe this situation, the more baffled I am, so I wonder if there is some management directive that they are dealing with which is helping to prompt their irritated responses.

          2. Quantum Hall Effect*

            I would think that your management would be the first person you bring this to. Have you mentioned it to them yet? Give that a try, and focus on the way the cart blocks the whole way to the restroom and not on any potential damage to your clothes since that seems to be some thing that a lot of people are really acting badly to.

            I also advise that you choose to be OK with the cleaning staff being unhappy with you. It is completely reasonable for you to politely say, “excuse me, is it possible for you to move your cart so I can get by it to reach the restroom?“ If that upsets them and they are rude, it is not because you did anything wrong. You can’t control how other people react. You can only be kind and polite and hope that they are reasonable.

            1. Mannequin*

              “not on any potential damage to your clothes since that seems to be some thing that a lot of people are really acting badly to”

              I’m poor, I’ve actually lived under the poverty level, and I’ve never had a job that required anything fancier than jeans (and I’m FAR from germaphobic)- but I still would be pissed if I had to risk rubbing my clean work clothes against a dirty trash bag, nasty mop, or filthy toilet brush every time I wanted to take a break or go to the bathroom.
              Why are people acting like not wanting to get gross things on your not-a-gross-job clean work clothing is some kind of shockingly privileged position to be in? A person with limited income who doesn’t have he means to wash or dry clean their work clothes as often as more privileged folks would be put in an even WORSE position by these strangely obstructive cleaners.

    4. Joielle*

      I really don’t think LW3 is being uncompassionate! They’re spending a lot of mental energy worrying about whether they’re being rude, when I think it’s the housekeeping staff who is actually being rude. The cart surely gets the job done, and it’s an important job, but it’s not reasonable to take up more space than necessary in an apparently narrow and often-used hallway. If you notice people having to shimmy around your work equipment, the polite thing to do is scoot your equipment over as much as you can. That’s the same whether it’s a housekeeping cart or a podium or a suitcase or a box of files or whatever. A lot of people have important jobs, but nobody is entitled to block a hallway and then get mad when people need to get by.

    5. OP3*

      I’ve never moved their cart or treated them with disdain. The issue is they park it at an angle and it blocks the hallway to the break and rest rooms.

      Also, I did not get to work from home, either. We were shutdown for 3 months and we all came back to work in June of last year. The cart blocking thing just started recently and they were so upset when a coworker slid it over to get by that I don’t want to upset them. It’s strange because they are usually super reasonable but I’m guessing they were having a bad day.

      The reason I mentioned the uniforms it because if their clothing gets damaged by bleach or chemicals, the company replaces it or gives them a new uniform. If my clothing gets damaged, I have to replace it. We have to use cleaner/disinfectant that caused a faded spot on a coworkers slacks, so I’m trying to avoid damaging my clothes or pissing off the housekeepers.

      1. Sparkles McFadden*

        Yeah, you just want to get to the bathroom without getting industrial cleaner on your shirt. You want to be kind and not upset anyone and you’re trying to figure out how to do that. It might not be 100% doable.

        In similar circumstances, I would move the cart a bit while yelling “Moving the cleaning cart a bit to get by. Sorry!” (or just move the cart and don’t say anything). I’m going to go ahead and guess the grumbling isn’t because of you, specifically. Even if it is, I think you should pretend it’s not. Not really a solution but it’s a way to shrink the issue down in your own mind.

        1. Willis*

          I’m sort of confused why OP couldn’t just slide the cart a bit to adjust the angle enough to walk by and then move it back how it was positioned. That’s probably what I would do, assuming my goal is just to get to the restroom or breakroom. Or would just touching it at all attract grumbles? (At this point though, who cares? It’s entirely reasonable to be able to get to the restroom.) Of course if OP wants a permanent change to how the cart is stored, then you need to talk to them or a manager, if they refuse.

      2. BRR*

        If you think it was just them having one bad day and they’re otherwise super reasonable, can you ask them their preference for what how they would like you to handle it when their cart is blocking the hall? Otherwise I think the options are move it and ignore them, ask them and ignore their responses, or bring it to management.

    6. MCMonkeybean*

      I think you misunderstood the comment about the uniforms. I believe what OP meant when talking about that was to highlight the fact that the clothes OP wears when they “shimmy” past the cart are the same clothes they will be wearing home, as opposed to the cleaners who will change into different clothes to go home. Personally I don’t think it matters because I feel like they are overthinking the idea of getting germs on their clothes, but they were not trying to say anything bad about people wearing uniforms.

      I’m also unclear on how you are reading the OP’s acknowledgment of an increase in pet peeves as a microaggression? I believe with that point they were just acknowledging that they might be overreacting and were looking for a gauge of whether or not they were being reasonable so I don’t see how that is a commentary on anyone other than themselves.

      1. Dahlia*

        Some cleaning supplies can bleach your clothes, which means you then have to pay to replace them. Like toilet cleaners, which often have bleach in them.

    7. nothing rhymes with purple*

      Well and truly said. The number of people in this discussion who seem to think they are a different, superior species to cleaning staff is very discouraging.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Can you point to those specific comments, please? I’ve looked at them all and haven’t seen that. It’s reasonable to be concerned about having to squeeze down a hallway right against cleaning supplies while you’re in a business suit, when you’re grumbled at if you try to move it.

        1. Mannequin*

          Alison, I’ve never had a job where anything fancier than jeans & a t-shirt or scrubs were required, and I *still* wouldn’t want to get toilet filth or industrial cleaners on them.

          I really don’t understand what people are going on about here. It’s not “privileged” to not want your work clothing messed up- especially because someone is being inconsiderate about something trivial & weird- and it would actually be a greater hardship for people with LESS income to have to suddenly clean or replace their few or only work clothes.

  22. UKgreen*

    LW3: if you need to get past. move the cart yourself. If you’re worried the cart is dirty, wash your hands afterwards – you’re on the way to the loo anyway, right?

    BUT! If the cart is only ‘shimmyable’ past it’s probably causing a blockage that could be dangerous in a fire or other evacuation scenario- perhaps the property maintenance team could speak with the cleaning team to make sure they’re aware of their obligation not to cause a fire hazard.

    1. Dust Bunny*

      If cleaning staff get miffed when they’re asked to move the cart, I’m going to guess they’ll also get miffed if someone moves it for them.

      1. UKgreen*

        Perhaps if you keep moving it (or keep telling them to move it) they’ll get over their ‘upset’.

        1. Archaeopteryx*

          Talk to your boss about the issue (including what specifically they’ve said/done when people move the cart and ask them to move it) and then go ahead and start moving it yourself. If they get mad about it, what are they going to do? It’s an absurd complaint so if they escalated it they would be the ones looking petty and foolish. They’re just manufacturing unnecessary trouble by getting so possessive about a work item.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            And I’m going to echo talking to the boss since in another post you mention this is a semi-recent change in behavior. With all of that being the case maybe a conversation with all the involved parties can come up with a better solution for all.

      2. Pennyworth*

        Can you ask them to help solve your problem with the cart being at an angle? ”Hey, I’m having difficulty getting past the cart when it is parked like that and the cleaning products sometimes damage my clothes. Is there some way it could be parked differently?” If you give people agency and invite them to help solve a problem they are often very cooperative. Your cleaners sound like otherwise reasonable people who have somehow been rubbed up the wrong way by the cart being moved.

  23. learnedthehardway*

    OP#5 – I would talk with your manager about how to address this issue. It would be best for you to BOTH be proactive about addressing it with the other teams your team supports, because it’s going to look rather bad for your manager that this problem occurred on their watch, and wasn’t noticed.

    It doesn’t reflect on you at all, but it will be important for you to make sure that’s not the takeaway people get about it. If/when your client groups mention it, I would tell them that yes, there are legacy issues that you found and brought to your manager, and you are now both working to fix the issues. Luckily, you have XYQ software experience and knew where to look. Or something like that. You don’t have to blame anyone else, as long as it is clear that you’re the person who discovered and is fixing the issues. In any case, surely the client groups will realize that their transactions from a year or two before you arrived are not something you caused (if not, definitely point out that you could hardly have stopped something before you started working for the company).

  24. Insomnia Ate My Baby*

    LW2, a lot of the commenters here think you shouldn’t share your early retirement plans because you’ll bore people, or because the info’s too personal. I’d actually advise against it because some of your co-workers may be resentful or jealous.

    My spouse and I live very frugally — no fancy electronics, no big trips, 15-year-old used car, that kind of thing — and when we bought a starter home, we put most of our monthly income into paying down the mortgage. It made financial sense, because the interest rate on the mortgage was higher than anything we could earn in a bank or CD — it was literally the best investment we could make. We wound up paying off our 15-year mortgage in three years.

    At work one day, several of my co-workers, all about the same age, were complaining about their mortgages and asked me about mine, and I reluctantly said we’d paid it off by focusing most of our income on it for three years. One co-worker (who was a level above me and made more money than I did) was incredulous and resentful, and kept bringing it up at random in various petty, snide ways — “Must be NICE to not have any LIVING EXPENSES” or “I can’t afford to buy a new car this year, but OP wouldn’t KNOW about THAT kind of problem” — for the next FIVE YEARS. It was like we’d personally offended them with our financial planning. To some people, how you got there and what you sacrificed won’t matter, all that matters is that you might be able to retire well before they do, and who knows how they’ll respond.

    (My sister actually has someone like this at her workplace, but in her case, all the snide jabs are about time off. My sister saves her vacation time to take in blocks at summer and Christmas, and her manager, who takes days off constantly throughout the year until she runs out of PTO, never fails to say some kind of sneery “Must be nice to have SO MUCH vacation time” thing whenever my sister uses her own PTO.)

    1. londonedit*

      I mean, yeah. I know these are my own life choices, but I have never been and will never be able to retire early, or even think about owning my own home unless my salary/the property market changes dramatically in the next few years. I don’t earn enough money to save properly, and I live in an expensive city where buying even a small flat would involve having a deposit of about £100k and a much higher salary than I can hope to earn anytime soon. So, yes, if someone else my age was banging on about how they were going to retire by 45 it would grate on me. Especially if they were going down the ‘All I did was save half my income every month and cut down on frivolities’ route. My rent is only just less than half my monthly income, dude. I can’t magic up a hundred grand for a deposit on a studio flat just by cutting out takeaway coffee.

      1. Bagpuss*

        Yes, that’s true too – i can come over as very blind to the fact that other people do have genuinely different circumstances as well as making different choices.

        An acquaintance of mine (friend of a friend) used to bang on about how anyone could do what they had done (pay off their mortgage early and then go part time before retiring early), completely oblivious to the fact that they were half of a couple in a long standing relationship, no kids, both in relatively well paid public sector jobs with final salary pensions and that they had neither of them had any long term health issues, redundancies etc. Of course some of those things are to an extent choices but this person would say stuff like “If you are sensible and put the full allowance into an ISA every year..” – because obviously every can afford to put £20K into savings every year ( or double that for a couple) . I have no doubt that they were *also* careful with their money and made sacrifices to save, but comments about people being irresponsible and stupid if they had to borrow to replace something like a boiler or car if it broke beyond repair grated on me, because I’m aware that the less money you have to start with, the harder it is to build up the kind of savings that mean you can afford to pay for those kinds of things without having to get into debt

        I am mostly reasonable well paid (I am self employed so it varies – I have had years where I made nothing, and others where I made £100,000+, on paper) but I’ve never been in a position to use my whole ISA allowance

        1. UKDancer*

          Definitely. It’s a lot harder to pay off the mortgage early and go part time now than it used to be. I’ve never been able to put the full allowance into an ISA either.

          Also people forget being poor is more expensive than being rich (as per the Sam Vimes theory of boots and economic injustice).

          1. Ermintrude*

            The whole thing about ‘smashed avocado on toast’ as a synecdoche for spending money on small things but not having money for bigger things that one can’t afford anyway came about after some toff in Melbourne wrote an article decrying the young people he saw brunching on toast with smashed avocado and ricotta. The general response was, well why not, since we can’t actually ever save enough for a deposit on a home, since prices are so ludicrously high.

            1. Nanani*

              That’s backwards – avocado toast came about because it was VERY CHEAP while also being nutritious. Provided you live somewhere that has cheap avocados and isn’t importing them from abroad, which gets missed by the “kids these days” hand-wringers.

              1. KittyCardigans*

                I don’t think Ermintrude is saying the Melbourne article is what created the avocado toast as a food item or even as a trend, just that it is where boomer handwringing specifically about millennial avocado toast-eaters picked up steam and became a meme.

        2. Worldwalker*

          A good example of how being poor keeps you poor is toilet paper. Yes, toilet paper.

          I buy my toilet paper a few of times a year, in those giant packs at Costco. I have enough available income to buy one of those things, stow it in the attic, and use it over a period of months. People who can’t afford to do that, though — or have no attic because they live in a small apartment — have to buy their toilet paper a roll or two at a time from the grocery store. So per-unit, they pay upwards of twice as much for toilet paper as I (and the legions of other Costco shoppers with big packs in their carts) do.

          Those of us who have the money to buy the big packs and the space to put one get our toilet paper for half what the people without have to pay.

          Now extend that to … well, everything. Being able to buy a house for cash instead of paying a mortgage. Being able to buy a car for cash instead of making payments. Things as simple as getting the prepayment discount for paying six months at a time for some recurring expense. Buying a subscription instead of single issues.

          It’s expensive to be poor.

          1. Worldwalker*

            I should have added: You don’t have the option of saving for six months to buy a big pack of toilet paper in the future. You need toilet paper *now*. So you’re paying twice as much as the big-Costco-pack buyers, and have less money to save for future TP purchases. The timing defeats you.

            1. Mannequin*

              I was once so poor I had to recycle cans to afford toilet paper.

              I learned, though, how to get the best value on TP by going off the total sq ft in the package, not number of rolls or sheets. It’s always marked.

      2. UKDancer*

        Yes. London is a dreadful place for property. My cousin in the countryside paid less for her house than I did for my small flat. The only reason I have my small shoebox at all is because my grandparents had money and their legacy helped with a deposit. Many of my colleagues are not nearly as lucky so I keep quiet about the fact that the building society and I own my flat (and Nationwide owns more than I do).

        I think it’s wise not to talk about things like retirement or property a lot because it’s personal (falling under the don’t discuss money, religion or politics proviso) and you don’t know what other people are facing.

      3. I'd Rather Be Eating Dumplings*

        I think a major part of why diet, finances and parenting strategies are often controversial topics is because it can be incredibly difficult to talk about them without coming across as sanctimonious.

        On the other side, these are very vulnerable topics and it can be hard to not have our defences activated even if we know the other person isn’t intending any offence.

        I don’t think they should be off the table, but they are definitely tough topics for the office.

      4. Liz*

        This! I’m in a similar position, and about 10+ years from full retirement age. And while I’m saving a decent amount towards retirement, and trying to increase it every time I can, There’s no way I could retire before then. And I’d feel the same way you do; if someone was going on about how THEY did this, and THEY did that, well, that’s great. But not everyone can and does.

    2. Bagpuss*

      Yes, unfortunately this is very, very common in any situation where you make different choices about how to manage your finances or other aspects of your life.

      I used to have a coworker who used to make this kind of comment all the time – she was forever complaining about her financial position and how difficult it was, but would be outraged if anyone ever dared to comment on *her* choices. I could never decide whether she genuinely believed that she was unlucky, and could not see the connection between her financial choices and the financial position she was in, or whether she just liked to whinge.

      She did eventually reduce the amount of comments to me after I started responding with things like “Yes, it makes up for denying myself [whatever thing she’d most recently and conspicuously been talking about spending money on]”

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        I could never decide whether she genuinely believed that she was unlucky… or whether she just liked to whinge.
        It can be two things.

      2. Hamish the Accountant*

        I had a friend/roommate like that who genuinely believed she was unlucky. We met through a leftist political group, became friends, and when I bought a duplex I rented a room out to her quite cheaply.

        She was very much in the “I’m a broke millennial and always will be because I’m a working class kid who took out a ton of student loans for a useless degree and a call center job, thanks Society” narrative and talked about that a lot. She saw me as Very Rich (no, but I very luckily have no student loans, prioritize stability over passion in my career, live frugally, and managed to buy the duplex with $4k down so got into rentals) and actually told me that one of the reasons she liked me was that I’m a rich person who doesn’t flash it around! Meanwhile she would complain about her dead end job but wasn’t interested in overhauling her resume or applying to any of the openings I sent her… financed a much nicer car than mine… and was just constantly spending money on fast food, makeup, clothes, shoes, jewelry, and nice body products.

        Totally valid choices to make with one’s own money, but it did rankle when she would whine about how our relative financial positions were 100% luck and Evil Capitalism.

    3. Glomarization, Esq.*

      100% agree. Working on a FIRE plan is great and all, but a lot of people take it really strangely.

      Also, honestly, being able to meet FIRE goals does involve some luck. LW is lucky to have their particular job and skillset, a partner who’s on board, and no catastrophic uninsured losses in their life that have wrecked their plans. Mr. Glomarization and I are on a similar path (a few speed bumps along the way), but we wouldn’t have been here without some incredible strokes of luck, including the head start of simply being born in the U.S. to middle-class families.

      1. Harper the Other One*

        I think that’s the piece folks often miss when having financial discussions. Of course good management is involved, but if you start out in a hole, you have to fill the hole before you can start building up!

        And it’s astounding how stuff snowballs by generation. My husband and I make less together than my father did (in terms of spending power.) However, my parents covered my university costs, and my husband paid off his loans with an inheritance. Then I received an inheritance which gave us a deposit for a house. Now we can afford to put away a ton of savings for our kids’ educations – more than my parents were able to give to me despite us making less. We made good decisions but we would be nowhere close to where we were without those boosts along the way.

        1. Data Bear*

          Generational wealth is a taboo topic amongst the professional class in American society.

          Which it shouldn’t be, because there are a lot of benefits to talking about it. But most people find it very, very uncomfortable to acknowledge how much their station in life is dependent on factors outside their control.

      2. AY*

        This is such a great point! My husband and I are lucky not to have to financially support either set of parents, and we’re extremely lucky that we’re healthy. If we didn’t have those benefits, some of which are not in our control, we wouldn’t be able to save at the high-ish level we do.

        I would never talk finances with a co-worker. You have no way to know what sort of path is front of them.

      3. LDN Layabout*

        My parents left their country of origin during a civil war when they were in their early 30s. If someone told me that their inability to retire in their 40s was due to their poor life choices, I’d laugh (and be holding back from punching them in their smug face).

      4. Lily Rowan*

        Yes! I am in a much better financial position than I might be, thanks to my (white, middle-class) parents buying a house 50 years ago in a neighborhood that over time became very popular. I understand that none of that is my doing!

      5. SoloKid*

        +1. I was “lucky” to have been born to a poor single parent and gov’t aid (HeadStart as a kid, then no interest loans as a college student [for a very cheap in state public college]) actually worked out very well for me. People get just as mad hearing that I got a start with gov’t help as they do when someone is born to very rich parents.

        1. Observer*

          Ugh. That’s so stupid.

          Getting mad, or even snarky, ate someone because they were born rich is idiotic. When someone was born poor and had the good fortune to be able to make these kinds of programs work for that’s stupid, ignorant and ugly.

        2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          Like, you were lucky enough to be poor enough to qualify for gov’t aid!

          We have friends who inherited enough to buy a second home without a mortgage, with enough left over to do something else exciting or invest in something.
          They frittered it away, just using it to tide themselves over if they had more expenses than usual, rather than being more frugal to pay for the expenses.

          My partner and I both arrived in France with nothing but a suitcase of stuff. We worked and saved, and then bought a tiny flat to live in. We lived very frugally for a while until my partner started earning good money. He invested pretty heavily in property, working hard and late, leaving me to deal with the kids practically as a single mother. Those were pretty hard times.

          Now, we’ve been able to buy a second home. The mortgages on all the property are almost all paid off, we have enough money to travel whenever and wherever we like, my partner is retiring. I’m not, because I want to remain independent, I don’t want to just live off my partner’s money even though he would never have been able to raise the kids and earn all that money without me.

          The jealousy is palpable.

      6. Archaeopteryx*

        A lot of the FIRE conversation started as “If you work in tech or similar, make 80+k, and are already a homeowner, you can easily retire way early!”, which is true and good for them. But then mission creep expanded the message to, “*Anyone* who’s not a shiftless spendthrift can retire early, and if you can’t then it’s because you’re addicted to shopping!”

        The fringes of the community also tend to deny things like healthcare being a big, random sword of Damocles over Americans’ heads (some tend to imply that if you eat right and exercise, the only health concern you might face is the occasional bike crash, and just refuse to acknowledge any other ailments besides implying that heart or metabolic issues are your own fault), and they imply that having a kid (or especially more than one) is just another unnecessary expenditure.

        There’s a lot of good financial advice to be found there, and plenty of non-judgy non-annoying people. But if you and your spouse (if any) are both in creative fields, want to have a kid, have health issues and parents with health issues, graduated with student loan debt, and were hit broadside by both recessions (class of ’09, woohoo), then it would help for them to acknowledge that their advice may not result in early retirement for you, even if some of it is still helpful. I’ve literally always paid off my credit card every month, so the implication that if you can’t FIRE then you’re a shopaholic is what rankles me about it.

        1. OP #2*

          I agree! I do think that it’s possible for people to achieve FIRE in all sorts of scenarios (for example, I make well under $80k/yr), there are just some circumstances that people can’t get out of as easily, oftentimes through no fault of their own, and I notice that some people in the “FIRE community” don’t really acknowledge that. Not everyone can just pick up and move to a lower cost of living city or give up their car and bike everywhere.

    4. doreen*

      Even if they aren’t exactly jealous or resentful , letting people know too much about your finances can have unexpected effects. I have a work friend who is currently on sick leave due to surgery and who is asking for leave donations. She probably isn’t getting many. In part, it’s because of our sick leave policies ( most people with her seniority have 6 months or more of sick leave and she’s asking for donations for an eight week leave ) but it’s also because she just bought a million dollar house and wears red-bottomed shoes. Even if people aren’t jealous , that knowledge doesn’t make people inclined to donate leave.

    5. A Cat named Brian*

      It really does come down to choices. I was single Mom, worked two jobs, paid off 150K in divorce debt (divorce lasted 9 years, x was an abusive narcisist), drove a 13 yr old van til the wheels fell off, then cash flowed hospital debt and college for two. Finally paid my house off in January. I’ve had to do my own repairs, garden, by food at estate sales and second hand clothes for 17 years. Make a budget, live frugally, have an emergency fund.

      I never talk about my finances at work. But I have a guy at work always complaining about his finances and what he can’t afford with his lakeside second property, new car etc.. It really drives him crazy because he thinks I make more than him. Has combined to our boss and HR. We are public employees and I make 15k less than him. (All he has to do is check the posted salaries)

      1. Nanani*

        Whoosh, the point has gone over your head.
        Having a chronic illness or career ending injury isn’t a choice. Being able to afford a house isn’t a choice – a lot of people CANNOT afford to buy property in the place they need to be for work or family obligations even if they’re just as frugal or more frugal than you. Being underpaid isn’t a choice. Not having an emergency fund -because you spent it on an emergency- isn’t a choice.

        Please believe that other people have more obstacles than you.

      2. Hamish the Accountant*

        Nah. Come on. All of those things you’ve done are fantastic, and I agree that good choices and effort make a big difference – but it’s not all down to choices. Luck is also a big factor. Acknowledging that doesn’t take away from your achievements.

    6. Epsilon Delta*

      Yes this. People get extra weird about early retirement talk, especially if by early you mean in your 40s and not “59 1/2” as per the goverment’s definition. The closest I personally would go is to say that I’ll retire when my husband does, which implies early retirement but not necessarily extremely early and it’s something that people can parse better than “retire at 45.”

      The other thing people get really worked up about is if you do any kind of paid work after announcing that you’re retiring early. They can interpret it as a failure of your finances or you having lied about “retiring,” especially if it’s a less prestigious job than what you left. (Nevermind if it’s fewer hours or more enjoyable!)

      I’d recommend checking out living afi’s blog, he has a series of posts where he talks about working while pursuing FIRE. At his first job he revealed to his coworkers that he was going to retire in his 30s or 40s and they ridiculed him for months and never fully let it drop.

      1. OP #2*

        Thank you, I will definitely check this out! Like I said, I may end up going to part-time work, or even just taking a “career intermission” – my main goal with FIRE is that I want the freedom to choose to work because I enjoy it, not because I need the money.

    7. Ana Gram*

      I had a coworker who did the same. I’m married and don’t have kids (and don’t plan to) and like to travel. I squirrel away money and days off and typically do an international vacation every year. My coworker liked to ask about my travel plans and then, in her very best martyr voice, talk about how she’d love to travel but just couldn’t with the cost of daycare. The whole thing was strange. If it annoys her, what was the point of asking? Now I keep travel chats confined to coworkers who I know also travel!

    8. Sparkles McFadden*

      I agree with this. Don’t share anything financial. Ever.

      I spent my life being careful with money. I’m not saying this was what everyone should be doing. It’s just how I was comfortable living. Some coworkers would make fun of me for things like bringing my lunch. I wouldn’t mention money. I’d just say “I like the convenience of bringing my own food.” (That was true.)

      When the layoffs came, instead of looking for work right away, I chose to take time off from working so I could take care of my elderly parents. When other laid off coworkers would ask what I was doing, and I’d say “Taking care of my parents who are in their 80s and not well” the response I would get from some people was a sneering “It must be nice to be rich enough to do that.” I attributed that to fear and would just answer “uh-huh” …and then not take the person’s call the next time.

      The flip side of this is that I had a coworker who planned on retiring in his early forties and nattered about it endlessly, lecturing the rest of us on how we “waste our money” on things like heating our homes to anything above 60 degrees F. It got to the point where we wanted to chip in to help him retire ever earlier.

      Keep things to yourself and know you are doing the right thing for you. You don’t owe other people any explanations and most people won’t want to hear about it.

      …and yeah…telling people “I’m retiring in two years” is not wise and your manager will work on winding down your responsibilities and that might not be what you want to happen.

      1. Anonymous Today*

        Why would anyone envy a person who is taking care of not one but two unwell parents in their 80’s? And why would anyone assume that you would have to be rich to do it? People who are rich hire others to take care of their unwell elderly. It is often working class and middle class people who have no choice but to take care of their ailing relatives themselves.

        How bizarre!

        1. Mannequin*

          When I had to stay home to care for my elderly mother with dementia, and my elderly, developmentally disabled sister, a BUNCH of people were envious that I “didn’t have to work”. As if caretaking is some kind of VACATION.

          I’m actually super independent and HATED to stop working, but there was nobody else to do it, and it was extremely hard on me emotionally. I got little sympathy from these people because again, VACATION.

    9. Observer*

      One co-worker (who was a level above me and made more money than I did) was incredulous and resentful, and kept bringing it up at random in various petty, snide ways — “Must be NICE to not have any LIVING EXPENSES” or “I can’t afford to buy a new car this year, but OP wouldn’t KNOW about THAT kind of problem” — for the next FIVE YEARS.

      Your coworker sounds like a jerk.

      But your “factual” and “neutral” description of how you got there comes of as rather tone deaf. I get it, you made good choices and even sacrificed. Really, no snark. But you sound like you assume that everyone can do what you did – and that’s just not true. It’s not that common to be able to put “most of your monthly income” into paying down your mortgage – even when you do “normal” things like driving your car for 15 years, skipping eating etc. In fact a lot of people need to do those things just to make it to the end of the month.

      That’s something that’s really important to keep in mind when talking about this stuff.

      1. Hamish the Accountant*

        It’s not that common to be able to put “most of your monthly income” into paying down your mortgage – even when you do “normal” things like driving your car for 15 years, skipping eating etc. In fact a lot of people need to do those things just to make it to the end of the month.

        Thank you for making this point so concisely, I’m going to try to remember it. I’m also someone who is able to pay off a lot of debt, save a lot of money, etc because of choices like these, and it’s definitely a big effort, but I really dislike it when people talk as though all you need to do to have a great financial life is live frugally. You hit the nail on the head with this comment.

      2. Insomnia Ate My Baby*

        I absolutely do not think anyone can do what we did, I just wanted emphasize that for instance our parents hadn’t given us any money to pay off the mortgage.

        Your assumption that I’m scolding everyone who eats avocado toast, or in any way commenting on other people’s finances when I bring up mine, is case in point of why not to talk about finances at work — there will always be someone who hears that commentary as scolding, blaming, or superiority.

    10. Malika*

      That sounds like a nightmare of pettiness to navigate, I hope you don’ t have to deal with that person anymore. When instant judgment is passed we do not acknowledge the choices people have made. Unless you come from a wealthy background, paying off your mortgage early meant you sacrificed in other departments. If that means less living expenses as a consequence then that is an accomplishment, not something to berate you about. I had a colleague who followed financial literacy classes in her early 20′ s and set herself up well while i was figuratively pissing it away on adventures, left right and center. We made different choices with the knowledge we had, doesn’ t mean i should resent her existence.

    11. Nanani*

      The fact that you can talk about paying off a starter home tells me you really do have a lot of privilege to check. Your coworkers are not wrong.

      1. SoloKid*

        Does “checking privelege” mean never talking about your life? Don’t ask questions if you’re not interested in an honest answer – the coworkers are definitely wrong to keep poking a bear and then wondering why they keep getting hurt.

        1. Nanani*

          Phrases like “starter home” that come loaded with the expectation that OF COURSE everyone can buy a house and flip it into a better one is definitely a privileged outlook, so if your entire life is like that, maybe you do need to never say anything!
          But really all you have to do is look past the tip of your nose and find ways to chat with your coworkers that aren’t quite so coated in privilege pixie dust.

          1. Manic pixie*

            Maybe you should stop sprinkling your bitter jealousy over everything? Just because someone can afford a house doesn’t make them a bad person.

          2. Insomnia Ate My Baby*

            We still live in that starter home 15 years later, we didn’t flip it or trade up. We still live cheaply. The point of that detail was just, this was not a million-dollar mansion we paid off in three years, it’s a small townhome we felt we could reasonably afford given the local prices.

          3. Mannequin*

            “Phrases like “starter home” that come loaded with the expectation that OF COURSE everyone can buy a house and flip it into a better one”

            Holy Mother of Assumptions! All that “starter home” means is a small & simple home, nothing fancy.
            I am so poor that it’s never even crossed my mind to CONSIDER ever owning a home, and I know that.

            All that extra meaning is something you’ve loaded on yourself.

      2. Anonymous Today*

        Would it still be appropriate to use the word “privilege” if the person involved were a Black woman who worked at a beauty salon by day and had a side job doing hair for people for their weddings on the week ends?

        What if she were an immigrant who cashiered in a bodega by day and cleaned offices at night?

        I try to refrain from using such language unless know that someone has come from inherited wealth.

        1. Tali*

          Of course people can be racial/ethnic minorities and still have privilege. There are people of color around the world (Oprah, Saudi royalty…) who are incredibly wealthy. Intersectionality etc.

          You can work hard and earn enough to buy a house but “starter home” implies expected future home ownership as well. In a world where many people can’t even afford a home at all, yes of course it is privilege, even if the person is POC.

        2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          I’m just remembering a case I read about of strippers in a club who were all living very frugally and saving like mad to buy their own home. Should we all be jealous of them too?

    12. RC Rascal*

      This is a very insightful comment and I agree with “Insomnia”. There is one more thing I would add:

      If your co-workers and/or your boss perceive that you are financially secure, that could work against you in case of layoff decisions. Many times in layoff/restructure, difficult decisions have to be made and it comes down to manager’s discretion. A manager can simply feel less guilty by laying off someone they think doesn’t need the money. Optically, it can be more favorable to layoff survivors to let go the “rich” employee and retain the ones who “need their jobs”.

    13. just a cat*

      Big agree on this. As someone also working toward FIRE, keep it to yourself, celebrate milestones with friends who are okay with financial talk, if asked just reply blandly that you just prefer [whatever it is you’re doing to save money.] Enough people will regard your financial choices as choices made AT them that it’s really just not worth the awkwardness and resentment it can create.

      The funny thing is that I come from a culture that is MUCH more open about money talk in comparison to America (where even bringing up money feels like a forbidden topic), so I had this bite me in the ass more than once before I learned to keep my trap shut. I brown bag lunches because I like packed lunches, I don’t buy a new car because the old one has sentimental value, I live with roommates because I like the company. Answering with any variation of “trying to save money” invited judgment of how I wasn’t living my life properly without [eating out for lunch / new cars / my own place/etc.] and offended responses like I was telling other people that they were wasting money.

      Even doing things that indicate that you might have savings and aren’t living paycheck-to-paycheck sometimes results in people judging you. When one of my parents died, and I took two weeks off unpaid to travel to a foreign country to take care of their affairs, one of my coworkers got it in her head that I must’ve received a nice inheritance to be able to afford the trip. When I told her no, that wasn’t the case, she got… really weird about it. Simultaneously all “oh, you poor thing, didn’t get a penny” while also grilling me about how I could afford the trip, considering how I made so much less than her. It was bonkers.

      1. just a cat*

        OH another thing, and one I don’t quite know how to avoid – some managers and HR personnel will get on your case if they perceive you as ‘not needing’ the money you make. When I modified my 401(k) percentages to max out my contribution, I got a “oh, that’s so… unusual,” comment from the manager handling the paperwork and then snide comments about being overpaid and LOT of pushback afterward when I tried to negotiate a raise. I had to (nicely and professionally) tell them I would leave over it before they relented.

  25. LDN Layabout*

    Even if what #LW4 was trying to do wasn’t illegal (and it is, and gross!), it’s also just simply a poor recruitment strategy to assume being a member of Group X means that person knows everything about X to be the kind of employee that you need.

    1. Elilar*

      LW4 here – we’re trying very hard NOT to discriminate. (I agree, discrimination based on religion or anything else is gross.) For the record, I am not a worshipper of Zeus and I’m heading up the project! But when you make a product for a really specific target audience (say hair products for long, curly hair) it would be disingenuous to hire a bald man as your spokesperson. This is the problem I’m coming up against – we need someone who can speak knowledgeably, be appropriate and not offensive, as well as be authentic, and up to date. I hope you understand my predicament and why I was asking the question in the first place.

  26. Green great dragon*

    LW4, yeh, you’re trying to discriminate unnecessarily. Don’t do it. Ask your candidates about the skills you need. Maybe the agnostic spouse of the Oracle of Delphi is looking to change career and has a far better knowledge of the issues than your average worshipper who never turns up for anything less than a bull sacrifice.

    1. WS*

      +1, I always won the “Bible challenges” in religious education at high school despite being a lifelong atheist because I a) like mythology of all kinds and b) retain trivia well. Whether I believed in it or not didn’t change my knowledge base.

      1. Blackcat*

        I spent a semester at a French Catholic school in high school as an exchange student. I stumbled into the role of the star pupil in the church history course I had to take. The priest was completely baffled by the atheist American knowing so much church history (I had taken AP European History the year before, which covered a lot of Catholic Church history).

    2. High Score!*

      LW4 may need an actual practitioner so that customers (the target audience) don’t say “why didn’t you hire one of us to represent us???” Just like if I’m a producer, I’m going to want to hire Hispanic person to play someone from Mexico or a gay person to play a gay person, etc, so my target audience doesn’t feel disrespected.
      THAT being said, LW4 could recruit at the temple of Zeus.

      1. Green great dragon*

        In another case that might be an issue, but that’s not what this letter says.

      2. Elilar*

        LW4 here – that actually is an issue we’ve come up against. (Needing an active participant to interact with the target audience.) which is why an active participant is preferred. I think the best we can do is to look for the knowledge base and hope that person just happens to be an active participant in the faith.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          But then if there are several different branches, the active participant might have less knowledge of other branches than their own, and might have even more difficulty getting their foot in the door to start selling in other branches (going on the premise that people sometimes hate those who think slightly differently to themselves than those who are completely on the opposite side of the spectrum)

  27. appo*

    Opinion 1: Changing scenery is good and very much ok.
    Opinion 2: These particular places are not good. And I think a lot of good reasons have been mentioned in the comments.

    My favourite places for WFH apart from home are: quiet parks when the weather is nice, quiet cafes, study room at the local library. (Obv. minding local restrictions!)

    1. appo*

      (And I must add that all the seriousness apart: Alison’s answer for LW4 made me giggle. “Of course, with any candidate, make sure to assess their level of Greek god fluency in the interview and talk about how they stay up-to-date (throw some current issues at them and get them talking about those as part of your evaluation), since even current worshippers will have wide variations in their knowledge and level of observance.”

      I would love to hear this interview. :D)

    2. Youth Services Librarian*

      But if you’re going to remote work at the library please be considerate of other people and their needs as well. In other words, don’t set up your “office” in our study room for 8 hours a day and get pissy when you’re given a time limit. Other people want to use the study rooms too!

      1. Worldwalker*

        Exactly. The study rooms are meant for library users to study in, not to provide the equivalent of WeWork for free.

        1. Youth Services Librarian*

          Academic libraries are likely to have more study spaces and be quieter, but they are there to serve their students and faculty, not the general public. Ask ahead of time.
          Public libraries serve the community and every one has different spaces and policies. The library I work at has a limited number of study rooms and a floor that is quieter (we cannot enforce an absolute cone of silence though). Many of our neighboring libraries are physically too small to have reserved quiet spaces. If you ask a librarian, they will usually tell you when it’s quieter, or look at a calendar to see when storytime is being held, etc. Some libraries still have covid policies, in place to protect not just patrons but the staff.

          1. Youth Services Librarian*

            Also, in view of the funding and resources most public libraries have (and often academic libraries) our wifi is often unreliable and I would definitely not do anything confidential on it.

      2. appo*

        Yes, I meant the “minding local restrictions” as “apply to your personal situation and rules in your surroundings.”

        Our local library has spesific areas, where you can do quiet work anytime it’s open. And also rooms you can reserve for yourself for certain amount of time.

  28. Nicky*

    For question #1, you should first find out what your company’s policy is. I work in the financial sector and we are not allowed to ever connect via public hotspots etc due to the risk of data being intercepted viruses. In fact I never connect to anything like that for security reasons. Maybe you can get around it by using a VPN, but then you still may have privacy issues with people overhearing your calls or just looking over your shoulder. Maybe your company doesn’t have a policy on it, but most large companies will.

  29. Anna Badger*

    I misread the headline as “can I work remotely for a zoo” and am now super sad it’s not about holding zoom calls with ocelots or whatever

  30. Empress Ki*

    1 Working in public places is a risk of data confidentiality breach. My company forbids it and blocks public Wi-fi.
    You don’t know if someone could steal your password and access confidential information.

  31. DiscoCat*

    #1 Considering the “personalities” and work cultures in some offices I’d argue that going to the zoo or even circus might not be such a huge change…

  32. e*

    LW2 – you don’t need to retire early for maxing out your 401k to be a sensible thing to do – you can just say “I don’t have that many expenses and I expect to need the money in the future more than I need it now” or something vague like that. My husband and I aren’t FIRE, but he’s pretty openly a personal finance guy, and that’s just part of his personality now – people know he’ll come out relatively high in savings recommendations etc.

    1. Mona Lisa*

      Yeah, I’m pretty interested in FIRE and maximizing my savings vehicles, but I usually couch it when discussing with personal and professional connections as an interest in personal finance. (“Oh, I’m an avid reader–modern fiction, personal finance, sociology, you name it!”) If the other person picks up on the topic, I’ll offer more information, but people are generally very skeptical if you lead with FIRE. Friends and family just know me as someone who’s very knowledgeable about taxes and retirement plans.

  33. HLK1219HLLK*

    Re LW #1 – One thing to be aware of if is what your clients or company require for security. If you’re working on materials or in environments that may be deemed to be high(er) risk, you’ll need to ensure that when you connect to Wi-Fi that you have a VPN to prevent others in the network from seeing what you’re working on Additionally, unless you have a privacy screen, you risk having someone catch sight of what you’re working on – see the letter from a few years ago where the LW got terminated (or their coworker got termed?) because of something they were doing on their phone on public transportation.

  34. agnes*

    I wouldn’t discuss my retire early plans with anyone at this point.
    1. It’s irrelevant to your work (it’s akin to announcing your future marital/childbearing plans )
    2. You risk affecting your opportunities for promotions/training/professional development –yes, even many years out this can happen-
    3. There are many variables that might affect your timetable,
    4. There are many reasons a person might sock away a lot of their income for retirement. You don’t owe anyone the information on how much you are saving or the explanation as to why.

    1. ecnaseener*

      Wait, is it bad form to talk about marital/childbearing plans? I’ve had more than one coworker be VERY vocal about never wanting to have kids and it didn’t strike me as work-inappropriate. (Or by childbearing plans did you mean “I’m trying to conceive right now”? bc yeah ew)

      1. Empress Ki*

        Agnes didn’t say it’s bad, but that it is irrelevant to work. Your coworkers don’t need to know your child bearing plans !

        1. agnes*

          And, talking about future childbearing plans may adversely impact your opportunities at work–for example, ” I am going to have a baby next year” might somehow put you out of the running for a great professional project this year or a great developmental opportunity. Why? because the “decider” will make some assumptions about your ability to see a long term project through or the return on investment they will get by spending a lot of professional development money on someone who will be in “mommy mode” in a year.

          Sad but true. Don’t give your employer a reason to discount your professional commitment to your work.

        2. ecnaseener*

          I asked whether it was bad FORM to discuss at work, not inherently bad. (I now realize I didn’t explicitly include the words “at work,” but that’s what I meant.)

      2. Nanani*

        If it’s a person presumed to have a uterus being vocal about never wanting kids, that can be a form of career protection. Mommy-tracking is real.

  35. Wren*

    OP # 1 – There’s the issue of dealing with confidential materials to consider. I work in healthcare insurance, and deal with medical histories, which is considered private information under Canadian law. My employer has no issue with me WFH where I have a home office and maybe only my spouse or children would interrupt me, but they would not go for something as public as a museum (I think it’s actually a fireable offence).

  36. Anon for this*

    I personally could work anywhere…. but that’s a really bad idea. You might not even realize it, but some of the information you handle might be sensitive, and not a good idea to allow people to see over your shoulder. Also, I find that while I can work with my laptop undocked from my two monitor setup, my productivity drops sharply when I don’t have two monitors.

    1. ecnaseener*

      LW didn’t say they had any monitors at home though. I’ve just been on a laptop this whole time.
      The confidentiality thing – sure, but that applies to a coffee shop or park too.

      1. Anon for this*

        While true, this is also something people never think to mention. I have a coworker who keeps excitedly saying they’re going to veg out on their couch with a laptop instead of sitting on their desk, then a couple hours later they tell me they’re back at the desk because they couldn’t get anything done with one monitor. This seems to be something they never think about until they’re actually experiencing it.

  37. HB*

    LW#2: I feel silly mentioning this because you’re probably already aware of it, but make sure that you’re not over contributing to your qualified retirement plans. Most HR/Payroll offices are pretty good about keeping people from going over the maximum deferrals, but the penalties are pretty severe if a mistake is made and you don’t catch it in time.

    1. So they all rolled over and one fell out*

      Unless LW2 has multiple jobs, it’s unlikely they are overcontributing.

  38. ecnaseener*

    #5: I’m loving this mental image of LW and Sherry at a bar — Sherry knocking back margaritas and gesticulating wildly while LW sits stoically, mask on and thus not drinking…or maybe drinking through a bendy straw poked up under the mask.

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        My kids have plenty.

        (not that they agree or would share them outside the family)

  39. Harper the Other One*

    LW2: I think you should be careful about declaring your plans for all the professional reasons Alison mentions. I also wanted to bring up – make sure you do a trial run on what it would be like to be fully retired in your 40s. I know a few folks who did who found the transition very challenging. They couldn’t socialize with working friends during the day, and it was tough to make the move from “my job provides things to keep my brain busy” to “my brain has to busy itself.”

    Could you arrange a sabbatical/large block of PTO or leave to do a test run? I would say for at least 6 months so you’re not in “extended vacation” mode but in “this is my actual life” mode. That will give you a better idea if you want to move to no work at all or to part time once you have enough saved, and then you can plan how to articulate your professional goals accordingly.

    1. OP #2*

      Thank you, that is a great idea!
      I wish I would have elaborated a bit more in my letter, but wanted to keep things concise. I do think it’s possible that instead of fully retiring it may be that I choose to work part time or just take a few years off from working. I have a few creative pursuits that I’d love to devote more time to, and some specific volunteer interests as well.

      1. Harper the Other One*

        Glad the idea is helpful! My father in law’s work provided a 6 month sabbatical specifically to be taken in the 5 years before retiring and I always thought it was a great idea.

  40. Richard Hershberger*

    LW5: This is where an agentless grammatical construction comes into play. The agent is the element in a sentence that is doing the action. In “Bob hit the ball.” Bob is the agent. In the passive voice the order is reversed, and the agent becomes optional: “The ball was hit [by Bob].” The passive voice gets a bad rap because it can be used to weasel around responsibility, the famous example being “Mistakes were made.” Yeah, but who was it that screwed up? Indeed, the passive’s reputation is so bad that it gets blamed for any agentless construction. “Mistakes happened.” is not in the passive voice, but many people think it is, because it lacks in agent.

    The thing is, there are totally legit reasons to not name the agent. This is one of those situations. Blaming your predecessor would tend to be deflecting from the real point. For purposes of the present day, what matters is that you know about these problems and are fixing them. Who created them isn’t the point. Since naming the agent would be irrelevant and potentially distracting, simply don’t do it. Alison’s language is a good example, getting the job done nicely.

    1. Naomi*

      Fun way to detect whether a sentence is in the passive voice: add the words “by zombies” after the verb. Mistakes were made… by zombies!

    2. MassMatt*

      Hmm, I think at least in some workplaces, who the agent is or was makes all the difference because unless the agent is named, coworkers, and worse, bosses, may tend to blame the LW. It’s not fair, it stinks, but the previous person in the role seems to have set off time bombs in this system that will keep going off long after she has left the scene. This means the prior person might have been savvy enough to keep her own hands and reputation clean, at lest where some people are concerned.

      I took a temp job filing invoices in a summer during college that was supposed to last just one or two weeks, tops. I had heard that the prior temp had been let go because they were not filing accurately, so I’m being super-careful. It turns out the FT worker that had this responsibility (for years!) hated doing it and would simply dump the invoices in a file cabinet, more or less randomly. I point out that there are thousands of misplaced invoices in the system, this was not the work of a temp over a couple of days. So I got the job of correcting this mess. It was a hassle, but I worked all summer without having to switch jobs and managed to avoid getting scapegoated.

      1. Sparkles McFadden*

        Ha! I got a summer job with a temp agency and almost every job was fixing their filing, and every workplace said “We had a bad temp” when it was obvious that the full time people just wouldn’t file anything. I used to wonder if some of them hired temps just to have someone to blame.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          I once got a temp job auditing the filing of a full time employee (and then fixing the filing, along with lots of other mistakes that got found in the course of the filing audit). At the end of the six week contract I was offered the job of the full time person – who was fired for “failure to perform core job duties.” Was a fairly nice job – was sad to have to leave it because of a move.

  41. FIRE Freak*

    OP #2, I would definitely stay quiet. I’m also pursuing FIRE and letting that cat out of the bag will affect your work relationships. It SHOULDN’T, but it can. My coworkers def thought I was crazy and even became resentful of my plans. I left the workplace in question and have kept quiet about my plans ever since. Most FIREd folks don’t tell their coworkers/boss until it’s time to actually retire for that reason.

  42. Roeslein*

    I’d be very confused about FIRE because just I don’t see the appeal of early retirement at all. I genuinely enjoy my work and the prospect of not working while healthy seems downright depressing to me (especially now that you can get a remote job and work while living in different places), and I confess I would wonder why the person doesn’t just retrain / change careers to find something they actually enjoy doing if they hate their job so much. Unless they then started talking about the ambitions they want to pursue that are not compatible with needing to earn an income like e.g. being financially independent in order to become a full-time fantasy writer, artist, classics scholar or whatever – of course I could understand that, but that would still be about the career change, not retirement.

    1. Lacey*

      I suspect you’re in the minority. I adore my job. But if I could retire tomorrow I would wish my coworkers a fond farewell and happily never set foot in the office again.

    2. Minerva*

      Everyone I know who’s retired early (most around 50) has really just changed to a less remunerative and less demanding career – a couple I know moved to sculpture and personal training after retiring from teaching and accounting, my daughter’s drum instructor is retired from engineering and focuses on teaching and composing. A friend got a part time job teaching a college class and serves on nonprofit boards. My father started teaching boating classes on a volunteer basis and took on other volunteer roles. Even keeping with the good parts of a job you like, you can consult selectively or get into a small role for a new business or non-profit.

      But it can be easier to find how you want to spend your days when you have time to explore things, without a time limit. The sculptor I mentioned only started after she retired, and she started selling without a need to do more than support her stone and tools expenses.

      If money wasn’t an object, I could easily go get a master’s degree in a new subject, travel longer term and improve my languages, become a better musician, get more exercise, volunteer with a variety of organizations short and long term, become more of an activist, do some overdue home maintenance myself… I seriously don’t see filling my days in a fulfilling way as that difficult.

      (in my mid 40s, not retired, and generally skeptical of FIRE but boredom isn’t the concern.)

      1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        There are plenty of people without that kind of resource though. I’ve been getting barely any work since March last year, but haven’t been able to get on with any of the projects I’ve always wanted to do without having time to do them. Partly I suppose because there’s no knowing how long this covid mess will go on, none of us thought it would last this long this time last year, so I’m always hoping that business will turn around soon (touch wood things are looking up now). I always wanted to be a writer, but I just can’t sit down and do it, I get a headache and stop. When I’m on a deadline for a client, I’ll just power my way through the headache, but if it’s for me, I just can’t. It’s taken this pandemic for me to realise all this about myself.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          (I have been doing more volunteer work though so I haven’t completely wasted my time)

    3. Colette*

      There are lots of meaningful things you can do that aren’t paid – work on hobbies, volunteer, etc. I like my job just fine but if I didn’t need the money, there are lots of other ways I could fill my time.

    4. KHB*

      I love my job too, but I’ve always been mindful of the possibility that I won’t love my job ten or fifteen years from now. Maybe the field will change direction and require different things of me, maybe management will change and turn my (mostly) healthy workplace into a toxic nightmare, maybe I’ll just get tired and want to stop. And changing careers, while not impossible, does get harder as you get older. I was also spooked a bit by the Great Recession, seeing all the people getting laid off in their 50s and gradually coming to terms with the idea that they were not going to find new jobs and were never going to work again. So although I’m not as dedicated as the FIRE folks are, I’ve organized my finances with an eye toward having the option of retiring early if that’s what I want (or need) to do.

      My parents both retired in their 50s, and boredom has been the least of their issues. My father was a civil engineer, and now he builds elaborate model train layouts. My mother was a science teacher, and now she’s a docent at a botanical garden. It was an adjustment for both of them – they, like a lot of people, had gotten used to defining themselves by the work they did for pay – but when I see how happy they are now that they’ve gotten into the swing of things, I certainly wouldn’t mind having a life like that for myself.

    5. CRM*

      It’s not that they hate their job, they just want more flexibility and freedom in their life, which I think many people can relate to! OP even mentioned that they are open to part-time work after they retire.

      Personally, I really like my job, but I hate having my time spoken for every single day for 8-10 hours a day. I would 100% prefer to have more free time and flexibility to travel, exercise, enjoy my hobbies, and just relax!

      1. OP #2*

        Yes! This is exactly where I’m coming from – I actually enjoy my job, but want a lot more flexibility than I have now. I’m an executive assistant, and in my current situation there’s the expectation that I’m available 9 to 5 Mon-Fri, but when I leave this job I’d be open to working as a virtual assistant, where I could pick specific days/hours of the week to be available.

        1. Kate*

          Yes – I think there are many for whom FIRE is much more accurately described as FI.

          When I got to 25x last year I decided that I would not take on work that I didn’t enjoy (I’m in my 40s). I’m not going to “retire” until I’m 33x, but getting to 25x meant that I was financially independent enough to make a lot of choices about what I want to work on, and pass on what I don’t! And, for example, if I want to work about 1-2 days a week in the summer, I can do that too.

    6. A Girl Named Fred*

      See, to each their own, because the idea of spending my healthiest years stuck at work 8-10 hours of the day is downright depressing to me! Granted, I’m not into FIRE but I do contribute what I can to retirement so I can retire sooner rather than later. Even if I enjoyed my work, there are a million other things I’d happily spend my time and energy on if I didn’t need to make money. But I’m glad you like your work and that working a long time isn’t a daunting prospect to you! :)

    7. Archaeopteryx*

      If you no longer need to work for money, then you can do things like go part-time, take only work that interests you, or dabble in different careers you’ve always been curious about, besides just stopping paid work entirely. But you can also volunteer, travel, spend your time studying/learning whatever you want to – the list goes on. Even if you like your job and stay in it after financial independence, you’d have the security of knowing that if you ever got a bad boss, you could quit whenever you wanted to.

      But it’s not about spending all day watching Seinfeld reruns. You can still be ambitious, just only in the ways most interesting and meaningful to you, totally unconcerned with compensation. You could spend all day learning Portuguese and Tae Kwon Do if you wanted to.

    8. Malika*

      Being financially independent, even being on the road towards independence, would be incredibly freeing. What would you do or say if you felt you did not have to be afraid of rocking the boat and not being able to pay the mortgage due to unemployment? I think we would be far more innovative and forthright if we could uncouple work from financial necessity.

    9. Actual Vampire*

      Right? My parents didn’t start their professional careers until they were nearly 40. In my mind, retiring so early is just reversing your timeline so you have your wild exploratory time later rather than earlier. Which is fine, but definitely not what I want.

  43. Person from the Resume*

    LW#1, What amount of work did your BIL do while taking his kids to the zoo?

    I am so baffled by this question. Work for me and my basic assumption of WFH “office” work consists of being in front of a laptop, having access to emails, files, sharepoint, internet, being on teams app for messages, and taking calls during the day. Laptop with access to the VPN is pretty much required, Can’t really imagine working offline although maybe there’s some deep thinking task that you can do after you download the information, but I’m really not sure.

    You can be on call while at the zoo supervising your kids, but not actually working.

    1. Lacey*

      Yeah, I have to assume that was special circumstances. Like, when my boss goes on vacation he will occasionally still pop on for a brief bit to take care of something. So he has done work from a state park, but he doesn’t go to the state park to work.

      Or, sometimes my job is super slow, so my boss will tell me I can just be on call for the rest of the day. I’d need to answer the phone or the occasional email, but other than that I’m free.

    2. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Yeah, something tells me the BIL wasn’t describing “working” from the zoo, more that he took the kids to the zoo and answered a work call or two so he remained available. I can work from anywhere and I have a lot of flexibility, so I once went to a museum in the middle of the day and checked my work email while I was there, but that’s not the same as taking my laptop out for breakfast (which I did yesterday) and really working from another space.

  44. Jenna Webster*

    OP4 – the few places I know of in our town that require a particular religious background require a reference from the applicant’s pastor – that seems successful in weeding out those who are not active practitioners of the religion.

    1. FridayFriyay*

      If you are not a religious organization with exemptions from relevant employment laws this would absolutely be in violation.

  45. Lacey*

    LW#4 Alison’s advice is spot on. I live near a prestigious religious university. They do a lot of hiring in my area. For many positions there’s no religious requirement at all – no one cares if the grounds keepers or librarians are religious or not.

    However, sometimes they have a position where they really do need someone who knows all about the religion. On those occasions they merely mention in the listing that the successful applicant does not need to be a part of X religion, but they do need a deep and current knowledge of X religion particularly in areas a, b, & c.

    There are some positions where they can legally require someone of that religion, but these types are more for producing materials aimed at people practicing the religion. You don’t have to be a part of it to make good materials… but not being knowledgeable would be a disaster.

  46. Old Admin*

    #3 : In my company, that huge cleaning cart in the hallway would be considered a fire hazard in the sense of blocking escape routes, and would be gone quickly.
    Maybe you could research that route.

  47. General von Klinkerhoffen*

    re #1 – it occurs to me that there could be a market for shared remote work spaces (like WeWork) in interesting public spaces like zoos and gardens, who are struggling so horribly for funding at present and are looking for diversification options.

    Flat fee for 8 hours’ access to a hotdesk, parking, Wifi and the coffee machine, in pleasant surroundings. We’d call the temporary building a Portakabin in the UK, but in less precipitous climates it could be a sideless marquee, or some organisations might actually have unused office space. Every time you need to use the bathroom or stretch your legs it would be somewhere nice.

    1. Phony Genius*

      Why not a cat cafe, except with petting zoo animals, or something like that? (If anybody wants to open one, they may even need an actual llama groomer!)

  48. Disco Janet*

    When my job was fully remote last year due to Covid, we ended up all having to come into the building and zoom from our offices because people Zooming from fun locations was apparently sending a bad message to the higher ups. Be careful. I think the way my job handled it was ridiculous – having everyone suffer a consequence instead of just telling that handful of people to cut it out – but people definitely had some negative feelings about those having zero tact about Zooming from the beach, zoo, etc.

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      I agree. (Re: LW #1)

      Know your self, culture, and role. HIPAA and other regulations may make it very concept a no-go.

      I would also advise you to be up front about it with your supervisor rather than seek forgiveness later, and be willing to burn a half or full day of PTO if it just doesn’t work as well as you envision.

      It’s not always impossible technically–I did a project while standing in line at Disney World one time–but I wouldn’t make it your norm or an expectation you’re entitled to.

  49. Invisible Fish*

    Oh my gosh- please don’t try to work at a museum or zoo!!! When my team was WFH, a member would insist on working from her porch/back yard, and even in that “controlled” environment, the noises around her were problematic. For example: birds going bonkers for only reasons birds know, unexpectedly strong gusts of wind, wind chimes, barking dogs, traffic noises when vehicles got close to the house … And again, this was her personal yard. Noises creep over fences, and a zoo/museum?!?!? Oh, no. I can almost guarantee that a school field trip will occur during something vital.

  50. AutolycusinExile*

    OP1 – you’ve gotten a decent amount of pushback here but I definitely think that this is mostly down to the example locations you gave. Don’t let this deter you from finding nicer places to work from! You just need to look for places where you aren’t getting in someone’s way. Weird that so many people are hung up on the security thing, tbh, since there are loads of jobs that don’t require all-day internet connection or frequent calls/meetings. Most writing, handwritten calculations or planning, teaching (grading, writing curriculum, etc), research which involves a lot of reading, presentation design or preparation… the list goes on.

    As to productivity concerns, lots of us do *better* in new and stimulating environments like being in public. God knows my ADHD means I’d kill to be able to work in a nice zoo-like area with loud ambient people noise and movement again. My brain just can’t focus in my silent bedroom! Different strokes for different folks, I guess, but being located somewhere interesting certainly isn’t an automatic disqualifier for productivity and I trust that OP knows their own limits there.

    As to internet security… is there a reason to think that a personal mobile hotspot would be any less secure than a standard person’s home network? Maybe I’m missing something, but I can’t imagine I’m at any more risk of being hacked at a coffee shop (on a private hotspot, obviously public ones are much riskier) than I am in my apartment, with 100+ neighbors who could theoretically be targeting my connection at any time of day 24/7 from the comfort of their own home. People use hotel internet on work trips all the time, and that seems way sketchier to me, especially if it’s known to be a business hotel – lots more worthwhile targets there than at the park, I’d think. Assuming you’re not working with high-privacy or confidential business data (and again, loads of jobs don’t), I can’t see how it would make a difference.

    Anyway, assuming your employer’s WFH policies and security requirements allow for it, really all you need to do is avoid camping out in places where seating is at a premium. That’s really the only reason museums and zoos are getting the pushback that they are – both are places where it’s notoriously hard to find somewhere to sit down, so taking up a spot for a few hours isn’t ideal. For similar ambiance, parks are an obvious alternative, as are the local public libraries (there are often more in your area than you’d expect, so it’s worth exploring all your options there). Another place I’d recommend might not be as obvious, though: local colleges/universities. Even smaller technical colleges have quads, unions, cool libraries, or other public spaces that make for stimulating scenery, with the added benefit of literally being designed for people to camp out and work for a while. Many college unions are open to the public, others ask that you buy something (coffee, lunch, etc) to justify your entry, and some even have memberships you can buy for unlimited access and wifi. The community spaces in my local university were frankly a godsend, pre-covid. See what you have nearby!

    1. Colette*

      You presumably have a password on your home wifi – if you don’t, you should! In a public place, there are strangers who also have access to the same network to you, which makes it much less secure. Even if there’s a password, it’s likely available to everyone who walks through the doors.

      1. Disco Janet*

        This is not how a personal hotspot works. You’re talking about just using the public WiFi.

    2. Wintermute*

      IF you’re in public and I have line of sight to you, there’s literally dozens of ways I could interfere with your wifi connection maliciously. And I’m no superhacker I’ve just taken security courses.

      I could force de-authentication and then connect you to an impostor hotspot using any number of SSID hijacking or override techniques, I could run one of several well-known attacks (preshared key attack, decoder attack, packet capture / aircrack) to connect to your hotspot or to read your traffic. If I’m just monitoring your traffic your VPN probably protects you, but if I can connect to your hotspot there’s a number of ways to pivot onto your laptop and access it, and if I force you to connect to a malicious hotspot I can do anything I want.

      Yes a neighbor or someone driving around your neighborhood could do the same, but it’s harder, and seeing someone working on a laptop in a public place lets you know there might be something valuable there: if I park outside an apartment building and scan I am probably going to get a lot of netflix traffic and online gaming sessions, and unlikely to get business data that could be of value.

      If your workplace allows it, well, they allow it and technically the consequences aren’t your fault, but I wouldn’t be comfortable doing much that requires a lot of connection to work systems, especially without a company-provided VPN.

      1. AutolycusinExile*

        I’m curious, how does line of sight help with those things, beyond letting you choose me personally as a target? Google didn’t clarify much for me :(

        My hotspot is password protected, has a VPN (for what little that’s worth here) and is encrypted, and I stop my laptop from remembering or automatically reconnecting to wireless networks. Between that and being wary for social-engineering-type tricks I’m probably just knowledgeable enough to be dangerous to myself, but honestly I think I just weigh the risks with different priorities than you do.

        Mostly I’m not sure I agree with your argument that cafes are more likely to win a hacker business data, especially not these days with so many more people working from home (literally). It could just be my demographic, but the majority of people I see or hear about working at a cafe are usually working on personal projects or surfing the web, whereas computer use at home between 9-5 seems way more likely to be work related – if you work in-office you aren’t using your home network and won’t show up to a hacker, and there’s solid odds a bunch of the people who are at home in a given apartment building will be working during ‘office hours’, making it a juicier target. In my part of town, anyway – maybe I’m overgeneralizing too broadly?

        Yeah, I dunno, I guess I just do the risk calculation differently. I’m not on a VPN or other shared network connection that would give a hacker access to my employer, I don’t work with sensitive or proprietary data that is at all worth stealing, and I don’t look particularly well-off or Fortune 500-y so I probably don’t make a very appealing target anyway. I agree that if I was connected to the company VPN the math would probably be different, but as it stands I don’t think it’s worth agonizing over for my current situation. There’s always a risk of something, but this concern just isn’t a priority for my field. If a hacker wants the web articles or curriculum I’m writing that badly then it isn’t worth the inconvenience it would be to my life to take many further precautions to stop them. But I’m willing to concede I’m not in the majority here!

  51. Seahells*

    Current museum worker here. We reopened with restrictions last June and we have seen a moderate increase in people working at the museum (we have free WIFI). Some will go to the Cafe and get a drink or sandwich and set-up shop in there for a few hours. They usually pick a table with their backs against the large picture windows or the very office-like wallpaper. It mostly isn’t a issue, but when we had to limit the number of people in the museum and take out of some the tables for social distancing, it could be a issue when someone took up a table for 3 hours.

    The biggest issue we had, and it’s actually been an issue for awhile even pre-covid, is the children’s gallery. It’s a hands-on, interactive gallery. Some parents/babysitters/caregivers will plunk the child down and immediately get on a their phone or laptop. Yes, it’s gallery for children but you still need to supervise your children. We have security officers that rotate throughout the museum and they have had to literally break-up fights between children because the person/people who were supposed to be watching them were immersed in their work or phone. (We even had one lady asked if she paid for admission, could someone watch her child while she worked!) The parents/sitters/caregivers were also breaking the no food or drink in the galleries rule, so security had to confiscate food and drinks or ask people to go to the pavilion or outside to eat/drink and that was always a huge deal.

    We had to put a time limit on how long you could be in the children’s gallery and have additional, absurdly large signs stating “No food or drink the gallery” made for children’s gallery and station a staff person at the entrance to curb the issues.

    Things have almost returned to normal and we really don’t mind people using their phones or laptops for a bit, but it was getting crazy for awhile.

    1. Nanani*

      Ooof. Unsurprising, but oof.
      Reminds me of “family skate” at the arenas. Just because it’s all ages doesn’t mean you can sit on the benches with your phone while small kids plow into everyone else on the ice.

    2. Anon for this*

      I work at a museum too and oh my I agree! It’s not a WeWork (I love that analogy above), and even when we are quiet, having a person in the galleries means we are there to keep tabs on the art. That’s great for visitors! But for someone camping out to do their job? It’s an inappropriate use of our resources.

  52. I'm A Little Teapot*

    #2 – You’re new to the FIRE movement, especially as regards to interacting with other people. From experience, don’t say anything. Money makes people weird. You will be much happier in the long term if you practice stealth wealth – ie, you have lots of money but no one knows it. When you are ready to leave you wouldn’t necessarily call it a retirement (you could, but might not be worth the hassles).

    If you’re not on a particular forum for FIRE pursuits, I recommend Mr Money Mustache. There are others of course.

    1. OP #2*

      Thanks! Money does indeed make people weird :) Stealth wealth from here on out!
      I think it’s an interesting conversation though, how the perception of retirement changes when someone isn’t doing it at the “approved” age – and I’m not even speaking of myself; my mom retired this year at age 60, and her coworkers were giving her a hard time about how “unfair” it was and how “spoiled” she is.

  53. MCMonkeybean*

    LW2–I don’t think it’s something you need to actively keep secret, but it’s not something you want to talk about a lot because it may become The Thing You Are Known For. I used to work with a guy who talked about how he was saving all his money because he was going to retire early all the time. That and the fact that he rode his bike to work are literally the only things I knew about him and are the only things I remember about him today.

    But again, it doesn’t have to be a big secret either so while I wouldn’t think it would or should come up often I think there’s nothing wrong with the fact that you mentioned it when it was specifically relevant to your conversation about 401(k) contributions.

    The guy I knew was pretty young though, so I think Alison’s advice makes sense that when it is within a couple years you should probably not talk about it until you are near a point of wanting to give notice.

  54. Observer*

    #1 – The things you need to worry about are:

    1. Can you get the level of privacy you need? For instance, if you are handling sensitive client data, these are not good places to be.

    2. How distracting to you is the environment. For some people all of the activity at a zoo (or Starbucks) can be hugely distracting. For others it’s the kind of background that acts like a mental white noise machine. So, you need to know yourself.

    3. On meetings and phone calls, how is the background noise likely to affect things?

  55. RussianInTexas*

    LW#3: did you just call out the cleaning crew on their uniform privilege?
    Also, just ask them to move the cart. Who cares if they grumble.

    1. Mental Lentil*


      The point is that if you have to rub against the cart, you risk damaging your clothes or getting them dirty. (BTDT) This is a concern for LW, who has to pay for their own clothing.

        1. Jackalope*

          And the point that OP3 made is that in the recent past, people moving the cart have gotten a strongly negative reaction even when they are just carefully scootching it over to get around it. THAT is in fact the point here and the reason the OP wrote in – how to handle this situation where the seemingly obvious solutions (moving the cart a bit or asking the cleaning crew to move it) have been met with hostility. OP3 wants to both maintain the positive relationship they have with cleaning staff (see their prior msgs) AND be able to walk to and from the bathrooms and break rooms without ruining work clothes.

          1. RagingADHD*

            And I’m saying that sometimes grownups have to make choices.

            If someone has an unreasonable reaction to a reasonable request or action, then there’s no way to have a good relationship with them in the long run.

            Either managing the cleaning staff’s feelings for them is more important than squeezing past the cart, or not squeezing past the cart is more important than the cleaners being grumpy. You can’t have it both ways.

        2. New Jack Karyn*

          LW3 has said in comments that the cleaning staff make snide comments to and about people who scootch the cart over. She’s usually on good terms with them, and doesn’t want to upset them.

          1. EventPlannerGal*

            Then she has to decide if squeezing past this cart is more or less of a problem than having an awkward conversation with the cleaning crew. I mean, from her comments it seems that she hasn’t even asked them why they leave the cart there or why it’s such a problem to move it. Very strange.

        3. fhqwhgads*

          Thew crew got snappish when people who aren’t them moved it. And got snippy when asked to move it themselves. That’s why OP feels stuck.

    2. Mannequin*

      I actually did consider it a privilege when I had jobs that provided uniforms, smocks, or scrubs, because then I didn’t have to spend my very limited income on special clothes that I would only wear to work and no where else.

  56. Great Apes at the zoo*

    LW #1. I’m a bit frustrated by people who say they are “just as productive while working at home” and they are doing things like leaving at noon for vacation (and claiming to work 8 hours), entertaining friends (and missing important meetings), and taking time off in the middle of day without taking PTO, making up the time or even telling others that they are not available. I’m going into the office, so I have to cover their work.

    1. D3*

      And lots of people really ARE just as productive (or more so!) from home. I think that is true more often than not. Let’s not paint all WFM people with that brush just because you have coworkers pulling crap.
      Where are the managers in this scenario?

    2. Nanani*

      Most of us aren’t doing that. Take care of your slackers – and really, aren’t these the same bozos who spend their time in the office chatting at the water cooler, taking long lunches and personal calls, and so on?

    3. Tired of Covid-and People*

      How exactly do you know that folks are committing all these transgressions, especially leaving for vacation at noon while claiming to work 8 hours? Do you have cameras in their homes?

      This is becoming like the mommy wars, except it’s remote vs. onsite workers. Ridiculous.

  57. Wintermute*

    #5– I work in IT with these kinds of processes (insurance company, monitoring batch processing and automation jobs), so basically I probably do close to the same thing you do. There’s a few very important things here.

    First, your boss absolutely needs to know because one of his employees was engaged in wholesale work avoidance behavior that was causing real damage to company systems. This is above your pay grade, and messaging needs to come from management. It’s very likely that this implicates audit, if you’re an IT-audited company, and frankly, the fact your boss let this happen on their watch means their career and reputation is impacted. To have a sysadmin go that badly rogue on your watch without you noticing says nothing good about a manager. In addition this may well need actions from other places in the company (HR getting involved to mark her as ineligible for rehire because misconduct was discovered after she left, audit may need to flag passed audits as incorrect, perhaps even legal getting involved to smooth things over with regulators, etc). At the very least your manager needs to work with management in the users’ department to rebuild trust and work out what recovering from this looks like.

    Second, sometimes systems just don’t work by design. It’s not “deflection” it’s explanation, and your career will be well-served if you get comfortable providing politic but informative (to the capability of the person you’re talking to) and unevasive explanations for why something isn’t working, won’t work and either you’re going to fix it or it will never be fixed and this is now the new normal (and if you work in IT long enough you will run into having to explain why, for example, the website won’t work in Internet Explorer, ever again, we can’t fix it because the vendor told us this is how it will be). NOTHING upsets people like evasion, and even if they’re not happy, most people respect honesty. This will not satisfy everyone, there’s just no satisfying some people, but it will give you a good reputation.

    At the same time nothing will torpedo your reputation like A) taking responsibility for things that aren’t your fault and taking the “I don’t want to cast blame so just blame me” attitude, the real source of problems is context people need to evaluate you and your work, both formally and informally. or B) looking like you don’t know why something isn’t working when you do, or should.

    Think of this from the user perspective. There are errors in their work, that they were never told about and were quietly buried. **they don’t trust you right now, and they’re correct not to trust your department**. Getting past that is going to require some frank and honest conversation, you probably can’t protect yourself and Sherry at the same time here. But at the same time I wouldn’t do that communication with every rank-and-file member of the user team– that should happen with their manager.

    Ideally your manager talks to their manager and explains the situation bluntly at a high level, for the user team manager to communicate appropriately to their subordinates in a way that gives them the gist of things at a level appropriate to their technical knowledge and their user-side view of the system (which may not know about things like message queues or console output and other backend details and no doubt has their own unique verbage for processes and systems) while delicately protecting your team’s reputation. That might involve being frank that Sherry was engaged in malicious work avoidance, it might be far more euphemistic (“the system was discarding these messages due to misconfiguration issues that have been fixed…” or something like that), but that should be manager-to-manager.

    If you are responsible for communicating this to end users, your messaging should do it twofold– make it clear that this is not going to happen in the future and try to rebuild user trust, and make it clear you do know why this happened (you NEVER want users thinking you don’t know what’s going on when you do, nothing is more deadly to a department’s reputation than “they don’t always get error messages, and no one over there can tell me why!”). If your manager is leaving it up to you, then it may be best to go to the user team manager yourself say “okay, here’s what really happened, I am mortified that this occurred but I couldn’t have stopped it then. I have stopped it now. How can I build bridges to your team and earn their trust going forward? Can you help me communicate that this is fixed and won’t be a problem again in a way that doesn’t throw anyone under the bus?” But be prepared the answer is “no, this is such a big deal that I don’t think they will trust you unless they know that this was misconduct that wasn’t your fault.”

    1. LW5*

      You hit the nail on the head there, and thank you for your advice.

      It was too wordy for my question, but yes, there was what turned into a massive audit by our parent company. And issues were not restricted to the system I admin or even just IT.

      On the plus side, my current boss was not here overseeing all of this, he was brought in by the parent company to help handle things as they fired Sherry’s boss/es for a coverup. Once that firing happened, Sherry and many others resigned immediately. Many all over had “buddies” in IT, and the web of issues is extremely tangled across departments. My system fortunately mostly resulted in annoyances and not legal issues, so it’s been farther down the ladder for resources to completely fix it.

      I have little/no interest in protecting Sherry or her reputation, just in avoiding what looks like excessive finger pointing. Most of the complaints are coming from newer managers who may or may not be aware of the absolute turmoil the company faced (or only knew they were replacing someone who was fired for fraud-adjacent issues, not knowing it was going on throughout the company), and since there was never a news article or anything, kind of hard to explain briefly.

      1. LW5*

        Should add that part of the mass resigning was the parent company intended to test the various admins for their ability to work in their assigned systems, and many decided they were either offended or that they wouldn’t be able to pass. Some just cited they were more upset that their previous boss was removed.

        We are starting to return to normal company drama and less bizarre chaos.

  58. AthenaC*

    For OP #4, one thing you might run into is an applicant who says “I went to 12 years of Greek god school, so I know everything about Greek god worship practices!” When in reality, that applicant may be supremely unqualified but willfully ignorant about how unqualified they are.

    Just something to be aware of.

  59. Lucious*

    From LW2:

    “My question is about whether it’s wise to mention anything about this at work, even in a casual conversation. For example, one of my coworkers/friends and I were discussing our 401(k) contributions and employer match since our company just recently changed plans, and when I mentioned what percentage I was contributing, I could see her eyes go wide. I ended up telling her about my plan to FIRE to explain the percentage.”

    On this I must disagree with Alisons response. She’s correct that your work and professionalism should come first , and not your retirement plans. Unfortunately, human beings don’t always react on facts. Some people for reasons beyond their control may not be able to retire at all – it can come across as privileged/classist bragging if LW2 shares their plans to retire at a relatively early age.

    Yes it’s not LW2s responsibility to control other peoples reactions. However a person without the financial ability to retire or retire early may feel put out by the LWs plans for FIRE , and could act on those feelings in the workplace. It is a risk to point out.

    1. OP #2*

      I appreciate you pointing this out and definitely realize that I am in a unique situation. In the context of this particular conversation, I was fortunate that it was with a coworker who I also happen to be close with outside of work, so we ended up having a good conversation about financial planning in general (and it was a two-way street – not just me talking).

  60. Howard Bannister*

    LW5 –

    I inherited a process like this. I opted for honesty, because it was just too pervasive. “When he told you to just do X, that does nothing. All the cases you tried to fix via this method are just stuck in limbo and we’re going to have to find them and repair them.”

    It does look bad to blame a person, yes, but blunt honesty helped us to rebuild trust that had been lost. It took us years to get back on track but that openness has paid dividends in the long run. They trust us more than they would have if we had covered for the guy who just lied to make them go away.

    That’s a whole other kettle of fish, there. I can understand being overwhelmed by this–these are complex problems that required years of work to try to fix. But just lying and trying to memory-hole the problems? I can only imagine doing that if you’ve already realized you’re in over your head and are actively planning to get out. And also hate your coworkers.

    1. Howard Bannister*

      And to add to that– part of the reason it was important to tell them that was that it called into question all other advice he had given them. He had given plenty of advice! Knowing that he was just as happy to give bad advice helped to get them to mark all his work product as questionable and not rely on things he might have said.

      I’d be willing to be if they knew that she had done something like that it would raise further questions — questions that probably do need raising.

      It’s very rare that I’d advocate for pointing fingers. But somebody doing malicious work is very different from a mistake.

  61. Lyra Silvertongue*

    I’ll be blunt, FIRE communities tend to be super annoying and evangelical from my limited experience with them. Hearing people talk about how much money they’ve got and how great they are at spending – particularly when we’re in a kind of recession period – isn’t really anybody’s idea of a good time. This seems like something you can just keep to yourself, LW2.

    1. OP #2*

      I can definitely see where you’re coming from, because I feel that way about some of the people I’ve encountered too… I wish I would have articulated a little better that what prompted me to ask the question was thinking about the difference between when someone retires at the “traditional” age and how they usually talk about their plans up to a year or two in advance and no one seems to bat an eye and I was curious if the same would apply in an early retirement situation.

  62. Bananaphone*

    I was thinking about taking a few meetings at the pool this summer. Thanks for this question. I don’t think it will work for me much.

  63. Pumpkin215*

    LW, if you want a change of scenery I suggest checking out some local hotels. There is a very nice hotel/wedding venue/conference center near me that is independent.

    During COVID, they were advertising day rates (not, not THAT kind!) and called it WFHotel. For $60 from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. they gave you one of their rooms. I did this a few times and it was great! I had a nice room with a desk and a fireplace. I had access to their indoor pool, gym, and the restaurant was open for lunch. If I was busy working, they would deliver food to the room. It was really a nice, quiet setup.

    1. Mannequin*

      Is $60 a day supposed to be reasonable? If you did that for 20 work days, it would be more than what my husband and I pay for rent!

  64. Sarah*

    I wonder about data security issues. Maybe it’s just the nature of my work but corporate data security would have a fit if they found out I was accessing company databases and information with a company laptop on a publicly available wifi network. Not to mention the things that a passer by could see on your screen or hear when you’re making a phone call!

    As a manager I would find that really unprofessional that you were working somewhere so full of distractions that it would certainly make me question your judgement. I love museums and the zoo too, but do your visits on your non-work time.

  65. HR Ninja*

    I feel like the brother-in-law in OP #1’s letter is a lot like when someone brings their kid into the office because the kid is sick or doesn’t have daycare/school. How actually focused is the parent on work?

    1. Nanani*

      I think it’s relevant that it’s a BROTHER in law. A Sister in law would likely face a lot of judgement from passersby or staff about being so distracted.

      Also the age of the kid is probably relevant. Lots of people have pointed out that an older kid who is interested in the exhibits doesn’t need that much watching.

  66. Erelen*

    I, certainly, have NEVER fielded work calls while skiing. And definitely a good friend/coworker of mine would certainly not work from a ski lodge or attend meetings while on a ski lift!
    In all seriousness, our position requires a lot of on call and after hours work. So when we definitely don’t ski over an extended lunch hour while making sure we get everything accomplished… nobody minds. It all depends!

  67. RagingADHD*

    OP3, you are jealous of the cleaning staff’s icky scratchy polyester uniforms?

    You are in a quandary because someone you don’t actually work with directly might possibly be grumpy for 5 minutes?

    Yes, your anxiety is getting the better of you, and it’s time to step up your management plan.

    1. LTL*

      If you read above, OP3 mentions clothing because they’re specifically concerned about getting something on their clothes from the cart which they will then need to pay for to clean or replace.

      1. RagingADHD*

        Yes, and it is taking up an outsized importance in the relative scheme of life.

        The OP specifically asked whether they were over-reacting and mentioned having anxiety. I believe that self-assessment is correct, and the best way to deal with this problem is to deal with their internal perceptions before they try to engage with others.

        1. Mannequin*

          Cleaning crew YELLED AT a person who moved the cart a bit, and then mocked them/axe snide comments for days after. That’s not normal behavior! And that’s why OP wrote in.

          PS As a poor person, I always appreciated jobs that provided uniforms/smocks/scrubs because it meant I didn’t have to spend my VERY limited income on an entirely separate wardrobe that I only wore at work.

  68. RagingADHD*

    LW2, yes, talking about your FIRE plans will make you look bad at work, but not in the way you’re thinking.

    There is no way to discuss this with a general audience without sounding like you’re bragging about your money, and/or your freedom from obligations like medical bills, caring for children, parents, special-needs relatives, etc. A lot of people live extremely frugally because they have to, not as a lifestyle choice.

    If there are likeminded folks at your workplace, I’m sure you can find each other with some indirect conversational feelers. But it’s not going to enhance your relationships with your colleagues if you’re talking about their normal lives as your amazing sacrifices.

  69. Nanani*

    #1 – Theoretically, sure. It strongly depends on what kind of work you’re doing though.

    If you’re just typing away at non-confidential things, -and- the place you’re hanging out doesn’t mind people on laptops using the wi-fi all day, -and- you’re not on any type of call disturbing other patrons, maybe.

    I’m imagining here a museum where the wi-fi is for patrons to get access to an app that explains exhibits in various languages, and the atmosphere is overall on the quiet side. Someone doing an obvious business meeting on a laptop nearby would be disruptive to others, and if a lot of people did it it would clog up the wi-fi for the people doing what the museum wants it for.

    And if ANY of your work is confidential in any way, it’s a hard no. Public wifi isn’t safe enough. Random people being able to glimpse at your screen may also be against protocols.

    You have a much stronger case for working from another person’s house with private wi-fi than you do for a public place.

  70. IrishMN*

    I don’t see how someone could possibly be working from a zoo with their kid unless working meant occasionally checking in or answering queries from their phone, or *maybe* working from phone/pad/laptop while they were eating lunch (for like 30-60 mn?). I just don’t see how that is possible. I guess if the kid was old enough to venture out on their own to the exhibits and dad stayed in one place…but still. I find the idea very odd.

    1. Cooper*

      Depends on what type of work he was doing and how far ahead the trip was planned- I’ve had days at work where I have literally nothing to do because I’m waiting on documentation to be sent to me, and if I knew I was in for one of those, yeah, I might pop out to do something else and just keep an eye on my phone for any emails.

  71. IrishMN*

    LW3, I don’t blame you, I’d be icked out too. And they shouldn’t be getting pissy over their cart being moved so people can get by. I’d say that may be the biggest problem actually – they’re blocking the way and getting upset when people try to work around it. Sounds like management needs to have a talk. I don’t get to block half of my co-workers desk and then get pissy with them when they try to get me to move.

  72. Lyra Silvertongue*

    #3, no offense, but you speak about the cleaners as if they’re not just human beings you can talk to. They didn’t design the cart or specifically place it to irritate you. Do not email the supervisor of workers earning far less than you to complain about something you haven’t actually tried to solve. I have anxiety and I still know that’s a crappy thing to do.

    1. IrishMN*

      I didn’t get the impression the LW was being snobby or looking down on the cleaning staff. I don’t blame her for not wanting to have a confrontation considering how they have acted in the past when people tried to work around it in a reasonable way. At the same time, it probably would be a good idea to talk to them before going up the chain, because that will probably be the first thing management will ask – did you talk to them? And it isn’t unreasonable for them to ask that. It just doesn’t sound likely to be fruitful.

      1. Lyra Silvertongue*

        I’m not trying to say the LW is awful but there’s just some weird stuff in there. Like it’s pretty self-explanatory why cleaners have a uniform paid for by the company and the LW doesn’t, so why mention it? The size of the cleaning cart is also not something they are choosing. I just think the LW needs to bear in mind that the cleaning staff are the people responsible for keeping the place where the LW works clean and sanitary, and being grossed out about the work equipment and uniform that they use to do that is a little much.

        1. IrishMN*

          I thought the uniform comment had to do with the fact that they can change out of their work clothes at the end of the day and LW can’t. Which is a reasonable thing to think about – LW having contact with refuse and not being able to change their clothes puts her in a different situation than someone who knows they can change into clean clothes at the end of the day.

          1. Teapotcleaner*

            LW cited their newly found germs phobia from covid as they return to the office. Sometimes when people don’t have firsthand experience working through a pandemic and handling their fears of an airborne virus vs. a touch transmitted virus there can be a sense of unproven bias. LW started citing their letter in the beginning based on this phobia and bias towards an airborne virus. Instead the letter should have simply cited the cart in the way but it took a different route. I am sure LW will be able to solve this issue in their job though. Best of luck to them.