disgusting shared fridges, loud talkers, and other things we haven’t missed about the office

I’ve mentioned here before that my mail changed drastically when the pandemic started, and stayed changed until very recently. I normally receive loads of letters about all the ways that working with other people can be annoying — whether it’s the coworker who takes all his phone calls on speaker phone to the reliably disgusting state of the office kitchen — and those completely dried up for most of the last 16 months. Only recently have people’s more minor irritations with coworkers begun to creep back into my inbox.

I recorded a piece for the BBC about what has been missing from my mail during the pandemic, and the irritations that those of us working from home did not miss about the office.

It’s three minutes long and you can listen here.

{ 172 comments… read them below }

  1. Katie G*

    I get your point, Alison, but it makes me glad that I was mostly telework anyway before the pandemic. I miss my coworkers, but my space gets to be mine, ya know?

  2. lilsheba*

    One thing I don’t miss even a little bit….shared bathrooms. Between smells, sounds and people on the damn phone in there….it was rough. I don’t miss the noise, the coffee that I make and then gets drunk up by other people before I have a chance to even have some. I gotta ask though, why is anyone even transitioning back to the office when the pandemic is raging even more than it ever was before? IT’s LESS safe now than it was back then. Seems stupid to me.

    1. Bucky Barnes*

      I’ve been in office 100% since May of last year. While Delta is definitely surging, I feel safer now than I did last year at the beginning because most of us are vaccinated. Obviously there’s still risk but the vaccine has done wonders for my mental health.

      1. Chilipepper Attitude*

        Agreed. Also in the building since May 2020, have had clients in since September 2020. And masks are not worn by most people entering the building as the governor will not allow mask mandates.

        In May I was not happy to be sharing the air of 30 coworkers in and out of a shared workspace. Now I’m pretty comfortable with hundreds of patrons in and out of the building daily. I wear a mask, i have a plexi wall at the service desk, and I am vaccinated.

        And in the 16 months we have been open (12 with clients), not one staff member has gotten COVID. That stat helps a lot!

      2. High Score!*

        This. Unvaccinated people are far more likely to contact COVID (vaccines offer and protection from Delta as well) and something like 35 more likely to end up hospitalized. Actual stats are searchable. So just being vaccinated is reducing your risk. If you also wear a mask and keep your distance from others, you are safer than before.

      3. OyHiOh*

        I’m approaching my one year work anniversary. In this time, we’ve had just 2 COVID scares, plus one about a month before I started. With one exception – a COVID-Mary I ranted about last week somewhere here – everyone has been diligent with masks, vaccinations, and staying the F home in cases of exposure. Except for COVID-Mary who is some kinda special, I guess.

        In any case, once I had both my shots, I started feeling pretty comfortable coming in. I still mask in high congregant areas (grocery store is the big one) but work feels good right now.

      4. Teapot Repair Technician*

        I agree. Compared to a year ago: I’m vaccinated, I have a supply of N95 masks, I know more about how the virus is transmitted, and hospitals in my area have available ICU beds and ventilators.

        I know the risk of getting seriously ill or dying isn’t zero, but (despite Delta) it is now low enough to make me feel relatively comfortable working on site.

      5. NotRealAnonForThis*

        I’ll feel significantly better about it when the youngest member of my household is age-eligible for the vaccine. She has known and documented breathing issues. I’ve spent a week in the PICU (plus additional weeks on a pediatric floor) with her over breathing problems adjacent to a major illness that weren’t even her standard breathing issues. As a household we are dealing with the fallout of medical event triggered PTSD.

        But TPTB are pretending we’re back to completely normal. I am NOT thrilled. Yeah, those vaccinated might not become hugely ill so in theory it doesn’t matter when Covid Mary tinfoil hatters go about their daily business…but the chance I could make my child ill when she isn’t able to get the vaccine at all? Not cool.

      6. lilsheba*

        The vaccine did good for my mental health at the beginning. Now I’m not so sure. There are still so many anti vaxxers spreading it around, and one of my co workers got vaccinated and STILL got covid from family members and got pretty sick. Thankfully I don’t have to worry about returning to an office but I do find it really insane to have people return now. It isn’t safe vaccine or not.

      7. Momma Bear*

        Same. I have a little flex, but we never closed. Our office fridge is my current woe as it seems that over the summer we got very lax about cleaning it out. I’m hoping that now that the Interns are gone that it ceases to be as much of an issue.

        Our office encourages vaccinations and mandates masks (the landlord sets the building rules and the company tends to follow in our suite). We are as “safe” as we ever were.

      8. Bucky Barnes*

        I get what people are saying about having kids or others who can’t yet get vaccinated. If I had a child under the age, I wouldn’t feel safe either. But I don’t have a choice about going in. I know it’s not 100%. But do I personally feel safer than last year at this time? You bet.

      9. Anonymous pineapple*

        Agreed. I never left the office, except being granted one WFH day a week at the start of 2021. Most of my coworkers are vaccinated now. My company now offers free on-site testing three days a week. We’ve had very few cases. It feels safer.

        Maybe it’s also just less novel, especially for those of us who weren’t working from home or went back to some sort of hybrid months ago? There’s only so long that you can mentally sustain a panic mode. I guess we’ve gotten used to living with the risk.

        1. Anonymous pineapple*

          Oh, and we also have mandatory masks indoors regardless of vaccination status and regular audits to check that people are wearing them even when alone in their cubes/offices (per OSHA, apparently).

    2. Caboose*

      As the person who is usually making the bathroom a nightmare, believe me, I would love to not be doing that! I definitely miss being able to use my own bathroom at home without worrying about causing trouble for anyone else– but my IBS means that sometimes, I’ve got no choice! :( Agreed on the phone thing, though, especially considering that whenever I’m in the bathroom, I’m always having a MISERABLE time, and I really don’t want people talking on the phone around me. (Once had some people start talking about how disgusting a bathroom smelled while I was still in there, and that mortification has stuck with me for my entire life. I don’t know if they were doing it to be bullies, or if they just didn’t know I was in there, but… I digress. On behalf of the Office Pooper Coalition, my apologies to your nose!)

      1. Cafe au Lait*

        Yes, I miss my own bathroom too! It’s no fun having a bad GI day and knowing my colleagues and patrons can smell the outcome. Plus, my private toilet has a bidet. That makes a world of difference to how I feel for the rest of the day.

        1. Lizzie*

          Same, and hopefully not too much TMI but buy “schedule” has changed as well. So while at home, it didn’t matter when I had to go, but now its really inconvenient!

      2. Rockette J Squirrel*

        Highly recommend Poo-pourri! You can buy purse-sized, or just carry the small spray bottle. Two-five sprays onto the water in the toilet, and after that you are good to go. (See what I did there?) Bonus – their ads are so funny – Google for some fun.

      3. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        yeah well people complaining of the smell in the bathroom can get out of the bathroom instead of chatting there.

    3. mediamaven*

      I’ve been by myself in the office since the pandemic started (I’m the boss) and literally our office used to smell like a barnyard until everyone left and the smells miraculously disappeared. I really don’t want to share the bathroom again. Like, I really don’t.

    4. Just Another Techie*

      Depends on what you mean by “safe”. It’s less dangerous if you’re vaccinated. If, like me, you both survived covid last year AND got a vaccine, and your antibody results are through the roof, there’s little risk to being in office. And a lot of good if, again, like me, you have ADHD and can’t effectively work from home, and being isolated at home, unproductive, and full of self-loathing over the lack of productivity were combining into a serious mental health crisis.

      I don’t say that people still working from home are stupid, even though vaccines are safe, effective, and freely available in my country. I don’t appreciate the lack of reciprocal empathy in your post.

      1. First time commenter*

        Vaccines are NOT freely available to children. For those with children at home, this is not a safe situation. I realize you are focused on the office workers themselves, but it is important to remember that not all persons who wish to be vaccinated can be yet, despite the heightened dangers of Delta. For those facing this dynamic, it is not “stupid” to remain home.

        All for empathy, but please share accurate information as it relates to vaccine availability and the implications that has for safety.

        1. Maglev to Crazytown*

          To add to this there are people who are unable to vaccinate due to medical condition contraindications. I am one of those, and am very conscientious of masking and social distancing, as I am essential and have had to go in all along.

          1. Why me*

            I am in this situation as well. My Dr is adamant that I do not get this. I have had family members and co workers tell me my Dr is wrong and I must do it anyway and I am being “selfish” and could kill people. This I do not understand. I mask, work from home as much as is can, and keep my distance. It isn’t enough.

            1. Maglev to Crazytown*

              Wow, that is awful and I am so sorry you are having to deal with that. Everyone in my work environment and personal life has been supportive. I have even had management tell me not to worry or stress about the news about vaccine mandates for our industry, as they recognize there will always have to be medical exemption categories, and are happy to work with me when it comes to that point (I have multiple ADA-covered conditions).

              That is completely inappropriate for coworkers to be throwing that added stress and rude behavior on you.

            2. JSPA*

              There are a lot more people for whom it will almost certainly be very nearly ineffectual (thus dramatically changing the otherwise excellent relative risk numbers)…than for whom it is actively harmful (i.e. they have dramatically higher risk from the shot itself). There’s also (of course) the secondary risk of being expected to act as if invulnerable, once vaccinated, which is of course potentially deadly for people whose conditions make them extra susceptible to the disease, while also blunting their immune response to the vaccine.

              It’s worth clarifying with your doctor, or seeking a specialist second opinion, as far as what the specific issue is, in your case. (Being secretly vaccinated, for even a 5% boost in protection, might by now be an attractive option for some people who are not, per se, at risk from the vaccine, but at risk of not mounting an effective immune response.)

              In addition, the AMA and other mainstream medical groups are only now (today) officially ready to not only censure but disbar doctors who spread vaccine misinformation. They had to do so because there are a (small) cadre of otherwise not-obviously-delusional doctors who cemented a negative position on the vaccine early on, and have never chosen to revisit that stance as more data comes in.

              If you’re sure that your doctor supports Covid vaccination for most people (only, not for you, in specific) this clearly doesn’t apply! But presumably some such doctors have been telling each individual patient that it’s inappropriate “for them.” They’re thereby allowing each such patient to believe that the doctor is not broadly anti-vax (or perhaps, only pro-vax for people over 75, or what-have-you).

              Which is to say, the default for everyone in general is that your doctor is the best source of medical information…but in a few instances, some other doctor is better informed / less blinkered than one’s own doctor.

          2. CarerForAn83YearOld*

            There are also people for whom the vaccination might not be effective – e.g. the immunosuppressed.

        2. Just Another Techie*

          I mean, my point was, it’s not “stupid” to go into the office either, depending on one’s own circumstances. I also have children too young for the vaccine, but as a family, we’ve decided the risks of my going in person (where everyone I’m encountering is both vaccinated and masked, in a metro area with low transmission rates and high vaccination rates) outweigh the harms of trying and failing at working from home for however much longer it takes to get an under-5 vaccine.

      2. MeepMeep*

        My 5 year old is unvaccinated and has a heart condition. Vaccinated adults can still spread COVID. I will not expose her to risk. If I had a boss who insisted on me coming to the office right now, I’d quit. Better a job search than an ICU vigil.

    5. Tin Cormorant*

      I once worked in an office that was heavily male, and the women’s bathroom was always pristine. The men’s bathroom, on the other hand… I never saw it myself, but the frequency at which we’d get office-wide emails on what gross things NOT to do in the office bathroom made me laugh every time.

      My husband’s still working from home now, with a timeline of “January 2022” to return to the office, but unofficially they’re seeing how things go in the next few months before deciding whether to push back that timeline or not. Everyone is quite happy to continue staying home where it’s safe.

    6. Esmeralda*

      I’m on a hybrid model (2 days in office one week, 3 days in office next week) =half the staff more or less on any day, so that helps. My immediate coworkers are 100% vaccinated and masked any time they are not alone in their offices (offices all have doors). Don’t interact too much with other employees on campus. Student vax rate is around 70%, amazingly, and all the vax appts on campus are full w students. Masks required in all indoor spaces, pretty robust testing. TBH it’s riskier around town, despite a city mask mandate.

      That said, covid cases are creeping up on campus. If students (or employees) get a positive test off campus, they have to self report. Which does not always happen.

    7. Maglev to Crazytown*

      Absolutely this. Our grand “return to new office normal” had been socialized to us all summer long, to go into effect the day after Labor Day. Two weeks ago they sent out a “yeah, this is indefinitely postponed now… Sorry for the excitement.”

      1. Lizzie*

        Mine did exactly the same thing. I’m actually not too sad about it. I’ve found, aside from the social aspect of things, I really DO prefer to work from home.

    8. HigherEdAdminista*

      I agree. I absolutely do not feel safe around people. I am vaccinated, but there is poor tracking of breakthrough infections and I have personally known people who have gotten them and been varying degrees of sick.

      In my personal life, I don’t go out unless I really have to. I order what I can. I don’t go to movies, shows, or any of that. I don’t eat in restaurants or do outdoor dining. I double mask. I rarely see people in my social circle and only outside when I do. I do not feel safe being in the office, and I resent being asked to act like I’ve been thirsting to be back here every single day. I have always had health anxiety, and I manage it, but now there are legitimate reasons to be anxious and the fact that people are acting like there aren’t drive me crazy. One of the bosses was in a room with me and I was there, working with my two masks on and they were like “I can take this off right?” gesturing to their own mask. It’s exhausting.

      1. LizWings*

        Exhausting is absolutely the word for it. The fact that it’s been at least 2 months since we have known that vaccinated people can get and also spread it, and people are still coming up to my unable-to-be-vaccinated child and saying: “I’m just going to take my mask off- it’s OK, I’m vaccinated” is just so exhausting.

    9. Lizzie*

      Sadly, many people don’t have a choice. I’m lucky in that my company initiated a “soft” return, which was supposed to go back to “normal” after Labor Day. It started with one day a week, moving to 2, and then would be 5 or whatever you could do with your manager’s approval. However, the full return was put on hold indefinitely. But i know a lot of people who went back full time, and really had no choice. VERY glad I don’t work for one of them!

    10. Jesse*

      It IS stupid. We’re back ONLY because no one in the C-suite thinks we do any work at home. Which is true for one of our departments, but most of us worked just as well, or better, at home. Yet we’re all being punished because one manager didn’t manage their employees well remotely and they treated it like a vacation. /rant

    11. Blaise*

      Teacher here- the absolute best part of those three months teaching virtually was getting to go to the bathroom whenever I needed to!! I’ll always remember those days fondly lol

  3. Hogsmeade AirBNB*

    Loud talkers in open-floor office plans are my personal hell.

    Can you really not hear how much louder you are????

    1. JJax*

      As a loud talker, often I can’t tell! I have partial hearing loss so sometimes that means I don’t realize it. Other times I’m just so enthusiastic that my brain seems to filter out my volume. Out of respect for people like yourself, I try very hard to monitor my volume, but sometimes I get loud. On behalf of us volume-ignorant people, I apologize.

      1. Caboose*

        Same here! If I’m getting loud, it’s normally because I literally don’t know how loud I’m being. I’m slightly hard of hearing, so if I’m speaking loudly, it’s because it sounds like a reasonable volume to me! (I also have a voice that just carries a lot, too.)

        1. No Longer Looking*

          Ironically, I’m having that problem while working from home. My wife picked up headphones with a mic so she could do her conference calls without me needing to listen to them, but when she has something to contribute she is So Very Loud while her headphones are on. She literally doesn’t realize how loud she is being when she has the headphones on, unless it gets so bad that I have to wave at her and gesture her to modulate down a bit. :)

          1. Caboose*

            I am definitely guilty of the same thing with my headset on! Thankfully I live alone, so I just annoy my cats.
            I know that there’s a setting *somewhere* that lets you hear your own voice though the headset, but I haven’t found a volume setting for how loud that feedback is, so I normally leave it off, because with it on, I literally can’t hear anyone *else* talking. I’ll figure it out someday…

          2. Amaranth*

            One thing you might be able to do is have her open up the microphone settings and see if there is an input audio level meter. If you work with her a bit she can establish ‘okay, four bars is fine but at six I’m yelling’. Its not something she could stare at all the time, but maybe leave open and check occasionally.

        2. MissBaudelaire*

          I had this trouble in school! I have a voice that carries. I have a voice that is higher pitched. It sounds like I’m being ‘loud’ sometimes when I’m speaking in a normal tone/not whispering. I got into arguments with one of my teachers about it.

    2. Generic Elf*

      Every talker in an open-floor office plan is a loud talker.

      Because open floor offices suuuuuuck

    3. WulfInTheForest*

      No. No we can’t.

      And this comment feels pretty ableist to me, even if you didn’t mean it that way. You never know who has a physical or mental disability like hearing loss, ADHD, speech disorders, etc.

      1. Fiddlesticks*

        WulfInTheForest, since you’ve decided that complaining about loud talkers is “ableist”, please consider those of us with hyperacusis, sensory processing disorders and other conditions that make loud noises and thus loud talkers excruciating. It doesn’t just work one way here.

        1. WulfInTheForest*

          Complaining about volume isn’t the part that feels ableist. Its the assumption/incredulous suggestion of “Can you really not hear how much louder you are????” that stuck out to me. Because of course we can’t tell how loud we are, if we did, we wouldn’t be talking this loud.

      2. duck*

        Is this a new thing online? Any comment is now ableist?

        I have a disability. It’s not a free pass. It doesn’t mean I can’t work on some issues, which I successfully have. It does not mean other people are required not to be annoyed by negative problems.

        I find it patronising that people assume people with disabilities have no need to adhere to some basic norms or rules. We can learn and want to learn because the pain of upsetting other people is often worse than the pain of having to figure out how to not be rude.

        1. WulfInTheForest*

          No, not any comment is ableist. Its the assumption/incredulous suggestion of “Can you really not hear how much louder you are????” that hit a nerve for me. Because no, we can’t tell. If we could, we wouldn’t be talking this loudly.

          I have hearing loss, to the point where I *can’t* modulate volume until someone tells me I’m being loud, because I can’t tell how loud my voice is. And yes, I try my best to adjust when I’m told that it’s too loud, but otherwise I can’t tell.

      3. JSPA*

        An accommodatable disability needs an accommodation–not a 24/7/365 free pass.

        If the problem is hearing related (or attentional): computers, phones, group calling apps all have sound level monitoring capability with visual feedback that can help the vast majority of people with such issues, to self regulate better. Does needing an extra layer of feedback mean that sometimes loudness will happen all the same? Sure! But, “I can’t organically tell loudness the way I used to, or the way you do” doesn’t mean, “I therefore have an inalienable right to LOUD.”

        Inability to regulate sound production is a different set of accommodations…but after all, we exist in a world where phones can cut off sounds that reach above a certain volume, boost sounds below a certain volume, auto-tune sounds, or generate voice from text. Trying out a range of reasonably non-invasive accommodations are the price we pay for not exacerbating other people’s equally valid disabilities.

        1. WulfInTheForest*

          Sure, it’s not a free pass, but that’s not what I was going after. To copy from my other comments: Its the assumption/incredulous suggestion of “Can you really not hear how much louder you are????” that stuck out to me. Because of course we can’t tell how loud we are, if we did, we wouldn’t be talking this loud.

        2. MissBaudelaire*

          No one, anywhere, said they had a right to be ‘loud’.

          They said they didn’t realize how loud they were being, weren’t doing it out of spite, and weren’t doing it on purpose.

    4. quill*

      Nope, because often the reason people talk more loudly than average is either from reduced ability to hear / filter out background noises, or from trying to talk loudly enough to be heard over everything else going on / the other end of the conversation. One person taking a call in an open office makes the next person talk louder, etc.

      1. MissDisplaced*

        Yes, this. I work with a team that talks a lot. You have to be quite loud just to be heard in general.
        That said, growing up, no one ever paid attention to me (the girl) unless I was LOUD. Guess that kinda stuck, but it is somewhat ingrained that you had to speak up or else be ignored or run over by all the male talkers. Same thing in school. Be louder than the boys or get talked over.

        I’m probably not the only professional woman who feels this way.

        1. MissBaudelaire*

          This too. If you’re going to talk over me, I’m going to increase my volume to make sure I’m heard. Even in my current job, I have to raise my voice to be heard when there are five or six people talking in a small office. Am I doing it just to be ‘loud’ or rude or because I don’t ‘know how loud I’m being’. I’m trying to get my work done!

    5. Cat Tree*

      What bothers me more is people who sing, whistle, or snap their fingers. At least talking is necessary to do your job. The point of all those other things is just to interrupt other people’s thoughts and/or broadcast how cheerful you are or something. Also, most people are not good singers.

      1. Nothing Rhymes With Purple*

        On the one hand in life in general some people are just musical. I pretty much always have a song running through my head, unless I am very agitated, and in appropriate locations sometimes I sing along. It’s not about anyone else, just about me.

        On the other hand work is not such an appropriate location, most of the time. The last time I sang at work was while washing the dishes while alone in the office, to keep my spirits up because my coworkers left me a sink full of dishes. If they’d been there I wouldn’t’ve been singing.

    6. MissDisplaced*

      I was a loud talker. Apparently still am according to my husband who closes the door on me.
      It’s something about headsets. But then again, my 81 year old mom is nearly deaf so I’m used to practically shouting at her so she can understand.

      1. MissBaudelaire*

        Do you know *because* I was told so much how ‘loud’ I am, I get frustrated when someone tells me to speak up?

        My Mom is hard of hearing/struggles to focus on what you’re saying. At least four times a day I get a “Huh?” or “What?” from her. So I lift my voice and speak louder and slower, and repeating myself is a pet peeve in the first place. So it just frustrates me all around.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          I can relate! I believe my partner is either hard of hearing or far too practised at tuning me out. Although I ‘m no chatterbox – it’s more that he can’t hear words like “help” or “clean”. I say something normally several times, without getting an answer, then when I raise my voice he’s all “there’s no need to shout”….

    7. ggg*

      We had a perfectly normal talker with hearing issues who turned his speaker phone WAY the hell up, such that you could hear it through multiple walls. It was annoying, and a potential security issue, but apparently it was also difficult for him to wear a headset. It was resolved when he left the department.

    8. RebelwithMouseyHair*

      “Can you really not hear how much louder you are??”
      I don’t think they can. My previous boss had a foghorn voice. His wife and owner of the company messed up once and he had to talk to the client about it and apologize. Somehow he blew it and started shouting at the client.
      A short while later, I pick up the phone, it’s the boss of the client he’d shouted at, wanting to speak to him. It so happened that I knew this woman well, having worked with her previously in another place. I told her he was already on the phone, she said “yes but Rebel this is important, I’m on the verge of deciding never to work with you guys any more”. OK, so I put her on hold and, despite two shut doors between us, was able to listen in to his conversation to see whether I could interrupt without triggering WW3.
      Then I took the call back, but was unable to stop laughing and had to own up as to why: he was on the phone to the people who’d sold him the phone system, telling them to come and repair his phone, because everyone kept asking him not to shout, whereas nobody asked his (female, polite) employees to lower their voices.

  4. Justin*

    I just don’t miss having to deal with random conversations I’m not interested in. I have a lot more control over my interactions now. So, not looking forward to that.

    1. Justin*

      God this makes me seem like a jerk, but no, I just know by now how much psychological work faking interest is for me. I don’t want to lie anymore.

      1. HigherEdAdminista*

        Yes, this! In the other thread, all the people who are eager to catch up with coworkers… I have talked to my closest colleagues this entire time; I know how they are. I don’t much care to chat with everyone else in the building. It’s not that I don’t like them, it is that I have very little energy due to the current state of the world and I would rather save it for interactions that can fill my cup, not hearing about the two week trip to Insert Resort Here someone I haven’t spoken to in two years just came back from (while I worry if they are spreading a virus to me).

      2. MusicWithRocksIn*

        I am so bad at casual office conversations these days. Just wildly out of practice. I always end up bringing up the weather because I can’t think of anything else. Then I walk away thinking “That is the third time you told that dude you are glad it’s getting cooler!”.

    2. Doug Judy*

      Or holding your tongue when you people are praising the Former Guy and a simple “let’s not talk politics” outs you as of those Devil worshippering liberals/s

      1. Quiet Liberal*

        This is me! I bite my tongue even now because the sentiment is always about how the libs are making everything terrible. There is no way I could be ok in my office if I made even one comment that opposes anything coworkers think. Super red state and even redder county. I just keep quiet and then go home and swap stories with my husband during cocktail hour.

    3. Aspiring Chicken Lady*

      I’m leaning hard on social distancing to avoid small talk in the office. I don’t even take lunch in the breakroom anymore, which I used to do religiously. Just don’t have the bandwidth for humans and the dramas anymore, especially when the dramas are things as serious as whether they are vaxxed or not.

  5. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    I didn’t know you did stuff for the BBC! This is excellent.

    What I didn’t miss about the office is people eyeing up other people’s food and weight constantly – it’s nicer to not have to worry about other people judging me.

    1. CreepyPaper*

      Oh my goodness I am 100% in agreement! I haven’t missed the ‘you’re so thin’ conversations (I have crohns, and I’m an outdoorsy girl! So my disease keeps me thin as does hiking etc). We have been back in three days a week for a while but on a rota basis, rota is going away next week.

      The Food Police will now be in the office when I am. I’ve managed to avoid them for months. Save me. I haven’t missed them.

      1. CreepyPaper*

        To clarify the Food Police are a group of women who criticise everything anyone eats, I’m just a favourite target of theirs because I have a massively restricted diet so my weird meal combinations are a source of fascination.

        1. Delta Delta*

          My favorite Food Police Officer was a coworker who criticized me for eating a nectarine one day. I can’t remember the nectarine-based sin – maybe it has sugar or acid or something, but it seemed over the top. I was annoyed at the time but it sort of makes me giggle now because it was so silly.

          1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

            …a nectarine. Offended over a nectarine?

            I’m not surprised that makes you laugh now, that’s utterly bonkers!

          2. Amaranth*

            At first I thought you said ‘one nectarine a day’ and so I wondered if that was all they ever saw you eat and thought you were on limited fruit rations…but, no, they have a nectarine bias.

        2. Database Developer Dude*

          “Unless you’re paying for my food, you have no input into what I do or don’t eat. Kindly close your mouth and stop talking or I’ll go to HR over it, because it is harassment”.

          and then follow through.

      2. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        I get the opposite from those guys (‘shouldn’t you eat something healthier/make an effort to not eat junk because you’re really fat?’) but I’m betting you end up doing what I do: trying to never eat where anyone can see me. The food police definitely seem to hate anyone who’s not their mental image of ‘normal’ and definitely equate ‘size of body’ to ‘healthy or not’.

        Also can’t stand their defensive ‘well I’m just trying to *help*!’ when they’re confronted with their behaviour.

        1. CreepyPaper*

          I used to eat in my car. I think I’ll have to start doing that again… I told them once that what I ate was none of their concern and got the ‘we just want to help you!!!’ response. Are you a gastrointestinal specialist? No? Then you can’t help me.

          They have zero right to comment on people’s bodies. Period.

          On that note I think I’m going to get a calming cup of tea before I enrage myself further thinking about their imminent return…

  6. Nancy Drew*

    Ugh, I so miss home! My biggest problem is the interruptions with random, dumb questions. For instance, one of my managers was yelling a question at me from her office. Then she repeated it. I couldn’t hear what she was saying, so I got up from my cubicle and walked to her door. Her question was, “What time is it?” Face palm….

    1. Amaranth*

      Was her computer on? Because I don’t think I’d be able to stop myself from walking over, smiling, and clicking the clock.

    2. MissBaudelaire*

      “Time for you to get a watch.”

      My other favorites include; “A freckle past a hair.”
      “Seventy five quarter till Saturn.”

  7. Lori*

    Love,love AAM. Helps me in so many ways, but just so hard to relate to this stuff cause I work in the hospital. Have to say, if you’ve been working from home, I’m agreeing with why go back now?? It’s really not good now…. Stay safe if you can.

    1. Condoms from a satchel*

      Yeah I have trouble as well. It’s great that people can work from home and be safer but I literally cannot do my job anywhere but in the office, I guess I could chart from home but nothing else.

    2. WTF is WFH*

      As much as she has tried, AAM always seems to resort back to a narrative that attracts a very specific group of people. For the last 18 months, that group has leaned heavily on people with the privilege of working from home and their obsession with never returning to the apparent hellscape that is the office. There have been some attempts to really focus on those unable to stay home, but it is usually short-lived. I think I have given up really finding community here for people that keep showing up in person because there is no other choice. It’s not anyone’s fault, but it hurts regardless. I have absolutely no idea how healthcare workers are continuing on. The fact that people spend their time raging against returning while others are barely holding on is the new norm. Articles like this that give people whO are lucky enough to WFH space to complain about things they aren’t even experiencing anymore falls right in line.

  8. PolarVortex*

    Scream sneezers. I do not miss this at all, particularly during allergy and cold season. Especially during covid.

    I get it’s a reflex you can’t stop but this is nails on chalkboard for me.

    1. Not your sweetheart*

      I am a loud sneezer. I discovered at a young age that if I tried to sneeze quietly, I would sneeze 6 or 7 time in a row. Loudly, its once maybe twice. I do cover my mouth with a tissue or my elbow.

      1. Maglev to Crazytown*

        Greetings, fellow loud sneezer. If I try to quiet or squelch it, I about blow out my eardrums with the back pressure. This is more distracting, because my

      2. Autumnheart*

        I’m a loud sneezer AND sneeze several times in a row. Sorry, everyone. I don’t over-dramatize with “AAAA-CHOOOO!!!! Holy cow! That was a big one!” or anything, but my sneezes are just loud and that’s the way it is. I’m not doing it on purpose. People are just gonna have to deal with it.

      3. o_gal*

        Greetings to all my fellow loud sneezers! It’s a family trait. Yes, I sneeze into the my hands. No, I’m not doing the elbow thing – watch and hear me sneeze once and you’ll realize that 20% will go into the elbow and the rest all over the place. I can completely contain my sneezes (I usually sneeze 3, 4, 5 or more times in a row before I’m done – record is I think 13) and then I use a tissue followed up with hand sanitizer. I had one guy get on my case when he walked into the room just after I finished a sneezing fit and he only saw the end of the last one. Scolded me that I wasn’t sneezing into my elbow. My co-workers got on his case that I was actually doing everyone a favor and he just needed to experience it to know that.

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          Could you not whip out a tissue at least after the first sneeze, to catch rather more of those droplets?

    2. SomeoneWhoIsAlwaysWillingToPutOnASweaterAndSlippers*

      Or scream yawners. Work 2 offices down from one, but she seems to always yawn while walking down the hallway.

  9. Hotdog not dog*

    I absolutely LOVE not having to share a nasty fridge! I know that my fancy flavored seltzer will be exactly where I left it, and not pilfered by a food thief. So far only a few of us are back in the office, so there haven’t been any issues, but I’m dreading that part of my coworkers’ return.

    1. Marillenbaum*

      This is how I feel about my fancy creamer! I’m currently trying to manifest slightly cooler weather with pumpkin spice everything.

  10. Ben Marcus Consulting*

    My ma’am! I hope this is an indication that you’re brining back podcasts. Even if they’re in the Hardcore History format (i.e. whenever Dan Carlin feels like producing one).

  11. HugsAreNotTolerated*

    What a positive way of looking at terrible co-workers! They’re a sign of normalcy.

    Also, nice to hear your voice! You sound different from the “Alison” voice that I hear in my head when I read the columns. Funny how that happens, huh?!

    As always, thank you for all the advice you share with us. I’m about to start a job hunt and after the success I had using your advice in the last one, I know it’ll be easier!

    1. Richard Hershberger*

      Totally agree. That isn’t the “Alison” voice in my head. She clearly hired a voice actor to record this bit.

    2. Purple Cat*

      Totally different voice than I pictured! Don’t worry Alison, it’s a good voice, just different.
      She reminded me a lot of Glennon Doyle.

  12. angrytreespirit*

    Swear to gods, I honestly don’t think management has any inkling of what they’re asking most of their employees to do. We were set to return to FT in person work Sept 18. Delta pushed that back to Oct 18. Right when flu season starts. Wonder what’s going to happen then. Meanwhile, in our floorwide cube farm in an office of 400, these are the restrictions we must adhere to:
    -Masks on at all times unless you’re the sole occupant of a room with a door (HA)
    -No eating unless you’re the sole occupant of a room with a door
    -Only one person allowed in the lunchroom at any time
    -Try to keep quiet while having your 5 Zoom calls of the day in your open office while also wearing a mask.

    No one has addressed what will happen when: everyone’s on the floor on their Zoom calls (even if you have headphones, you still have to talk, so your meeting will hear everyone else on the floor also talking)
    It’s raining/cold/unhealthy air from wildfire smoke so no one can eat outdoors
    Kids are bringing home COVID, whose parents are then bringing COVID into the office

    Long story short.. unless management is ready for some lawsuits they’re going to be admitting they can’t demand these working conditions just because they’re concerned about “cohesion” and “morale”.

    1. Cranky lady*

      I’m so sorry and I completely get this. Decision maker decides that you should reserve a conference room if you are going to have a long phone conversation/virtual meeting so you don’t disturb people in nearby cubes. Has anyone figured out that 300 people can’t all reserve conference rooms at the same time if we all have a 10am meeting? And if 5 of us are in the same meeting, do we really want to be in the same room together?

      1. Admin Issues*

        We have a rule that you have to social distance inside the office for calls – so our call with 10 people now requires the room that sits 30, and a call with 14 people would…not occur in the office (it would have to be on Teams only). We also have to wear masks when gathered, though we can have them off when sitting at our desks (which are distanced). And yeah, if I want to have a private conversation with my direct report, I have to reserve one of the “booths” for a private call – which I’d immediately wipe down with disinfectants because I don’t know when it was last cleaned and I trust no one now. (And I’d wipe it down again when I was done.) …this all is exhausting.

    2. pbnj*

      I bet your management has private offices so these things aren’t an issue for them. Like, how on earth are people supposed to eat lunch? In pre-pandemic times, I’d often have to listen to others on skype conference calls, so it often sounded like I worked in a call center. I feel your pain.

    3. Amaranth*

      Will they provide or at least allow quality noise canceling headphones? At least then you don’t have to yell into the mic or listen to everyone else’s meetings.

    4. Elsajeni*

      Yeah, I’ve been really frustrated by “We’re so excited to have everyone back on campus!! For your COVID safety, the staff lunchroom is limited to a capacity of 2 people, the communal coffee maker and water cooler have been removed, all water fountains except for one bottle refill station in an obscure corner of the building are taped off, and in-person meetings are discouraged. Isn’t it great to be back!!” I mean… it’s nice to see my colleagues again, but I can have Zoom meetings from home, and at home I also have such luxuries as “functioning coffee maker” and “indoor place to eat.”

      1. Kelly*

        I also work in higher ed. I had to go back 100% on campus last week after having a hybrid schedule for most of the pandemic. I’m not getting too comfortable and haven’t restocked my beverage and snack stash in my office. I’m expecting campus to pivot to hybrid work and instruction by the end of the month due to rising cases because of packed football games and college students being college students.

        According to campus leadership, they had gotten feedback about how many people were unhappy with mostly virtual instruction last year. I would bet that most of that feedback came from parents and donors, not students, faculty and staff. Most students may have missed some aspects of in person instruction, but they did not miss having rush from a building on the opposite side of campus for their next class or being stuck on the overcrowded campus buses. Most of the feedback that campus got about their reopening plans, at least from staff and faculty as well as some students, was more along the lines of this is going to be a repeat of last fall.

        At least in my building, I have access to a microwave to warm up lunches. Some of my colleagues, including those who were working on site the entire time, are not so lucky. They still haven’t heard if the staff break room is open again yet.

        Most staff had to be back on campus in my building by middle of August and classes started Wednesday. The smoke and fire alarms have already went off on the first day of classes because someone caused the microwave in the small shared kitchen to go off.

        1. Less Bread More Taxes*

          My campus has opened 100% – all students, all staff, all kitchens open, etc. We are still supposed to be social distancing, but 200 students in a lecture hall that seats 200 isn’t exactly allowing for that. Classes started last Thursday. I just have to keep my fingers crossed that enough of us are vaccinated (~70% in my area) that there won’t be any serious issues.

          1. Kelly*

            It’s similar vaccination stats here (nearly 70% in the county, 90% in the campus community), but that far above the norm statewide. I would feel more reassured if masks and vaccines were mandatory to be on campus for everyone, which includes everyone coming to sporting events as well. It’s not reassuring seeing the increase in positive numbers due to the combination of students moving back into dorms and apartments and a packed football game. The other troubling numbers are positive cases from local school districts nearly tripling after less than a week of instruction. So far, it appears to be clusters of cases rather than entire classrooms or buildings having to shut down.

            Given the time and money invested last year on most college campus for remote instruction and work, it feels like a step backwards to have to go back to pre-pandemic environments. My campus was already facing problems with retention and recruitment for staff before the pandemic due to low salaries and politicians hostile to higher education. Those issues are only going to get worse if remote or hybrid work isn’t allowed for more people.

            I’ve been far less productive back on site than I was at home. No much changed with onsite work due to covid. I’m back to spending most of my work time doing busywork and more time than I should under my job description doing the “other duties as assigned” part.

            We had a great opportunity to redefine how we can work, both to be more efficient and to improve morale when planning for return to on site work. Instead due to institutional inertia and supervisors not willing to have tough conversations with people who don’t react well when called out for justifiably legitimate reasons, we squandered that chance. People shouldn’t be afraid of change, especially if there will be positive improvements. Despite what some people may think that they are being picked on or bullied when suggestions for change are bought up that would directly impact them, it’s coming from a good place and not personally aimed at them. They need to get over themselves and readjust their mindset to help contribute to a more positive workplace.

    5. MissDisplaced*

      Because we had an Open Office with Hotdesking pre-Pandemic and sat 6-8 at a table, my company has not made us all come back yet. There weren’t many conference or phone rooms with doors to begin with, so I can’t imaging this setup working if they did make us all come back. It is open for those who want to sign up and come in though. I went in once or twice since WFH started and there were a few people in there. But definitely not like it was.

  13. Richard Hershberger*

    Probably not lawsuits, or at least not ones that go anywhere, but Workers’ Compensation claims are another matter. Some states had enacted laws for some occupations such as first responders that Covid is presumed to be an occupational disease. I don’t know of any state that extends this to office workers in general. In theory, causation could be established as more likely than not even without this presumption. How this plays out in practice would depend on whether you are in a state whose Workers’ Compensation bureaucracy works to screw over workers. Some do. Some don’t. A successful long Covid disability claim would make employers sit up and take notice.

  14. Richard Hershberger*

    I have been the only one coming into the office for almost a year and a half now. This raises the question, who do I complain about if the refrigerator (conveniently next to my desk) is disgusting?

    1. Teapot Repair Technician*

      For some reason the less-than-pristine fridges, microwaves (and other things) in my house don’t bother me nearly as much as the similarly unclean ones in my workplace.

      1. Quiet Liberal*

        Someone in my office constantly heats up something that smells like maple bars in the microwave. Flavored popcorn or frozen waffles or something. First off, I hate maple bars and the smell makes me gag. That’s bad enough, but if I try to heat anything up, it will take in that smell and taste from the oven….it’s just that strong. Just bringing in cold sandwiches for lunch, now.

  15. WulfInTheForest*

    I’m in FL, and we never really shut down at all in my office, we just went “hybrid” aka, WFH one or two days a week to keep numbers in the office down, but even that stopped in April 2021. I miss WFH so much because of the work-life balance it brought.

  16. Ab*

    I am annoyed by so many things at the office. The one thing that does NOT annoy me, because I am female, is the Tinkle Bandit. There was an issue with the bathroom floor in the men’s washroom daily. I love working from home.

    1. Eden*

      Lol. In my office all the men would complain about long bathroom lines. Meanwhile I had to wait in line very few times per month. The opposite of normal life, but such is working as a software engineer. Maybe you should hire more women, y’all!

    2. MissBaudelaire*

      I do love not sharing a bathroom. The only one in my clinic was also shared with patients, so I always felt like I had to power pee so as not to hold it up. But if a patient was in there, I didn’t want to hurry them, so I would have to rush out of our clinic and into the main hospital to THAT toilet.

      And when I was pregnant a few years ago and puking my guts out, loudly, often, people would come up and just pound on the door. I can’t puke any faster, I’m sorry!

      At least now it is my toilet and it’s only the cats who bug me.

  17. Jean*

    I get along great with the majority of my co-workers, and it is nice to be back around them during the workday, for the most part. I do get annoyed by the “little chit chats” happening within feet of me that take 20-30 minutes though. There’s one guy in particular that has a loud, booming voice and loves to stop by and talk to the lady that sits right behind me. He went on for literally 28 minutes this morning. I finally got up and went to lunch early just to get away from it, since he outranks me and I wasn’t able to focus. Please have some consideration and keep it SHORT and LOW VOLUME, people. You’re distracting others.

    1. Lizzie*

      I have one of those as well. He’s one of our VPs, and not only is he loud, he will corner you and go off on 900 different tangents. We are both big fans of the same sports team which will be starting their season shortly. OMG i will need to run and hide when that happens.

      1. Richard Hershberger*

        This is known in the business world as “spontaneous collaboration.” I am assured that it is critical to business success.

        1. Jean*

          LOL, I know you’re being tongue in cheek here but the chats in my office are 100% never work related. Some quotes from this morning’s 28 minute performance: “I’ve been a man for over 40 years now.” “My son and I were both too sick to mow the lawn” (They had COVID and yet were worried about the lawn because reasons) “I always hear all the neighborhood dogs barking when I’m on my walks, how do they see me from inside their houses?” 28 minutes of that is more than enough to send me running for the hills. Honestly even 1 minute of that is too much, PLEASE STFU OR TAKE IT SOMEWHERE ELSEEEEEEEE

  18. Dino*

    Someone in my office has started “rescuing” single use cutlery from the trash and washing them. I can throw them away, right?

    1. Momma Bear*

      Please tell me they are not returning them to the bin of unused cutlery….

      Yes, throw them away. Or bring your own from home to wash/reuse/keep at your desk.

        1. Rainy*

          Insufficiently washed reusable cutlery is how mono went around my office about six months before covid.

    2. Sungold*

      Why? How is that different from washing metal cutlery? Could you at least put them aside, perhaps in a labeled jar or tray, for those people who are interested in reducing waste?

      I sometimes imagine our ancestors of 1,000 years ago encountering the disposable items in everyday use these days. I bet they’d treat them like gold.

      1. Taura*

        It’s different because it’s coming out of the literal trash, not just being washed and set aside. You have no idea what was in the trash or if they got properly clean, and disposables won’t hold up to sanitizing processes like metal cutlery will.

      2. Dino*

        They’re compostable so they aren’t as terrible as plastic, thankfully.

        There are plenty of metal utensils for people to use and run through the dishwasher if they’re concerned. I personally won’t use them because we’re in a pandemic and I doubt that everyone who unloads the clean dishes washes their hands before they do it. So bringing my own or using the provided single use forks has helped keep me sane. But now I have to worry they’re putting used ones back into the box.

      3. Nothing Rhymes With Purple*

        It would be interesting to look at the surfaces of different kinds of cutlery under a microscope. Metal cutlery is usually pretty smooth due to its manufacture, but plastic cutlery, being not intended to be washed, may not have as smooth a surface and thus retain debris even after washing. Or it may be just as smooth, but I think it would be useful to know either way.

      4. Cat Tree*

        I put metal cutlery in the dishwasher but you can’t do that with plastic ones. Washing anything with the community sponge in the shared break room is a gamble I’m not willing to take. I’m generally not germaphobic but sponges are gross and community sponges are the worst.

        Also, why would I want to emulate people from 1,000 years ago who hadn’t yet discovered germ theory? What a bizarre choice to back up your stance.

    3. The Other Dawn*

      I have to laugh, because I encountered a version of this in my office recently.

      My group moved to a different building upon return to the office a few months ago. One day I started go through the cabinets to familiarize myself with where to find kitchen supplies. I found two commercial-sized boxes of artificial sweetener. I pulled one down and decided to check the expiration date (I’d used some recently and the color was off)–it was six years expired! Both boxes. So I tossed them in the trash and ordered a new, much smaller box. I came back downstairs a couple hours later, and both boxes have been put back in the cabinet. I pulled them back out, marked them “expired six years ago!” and circled the expiration dates. Then I again put them in the trash. I came down a couple hours later again. They were still in the trash this time, but it was clear someone had pulled them out, noticed the markings, and then put them back in the trash. They must have thought I was being wasteful and just tossing things willy nilly.

  19. FelisCorvus*

    Well, I *did* miss the work I can only do in person at the office/lab (my job has a practical component as well as a documentation/graphics component, and the practical stuff is quite a bit more engaging). But being back in our facility most of the time now, I really find myself missing lunch in my back yard & lunchtime walks with my partner in the middle of the day. When I’m at the office, I typically just eat the lowest-effort and least time-consuming thing I can find (yogurt cups, an apple, trail mix) and I rarely go outside except to take out recycling, etc. It’s also harder to organize my time when everyone is here in person, since stuff that was being handled over email when many of us were WFH has morphed back into “oh hey do you have a minute?” spontaneous hallway interruptions. I know this is a normal aspect of any functioning workplace, but I’m finding myself really wanting to come up with some kind of “ticket” system or whatnot for non-urgent tasks, because when a different person is asking for something every hour of the day, it can get difficult to actually finish any one thing.

    1. Less Bread More Taxes*

      Ugh the spontaneous tasks and meetings are a killer. I have a really technical job, and if I’m pulled away from my desk while I’m in the middle of something, it can take me 30 minutes when I come back to figure out where I was (and this is even with detailed notes and checkboxes… if anyone has any tips for this, please help me!). I’m pretty low on the totem pole, so even just saying “Give me just a second to write out a note about where I’m at and then I’ll join you” is not really acceptable because it’s seen as making my time more important than theirs. I get that it’s just how things work, but man is it frustrating to lose so much time each day.

  20. Pobody’s Nerfect*

    Other people’s urine sprinkled on every single toilet seat in the bathroom. People who apparently forgot how to flush a toilet. People who leave passive aggressive notes in the bathrooms because they’re afraid to talk to people like real grown-ups. People who tie up the single use bathroom for 45 minutes at a time because they’re on their phone for some “escape time.” People who spray on a gallon perfume in the bathroom. Basically anything to do with public/work restrooms is disgusting and I have reveled in not having to deal with it during WFH times.

    1. duck*

      My issue with bathrooms was replacing the toilet paper. I would put a stack of rolls in there, but they would run out. Or maybe I had been away. People would use the last of the roll then just walk off and not go and get more and restock. The cleaner came once a week, we needed to keep it stocked ourselves from the cupboard. Foul people.

    2. MissDisplaced*

      We had a ladies room that only had 4 stalls for like 50-60 women. It was always busy. God forbid if you had some gastro issues. Nope doen’t miss that.

  21. duck*

    I went from an office to working in a frontline role.

    What I did not miss was the filth of people. We had a cleaner once a week. An office of people can’t survive a week without some people picking up after themselves. It was DISGUSTING.

    I had down time with my work so I would clean up. I also like to move. One person said to me ‘oh you’re always fluttering about doing this and that.’ Yes, because you cretins are foul.

  22. Kyrielle*

    Our office is in “soft open” – we can come back in if we want, but most people are working from home still. I’m back in, because there aren’t many people, I’m fully vaccinated, and my house is a haven of distractions. I have one kid too young to be vaccinated, but as he’s back at in-person school, that’s a lot more likely to expose him than me being in the office is. (It’s also all single-person offices with closed doors, and I don’t think we are even at 5% occupancy right now. It’s a ghost town.)

    And still, somehow, the first day we had anyone back in the building who didn’t have to be there just to do their job (so security, some IT, facilities, the folks upgrading the HVAC, all had access – but not anyone who didn’t have to), I arrived to find one of Those Signs over the office sink on my floor. I’m not sure there’s anyone with an actual office/seat on my floor who would have been in all those months (but facilities maintaining the kitchen would have been, and other people as needed for various work).

    And STILL somehow someone had done something that resulted in a very specific “please do not put things in the sink that don’t belong there” sign. I am left with questions about exactly what happened. I am curious whether the same sign is over every kitchen sink in this building or on this campus, or if it was just our floor that got it. But I don’t feel like it’s polite to go all tourist-style to the other kitchens just to see if the sign is there too.

  23. Varthema*

    I’m a manager of a 100% remote team and I love it. I swore I’d never manage again because I hated things like juggling requests coming in live from lots of different people to having to deal with the inevitable dramas that spring up.

    But managing a remote team so far is awesome! Everybody likes each other and there’s great team cohesion. Part of it is because it’s good people, but I’m not naive – the fact is that it’s easier to be sort of generally fond of a bunch of people when you don’t have to interact with them in close quarters 8 hours a day. Everyone can keep up good humour long enough to fire off a cheerful (or at least neutral) update or witty remark on Slack; bad moods stay in whatever home office they’re already in don’t really have a chance to spread. And the multitasking is so much easier when it comes in text form. Maybe I’m just a robot in disguise? I dunno, but not complaining.

    1. allathian*

      Yes! Thanks for that voice of sanity. So many managers are wanting people to return to the office because they think managing in person is easier. I’m not a people manager and have no interest in being one, but I assume it just requires a slightly different skill set.

  24. TrackingCookieMonster*

    I don’t miss shared bathrooms.
    I don’t miss people who think they can jump up their pet project on my list of priorities by walking in in-person instead of emailing me.
    I don’t miss having to pour coffee out of a Thermos instead of pouring it straight from my pot.
    I don’t miss having to respond to a boss’s bad idea immediately with grace instead of being able to spend a few minutes centering myself first to give a better answer.

  25. The Real Persephone Mongoose*

    Ugh, the speaker phone! I work in a group that all has private offices. We all normally keep our doors open unless we are on calls or meeting with someone. Guy across the hall from me though? He not only kept his door open all the time regardless of what he was doing, he used a speaker phone with the volume turned UP for it. You could hear it all over the floor. I can’t count the number of times I’d had to ask him to close his door. It got to the point where people around us would complain to me because they knew I’d tell him to close it. It was solved by moving to a new building. I’m no longer near him. I’m fully remote now and will never have to deal with that again!

  26. berto*

    I go into the office 3 days a week, frankly because it gets me out of my house and allows me to better support my boss. Overall the big problem with the office is that the environment is not comfortable, it’s distracting and some people are dirty and frankly gross, others are noisy and others are plain old stressed out. That said I like being part of a team and there is a certain social element that I do enjoy. I just don’t think there is anything really special about the office and certainly no genius that comes out of being there. That doesn’t mean I won’t go in, but it’s just not really that needed.

  27. Cat Lady*

    We recently went back to our office to clean it, and I have been reminded of how much I hate dirty shared kitchens. I am very particular about food safety and kitchen sanitation, so the thought of putting my lunch in a microwave covered in old food and stains from God knows how long ago makes me want to hurl. I spent a good 20 minutes wiping every inch of our crusty, crusty mic, and I don’t know if I even got everything. Nasty.

  28. Where are my minions? I was promised minions!*

    We are back in the office for two days a week, staggered so that there are no more than three people (usually only 2) in our shared cubicle room(s). Right now, with Delta, we are strongly encouraged to wear our masks while at our desks, and we are commanded to wear them any time we stand up and move around or talk to anyone else. 90% of us are vaccinated, so it’s not too stressful, in my experience. It helps immensely that our employer is very strict about following the Covid-19 rules, although we do have the coffee machines and refrigerators/microwaves open for use. I haven’t yet used the microwave, but the refrigerator I’m using is pristine. I believe it’s being cleaned once a week. The bathrooms are now single-occupancy, with a little sliding sign on the door to let others know if anyone is in there. So it’s definitely less stressful that way, too. I know I’m lucky in that my employer takes this seriously and enforces the mask-wearing/sending people home if they are at all sick…

  29. Regatta*

    I don’t miss the judgement. Each job I have, there is at least one woman (and it’s always a woman) who I just feel the judgement from. Like what time I come in at, what I wear, how I format documents, what order I do things in, how fast everything is done. And if I don’t do things the way she does them – judgement. I didn’t realize how oppressive this was until I worked from home (or worked on all-male teams). There’s something about me (I think it’s a combination of myself being slightly snobby plus an academic background that’s typically much more prestigious than my coworkers) that rubs one woman the wrong way and she has to try to put me in my place. So much easier to handle from home.

    1. CroNut*

      To be fair I’ve worked in a majority male industry and the judgement, backbiting and machoism was non stop.

  30. allathian*

    My employer had a pretty decent hybrid policy even before the pandemic. I didn’t WFH very often, because I was just working on my laptop at the dining room table, but in March 2020 when we were sent home, I set up a decent office and I’m so glad we have the space for one. It looks like we’re phasing out mandatory WFH at the end of the month, as in employees can choose to go back to the office without clearing it with their managers. My employer is known for treating its employees decently and for recognizing that employees have different needs and preferences, and for being willing to accommodate those whenever possible. In the summer, they had a survey about how employees felt about the return, and we discussed it at a team meeting this week. I think our manager was a bit surprised that the split was so even between those who really wanted to go to the office and those, like me, who absolutely did not.

    Vaccination rates are pretty good in my area, so that makes me feel a bit safer. My son’s had his first shot, so when he gets his second in October, I’ll feel even safer than I do now. He’s going to school, and they have a mask mandate indoors, except during lunch, and kids eat in the classroom, so any exposure is limited to that class.

    All that said, I don’t want to work with a mask on, and I absolutely don’t want to go back to the office until the strong recommendation to wear a mask is lifted. I also don’t want to be *that person* who refuses to wear a mask if everyone else is wearing it, or if there’s a recommendation, never mind a mandate, to mask up. I’ll wear it on public transit and in crowded places indoors, and probably will continue to do so even when the mandate is lifted, at least during flu season. But I get no joy out of meeting people in person if I have to be masked, and I can’t focus on work if I’m focusing on simply breathing or on trying to avoid getting my glasses fogged up.

    I guess I’m privileged in that they aren’t thinking of forcing us back to the office yet.

  31. agnes*

    The complaints I heard also really slowed down during the pandemic and are ticking back up. Interesting things are the new complaints around the “new normal.” Like feeling disconnected from the team, the tone of emails from coworkers or supervisors, not having a full office set up, so having to come in to do things (like copying lots of documents, or fetch mail) that someone “should” be able to do from home if they had proper equipment (understand telework was never intended to be permanent in my organization).

    It’s just proof positive to me that there is no ideal working environment

  32. Huh*

    Yeah, any person who is found to have been the cause of dragging our entire team back into the office more than a few times a year (at most) purely based upon their own personal preference for working at an office full time will find themselves experiencing a deep and abiding unpopularity.

  33. A little disappointed*

    Wow, really surprised Alison has this viewpoint. How is it back to normal when the numbers are climbing again for a more contagious virus? Sounds like the Spontaneous Conversation Advocates wanting to pretend things are getting back to normal, but I can’t see how anyone has this viewpoint…

  34. often trapped under a cat*

    After about a year of being minimally open (a small number of employees allowed in the office each day, largely voluntary though some facilities people are assigned to specific days of the week), with slowly rising numbers of employees taking advantage of this, we had our first disgusting fridge incident. I usually bring lunch so don’t go into the fridge, but the woman who discovered the issue was sortof delighted (at a sign of normalcy?) and brought the offending container (sealed, thankfully) around to show people before tossing it.

  35. TeaCoziesRUs*

    It was wonderful to hear your voice! I miss the podcast, even though you didn’t find it worthy of your time (and that is totally okay).

  36. KatieP*

    Years ago, I found myself starting to get irrationally angry around lunch time every day. Then I realized that my colleague’s lip-smacking and groaning while eating was triggering my anger. I got to forget about it for 18 months, then we were in the office at the same time last week, and I wished I’d brought my earbuds to the office.

Comments are closed.