my coworker is secretly living at the office

A reader writes:

I started a new job two months ago. My role is a senior one that reports directly to the CEO.

I quickly discovered that one of my coworkers — who is also a manager — is living in the office. He would technically say that he lives in his van. However, his van is always parked in the office parking garage and it is clear he uses the office for all his personal needs. I live near the office so have driven by at all hours and he is always here! He cooks all his meals in the office kitchen and has a couch in his office. He will also post a sign on his door that says “out of office” but he is actually in his office, just not working. 

I think this has gone unnoticed because most people are still working remotely, but I am coming in every day and it is very uncomfortable. Sometimes it appears he has just woken up.

I don’t want to make waves because I am so new, but I also can’t stop thinking about this. Should I tell someone or just let it go and hope leadership notices soon?

A complicating factor to note — our CEO was recently let go and we are in the middle of a huge leadership transition. The organization is very chaotic right now and there is not clear leadership.

Well, it’s possible someone in leadership knows and has okayed it. Who knows why — most obviously, of course, he could have lost his housing. Or he could have split from his partner or simply decided this was more cost-effective while no one else was coming in anyway, or who knows what.

But it’s also possible that no one knows since most of your coworkers are still working remotely. And if that’s the case, the organization really does need to know — for safety and legal reasons, if nothing else. If they rent the space, someone living there could be a violation of the terms of their lease. It could be a problem for their insurance. And if something happens to the building in the middle of the night, someone needs to know a person is in there.

If you weren’t in a very senior role, I’d tell you this is above your pay grade and, especially as a new hire, to leave it alone for now unless it were causing problems for you (like if you were running into him half-clad in the mornings or unable to use the office fridge because it was stuffed with a month of his groceries or so forth).

But you’re in a senior role that reports to the CEO. Even though there’s no clear leadership right now, is there anyone above you or in a relatively senior operations-type role? If so, it’s worth mentioning it to that person — not in a “get Bob in trouble” kind of way, but framed as, “I wasn’t sure if anyone knew about this since he and I are generally the only ones here, and it seemed like something I should mention to someone.” That’s not making waves; if they’re fine with it, they’ll let you know that … and if they’re not fine with it, they’re unlikely to shoot the messenger.

It does risk making waves for Bob, of course. But you can’t start living in your office and expect your colleagues not to mention it. That’s not to ignore that he might be in a difficult spot — but again, there are legal and safety reasons the organization needs to know he’s there.

{ 463 comments… read them below }

  1. anonymous73*

    Yeah I would definitely find someone to tell, and frame as a safety/liability issue. It’s not about tattling – it’s making you uncomfortable, which would be reason enough for me to say something.

    1. Snark*

      I would actually tend to disagree that subjective personal discomfort, absent an obvious, actionable concern, is not enough reason to say something. If he were, say, wandering around the office in his pajamas in the morning, or invited a sexual partner over, or moved a bunch of personal belongings into the office? Absolutely. But I’d push back against the notion that someone living their life in a strange way that doesn’t really affect you is actionable discomfort, even if it’s pretty weird.

      All that said, it’s definitely a liability issue for the employer, so if there’s a reason to bring it up, it’s that.

      1. hamsterpants*

        It’s uncomfortable because he’s crossing the streams of professional vs personal life in a manner that others can’t opt out of. If I come in to work early and he’s still “out of office” in his office, it feels like I’m sitting in someone’s living room. It’s one thing if it’s a very short term alternative to sleeping on the street, of course, but if it’s his long term MO then I think it’s not cool.

        1. Snark*

          Unless it’s a shared office, I don’t really see it. I mean, yeah, you can guess what’s going on, but it’s also not in your space or your office.

          1. hamsterpants*

            Maybe it has to do with how we each are envisioning office layout. In my building there are large cubicle farms with private offices along the walls. My cubicle is literally ten feet from the door to someone’s office. If someone were sleeping or changing in there I’d feel extremely awkward. If everyone has separate offices that open onto a shared hallway, though, then I agree it’s different.

            1. WellRed*

              If they weren’t living in the office, would you be uncomfortable with them napping, changing or pumping in their office? What is it, exactly, that’s uncomfortable? The homelessness? But yeah, long term or even short term, this isn’t good.

              1. hamsterpants*

                The uncomfortable thing is being very nearly in someone’s personal space? I don’t know why this is so hard to understand. I wouldn’t go into a colleagues house uninvited because that would be an invasion of privacy. Depending on the proximity of my workspace to Bob’s office, it could feel like an invasion of his privacy, too.

                1. Sea Anemone*

                  Unless your work space is *in* Bob’s office, you aren’t invading his privacy while he changes or sits on his couch. In that case, he is invading yours, and you should report it.

                2. iliketoknit*

                  This is really responding to Sea Anemone – I think it also depends on how often other people need to go into Bob’s office. If he does a lot of meetings there or a lot of people have to consult him in his office frequently, it would be a little weird/off-putting to be meeting with him in the space where you know he sleeps/hangs out. I agree that that kind of discomfort isn’t necessarily in itself a reason to tell superiors about what’s going on, but since there are the strong legal/safety reasons to bring it up with someone, the discomfort isn’t nothing.

              2. Falling Diphthong*

                Since it’s a manager, my fanfic is that he broke up with an SO and decided to sleep in his office on the couch for a few weeks, just until (it blew over/he found something else/a meteor struck). And inertia locked him in place.

                Second would be one of those people who believe they are being extremely minimalist.

              3. Stina*

                I think it’s the lack of awareness or concern about the boundaries between personal and professional behaviors. Catnaps, pumping milk, prayer times are all personal behaviors but are very short breaks within the work day. Needing to get 8 hours of sleep, maintain one’s hygiene, manage laundry, access to healthy meals aren’t easy to do in a work place not designed for it does begin to impact the company, the coworkers, and the employee negatively from the side-effects of poor sleeping conditions to an office that begins to have that certain, ingrained “funk” from living in it, to someone accidently finding underwear under the sofa cushion.

                1. Betteauroan*

                  He’s squatting. He needs to get out of there and get an actual legal residence. What he is doing is almost certainly illegal and if the wrong situation happened, like him being trapped in there at 3 am in a fire, the company could be held liable. Ridiculous as that is.

              4. too many too soon*

                A company owner and her husband lived in my workplace while their house was being built. It was extremely gross to have people doing the full range of private bathroom/bedroom activities where I had to spend my entire day. If I wanted to work in a private living space, I’d have done so. And dudes aren’t always on their ‘company’ manners when they think they are alone at home.

            2. Sea Anemone*

              Lots of people who have private offices change in them. If that makes you feel awkward, then that’s your feeling. But they aren’t doing anything wrong by changing in a private office (assuming closed door, no windows, and steps taken to avoid someone walking right in and getting an unasked for eyeful).

              1. Falling Diphthong*

                Yes, I think the discomfort here comes closer to “making me more aware of the (possible) difficulties of his private life than I want to be.”

                Basically it’s outside norms, and we’re uncomfortable when we’re reminded someone physically close to us is behaving outside norms.

                1. Sea Anemone*

                  But again, changing in one’s private office is not doing anything wrong. Which means your discomfort is yours to manage, not theirs to manage.

              2. tamarack and fireweed*

                Changing, pumping, brushing hair/teeth, eating, tidying up, praying, watering plants, stretching/yoga break … all these are normal things that people do in offices, because we’re physical beings with bodily needs. And I don’t even think “no windows” is a requirement here, just adequate privacy (such as provided by curtains and cubicle walls).

                However, they are short interruptions in an otherwise work-focussed day. If you run into your co-worker sorting out dirty laundry, sleeping (especially if it isn’t just a nap but a full-blown nighttime sleep, complete with pyjamas and pillows) or cooking daily meals, the situation is is out of hand. These are not your housemates, but your coworkers. (Similarly, if you have housemates, you’ll occasionally see or hear them work, but it’s fundamentally a private space. It would be odd – and not ok without clear agreement – to say run a client-facing business out of your shared apartment and expect your housemates to work around foot traffic and give you priority for internet bandwidth and printing.)

            3. Snark*

              I know my boss occasionally changes into workout clothes in his office, and I know one of the folks I manage goes into our little conference room to pump. Neither of those are bothersome. I feel like it’s one of those things like noticing your boss’ shoes under the bathroom stall wall while they’re pooping; just one of those things we have all, by unspoken consensus, agreed not to notice or talk about.

              1. BethDH*

                It feels different to me and I’m working on sorting out which parts of that are reasonable and which are “you just don’t do that!” and might be things I just need to get over.
                I think some of it is down to the percentages of work life vs private life that seem to be involved. We have a level of personal life that must come to work because we’re human and it’s a good thing. But then there’s the version we’ve all experienced where someone just brings too much of their “whole self” along.
                In this case, I feel like the amount of time OP is there while the other person is there and not working is part of the problem. It pushes the mental balance from “this is my coworker, who also changes clothes/pumps/takes a nap” to “this is the guy who sleeps here who also works.”

                1. Sea Anemone*

                  I feel like the amount of time OP is there while the other person is there and not working is part of the problem.

                  I would argue parts of that are things you just need to get over. It depends on whether OP is there during working hours or not. If Bob is “out of the office” during working hours, that means Bob is not working during working hours, which is probably a problem! It’s not about Bob being odd, it’s about Bob napping or reading or whatever when he should be working.

                  If OP is stopping in to do work outside normal working hours and Bob is “out of the office,” then you have to look at whether his being there will incur liability for the company. I can’t give a hard time when Bob needs to be out for genuine company concerns like insurance coverage and lease clauses. Overnight seems like an obvious hard no, but evening hours are a little fuzzier.

                  But if he is not there overnight, then you need to just get over it. Change how you view the mental balance. Reading in his office with the door closed in the evening, or even changing his clothes, does not harm anyone who is also in the office. Wandering out of his office in his chonies asking if you saw his pants is a hard no, as is walking around in his pjs holding a toothbrush. But just being his office outside working hours with the door closed? Meh. That’s on you to manage how you react to oddness.

            4. RebelwithMouseyHair*

              What does it matter to you if the door is closed? Women might pump milk, people might get changed in their office after cycling to work, what’s different here?

      2. Sal*

        Agreed. There is nothing inherently wrong about living in your car or your office. There’s no rule saying that people have to own or rent a static dwelling. But yes, someone needs to know for liability and security reasons.

        1. EmbracesTrees*

          It’s not wrong IF the employer knows it’s happening and has okayed it. But to just turn your workplace into your personal space is not okay. You’re using work property in a way that most workplaces would not likely allow.

          1. Semi-Anon*

            Even if the office is okay with it in theory, there’s a lot of practical stuff.

            For example is this a perk that just Bob gets, or does it get extended to other employees? In either case, what are the criteria for deciding who gets free rent and utilities as part of their compensation package. “Do it first and ask forgiveness later” is probably not the best approach.

            In addition to liability and security reasons, there’s zoning of the buildings – commercial vs residential and they may not be allowed to have live in tenants. You can’t generally legally turn an office into an apartment building without a lot of paperwork and renovations. I’d want to consult with a lawyer about landlord laws. For example, if Bob is fired, can you evict him along with the firing, or might you be required to keep him on afterwards, and if so, for how long. If the business is sold, how does that affect tenancy. Actually, I’d probably talk to a lawyer *now*, as rental laws and squatting can get really messy when trying to evict someone, depending on the local laws.

            But yeah, it’s the business (and laws) that gets to decide whether they have people living in the office, not Bob.

            1. Wintermute*

              I think you’re confusing squatter rights and implied tenancy rights. If you live in a residential space with permission for a given time then yes, you’re a legal tenant (something many people who try to be helpful or charitable discover to their chagrin). Squatter rights do exist, but they’re different, especially in commercial property. The requirement that you be “open and notorious” makes it especially hard with an in-use commercial building, if you’re trying to be sneaky that often blocks squatter rights

              That’s not saying it’s a bad idea to run anything past a lawyer, because people will try anything.

                1. Wintermute*

                  That’s not true. There is a legal definition of squatting, it’s quite possible he is merely trespassing. This difference is important, trespassers have few legal rights (you can’t set booby traps for them and you’re still liable for their injuries if you were grossly negligent that’s basically the extent of it), squatters have many more rights including, in some cases, that you need a court eviction order to stop them from living there.

        2. Asenath*

          Well, living in one’s vehicle is one thing. Living at work – in a place you don’t own or rent, and which you only have access to as a result of your agreement to perform some tasks in return for pay, is something else entirely. Unless, of course, the employer is providing housing as part of your compensation.

        3. Turtle*

          Eh…its not your property. It is there to serve the purpose of work, not house people. I get crashing after long work days or even if there’s an emergency. But otherwise, it’s not your personal space.

        4. Betteauroan*

          Why should he get to use the company’s resources, such as electricity, heat, internet, and hot water outside work hours for free? It’s not the company’s responsibility to provide him free housing.

      3. anonymous73*

        Would you say the same thing if a woman said the way a man in the office treated her made her uncomfortable? That’s also subjective – one woman’s uncomfortable is another woman’s no big deal.

        1. Sea Anemone*

          But that’s not what this is. And it’s not helpful to conflate harmless situations with harmful situations.

          1. hamsterpants*

            It’s also not helpful to dismiss things that make others uncomfortable as “harmless.” The truth is that the are real risks to what Bob is doing that could impact many parties, or not, and we don’t have the facts to judge his reasoning for living in the office one way or another.

            1. Sea Anemone*

              It’s also not helpful to dismiss things that make others uncomfortable as “harmless.”

              It is when the things making people uncomfortable are actually harmless. To be clear:

              Bob living in the office = potential liability problems for the office

              Bob looking like he just woke up = harmless

              Bob changing his clothes in his office = harmless

              Just because you are uncomfortable doesn’t mean the other person is doing something wrong.

              1. hamsterpants*

                Ignoring my concerns (not on your list above, by the way) doesn’t make them go away. Anyway, I can tell we’re not going to see eye to eye here, so I won’t be replying to you more here.

                1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                  We’re trying to figure out why Bob getting dressed behind his closed office door makes you uncomfortable. We don’t understand what your concern is, in that you are not harmed in any way and there’s no mention of any inappropriate behaviour.

            2. Wintermute*

              Yes, it is almost ALWAYS helpful to dismiss harmless things that make someone, one person in this case, uncomfortable because the reasons for vague “discomfort” are quite often really silly, sometimes rooted in bias, and if you can’t provide a concrete reason something is dangerous to you, it probably doesn’t exist.

              Being uncomfortable is normal sometimes, it’s not something you can always avoid, and it usually stems from vague social notions (or biases, like I said) rather than real risks. It’s a toxic part of modern culture that people start acting as if they have a right not to be uncomfortable, ever, even when that means other people are prevented from doing harmless things for no real reason.

              1. Jennifer @unchartedworlds*

                I would sound a note of caution here.

                People do sometimes feel uncomfortable because the situation they’re encountering is unfamiliar or countercultural, even when it’s genuinely harmless to them.

                People also sometimes feel uncomfortable because they’re being subtly coerced or manipulated, or because there’s some other danger which they’ve picked up on at some level without yet being able to articulate it.

                If, all things considered, the thing really is harmless, then yes, the correct response is to get over the discomfort. But in general it’s not necessarily safe to “get over” an uneasy feeling. And “come on, what are you worried about” type responses can be used (impatiently or manipulatively) to dismiss genuine risks.

              2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

                Yes, like the people who think that a mother storing breastmilk in the fridge is icky, when breastmilk is classified as food rather than a bodily fluid. They’re uncomfortable because they don’t understand that breastfeeding is not sexual.

        2. bowl of petunias*

          No, but that’s not the same thing at all. Just as it’s a whole different thing again if one coworker is made uncomfortable by, for example, another coworker being openly gay. Discomfort can be an excellent reason to make changes, but it isn’t always. Context matters a lot.

          1. anonymous73*

            I agree that context matters but I was trying to make a point. And dismissing the discomfort of the OP simply because that discomfort is subjective is no different than dismissing a woman’s discomfort about the way a colleague treats her.

        3. Elsajeni*

          I mean… yes, I would ask what he was doing that made her uncomfortable. We’ve had letters here about workplaces where the thing that was making somebody “uncomfortable” was a visible cold sore, the shape of someone’s body post-mastectomy, or their coworkers having names they thought were weird. The issue isn’t that “uncomfortable” is subjective; it’s that not everything that makes anyone feel uncomfortable is actually inappropriate.

    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      And honestly – accidents happen, and an office isn’t set up to be a home. There’s a reason some things inherently make us uncomfortable. This doesn’t make either you or Bob bad, but the situation itself is bad.

      1. quill*

        One thing I can think of is fire codes and cooking – standards on say, smoke alarms may be different in an office building than a residential one.

        Also of great note: what happens if/when he gets sick? Does he end up contaminating the communal kitchen accidentally? is there a sudden snot snorkeling explosion in the office because he’s breathing in it 24/7? What if he has to call an ambulance, can the paramedics get in if he’s the only person on site?

        1. Snark*

          If the facility offers an employee kitchen or food prep area, commercial fire codes already factor that in.

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            One hoped he hasn’t brought in a kitchen appliance that might exceed the rating of a “limited cooking facility”.

          2. quill*

            There’s fire codes specifically about stoves, which an employee kitchen may not have, and bedrooms, which I’m certain the office does not have.

            1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              Yup. And unfortunately there are also really bad cooks out there (like the girl freshman year that used her floor’s smoke alarms as kitchen timers…wish I was joking). What happens if Bob’s bad cooking sets off fire alarms?

            2. Pointy's in the North Tower*

              That might vary state to state. My office kitchen has a full range: oven and burners. People use both.

        2. The Prettiest Curse*

          Even if there are no problems with his using the kitchen, there may be other appliances which could cause safety issues. In a previous office, we were forbidden from having space heaters due to the fire hazard potential. Other offices I’ve worked in forbade fans, fairy lights – and microwave popcorn. Sometimes it’s just the building folks being super strict and sometimes there is a genuine reason for it, like a previous fire.

          1. Snark*

            All we know is what OP told us, and she mentioned nothing about appliances. I’m going to go off what we know. Seems most productive.

        3. hamsterpants*

          Sickness is a great point especially nowadays.

          If he gets a communicable disease then he’s not going to be able to avoid spreading it, short of moving into a hotel temporarily. Not just Covid but the flu, a cold…

          1. banoffee pie*

            I would probably pretend not to notice him living there, if it were me. I tend to default to ‘none of my business’ a lot of the time. But that might be the wrong thing to do. If he died in a fire at night or something I would feel bad. But if I ‘told on him’ and he ended up on the street I would also feel bad. It’s a really tough one. He might move on soon of his own accrod and if OP tells the bosses, he might find out and hold it against her.

            1. Sammy Furbs*

              I’m with you, especially because OP is new. If I’m new to a place and notice something like this, I’m going to wait for someone else to notice or assume everyone else already knows.

              1. Despachito*

                Me too.

                I am thinking what kind of emergency might have forced Bob to live in the office, and if he is not disturbing, I’d be afraid that by telling on him his situation would get even worse, and I would not want to do that unless his presence causes inconvenience, which does not seem to be the case.

                The fire hazard is a potential one, but the risk of Bob ending on the street/in serious trouble for me trumps that. I’d probably pretend that I do not see anything.

          2. Betteauroan*

            I didn’t even think about that. There are so many red flags going off in my head about all the things that could go wrong with an employee secretly living in the office. Yikes!

        4. LizM*

          Additionally, emergency responders need to know if there is a possibility that someone is sleeping in the building. It changes how police respond to reports of intruders and how firefighters respond.

    3. Betteauroan*

      As a former insurance agent, I can assure you that it would be unacceptable to them. His living in a commercially-zoned property at a business is a huge liability risk. Plus, from a safety standpoint, it’s another huge risk. I am sure management doesn’t know about this. I feel bad for the guy, but he needs to do something and get an actual place to live. Definitely report this to your boss. You have to. It’s actually for this guy’s own good.

  2. Detective Amy Santiago*

    I feel like the obvious solution here is to make a joke to Bob – something like “wow, don’t you ever go home?” – and see how he reacts. It’s possible management is a-okay with this and he’s not “secretly” living there.

    1. MistOrMister*

      If someone is bold enough to live in the office (without permission), I would think they’d be bold enough to play it off when asked if they ever go home. It’s very easy to deflect. Or else make a comment about how he just popped in because he lives in his van.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        This reminds me of the speculation on a stray dog moving into a large dog-friendly company, and everyone just assumes he belongs to someone in another department.

    2. NerdyKris*

      I don’t think that’s a great idea if he’s genuinely in a rough spot right now and has permission. Like what if the answer is “no, actually my house burned down last month and I need to find someplace new to live”

    3. RealPerson01*

      I wouldn’t bring it up with him if it was me.

      Should it become an issue (either OP mentioning it to another Sr leader, or someone else noticing) they will have a pretty good reason to think that OP was the reason it was discovered. (Of course they might think that anyway, but I wouldn’t want to give them anymore evidence than needed to know that)

      I think that might create an opportunity for more drama (or a tough working situation) in the long run.

    4. SleepyKitten*

      I can see why people think jokes are good “soft” ways to probe things – they’re generally plausibly deniable – but in reality they are likely to be ignored or cause paranoia. Very few people would respond to “do you ever go home lol” with a serious “no I live here now, the CEO has okayed it and it’s all legal”.

      Instead, I would say compassionately “Bob, are you living here? Would you like some help finding apartment listings? This could get the company in big legal trouble if someone outside finds out you’re staying here, so I’m going to have to let the new CEO know tomorrow” The tone and expression would be calm but concerned. Yes he might still deny it or blame you, but you’ll have got across the exact message you intend.

      1. morethanbeingtired*

        I was hoping to see someone who suggested talking to Bob about it. This guy needs help and to use the EAP if it exists because he’s clearly having a hard time.

        1. nopetopus*

          Everyone needs a little help now & then, even grown ups. Especially grown ups in stressful, isolating circumstances.

        2. Risha*

          Apartments are extremely thin on the ground right now, and have been since the current housing craze really got going. It took me from May to August to even find one that was available to apply for that met my minimum requirements (which were not crazy ones, they were things like “not clearly a shoddily flipped basement with a weird layout, minimal appliances, and at $1000 more a month than my current place”). So it’s not impossible that he doesn’t know how to find one right now, but in that scenario SleepyKitten is unlikely to have any insider knowledge to fix that either.

      2. Falling Diphthong*

        I wouldn’t say anything about the possible legal issues for the company unless you know for a fact that those exist, and precisely what they are and what does/doesn’t cross them.

        I do think OP should report it due to possible liability for the company, and it’s awkward that who, exactly, might have okayed it is unknown–the missing CEO? Ideally you drop this on The Proper Authority’s lap as “Bob is living here, sleeping in his office–I thought someone should know.” Then the Proper Authority can say “We know, very sad situation” or “That’s fine” or “… Huh. Okay, thanks for passing that on.”

        Basically I’m fine with someone having a chat with Bob about whether he needs help accessing an EAP, but I’m not sure OP is that person.

    5. kanej*

      and your response if he says “No I don’t go home because I have recently been made homeless, it’s a very difficult situation that is causing me a lot of heartache and pain, thanks for making a cruel joke about it” would be what exactly?

      1. Sea Anemone*

        I would respond with something like, “Wow, Bob, I’m so sorry to hear that. Are you able to find housing? I’m happy to help if you need anything there. Staying here could cause issues for the company. I feel for your situation, but my conscience is telling me to inform management.”

        What is your suggestion?

        1. Le Sigh*

          I mean, from my perspective, this is why I would start with other leadership or HR (OP doesn’t say what the HR situation, so this assumes there is one). If this has already been okay’d by leadership, then OP doesn’t risk unnecessarily calling someone out and embarrassing Bob. If it’s not okay with leadership, then it can be discussed internally and someone can start by talking to Bob in private. Hopefully its an HR person with the discretion and training to handle sensitive issues, but may need to be another person in leadership (unclear who Bob’s boss is). But making a joke just puts Bob on the spot, and who knows what kind of response OP will get. Plus, it’s a good instinct to want to help your colleague, but OP a) is pretty new and may quickly be in over her head, b) OP might not be willing to take that on, but then might feel they have to because they started this conversation, and c) if the company finds out about Bob and then finds out OP knew, too, that’s not a good look for OP.

        2. ecnaseener*

          The suggestion is to *not* open with a joke. If you open with a serious question, then your response is fine.

        3. R*

          I mean, if I were Bob in this situation, I wouldn’t take the offer to help as a serious one, given that it’s sandwiched between a cruel joke and then a threat to run to management to complain about my situation.

          1. Sea Anemone*

            I mean, yes? Maybe he can, he just hasn’t yet. Maybe he hasn’t had a chance to look. Maybe he could but figured he would live out of his van and office. Do you have a way to learn if he needs help without asking?

    6. Deanna Troi*

      It is a little odd to me that the “obvious” solution is to be passive-agreement. That is rarely rarely the best way to proceed.

  3. MistOrMister*

    I left a job and heard not long after that one guy had started living in the office. I don’t have any idea how he pulled it off given he had a cubicle and people were regularly working late. Maybe he was sleeping in an empty office after everyone went home. He eventually got caught and was let go. Which was probably a surprise to no one.

    1. Windchime*

      Years ago, we had a guy living at the office. He and his wife were going through a rough time and I guess he got kicked out. He would stay the night somewhere at work (some people suspected a wiring closet) and then would go home and shower after his wife left for work. I don’t think he did it for very long before he got fired for time clock abuse as he would clock in and then disappear for hours.

  4. KayaCatlin*

    Obviously those in charge need to be informed (if nothing else to ensure Bob’s safety) but I feel for him. It’s the rare individual who would choose this and not move into their office as an act of desperation. I hope leadership can play a role in getting Bob the support he needs.

    1. Smaller potatoes*

      It’s not necessarily happening out of desperation. I follow a blog where the person is doing this and by their own account is well compensated.

      1. Witch*

        Going down this lane of “well he has a job so why is he homeless?” feels icky.

        Maybe I’m more sensitive to how homelessness typically “looks” (hint: it’s not just, oh i live on the street now), so it doesn’t occur to other people on how framing this as something he’s doing just for fun is really problematic. I don’t want to put it out there about the reasons why it’s happening, when the solution is that: Bob probably cannot stay there and someone needs to be told he is.

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          My main concern is an accident happening while he’s in the building after hours. Honestly 99.9% of all office spaces are just not set up to be a home. If he needs assistance or support EAP (if available) may be a really good option – but so long as this is going unnoticed, there are potential problems for all the employees- not just Bob. I wonder if all the change at the top is why so far this hasn’t been really noticed yet (in addition to the not many people around due to Covid).

        2. Student*

          I’ve been homeless.

          I’ve also worked with (multiple!) people who live in their office, not out of homelessness or need, but by choice. It saves them money – money they can afford, but would rather not spend on housing and all the attendant expenses. How do I know? I asked them. They’re proud that they’ve found a way to cheat “the man” or to get someone else (poor office custodial staff) to clean up for them.

          People who live in their office by choice that I’ve worked with have also been, frankly, jerks. They haven’t ever cared about minimizing the impact on their co-workers, nor on avoiding weird interactions. Like coming to work or meetings in pajamas (when that is far out of step with the office culture), preventing other people from using shared office resources, monopolizing or taking much more than their fair share of shared office resources (using up far more coffee supplies than others, but not contributing more to the shared coffee funds), leaving dirty dishes around, expecting other people to be quiet or not use shared rooms during normal work hours when they are sleeping in a shared room, etc.

          So, I have a lot of sympathy for homelessness based on having lived through that myself. But based on personal experience, people living in an office are likely to be cheapskates who are happy to inconvenience others, not necessarily people who are hard-up for housing.

          1. WellRed*

            I believe there are more than a few members of Congress who live in their offices while in the district.

            1. Chelsea's mom*

              It’s the opposite, actually. To be a member of Congress, you have to own a residence in the district you represent. If they can’t afford a second home in DC (where they’re spending a lot of their time, and is not a cheap city to live), some sleep in their DC office to save money.

              1. Anon b/c at work LOL*

                I think, by “district,” WellRed meant THE District, as in “District of Columbia.”

          2. kiki*

            I’ve also interacted with the jerk strain of folks who have many options and choose to live in the office or public facilities and/or forgo housing. It seems a lot of them de-value the labor of maintenance, cleaning, and all that goes into making a place livable or workable. Like, they could do this in a way that minimizes their impact (taking care to be neat, bringing in their own supplies for personal usage, taking an equal share of communal upkeep activities (e.g. cleaning the fridge, emptying the dishwasher)), but they don’t. A friend of mine dated a fella who had decided to opt in to #vanlife, which was cool by her and she knew it was saving him a tidy sum… but he ended up just crashing at her place 90% of the time and using all her stuff and eating her food and never pitching in with cleaning. I think that was a major reason they broke up.
            There are definitely people who do van life in a way that’s respectful of others, but I’ve definitely noticed a virulent strain of folks who use it as a way to mooch that wouldn’t be sustainable if everyone did what they were doing.

          3. Spero*

            Agree, living in the office or VanLife is a frequent suggestion for house hacking in the FIRE community.

          4. Falling Diphthong*

            There’s a certain type of “minimalist” who is ostensibly turning a vehicle into a delightful tiny house, but in the interim surfing the spare beds/couches of any friend who will still let them stay. And the interim never ends.

      2. Atlantic Toast Conference*

        My sister has a work story about a coworker who was discovered to be living in the office, FOR YEARS, and it did seem to be an extreme money-saving measure. (This was at a three-letter agency known for attracting, uh, “quirky” individuals. When asked, the guy said something about rent being really high in the DC area, but he was senior and quite well compensated and did move into an apartment after being told he could no longer sleep on a mattress in the stairwell. No way to know for sure what was behind it, I guess, but his coworkers were pretty sure he was just a huge cheapskate.)

          1. Atlantic Toast Conference*

            Apparently he moved the mattress from some other spot – not sure where! – out to the stairwell in the evenings. He was discovered when security was sent out after-hours to check the building for storm damage (I think after the DC derecho).

        1. bluephone*

          I’m assuming either CIA or NSA (because the FBI doesn’t strike me as being particularly “quirky”) but like, what does it say about our national security agents that no one apparently noticed this for years and years????? No wonder it took so long to find bin Laden.

      3. Venus*

        I worked with someone who had an apartment nearby, yet was a workaholic and seemed to think that it was more efficient to sleep in his cubicle, use the gym facilities for showering, and eat out. He was clueless that it could be a liability problem.

        I know that there is a big hidden homeless problem everywhere, but Bob may or may not be part of it.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          Agreed. I wonder if Bob is like one of those food thieves discussed last week. He might not need the “free” living space, but thinks, “Hey! As long as it’s there!”

          We need to hear from Bob to know.

        2. Barbara Eyiuche*

          In Calgary there are a few law firms where the articling students are expected to sleep at the office. There are cots set up for them. My classmates who interviewed at these places said they noped right out of there when they saw the cots.

      4. Richard Hershberger*

        Then there is the guy that (claims to–I have no opinion on this) have lived for three years in an empty concession stand at Philadelphia’s old Veteran’s Stadium. He wrote a memoir: The Secret Apartment: Vet Stadium, a surreal memoir by Tom Garvey. I have not read it, so can’t offer an opinion one way or the other.

        1. BA*

          It is a good read. I’ve also heard him interviewed, and if he is making it up, he’s a heck of a salesman.

        2. T. Boone Pickens*

          I remember hearing about this story! I think I watched a news short about this on ESPN? I believe. Was a fascinating watch. If I remember correctly, he had one or two close calls over the years but by and large, nobody had any idea there was someone living there.

          1. banoffee pie*

            Wasn’t there a film about some guy who lived at the airport for years? Tom Hanks played him. It was quite sad; it wasn’t by choice. He couldn’t get into the country legally or something and was stuck there.

              1. TrackingCookieMonster*

                The Terminal is loosely based off of the story of Mehran Karimi Nasseri (aka Sir Alfred Mehran), who lived in Charles de Gaulle Airport for 18 years.

                1. ala*

                  ^ according to wikipedia, it appears he could have left after a few years but was refusing to sign papers- seems he had some mental health issues as well

            1. EmmaPoet*

              Mehran Karimi Nasseri lived in the departure lounge of Terminal One in Charles de Gaulle Airport for 18 years. Dreamworks bought the rights to his story but did not end up using it in their film The Terminal.

        3. Emily*

          This is off topic, but there was also a group of people who made an apartment in a secret room in the Providence Place Mall and lived there on and off for FOUR YEARS. The podcast 99 Percent Invisible has an excellent episode about it, called The Accidental Room. I think any of us who grew up reading “From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler” has dreamt of something like this!

      5. TimesChange*

        I met a guy at work who traveled all the time to different customer locations. For awhile he was on the road so much, he apparently just made his “home” at a friend’s airplane hanger on the occasional time he wasn’t spending the night at a hotel on the company’s travel dime.

        1. TimesChange*

          He wasn’t living at work, obviously. He just didn’t need an apartment/etc and it wasn’t due to finances. The OP did mention coworker has a van. Maybe he’s living the van life (supplemented by work life).

          1. Golden*

            That was my thought, there was a YouTuber who was recently found to be lying about past struggles with homelessness; in reality she and her partner had chosen a “van life” situation.

          2. TechWriter*

            Yeah, I think it’s vanlife, but hey, free parking and there’s a bathroom and coffee facilities here, so why park somewhere requiring a commute? Maybe he’s not actually *sleeping* in the office, just using all the facilities.

            Still an after-hours safety risk, but I sorta get it?

            1. Lily Rowan*

              I can imaging starting out thinking you’d sleep in the van, but then summer or winter comes, and the office is way more comfortable!

              1. Falling Diphthong*

                This. If the van is right there, with a sleeping bag in it, then sleeping “in the vicinity of the van, but indoors” probably feels like it counts.

        2. Lobsterman*

          That’s much closer to couchsurfing at a buddy’s or a family member’s because you’re never home than living in an office.

      6. CBB*

        Even well compensated people can struggle to get an apartment. In addition to having to pay thousands up front, you also need to have an acceptable rental history and credit score.

        1. Betteauroan*

          Ibused to have a horrible credit score. I don’t know what I would have done if I had to rent an apartment on my own at the time. I probably couldn’t have. I don’t know how people with bad credit find a place to live.

        2. Splendid Colors*

          Yeah. Typically, if you’ve been evicted in the past 7 years, landlords won’t rent to you. And some landlords will evict people just to be able to raise the rent to full market value (if there’s no Just Cause Eviction statutes–that’s why my city passed one about 4-5 years ago).

          Apparently about 15 years ago, the landlord grapevine suggested that the easiest way to get rid of a tenant who’d been there so long their rent was below market rates was to allege that they were behaving strangely and you had to evict them for other tenants’ safety. This happened to a couple of friends, plus friends or coworkers of friends, and none of them had done anything that could even be misconstrued or exaggerated into a bonafide threat to anyone’s safety. But the judges all agreed that the tenant could have no possible defense and approved the evictions.

      7. Jennifer*

        I think it’s pretty well known in DC that a lot of Congress-people sleep in their offices because they can’t afford DC rent plus their mortgages/rents back in their home districts, or they just don’t want to pay it twice when they don’t have to.

    2. Colette*

      Or he’s decided that he can save a lot of money by not paying rent since most of his waking hours are at work. Sometimes people get tunnel vision about something that works for them and forget to consider the other people involved.

      1. Smithy*

        While I get this as a unique variation of minimalist living and cost-saving measures, I do think this still fits KayaCatlin’s description of the rare individual. And given the balance between really rare outlook on life and desperation, I do think that this is where taking a more sensitive approach is going to be helpful.

        Because if this is just someone who’s like “cost saving loophole!” – then the answer may be more cut and dry rules about what will constitute living at the office and that will be a terminable offense. However, if the person really is going through a difficult personal situation that has led them there, having them open up about the exact nature of why their fulltime salary no longer affords a place to live may be deeply shameful and difficult to disclose.

        Either way, I don’t think you’ll know without being really sensitive in approach to figuring this out.

        1. Observer*

          Either way, I don’t think you’ll know without being really sensitive in approach to figuring this out.

          This is probably true. But totally not relevant. It’s really not anyone’s business – CERTAINLY not the OP’s! All the OP needs to to is give the appropriate person a heads up. OP, is there a COO? That would be a reasonable person to tell.

        2. Colette*

          I don’t think it really matters, in the end. Unless he has approval, he can’t live there. It’s not the company’s job to solve it.

          1. Gerry Keay*

            Sure, but there are varying degrees of compassion one can apply when addressing these situations, and I think “is this person homeless” is a pretty significant factor.

            1. Colette*

              The OP doesn’t need to approach it with compassion. The person who talks to Bob might need to, if that in fact happens. The OP can be purely factual.

              1. Observer*

                Well, if the OP is truly and purely factual, it should be OK. No pearl clutching or commentary. Just “This is what I am seeing, I thought you should know.”

      2. Phony Genius*

        There are some U.S. Congress members who have done this in order to show their constituents how much money they save by returning their housing allocation to the Treasury. It’s against the rules, but since it’s pretty much self-enforced it still goes on.

    3. KayDeeAye*

      Of course it’s possible he’s doing it in a quirky, “Oooh, I can save money” way. My very own husband would totally have lived in a van when he was single, though I’m sure he wouldn’t have expected his employer to provide kitchen facilities and the like (and I’m also sure he would have loathed it, though he denies this :-) ).

      But Kaya is right that the chances are that he’s doing this because of some sort of trouble in his life. It’s not certain, but the odds are, he felt driven to this, at least in the beginning.

      That said, he really can’t do it without getting permission, so the OP needs to let management know what’s going on.

      1. Ana Gram*

        I had a coworker who moved from about 4 hours away to take a job with my company. Turns out he didn’t actually move. He just loaded a bunch of stuff in his van, showered at the facilities at work, and slept either in the van or on the couch in the day room between shifts. He’d kept his home in the other state and just didn’t want to sell and refused to rent a room here because it was “a waste of money”. Eventually, the bosses found out and he was told he couldn’t sleep at the station but he lived in that van for several more years. Weird situation. I think he moved here eventually.

    4. StoneColdJaneAusten*

      Yeah, this is how I read this. While some people are voluntarily homeless, the majority of homeless people sure aren’t. I watched a Tiktok the other day about a woman who was playing a character at Disney World all day and then sleeping in her car at night. This guy admittedly sounds like he has more money than she did, but still…

    5. New But Not New*

      OP, talk with Bob. You need to be sure about the situation. If he is indeed living in the office, tell him if he stops it, it will stay between the two of you. No need to escalate, you can ask him to go to management himself if need be. It’s likely a bad situation, so let coworker preserve some measure of dignity.

      My most recent building had security making rounds after normal business hours, so living in the office would have been difficult to pull off there. However, I worked in a different building where it was discovered that someone was indeed living there. To me it is sad to have a decent job yet be unable to afford temporary housing, not even having a credit card to charge an air bnb or something. Or worse, to have no friends or relatives that would let you crash with them for a while if you’re in a desperate situation.

  5. Junior Assistant Peon*

    This happened at a past workplace of mine. A coworker going through a divorce had been sleeping in his office and showering in the plant locker room. He got caught and told to cut it out. I think it was an insurance issue that no one could live in the building. It was a company-owned building, so we weren’t violating the terms of a lease.

    If the guy is dealing with a temporary situation like a divorce, I’d leave it alone, but it sounds like this guy was a permanent resident of his van until he decided his office was more comfortable.

    1. High Score!*

      Unfortunately that opens the company up to a huge amount of liability. If OP knows and didn’t report it then the company could discipline OP. At most large companies I’ve worked at the policy on anything that goes against company policies, the rule is “see something, say something”.
      Someone living in an office is a legal issue.

      1. Loulou*

        Yup. As much as I’d like to say “cut the poor guy a break, he must be going through a hard time” it’s probably negligent in a legal sense for OP not to report that someone has taken up residence in their office.

          1. Loulou*

            So you’re sure that if a senior leader was aware that a person was living on the premises of the building and didn’t report it, and then some accident happened as a result of that situation that they knew about but didn’t report, there would be no liability? I’m not sure about that, but I’m not a senior leader so this is outside my expertise.

            1. Snark*

              I don’t think OP actually knows that. They can guess, perhaps plausibly, but they don’t really know that. In the absence of hard knowledge, I would personally default to MYOB.

        1. Sloan Kittering*

          God forbid something happen after hours (a fire, some tragic accident, a break-in) and it turns out that OP – and thus theoretically an officer of the company – knew and said nothing!

          1. Snark*

            What does OP know with certainty? That the guy says he lives in his van, occasionally looks disheveled, and eats a lot of meals and spends a lot of free time at the office. That’s it. Everything else is basically speculation – reasonable speculation, but speculation.

            I just do not see a liability/legal duty angle here.

            1. banoffee pie*

              Yeah you can always pretend to be really dozy/unobservant. ‘Oops, I just didn’t notice Bob there!’ That’s not a crime, I think anyway ;)

              1. Snark*

                It wouldn’t even be pretending. She knows Bob occasionally is in his office outside typical core hours, that he occasionally looks sleepy, and that he hangs out in his office with a sign on the door to not disturb him. You can conclude he *might* be sleeping there, but that’s an assumption.

            2. Starbuck*

              Right, someone would need to prove OP knew about it beforehand, and from what they’ve written above, that doesn’t seem possible at this point.

            3. Falling Diphthong*

              There are a lot of people who all but live at the office–late hours, disheveled appearance, rooting through the fridge for leftovers at 1 a.m. If Bob had an apartment but occasionally worked through the night, maybe napping on a couch, would it be a liability? Can you nap in the office but not sleep more than 4 hours at a stretch?

              I recall a charter school principal who had stopped going home and just slept in her office, and it was presented as What Truly Dedicated Educators Do.

            4. Missy*

              Lawyer here, typically the standard isn’t “knows as a matter of fact” but “know or should have known”. At which point the jury would be asked what a reasonable person would have inferred by the evidence and if it would have been negligent to ignore it. You don’t get to act like an ostrich and then claim immunity.

              1. banoffee pie*

                But would a lawyer go after one employee in particular rather than the whole company? Genuine question. Especially a brand new employee?

                1. AutolycusinExile*

                  I mean, given that OP is apparently one of the only employees in the office with him, it’s not unreasonable to expect them to let the company know if they notice a problem on site. Whether or not OP could legally get in trouble for not informing them of their suspicions, I have no clue, but they could certainly get disciplined for it – they’re high level and immediately below the CEO. If OP saw smoke and was pretty sure that the building was on fire – and didn’t tell anyone? They’d rightly be upset with OP, and might very well fire them. It’s obviously not nearly as urgent of a problem as a fire is, but insurance companies are going to view the situations quite similarly and that’s before getting into zoning permissions.

      2. Junior Assistant Peon*

        I wouldn’t have known this was against the rules if I hadn’t known of the past situation at my job or seen this AAM letter. I would have thought it was weird, but not necessarily illegal, otherwise.

        1. Ashley*

          Depending on the location zoning codes and building codes could definitely a huge issue. One basic code issue is a bedroom has to have an operable window in case of a fire, how many offices these days do.

          1. Loulou*

            It’s not just zoning either. For me, if I were just working outside my normal hours in my workspace I’d need to sign in specially with security. I’m not authorized to be there outside the buildings working hours and they are required to keep an accurate list of who is where (and when).

            1. Raine*

              True, but the fire codes for a residential high-rise are different from office towers (and vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, not just from state to state). For one thing, the rate of burn for construction materials in an office tower is very different than from what it would be for a residence (and IIRC, lower). Fire codes aren’t just about having a window from which one can escape; they also set the standards for the materials of construction, alarms, and wiring.

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          I can’t find the post, but I am remembering the letter from a manager whose employee just… stayed at her desk after clocking out.
          I remember some back and forth about the specific liability issues that could come up.
          Is this ringing any bells for anyone? Because some of that discussion might be useful for this letter writer as well.

          1. Junior Assistant Peon*

            I think the issue in that letter was that the employee was hourly, and it wouldn’t have been a problem if a salaried person was hanging out at her desk after finishing a day’s work.

      3. StoneColdJaneAusten*

        I don’t think the OP can get in trouble. What does the OP actually KNOW?
        -The van is parked at the office sometimes
        -Bob shuts himself in his office a lot
        -Bob cooks some meals at the office.

        If the OP wants to tell on Bob, the OP has that option, but if they are questioned about it for sure OP can plausibly say that they knew nothing for sure. The OP doesn’t have to volunteer “Oh, yeah, I drive by the office at all hours of the night and Bob’s van is there” if the OP doesn’t wish to.

        1. Queenie*

          Given OP’s comment about Bob making a deliberate lifestyle choice, I am very firmly AGAINST approaching him directly at this point. Even without that comment, I was hesitant, because doing so could have opened up OP to too much personal information and becoming an active participant in his recovery from whatever situation was taking place.

          OP should approach whatever upper management currently exists at this point and focus on the potential liability of something happening after hours and nobody knowing whether Bob is in the building. And honestly, if it continues once the management situation settles down, I’d bring it up to the new management as well.

      4. Betteauroan*

        Yes it is a huge liability issue. Their insurance company would cancel or non-renew them and the landlord would never approve it. I feel bad for the guy if he’s really suffering and in a tough spot that’s not his fault, but living at the office is not a solution.

    2. fueled by coffee*

      Yeah, this happened to me once. The guy’s (ex?)-girlfriend took out a restraining order against him so he had to move out. I’m not saying it’s possible to find a new apartment/living situation immediately, but the little sympathy I had for him eroded completely when this dragged on for months.

      I was usually the first to get into the office in the mornings, so the combination of the DV complaint and my growing inkling that he hadn’t suddenly shifted his work hours made me extremely uncomfortable.

    3. Slow Gin Lizz*

      The summer camp I used to be a counselor at would have people staying up all hours and falling asleep in all the buildings all over the place (it was a very loosey-goosey kind of camp). This was fine in the 70s when the camp was first started but in the 00s when I was there they had to put the kibosh on that because of insurance reasons. If there were a fire in one of the main buildings in the middle of the night, the FD wouldn’t necessarily know to go looking for people in the building so it was a safety issue. (Or so we were told; I think firefighters probably always look for people in burning buildings but unfortunately my firefighter grandfather was no longer with us at this point and I never thought to ask another one.) So it would make sense that the company would have similar insurance issues.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        I dunno, I think if a commercial building was burning badly after hours and nobody was supposed to be inside, I’m not sure they’d send firefighters inside it just to double-check, honestly. I wonder.

        1. Aiani*

          I was so curious to know if the fire department would search a commercial building at night that I had to ask my fire fighter brother in law. Don’t know if this is different from place to place, but he said they would not search a business at night the same way they would search say an apartment complex. Don’t know that this really changes anything but it does seem like a mark in the, this is not a safe thing to do, column.

        2. SpaceySteph*

          In this case there would be an unoccupied vehicle (Bob’s van) parked in the parking lot though, which might tip the scales to sending someone in.

      2. Junior Assistant Peon*

        I’m pretty sure it is standard practice to check for occupants at a fire scene no matter what. There could be a night janitor, someone working very late or early, etc.

    4. londonedit*

      Yes, I once worked somewhere where one of the employees found himself between flats and ended up sleeping in the office for a week or so while he found a friend’s sofa to crash on. People quickly worked it out and he was told by the boss that he had to stop – we all knew the office alarm code and he was ‘leaving work’ at the appropriate time but then coming back a couple of hours later and switching off the alarm so he could stay in the office overnight, which was obviously a huge breach of the office security and would have led to the insurance policy being invalid if anyone had broken in or there had been a fire or whatever.

    5. Le Sigh*

      I’m very tired and misread “plant locker room” and kept thinking “oh wow they had a whole locker room for plants?”

      I should probably take a n ap.

  6. Mockingjay*

    Why not simply ask Bob first? “Hey, I’ve noticed you’re here nearly 24/7. Is everything okay?” Listen to what he says, then you can figure out whether/how this needs to be escalated.

    1. FM*

      I want to second this. I get that Alison’s advice is taking into account liability for you and the business, but I really think the more empathetic/thoughtful thing to do is to talk to Bob before you do anything that might shake up his world. At the very least, so he’s not totally blindsided.

      1. Observer*

        Right, because empathy and thoughtfulness ignore the very legitimate needs of the business and everyone who works for it. And also ignores the actual safety issues at play.

        If Bob is a functional person he has to know that this could easily come to an end in short order. If he isn’t, the OP having a conversation with him is not going to change anything.

      2. Anon for this*

        Talking to him would make reporting it even harder, and to be honest, regardless of his reasons, if his superiors dont’t know, they need to be told.
        A gas line could break, and no one tries to evacuate/tell him to get out because they don’t know he’s there. A sinkhole could open up unexpectedly and if it wasn’t during work hours, no one would know to search the “empty” building. Or someone might decide to fumigate the building during a long weekend when no one’s supposed to be there.

    2. jms*

      +1 for this. I had a strong visceral reaction to the idea of telling on him to management. This guy is clearly in a bad situation and is desperate. Why make things harder for him? Saying you’re concerned about his “safety” sounds like a lame excuse to me. Ask him gently if he’s ok and see if you can help. For gods sake DON’T go running to the CEO.

      1. EPLawyer*

        He is not clearly in a bad situation and desperate. he might like the ease of living in the office. he might be a cheapskate. There could a lot of reasons that are not desperation.

        But she does need to report it. It is NOT TATTLING to report a health and safety issue. She is not Sally in Cube 5 of the Farm, she is pretty high up in the organization. It is her DUTY to protect the company from liability and make sure EVERYONE — including Bob — is safe.

        Alison is spot on, if the higher ups know, they will tell her because she needs to know as part of the higher ups. If they don’t know, they need to know to get it taken care of.

        1. Sue*

          Yes. I know of a business where one of the owners gave permission for someone to live there. A fire then destroyed the building and the insurance mess that ensued caused the business to be closed for 2 years. The legal/insurance ramifications are serious and a business needs to be aware AND look into the legality/insurance coverage of the situation. Compassion may mean figuring out an alternative housing option rather than putting the place at risk.

        2. Sloan Kittering*

          I really hope the company has an EAP or something they can offer him. I think big companies have emergency assistance they can offer, even renting hotel rooms for employees in crisis (none of the tiny nonprofits I’ve ever worked in would do this, mind you).

        3. Snark*

          There’s also lots of reasons this might not be a health/safety/security issue. Based on the letter, it seems he’s sleeping in his van, not his office. If he’s just eating a lot of meals in the office and seemingly spending personal time there, that’s weird but doesn’t seem actionable unless the building is empty, locked, and employees can’t be there outside core hours.

          It’s not her duty to protect the company from liability. It is a liability for the company, but it is not every employee’s personal legal responsibility to speculatively report on what could be, but might not be, a health and safety issue.

          I can see a discreet “hey, not sure what’s going on here, but it seems like Bob is spending most of his personal time in the office, wasn’t sure if you knew.” But this is not OP’s duty or responsibility to handle.

          1. Observer*

            It’s not her duty to protect the company from liability

            Given their role in the company I think that this is just not the case.

            speculatively report on what could be, but might not be, a health and safety issue.

            There is nothing speculative about this. It *IS* a health and safety issue. Now it’s possible that the issue has been assessed / remediated. But the OP has no way to know that.

            1. Snark*

              Does she know he’s sleeping there? Unequivocally, has she observed him sleeping in the office? Not in the letter, if so.

          2. Eden*

            > It’s not her duty to protect the company from liability.

            It probably is! As Alison notes, this isn’t true for every employee, but OP is a very high-level employee.

          3. EventPlannerGal*

            Isn’t it? The opening lines of the letter state that the OP is in a senior position reporting directly to the CEO. I don’t know if someone at that level of seniority *can* just be like “oh well, who can say, not my problem”?

            1. Raine*

              One would hope not, but as we’ve seen time and again, sometimes turning a blind eye to stuff like this happens.

            2. LegalDuty*

              I agree with EventPlannerGal.

              In Australia, LW would almost certainly have a legal duty to act.

      2. Presea*

        The thing is is that, if Bob is genuinely homeless, that’s not OP’s problem to solve. It’s a societal failure, in my eyes, that we let anyone go homeless – but the truth is is that OP is not responsible for Bob, and turning a blind eye to Bob’s squatting won’t fix the societal issues at play. OP does have a responsibility to the company that employs them, and it’s a completely valid decision to stay loyal to their job rather than to a random coworker. If OP wants to help Bob (and I’m not sure they do – and they have no specific responsibility to besides good citizenship!), they can help direct him to other resources besides squatting in their office building.

        I agree that OP asking if they can help first would be kind and I would even encourage them to do so, but Bob is presumably a competent adult who can navigate his own housing situation and find other resources if he needs to. The CEO can possibly help as well. The OP needs to have their own oxygen mask on first, and that means they have no responsibility to risk their job and professional reputation (and thus future jobs) by turning a blind eye to this situation, even if it’s happening in a larger context of societal failure.

        (Furthermore, I don’t love how you put “safety” in quotes there – it really is a genuine safety issue if the building is on fire or collapsing or something! If he’s trapped in there and nobody knows he was in there in the first place, who could possibly save him?)

        1. banoffee pie*

          I agree that he could be in trouble if there’s a fire. But I still don’t see how sleeping at the office could be as dangerous as living on the street. People are attacked all the time. I’ve seen people randomly kicking homeless people. It was pretty horrible. Luckily they moved on when they saw me (the attacker I mean, not the homeless person).

          1. Presea*

            I don’t believe anyone ever compared it to living on the street, which I agree is far less safe. That doesn’t mean Bob living in the building isnt a safety issue, it just means that if Bob is homeless he’s between a rock and a hard place.

        2. Colette*

          Yeah, I genuinely don’t understand why people are putting the responsibility to solve Bob’s housing situation on the OP or the company. The company is responsible for paying Bob fairly; Bob is responsible for his financial decisions.

          1. Ann O'Nemity*

            Varies by employer, but mine would absolutely want to help an employee in this situation. We have an employee assistance fund, we could do payroll advances, EAP referrals, etc. Our senior leaders would be expected to do something if they found out an employee was potentially homeless and living in the building.

            1. Colette*

              Sure, maybe they can do those things, but an employee assistance fund/payroll advance/etc. won’t solve the problem that he doesn’t have a place to live. If he doesn’t make enough to rent a place, a payroll advance won’t help except in the very short term; if he wants to live out of his van (which is what this sounds like), it won’t make him get a place. But ultimately most businesses are not in the home rental business and can’t make an appropriate apartment appear out of thin air.

            2. Seven hobbits are highly effective, people*

              There are reasonable things a company can do to support a homeless employee that aren’t just “ignore that they live at the office now”. Many years ago, when I was a teenage college student, I ended up temporarily homeless and bouncing from hotel to increasingly sketchy hotel because I couldn’t find a place to sublet for the summer (there were a variety of poor teenage life choices involved, mostly because I didn’t realize how different it was to try to rent an apartment for 3 months as a 19 year old in the SF Bay Area rather than for 6-12 months as a long-established adult professional making good money in Not The SF Bay Area, since the only person I’d ever seen anyone rent an apartment before was my newly-divorced dad – I thought you just pretty much drove up to the leasing office at your preferred location and said “one apartment please, I need at least two bedrooms”).

              I was working a low-paid temp job at the time, and they let me (a) use the work phone lines on my break/at lunch to apartment-hunt (this was back when cell phones charged by the minute for overages and my phone plan had only 180 minutes a month included), (b) use the work gym showers if I wanted to (I didn’t because I was staying in hotels rather than my car, so I could shower at the hotel), and (c) ignored how many peanut butter and jelly sandwiches I was eating from the provided break room food (a variety of free food was supplied by the company, and I think the idea was that they bread, peanut butter, and jelly were mostly for morning toast – we never ran out early due to this, and I would have known since it was part of my job to let in the vendors who did the restock). So, there are various things a company can reasonably do, but the idea that maybe I just live at their offices now never came up as a potential solution.

          2. Presea*

            I personally think its good citizenship to try to help if someone is homeless. I would want to help, and I would feel like the morally correct thing to do is to help. When that’s your framework, its easy to project that framework onto other people. It’s taken some consious effort on my part to separate my personal sense of morality from my sense of what other people are responsible for. I imagine that’s where some commenters are coming from as well

            1. Colette*

              Does he want help? I haven’t seen any indication that he does. IMO, the first rule of helping someone is to make sure that the help is wanted.

              1. Presea*

                I agree. In that case, ‘not taking further action to connect Bob to resources because that’s what was requested’ is helping.

          3. SimplytheBest*

            I’ve not seen a single person do that. An occasional suggestion of asking Bob if he’s okay, but that’s not solving his problem. Neither is talking to management solving his housing problem. Neither is *not* talking to management solving his housing problem. There is literally zero problem solving being suggested.

      3. Student*

        A “bad situation” could mean a lot of things. Could actually be financial hardship. Could be he’s trying to avoid getting served for a legal issue, hiding assets in a divorce, etc. This isn’t a good solution to homelessness, even if it’s a case of homelessness – and that’s pretty unlikely for somebody in a position that reports to a CEO.

      4. Lynn Whitehat*

        TBH I would look the other way. LW doesn’t know anything for sure. Many people wouldn’t notice the same van sitting there at odd hours. “Gosh, I just never put it together.” Temper justice with mercy.

    3. Witch*

      I think talking to him could help, too. Just, idk. I’ve worked with individuals who were experiencing homelessness and there’s a TON of misconceptions out there about it. Even if he brushes you off or downplays it, you’ll at least let him know that someone out there is concerned about his living situation.

      1. EPLawyer*

        But is she concerned about his living situation or does she just not wanting him living in the office? there’s a difference. I am not saying the LW is a bad person. But she said she is uncomfortable with running into him there. So let’s let her trust her gut and NOT talk to him but bring it up with the higher ups.

    4. Sea Anemone*

      Yes, I definitely wondered why asking Bob what’s up was not on the table. This is tricky bc there is possibility to cause a frosty relationship with Bob no matter how OP approaches it, but it could play out that Bob will cut it out as soon as he realizes someone is on to him so that approaching anyone else will be unnecessary. It’s all in how you frame things–frame it as, “Hey Bob, you ok? Bc you know the company could have liability trouble with you living here” rather than, “Bob, you need to stop living here before I tell management.”

    5. Don*

      This is definitely the more thoughtful and humane approach, but it’s worth going into realizing that you might have to pivot on your heel and go to upper management with some or all of what he tells you. Maybe he spills to you how his desperate situation has led to this and despite being warned by management that it can’t happen he is continuing to do it. When you report to the CEO you now have basically no other option than to go tell them this is occurring despite their past warnings.

      Maybe that’s no more awful in theory than if you simply go and talk to someone else about it, but I suspect it would feel pretty awful having to betray someone’s trust, even if it’s wholly inappropriate for them to put that on you.

      1. Yvette*

        Excellent point, if she speaks with him first and then goes to management she goes to them knowing in fact that he is living there and there is a feeling of betrayal of trust. However if she goes now, she is just reporting a seemingly odd situation. Despite anything she has seen, she technically does not know for an absolute fact he is indeed living there.

    6. Observer*

      Listen to what he says, then you can figure out whether/how this needs to be escalated.

      Nope. Either he already has permission, in which case, OP needs to stay out of it. Or (more likely) he does NOT have permission, in which case the OP needs to let someone with decision making capacity know. It doesn’t really matter why Bob is doing this – top level management needs to know and deal with it.

    7. Loulou*

      But if the answer is “yes,” then something probably needs to be done immediately and it doesn’t seem like OP knows what that is.

      1. CBB*

        No one would have a problem with him living in his van, if he was actually do that. So the immediate solution would be for him to start sleeping there rather than the office. (And maybe also not using the office kitchen as much and parking offsite.)

        That would at least stave off anyone getting in trouble while Bob works on finding a better living situation.

        1. Ashley*

          In some places there are laws that make living in your van quite difficult because of overnight parking rules. (The US really likes to criminalize being homeless. )

          1. CBB*

            That’s true, but if the van runs and Bob can afford to put gas in it, he might be able to drive some place to park for a night.

            I used to often find myself in San Francisco late at night a few hours’ drive from home. I didn’t know of anywhere in the City where I could safely sleep in my car, but within 30-minutes’ drive there was a rest stop that became a de-facto campground at night, and quite a pleasant place to sleep. (Complete with an awesome view and coffee vending machine.)

          2. Analytical Tree Hugger*

            I have heard that a certain big box store allows people to stay in their cars overnight in the shop’s parking lot. That’s just word of mouth, though.

    8. Aunt Vixen*

      Right. If there’s no clear leadership and Bob and LW are peers, isn’t step one for LW to ask Bob “So … is this a thing that is Known?” If he says “Oh, yeah, I talked about it with Beauregard before he left and the building management knows I’m here and it’s just until my new place is fumigated,” that’s one thing. If he says “… Is what a thing that is Known?” that’s something else.

  7. Trek*

    I read an article once about a guy who lived in a really expensive area and chose to live in his office. He kept a gym membership for showing and would sometimes be late for work due to ‘traffic.’ No one caught on and this was well before covid. He moved for a new job and briefly thought of doing it again but didn’t. I am now wondering if this is happening more than people are aware of.

    1. CrankyCatLady*

      Depending on where this is, Bob may not be able to afford rent. I’m a teacher and can’t afford rent in my city without a roommate. Even “well-paid” workers are struggling to pay for housing, food, etc. Obviously squatting at the office isn’t the solution, but I know lots of people who are getting desperate to make ends meet.

      1. CBB*

        Agreed. Even if you technically can afford rent, most landlords require you to earn 3 times rent. So to qualify for a $2000 apartment you’d need to make $72k. Plus you’d need to pay $6000 up front for first, last and deposit. Plus have a good credit score and rental history.

        1. Splendid Colors*

          I recently read a news story about the difficulty of resettling Afghan refugees, and one issue was that now landlords want your income to be FIVE TIMES THE RENT in our area.

    2. LizB*

      I’ve heard rumors/legends about Google employees doing this – parking a big car in the company lot and sleeping on a mattress in the back, then using all the on-campus facilities (showers, gym, laundry, cafeteria) for all their basic needs.

      1. Ms. Yvonne*

        Ya, that’s the first thing that came to mind for me – is he a tech worker in a city with inconceivably high rent?

        1. The Prettiest Curse*

          A lot of the big Bay Area tech companies under-paid their shuttle bus drivers so badly pre-pandemic that many of them were living out of their cars. These companies could easily afford to pay these drivers a wage which would allow them to have housing. They just chose not to do that.

          1. Tiffany Aching's imaginary friend*

            I’ve ridden two different tech companies’ shuttles and in both cases, the shuttle service was provided by other companies (that I hope had more than one client for their own operational safety). So if the drivers were underpaid, it was not the fault of the tech companies. At least not directly. I do hope that companies that hire bus services build into their contracts that the drivers should be paid fairly.

            1. Le Sigh*

              The trouble is, a lot of companies specifically contract out to third parties *because* it saves them a lot of money by not having to worry about paying them a fair wage, benefits, etc. And they can hire and fire at whim because it’s through an agency and/or they’re contractors. They turn a blind eye to it and just enjoy the savings.

              1. Splendid Colors*

                If the rates the shuttle services charge are a small fraction of what it would cost to lease buses and pay drivers a living wage, clearly the drivers aren’t going to be paid more than the contractor is charging the tech company.

                Also, I have heard that some school bus drivers and even transit bus drivers (VTA) can’t afford rent and live in their vans or SUVs in the company lot.

      2. Person from the Resume*

        “Van Life” is a thing and is documented in the film Nomadland.

        IMO living in a van is different than living in the office, though. Living in a van is like living in a RV and work shouldn’t care if you’re not parked in their private parking lot. Living in the office is different almost always a inappropriate.

      3. The Rural Juror*

        My dad, who is a musician, purposefully bought an SUV so he could fit a little mattress in the back. He’d travel to his gig, practice in the afternoon, have a nap in the car after dinnertime, then start the gig around 8pm and usually work until 12 or 2am. He had a few people joke about him probably living in the car, but I think they were actually jealous that he could go snooze during the downtime!

        1. SimonTheGreyWarden*

          My FIL is a hunter and retrofitted his minivan with a wooden bed platform that opens so he can store things in it; he took out the back seats and one of the middle seats for that. He can go hunt and sleep in the van, and he hunts a LOT so he lives half of hunting season in his van, I swear. But he’s happy and it works for him!

        2. Splendid Colors*

          My station wagon can fit a real twin mattress or futon in the wayback when the rear seats are down. I had plans to fix it up for camping to go on road trips, but then it started needing work and I postponed that idea. And now that there are so many people living in their cars, everyone’s so keyed up about car-campers and van-dwellers being potentially dangerous and ready to call the cops that I don’t want to risk my car getting impounded.

      4. Dana Whittaker*

        My ex-nephew-in-law parked an RV in the Tesla HQ parking lot and lived in it when he worked there.

    3. Empathy*

      Can’t say I haven’t gamed out this particular possibility, as an unpartnered person who doesn’t historically do well w/ roommates. My current position is up in a year or two, and while I’d like to *not* be geographically limited for a new search, the reality is that I likely will be, because otherwise this could be me.

    4. Generic Name*

      I have a coworker who did this while working in Vail. Well, she didn’t live at the office, she lived in a camper. She had a gym membership where she showered. She did it because she was working an internship and maybe making minimum wage and housing in Colorado’s mountain towns is extraordinarily expensive. Prices are set by the wealthy who have luxury vacation cabins and folks who work in the towns cannot afford to live where they work.

      1. Lynn*

        That isn’t uncommon in Colorado’s (and I assume other) mountain resort towns. Living in Vail/Aspen/Breckenridge/etc is terribly expensive for folks who are ill-paid (at best). Heck, even teachers and better paid employees are often priced out of housing. And with so many places that were formerly long-term or seasonal rentals going to the short-term model instead, that is just tightening the market for affordable housing in those communities, so the crisis is only getting worse.

        1. Mayflower*

          I have a friend who works/lives in Vail. He is a cable company technician, his salary is modest but he gets a significant monthly housing allowance. Same for his wife – retail job with a modest salary but a significant housing allowance.

          A lot of companies in the mountains do this but reported wages don’t take it into account so the numbers look lower than they actually are. Not saying there are no problems but the problems are often overstated by the media.

    5. Kippy*

      For a number of years I followed several blogs devoted to the FIRE movement – financial independence, retire early. Boondocking, living out of your van, living in your office, couch surfing. All were touted as great ideas to help save money and get you closer to “freedom.”

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        Several years ago, my local paper reported on people living in a similar way but to cut down on environmental impact. I care deeply about the environment, but not enough to subsidize a “friends” lifestyle. (It seemed like high-concept mooching to me.)

    6. DEJ*

      Multiple members of Congress live in their offices, and it’s hard to argue that they aren’t well compensated. But DC is an expensive area and this is one of the reasons many give for doing it.

      1. Sloan Kittering*

        I was going to say, I think this is a well known phenomenon in DC! People who work a lot anyway + high rents + single people living alone = office living. There are also cute stories about congresspeople being roommates in group houses. Most of them are just working in DC and flying to their home jurisdictions a lot anyway, so they don’t want to have to rent a pricey place with a less convenient commute.

      2. Guacamole Bob*

        One thing about members of Congress is that they are generally expected to maintain residences in their home districts as well as somewhere to live in DC when Congress is in session. If you represent a district with a high cost of living, have a family you’re supporting, and don’t come from a wealthy family, the cost of that additional housing in DC is not trivial.

        There are definitely group house situations with several members of congress living together, which get written about in the Washington Post or other local political media now and then.

  8. The Prettiest Curse*

    One of my past office buildings had such lax security that there was a homeless person living on a vacant floor for months before anyone realized. (And since it took months for anyone to notice, they must have been pretty quiet and well-behaved.)
    Someone should know that he’s there just for safety reasons. Although I think that this is a situation that will happen more and more with the end of eviction monitoria, the price of housing and the amount of under-used office space. I wonder if companies in high COL areas will convert some of their unused office space in this way in the future.

    1. Stitch*

      Yeah, unfortunately it’s a safety/insurance issue. Because OP is senior they’re going to need to follow up here. That isn’t to say not to be sympathetic to the employee, but the potential collateral consequences here aren’t great.

    2. Dasein9*

      Oh, I hope not!

      Once upon a time, factories were live-in and had dorms. One was paid upon leaving, so naturally it was in management’s best interest to ensure that employees didn’t leave. Alive, anyway.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        A lot of employers in areas with high housing costs are now choosing to build off-site housing (mine did), so it would seem to be an obvious next step.
        Being forced to live at the office would be unpleasant and undoubtedly a bad trend, especially if it’s just a tactic to squeeze more work out of employees. But it seems like some employers in the tech world were going that way pre-pandemic, with all the on-site amenities they provided.

        1. A Library Person*

          Yeah…company towns have a very complicated history in the U.S. and are generally NOT good for workers. I’m incredibly skeptical of any tech giants who suddenly feel an urge to control even more of their employees’ private lives.

          1. EmmaPoet*

            I’ve just spent the last couple days listening to a cover of Sixteen Tons by Southern Raised on Youtube. Excellent version, and highly recommend. Company towns, not so much.

            1. nonegiven*

              Geoff Castellucci on Youtube has a Sixteen Tons video where he sings all the parts. I’m not sure he doesn’t go sub-harmonic in places.

      2. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

        My first job out of college, in Eastern Europe, I lived in an employer dorm. Well, technically I did. In reality, on my first day at my first job, I was told that there were no vacant beds in the dorm, “but don’t worry, we’ll take care of you”, said the department director, put me up in a hotel for three days, and went on a 4-week vacation and left town on day two. My work then tried to temporarily assign me a bed in a room where the other resident had just finally gotten a whole room to herself at age 35(!!), was very angry to see a surprise roommate, and scared me so much with her ranting that I picked up my bags and left her room. Befriended a guy in the same dorm who let me crash on his spare bed. Then his friend went home to visit family in the country, and I crashed in the friend’s now empty room. Then in someone else’s room who also was on vacation. Then a vacant bed finally appeared a month after I arrived in town. I’d been going to work five days a week that whole time, waking up every morning with no idea where I’d get to sleep that night. So that was a fun month of my life. (If I’d found a way to live in the office back at that time, I would’ve in a heartbeat.) And yes, workplace dorms existed then, and probably still do now. I was fortunate enough that I only stayed in mine for a couple of years, but I saw families living there with children in their late teens, who’d been born there, spent their whole lives there, graduated high school and joined the army while their family still lived in a factory dorm room. Wild. At least the other half of your comment did not apply to us (the part about only being paid upon leaving).

    3. AndersonDarling*

      That happened in a high rise I worked in! There was a row of elevators and only one of them was an “express” to a single floor. If you got off on that floor there was an unused closet and then a long hallway that went to the offices. This individual lived in that closet for months.
      It was a perfect situation. Few people took the express elevator, and no one even noticed the closet because they were fixated in going down the hall to their office. And that closet was outside of the security doors.

      1. The Prettiest Curse*

        There are so many areas like that in high rise buildings, where someone could stay undetected for a long time. I bet that there are a lot more people living in office buildings than you’d think.

  9. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    ‘I’ve noticed this going on, can we make sure Bob is okay? It’s really unusual for this sort of thing to be happening and I think we need to ensure that it’s not going to happen long term’

    1. Anonymous Koala*

      I love your wording! It shows compassion for Bob while alerting higher ups to the potential liability of the situation.

      We had a postdoc who did this one summer- he kept an inflatable air mattress in his desk and slept in an empty classroom at night. I think it started at as a ‘highly dedicated worker’ situation where he wanted to be on hand 24/7 to run his experiments, and then at some point he gave up his apartment when he realized he wasn’t using it. The department put a stop to it pretty quickly when classes resumed.

    2. Where’s the Orchestra?*

      I’ve said it more than one place here – my main concern is that an office just isn’t set up to be a home – what happens if there is an accident? Will Bob get blamed if there is a fire/gas leak/break-in and he is there when he shouldn’t be? I think the company really needs to know – and EAP can be offered (if available) if Bob needs the extra support. It can definitely be approached with compassion- but ultimately the company needs to know – for the well being of all the employees there, not just Bob.

      1. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

        Oh absolutely I’m concerned about the insurance/safety/hygiene/mental well being of him and others! I’m just suggesting that wording as an opening into the discussion with the higher ups et al that raises the concern without judgement or stating a solution before the facts are acquired.

        Never had experience with this personally, aside from a very drunk techie after the Xmas party sleeping in the LAN room one night because he was too pissed to remember where his hotel was…

        1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          Agreed – I think we both are wanting the same thing here – help Bob and protect the company. I also thought your wording was really good.

          I’ve also seen a few really bad weather events where coworkers slept at work for a night (that was safer than trying to drive home). It was similar to your really drunk techie – a one off thing due to circumstances.

          1. nonegiven*

            My son had to do that one night in Cambridge. He rode a bicycle to work but either way, the snow was about waist high and the drifts even higher.

  10. Mitford*

    Not sure if this applies to the OP, but my office building hasn’t re-opened the gym yet following the complete shutdown of the building for months during COVID. An employee using the gym to shower in would be a major violation of our lease.

  11. Hippo-nony-potomus*

    I would report this to whomever most resembles “VP level HR person overseeing your office(s).” You should be able to determine who has the authority to sign off on things like this; if that person hasn’t signed off, you need them to be aware of it.

  12. My Mantarays OK*

    I feel sorry for Bob. Living in a van, and cooking/showering from office is not a prospect that most people would embrace enthusiastically. He’s most likely found himself in hard times. Who is he hurting exactly? Any of us, at any time in our lives, are just two bad decisions from being homeless.
    Huge, empty office blocks that fill our cities, owned by giant corps, whilst people in said cities struggle with rents, live in vans, or worse – end up on the street, are utterly disgusting. Have some empathy.

      1. banoffee pie*

        Yeah it scares me how close anyone could be to being homeless. And it isn’t like homeless people are that different from anyone else. When I was at uni in a major UK city, I was sitting on the street because I felt really unwell. I was wearing scruffy student clothes and probably looked a bit pale/green. A guy tried to give me £10 (this was a while ago so probably more like £20 now); he thought I was homeless. I told him I wasn’t homeless and to keep it, and he was all worried he’d offended me. I said I wasn’t offended at all, it was good there were decent people about and I could easily have needed his help. I was just lucky I didn’t at that moment in time. But I thanked him anyway for the sentiment.

    1. Anna Badger*

      it’s not just a question of empathy or who bob is hurting, it’s a very real question of “what happens if there’s a multiple building fire at 3am and the building manager tells fire services the building is empty, and then they focus their search efforts elsewhere based on that info?”

      1. londonedit*

        Absolutely – it’s possible to feel empathy for Bob and also to understand that it simply isn’t workable or safe for people to be secretly living in their workplace.

      2. Charlotte Lucas*

        Or “Bob falls & hurts himself on Saturday & no one knows he’s there or finds him until Monday.”

        Or any other liability issue.

        And even though Bob is technically living in his van, we don’t know enough about the situation to know if it’s by choice or not. (I know that he could be in a bad situation, but it’s possible he falls under the “extremely cheap” rubric listed in some examples above. We really don’t know enough.)

          1. Anononon*

            Yeah, but then it’s your own homeowners’ insurance and not the company’s policy. In other words, it’s a risk (for lack of a better word) that you’re willing to accept, but that the client hasn’t even been made aware of.

          2. JimmyJab*

            Yes, and no one would likely be no legal ramifications if it happened in your own appartment, unlike if it happens in a workplace off hours.

    2. Gerry Keay*

      Agreed, and that most people are jumping to “well maybe he’s just doing this for fun!” show the real disconnect/misunderstanding of the housing crisis. The issue with him being in the building without anyone else knowing isn’t legal liability for the company, it’s Bob’s own health and safety. This has to be approached from the lens of “how can we keep Bob safe and housed” and not “how do we minimize liability for the company.”

      1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        And in some places a violation of any one of those could bring a heavy enough fine to shut down a smaller company. What then happens to the jobs of everyone else who is employed by the company?
        I really think this needs to be handled – if EAP exists at this company you can define send Bob their way for resources – but 99.9% of all corporate buildings just are not set up to safely and legally house a person long term*.

        * Long term here meaning any serious length of time, not brought on by bad weather or other situations making travel home actively unsafe. I give total pass (and have been thru) to there’s a “hurricane outside”, I’m hunkering down till after it passes. The situation in quotes can be replaced with any other short-term don’t travel situation.

  13. Rav*

    Perhaps it could be reframed as helping any employees in similar living conditions (without pointing out Bob) find affordable housing. I worry that Bob might be one of several people in the same situation, even if they all aren’t living in the office.

    1. Colette*

      That’s really outside of the scope of most businesses, and it won’t solve the OP’s problem because no one will know Bob is living at work.

      1. Washi*

        Yep. I am an actual social worker and helping people find housing is freaking hard. Truly affordable housing within commuting distance can be borderline impossible depending on the area. The region I work in has a 10 year wait for housing vouchers.

        If the company is not paying a living wage, OP should advocate to change that, but beyond referring Bob to the EAP, I don’t think there’s realistically a lot of help she can offer that someone who is resourceful enough to live half in their van won’t have already thought of themselves.

  14. Karate Saw*

    I’m sure the advice here is correct and appropriate, but, man, I hate it. I’d be so worried I’d be sending him back to live in his van over the winter…
    I feel like it would damage him irreparably in the eyes of his superiors if it turns out he has lost his housing. Not right, not fair, but based on my own experience, the idea that your paycheck is not enough to provide you housing is met only with defensiveness, condescension and disdain. I hope very much this is a temporary situation for him that he has chosen for ease and not out of need.
    Then again, I’ve never been very senior at work, so I suspect I personally would just let him know he’s not selling it and then call it none of my business.

    1. OhHi*

      Agreed. I know Alison’s advice is the correct thing to do, but I would probably pretend not to notice.

    2. Tiffany Aching's imaginary friend*

      LW doesn’t say where they are, so let’s hope that they’re in a city that doesn’t get very cold during the winter.

    3. rnr*

      My husband I lived in our van for several years, by choice, and worked outside of a large metro area. We did this in order to save for a house and do some adventuring on the weekend. I definitely never shared this at work though, because of the perception that most people would have – that we’re weirdos (probably true), that we’re homeless (not true), that we’re irresponsible, etc. At work, I wanted to be known by the quality of my work rather than my eccentric living situation. Reading the comments on this thread, I think that was the right choice. Not to say anything negative about the commenters here at all, just that there’s definitely a certain way that people would look at my situation.

      Just to be clear, though, I never slept at work! We have a heater, shower, toilet, and running water in our van, so we were comfortable, if a little cramped.

    4. anon for this*

      I had two colleagues doing this together, and I’m pretty sure it was a same sex relationship and that was part of why they couldn’t find housing. I looked the other way. I was pretty junior though.

  15. Old Cynic*

    This is not at all unusual here in Silicon Valley. A lot of the companies provide 3 squares a day plus gyms and other amenities. Lot of vans and motor homes in their parking lots. (For some employees it’s full time but others stay on campus during the week and go home on weekends to more affordable areas where they’ve bought homes).

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      I know someone who moved to my Midwestern city from Silicon Valley and he was seriously disappointed he was not allowed to live at the office. He had it all planned out – inflatable air mattress, where he could shower, etc. We all thought it was such a weird request, but hearing your comment makes me think that to him it may have been perfectly normal!

      1. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Sounds like Gonzo on Trapper John MD influenced more people than we might realize.

  16. JelloStapler*

    Add me to those concerned for Bob’s safety as well as a potential liability. I like the suggestions of going to another senior leader and asking if they are aware, if he is okay and you hope he is receiving EAP or resources. Not because you want them to tell YOU, just to share concern.

  17. QuiltGirl*

    You should also see if your new organization has an EAP. I’m guessing no one *wants* to live in their office. Instead of thinking he might be trying to get one over on the company, assume he’s in crisis and act accordingly.

  18. Not Australian*

    At a previous workplace – a big hospital – we had several people at different times who just moved in and set up home; a favourite place to sleep was on the top floor, where a lot of patient-carrying trolleys were stored – the type with mattresses on them. The worst example, though, was someone who quietly moved into the lecture theatre and was there for several weeks before he decided to start a fire in a corridor to cook himself some food…

    1. learnedthehardway*

      Sounds like he was taking up some kind of stealth camping lifestyle!!

      I have recently learned there are people who do this (stealth camping), and am bemused.

  19. EB*

    Honestly, not sure how I feel about this one. In your standard office, and depending on what the details are around his van, this is indeed pretty odd.

    But with the rise of #vanlife people, I could see this as a non-issue if you’re working at a company with culture and perks of like a Google or any Silicon Valley startup.

    I would want to know more context—has he fallen on hard times and are there other ways the company and colleagues can be supportive? Is this an intentional lifestyle choice?

  20. Choggy*

    This is so tough, on the one hand you don’t want to put Bob out if he’s fallen on hard times and is using his only option for housing right now, but you are also feeling uncomfortable being in the same office that someone is living in which is completely legitimate! There is the safety factor as well. How well do you know Bob? Could you speak with him directly about your concerns and then take it up with management if necessary?

  21. Cranky and uncaffeinated*

    I generally find that the people doing this for any length of time are some brand of jerk. I could understand if you need to stay over during a storm or sustained power outage in your neighborhood, or even a temporary shelter if your relationship blows up or is unsafe, but at some point it starts to become the sort of thing done because it saves them money or time and shovels all responsibilities and liabilities onto someone else.

    At one point there were some Congress people (mostly republicans) doing this cause it fit in with their whole ,”aw shucks, I’m just a simple guy and me sleeping on a cot in my office proves it! Now let’s lower taxes for the rich again!” Haven’t heard any of them yapping about that lately so either they gave up the charade or someone in charge finally got pissed enough at the stupidity and put an end to it.

    1. Cranky and uncaffeinated*

      Additional note: the people I’ve seen (or heard about) who do this are not people who can’t afford housing. They have made a deliberate choice to live in their offices for reasons like oh I want to retire at age 35 so I need to save all the money I can etc. Which to me is not ok (in my experience these are the guys who never contribute to potlucks but are first in line and snag 8 Tupperware containers full) If someone is not making enough to afford housing that’s a different conversation. Based on the writers description of Bob I’m making the assumption that as someone who has an office with a couch that he is relatively well compensated.

      1. 42353254*

        This is a weirdly hostile attitude to take towards people saving money! Retiring early is a laudable ambition, and it hurts no one.

        1. Cranky and uncaffeinated*

          If you’re saving money by pushing off your personal responsibilities onto unknowing parties? It most definitely is not harmless. You want to retire early that’s great! Be part of the buy nothing movement, forage in dumpsters, live in a house with 72 roommates, whatever. Blatantly squatting on someone else’s property in order to get there isn’t ok.

    2. TessSNYC*

      Looks like you were correct. The OP wrote in the comments below that it was just a lifestyle choice for him #vanlife. We also had a very well paid executive in a company I worked for who was living in the office and immediately fired upon the discovery that he was living there. I think people tend to be very sympathetic to people in need, but I wonder how many people do these kind of things out of extreme cheapness.

      1. Cranky and uncaffeinated*

        I feel like it’s extreme cheapness and also that thrill of putting something over on someone and the idea that you’ve found a loophole. Like those endless ads for “one weird trick!” life hacks.
        Can one really be doing #vanlife if the van is in a parking garage and the owner spends most of their time somewhere else?

      2. LizM*

        There is definitely a subculture around trying to get something for nothing, and seeing how far you can go to save money. I did quite a bit of reading on FIRE before I decided I like my comfy house and not working 80 hours a week too much for it to really be a good lifestyle for me, and a lot of it is just normal cost cutting and budgeting measures, but there is definitely a thread of people seeing how far they can push the limits before someone says something, and relying on people’s discomfort around conversations about money.

  22. Well...*

    THIS happened in my grad program. Someone got kicked out and was living in the office for a while. A shared office was basically unusable because it was his living space.

    Eventually people complained and it got taken care of, but there was drama around it. There were a lot of comments that the women who wanted access to their office were throwing him out on the street. It was an unfriendly enough place to women that a lot of them were afraid of the backlash that would follow a complaint, enabling this guy to live there for months after he was no longer a student.

    IMO it was totally unacceptable to expect first year students to sacrifice their scant resources to help house this person. I mean the university should do more to help the people that get ground through their system but at the same time is obligated to provide a safe, clean workspace!

    In the end he was fine, he found an apartment right away, eventually moved away to teach for a while, came back and visited. He was employed, housed, and healthy.

    1. Ann O'Nemity*

      There was also someone in my grad program who lived in the office for awhile. Graduate assistants got their tuition paid, but the stipend was too little for most people to live on unless they took loans or had help from family. One of the GAs couldn’t afford a car and an apartment, and chose to keep the car. She also had a shared office, but did everything to minimize the impact on her office mates and hide that she was living there. Eventually someone found out and referred the situation to student services, who helped her get into subsidized housing.

    2. Anonymous Koala*

      This happened with a postdoc in my department, and I’ve heard similar stories from other grad students.

      It’s really another example of why universities need to rethink their cheap grad student/postdoc labor model and actual pay for technical labor. But then that’s a whole other thing.

      1. Well...*

        Absolutely but to be clear this guy wasn’t being paid, he’d been kicked out of the program and then started living in the dept rather than return his keys.

        But in general I agree, yes, COLA for all ✊

      2. Bug*

        Another guy in my doc program was living in his truck. No one knew until after he’d found an apartment. I still feel bad for him, so , yeah, this isn’t an isolated issue, and I’ll be it happens more often than anyone wants to think.

    3. Dasein9*

      We had one who was staying in a tent. The school put a stop to that right away. New York is not a place to winter in a tent!

      1. ecnaseener*

        Ok, I know this wasn’t your call or anything, but do you really think stopping him from living on-campus in a tent meant anything other than he had to live off-campus in a tent?

  23. Irish girl*

    I am trying to picture how this would work in my building. We have to badge in and out now so it would become quite clear to security that this person never leaves and would have a record of it during an emergency. We do have showers in the basement of the builidng where the old gym was which I know people use when they have water issues at work

  24. Mindaya*

    In my view, this very squarely falls in the realm of “mind your own business”. Costing a homeless person not only their home but also their source of income is evil—unless you’re prepared to facilitate a better situation with company money, I say you look the other way until you know more about the situation.

    1. londonedit*

      I feel for Bob but the fact is that it’s not the company’s responsibility to provide accommodation for their employees, and it’s not safe or appropriate for Bob to be living in the office. Assuming the company pays its employees a decent wage, there isn’t a lot they can realistically do beyond directing Bob to whatever support exists in their location. Whatever his situation, the solution can’t be ‘Bob keeps living in the office’.

    2. Typing All The Time*

      I don’t think the OP is a mean person. Housing costs are ridiculous. The concern is that if Bob does get caught, he can lose a lot.

    3. Ampersand*

      Yep. Certainly Bob is an adult ( a senior manager at that ) and any risk involved is his to take at his discretion. To deliberately jeopardize someone’s housing AND employment because of potential liability to the company seems iffy at best to me. Presumably no one would be so concerned about Bob dropping dead over the weekend knowing he were safely tucked away in an apartment alone? It doesn’t sound like he’s being sneaky or hiding anything given OP says Bob claims to live in his van and it doesn’t sound like he’s abusing common spaces. At most you know his van is in the office garage and he might be napping in his office. MYOB.

      1. Observer*

        To deliberately jeopardize someone’s housing AND employment because of potential liability to the company seems iffy at best to me.

        Really? That argument can be used – and IS used – to excuse reporting all sorts of behavior. The fact is that the liability to the organization is not a minor thing, and it’s just not ok to put them at risk that way.

        Beyond that, it’s all good and fine to say that it’s up to Bob to decide what risks he takes. But it’s also up to the OP and the company to decide what risks THEY are willing to take, and what kind of risk taking behavior they are willing to actively enable.

    4. Daisy-dog*

      I fully understand the desire to help out someone in need. But is that truly the way to best help Bob? If LW (a senior leader) lets this keep happening and it gets discovered by someone else down the line (perhaps by the person who manages the company insurance), Bob and LW could both end up without a job.

      Right now, Bob may not be fired outright and be given resources to help him transition. But this is not a sustainable situation (even if the company is aware and is allowing it – it surely has an expiration date).

    5. Bagpuss*

      I think the issue with that is that there are potentially safety and liability issues, and that OP is in a senior position where ‘ look the other way’ could be a career-ending move for them, too.

      also, there’s no reason to assume that Bob would lose his job – I think in many cases , assuming that there were no other issues with Bob’s work or behaviour, it would be a case of ‘you need to stop doing this because [safety and other reasons]

      I do wonder whether it may be pandemic related – Bob may have been living out of his van for a while but if other resources like gyms and public facilities are closed may have started using the office instead, and if told it isn’t appropriate might be able to return to using other facilities.

      (I know in the UK when we were in lockdown, restaurants were closed so the options of using (say) McDonalds bathroom facilities, or the showers at your local council pool or leisure centre for washing were gone, and some public facilities such as public toilets were locked (I am not sure if this was to protect cleaning staff when there were major concerns about infection from surfaces, or if it was that those staff were seen s non-essential and furloughed, or whether it was just easier to close them completely than to try to ensure social distancing from people using the. I imagine it must have made life even more difficult for anyone living rough)

    6. Colette*

      I don’t think the OP is required to put her own career at risk to save Bob’s. And I really doubt Bob would be fired – he’d just be told to find somewhere else to live.

      Ultimately, it’s not the company’s responsibiltyto find Bob a place to live, it is Bob’s responsibilty. The company can provide information on low-cost housing programs or shelters, but that’s about as far as they should go.

      1. Daisy-dog*

        There are some options that employers can consider to provide more financial support to their employees. It may not be an immediate option available now, but things like loan programs can be set up if the employer knows that it would be needed by their employees. And they may actually have something available now that Bob just doesn’t know about.

        1. Colette*

          If those are programs they offer (or want to offer), sure. But there’s no indication in the letter or in the OP’s comments that Bob can’t afford to live elsewhere.

          1. Mindaya*

            Generational difference:

            You assume that an employed person can afford to live elsewhere, even in 2021.

            I assume that they can’t.

            1. 54634*

              The average full-time worker in the US makes $48,672. Why would you assume that’s not enough to get basic housing?

              1. A Library Person*

                Because in a lot of places it’s not? Also, if that’s truly an average and not a median, the numbers are probably incredibly skewed upward. But I’m not a statistician, just someone who lives in a fairly high cost-of-living area.

              2. Well...*

                Omg that definitely is NOT enough to get basic housing in some areas! A third of that is $1352/mo. Assuming you pay no taxes, that’s still not enough to afford an apartment in a lot of places I have actually lived so….

              3. Risha*

                Putting aside the question of Bob, who seems to be a #vanlife situation, there are plenty of places where you can’t rent anything for $1338 a month (a third of the gross income of someone earning that – the typical minimum that landlords will accept). But there are also lots of other reasons people are unable to get basic housing. I was homeless for a time and spent a couple of years living in cheap hotels. Turns out there’s tons of people, on average employed full time, that do that. Some are voluntary, some are seasonal workers, some are on vouchers from housing assistance. But a lot of them are things like housing disputes, where you sue your landlord to get out of your lease. Even people who can easily afford a place are often frozen out for lack of a clean rental history or decent credit.

            2. Casper Lives*

              Did you miss where Bob is a senior manager? He’s not some entry level guy working for peanuts. I think you’re being blinded by the unfortunate situation of many low income people in this country. Blinded in that you’re not considering THIS specific situation.

              1. Colette*

                Yeah. He’s not an entry level employee or intern; he’s a manager and presumably makes enough money for some sort of living situation. Maybe he doesn’t, or he doesn’t make enough to live alone and doesn’t want roommates, or he has a lot of debt or a gambling problem that makes him not be able to afford a place, or he’s recently separated or something else – but none of that is in the letter.

  25. Mary Kay*

    I’d be concerned as to why Bob is doing this? It’s a liability issue whether or not management has given him permission. What if she caused a fire while cooking at night? I worked in an office building that had a major fire, it was fortunate that we practiced safety drills and security and management were on the scene. I’ve prepared office leases and would be surprised if it’s allowed. City/local code violation may be in play as well. Hopefully Bob figure out his living arrangements.

  26. Rainy Day*

    Lots of interesting advice elsewhere, so I just can’t help but wonder, if Bob IS living in the office, what the heck does he do at the weekend?

    1. Anima*

      Yeah, there is a third option here what this could be about: he is actually sleeping and using his free time in his van, but showers in the office. My little sister lives in a similar situation (by choice!) and showers and charges her electronics at work, but this is fully communicated with her workplace and allowed. It might look like she never leaves when she works late and comes in early to shower before work.
      This does not explain the cooking, though. Sister does that at her (floating) home and she is home there for the weekend.
      In Bobs case I really would ask someone higher up. If someone notices this about my sister and asks, they would just find out it’s allowed. This might not be the case with Bob – or he had a similar arrangement and took advantage of it.

    2. Pay No Attention To The Man Behind The Curtain*

      Right? If he’s in an area with cold winters or hot summers he’s got a problem on weekends when presumably they don’t run HFAC. If he’s in a temperate climate, he could be fine over the weekend, but then, he’d be fine in his van too…so he shouldn’t need to be in the office.

      On a slight tangent…if a high level manager is living in the office due to financial distress (maybe), and the CEO has been ousted with no leadership in the interim…the OP seems to be missing the forrest for the trees. Focus on whether this 2-month job is a place to stay, not Bob’s situation.

      1. no phone calls, please*

        TOTALLY agree @pay no attention – “CEO has been ousted with no leadership in the interim…the OP seems to be missing the forest for the trees. Focus on whether this 2-month job is a place to stay, not Bob’s situation.”

        I was thinking the same – it needs to be dealt with at some point if it doesn’t self-resolve, but this isn’t urgent and there is enough going on already. OP should be assessing their own situation being new and in leadership in a volatile workplace and let sleeping dogs lie until there is at least leadership is in place and/or OP knows they want to stay in this kind of environment.

    3. Sparkles McFadden*

      It might be an office building that has businesses that operate 24-hours-a-day. We always had a full night shift, and a skeleton crew on the weekends.

      We had a coworker who was living in his office for months because his wife kicked him out and he was hoping she’d let him back eventually (she didn’t). Everyone just ignored this as we all figured he’d work something else out eventually.

      Then, he got a little too comfortable and decided the women’s bathroom was closer than the men’s room, so he used the women’s room when he got up in the middle of the night and walked in there in his underwear. One of the maintenance crew night shift was in there, doing her job of scrubbing the toilets, and she started screaming. A security guard ran in and the guy got detained until our management showed up. It became a huge deal. Security and maintenance wanted the guy to get fired, but management kept him on. Security confiscated his inflatable mattress.

      He probably could have lived there for a lot longer if he hadn’t been such an idiot.

      1. Sea Anemone*

        so he used the women’s room when he got up in the middle of the night and walked in there in his underwear

        O.o

        That’s not ok. It is *also* not ok to walk to the men’s room in his underwear.

  27. the cat's ass*

    one of my former housemates was a TA at BigCollegeHere and couldn’t go forward with a housemate situation due to respiratory issues and slept in his office until he started to live with us. As he didn’t drive/have a car, he would have been homeless otherwise, and everyone looked the other way until he moved in here. I favor asking Bob what’s up before you go to the CEO.

  28. PT*

    We had an issue like this at my work, sort of. We had an interim supervisor who was required to cover two weeks of 5 am shifts, but he lived on a train line that didn’t start running until after 5 am. And of course, he wasn’t paid well enough to be able to afford a car or even an Uber for those two weeks (and the company had a no expensing transportation rule, because “it’s your job to get to work whenever and wherever we tell you to.”) So he would spend the night in his office on those days, so he could get to work on time the next morning.

    They were MAD. I thought they should stuff it.

    1. Sparkles McFadden*

      I once had a boss who would tell people with transportation issues “It’s not my fault you chose to live there” when none of us peons could have afforded to live closer to the major metropolitan office.

  29. Detective Amy Santiago*

    We’re not even an hour in and these comments are depressing af. It really speaks to our utter failure as a society that this is such a common thing.

      1. Gerry Keay*

        I mean there is a solution — LW talks to Bob and, with Bob’s permission, gets the company to help Bob find stable housing. But ya know, that would require treating Bob like a human being with agency.

        1. Metadata minion*

          What type of help is the company likely to be able to provide? Affordable housing is something that most businesses don’t know any more about than any random person, and I doubt they have company-owned housing to offer him. By all means, they should offer him any help they can, but this just doesn’t sound like a problem an employer is likely to be able to solve.

          1. Gerry Keay*

            Connecting him to affordable housing resources or organizations, connecting him to an EAP, doing a compensation analysis to make sure that he’s being paid fairly for the area they’re living in, working with him to make sure he’s taking the most advantage of company-provided benefits, fronting paychecks so that he can afford a security deposit, giving him access to a staff emergency fund, providing additional paid time off so he can look at apartments.

        2. Colette*

          Why is this the company’s problem to solve? If they pay Bob well, that’s the end of their involvement. They don’t get a say in how Bob spends the money they pay him.

          1. Gerry Keay*

            I mean it *should* be society’s problem to solve but seeing as we have zero safety net in America, the people who are kicking a person out of their shelter should absolutely do their darnedest to make sure they aren’t kicking him out onto the street. That goes for any squatter in any building. And I’m talking morals and ethics here, not legal obligation.

  30. Margot*

    MYOB and instead throw your energy behind making the world a more equitable place where people don’t feel the need to do things like this. Appearing tired, using the office kitchen, and taking breaks in his office seem like nothing to me.

    1. Drea*

      I strongly feel that when it’s very possibly a matter of company liability versus someone’s housing it’s a moment to focus on the potential consequences to a person, not a corporate entity.

      1. Colette*

        OK, let’s think about some scenarios.

        The OP says nothing, Bob continues living at work. There’s a fire, and Bob dies. His family sues the company. The company finds out the OP knows, and she’s fired. The family wins the lawsuit, and the company has to sell off a line of business to pay them. Six people lose their jobs in the sale.

        The OP speaks up, management talks with Bob, Bob spends his after-work time in his van or public places.

        The OP says nothing. An intern walks in on Bob in his underwear and quits. She can’t find another job and fails to graduate on time.

        The OP speaks up, and management tells Bob to find a place to live. He does so.

        The OP speaks up, and management tells Bob to find a place to live. He explains that he can’t afford one, and the company helps him find the appropriate social service agencies.

        The OP speaks up, and management tells Bob to find a place to live. He explains that he can’t afford one, and the company consults their insurance to find out what their options are w.r.t. Bob staying at work when the the temperature is below freezing.

        1. Mindaya*

          Add two items to this:

          OP speaks up. Bob is promptly fired, and has nowhere to live. He becomes homeless and dies in a ditch.

          OP speaks up. Bob is advised to find a new place to live. Bob explains that he doesn’t have the money. The company says ‘it’s not our problem’. Bob becomes homeless and is fired for inadequate performance.

          Have some compassing, sheesh…

          1. Observer*

            You’re not in a good position to talk about compassion, given that you haven’t shown any evidence of compassion. Just self-righteous indignation.

            Based on what we know, there is no more reason to expect Bob to die in a ditch than any other scenario.

            And given that the OP explicitly says that it’s a lifestyle choice, it’s actually LESS likely.

            1. no phone calls, please*

              +1 Observer.

              Sure, there are liability issues, but nothing here is urgent (obviously since he’s been doing this for how long and hasn’t died in a toaster fire at 2 am yet…) and as a newbie with an ousted CEO, I’d be focused on more important things and hoping it would self-resolve in short order.

          2. Colette*

            Why is Bob the only person deserving compassion? Why is there no compassion for the others affected by his choice?

      1. Ampersand*

        Because the company will only do what’s best for them 100% of the time. There is no reason for one human to throw another out onto the streets for the sake of being a company man.

    2. Observer*

      Right. Because the OP can solve the housing crisis. And keeping one’s job and one’s employer safe is just not someone should even be thinking of.

  31. Sabrina Spellman*

    This happened where I work on a college campus. Someone in upper administration (AVP level) started living in his van in one of the parking lots on campus. I can’t remember if we ever found the reasoning behind him doing this, but it was very obvious and he’d walk all the way across campus to use the showers in the gym.

  32. Typing All The Time*

    Maybe check in with Bob and see if he’s okay, in that his van is the company parking lot all the time. At my old newspaper company, we had a sports editor who would sleep in the office because of his night game coverage and far commute home. The building’s landlord came across him sleeping and it resulted in the company losing this office lease..

    1. Sally Forth*

      That was my thought. Office buildings aren’t insured for residential use. I feel for Bob but you can’t couchsurf at work.

  33. animaniactoo*

    Honestly, I might shop this by talking about knowing of this happening somewhere else and asking how we would handle something like that if it happened here.

    Or mention that you think there might be such a situation here without mentioning Bob’s name, and asking how you should handle it.

  34. TBD*

    Agree with Typing All the Time.
    I work in insurance and know that Alison’s advice is correct, but I don’t see it as the right thing to do. Since OP is a peer, I’d suggest talking to Bob first. At least give him a heads up that his situation has been discovered and give him time to make other arrangements. Alerting HR or whoever else could make things much more difficult for him.

  35. Delta Delta*

    I’ve known a couple people who have had to do this or something similar for legit reasons:

    1. A friend in law school moved across the country to start school, and when he arrived, discovered that his apartment he had rented (over the phone, sight unseen) was uninhabitable due to a vermin infestation. Lucky for him he had a pickup truck, so he found a cheap cap for the truck and lived in the truck for a while until he could sort out a new place. He showered at the school gym and ate a lot of cold, shelf-stable food.

    2. A former co-worker of mine had a series of house issues involving a storm, some falling trees, a bad roof, and a well going dry. His kids were little, so they and his wife went to stay with her parents for a bit while the house got fixed. He basically lived at the office so he could keep working and coordinate house repairs. This went on for quite a while, given the breadth of problems.

    Point being – these are 2 entirely possible things that happened, and could happen to anyone. Maybe talk to Bob about what’s up before escalating.

  36. DEJ*

    I was unexpectedly evicted when my landlord decided to sell my house a few years ago. One of my backup plans was putting my stuff in storage and getting a cot for my office if I hadn’t found an apartment by the time I had to leave. It didn’t end up coming to that, but it was on the table. I admit that I hadn’t thought about safety/liability issues brought up in this thread.

  37. Anon OP*

    OP here – I don’t want to share any identifying information, but I can say that this is a #vanlife lifestyle choice. Not located in Silicon Valley though where this may be more common.

      1. Charlotte Lucas*

        Based on the way people who make these choices tend to be, there’s a good chance he can’t stop talking about it.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I want to preemptively ask that we not go into another round of “but are you SURE? and can you prove it to us?” since that’s really annoying for LWs. (Not saying that’s what you’re doing here at all — I just want to stop it before it starts.)

    1. Sea Anemone*

      He will also post a sign on his door that says “out of office” but he is actually in his office, just not working.

      I think this has gone unnoticed because most people are still working remotely, but I am coming in every day and it is very uncomfortable. Sometimes it appears he has just woken up.

      So, my question is whether or not he is sleeping there, and whether his “out of office” time is outside of working hours. I mean, lots of people look like they just woke up. He could have just woken up in his van, in which case, there’s no actual problem here.

      I’m with Snark that if your discomfort is bc he has an odd lifestyle that doesn’t actually impact you or the company, that’s not actionable except for you to manage your feelings. But if he’s looking like he just woke up bc he’s in his pyjamas and he’s stocking the breakroom fridge with his groceries, that’s actionable and should be brought to management attention.

      1. Detective Amy Santiago*

        I think this is ultimately where I land too. Mostly because OP has only been there a couple of months and doesn’t really know all the ins and outs of the office.

      2. CBB*

        I agree. If Bob claims to live in his van, is there any reason not to believe him?

        Preparing meals in the office kitchen and spending time in his office afterhours with the door closed may or may not be allowed at your company, but I don’t think those activities constitute “living in the office.”

  38. Mister Lady*

    My sympathies to Bob. Sure, there are some people who think “I know what will be a great way to save money–I’ll sleep at work!” but I have to think they’re very much in the minority compared to people who lost their housing during the pandemic. Even with the eviction moratorium in place, lots of people were failed by support systems during this time.

  39. Veryanon*

    I used to work in HR for a retail organization, and we would occasionally find that one of our employees was living in one of the stores. It was almost always due to a domestic violence situation (most of our retail employees were women). I would try to connect the employee with social services/temporary housing if possible, but for legal reasons, we could not allow them to live in the store.

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      I remember back in the 80s hearing about some kids who were runaways. They were living in the ceiling of a library.

        1. Charlotte Lucas*

          Or Secrets of the Shopping Mall!

          I worked as a library page, & it was a topic of conversation…

  40. Sunflower*

    I wouldn’t have the nerve to report it unless I can do it anonymously. It may also be easy to figure out who made a report if you’re the only one still in the office.
    I admit I’d leave it alone unless it affects me and I don’t want to deal with any retaliation. But others are bolder.

  41. Definitely not a sloth*

    We have a coworker who was close to doing this. He got a job with us, moving here from a thousand miles away. Unfortunately, his wife’s ex made a stink about taking “his” kids (whom he hardly ever wanted to see, but that’s another story) out of state and it generated a 4 year court fight. During the first 2 years of that, he lived in his SUV while his wife stayed in the original state with her two kids and his two kids. He would come to work early or stay late to shower; other than that, he would occasionally use the office to heat something up. Occasionally, he’d park in our lot for the night.

    He got an apartment when he brought his kids here and I’m happy to say that his wife and her kids are here now.

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      When I went to UIC, they had a nap room (late 80s/early 90s). Most students commuted, & most also worked while in school. You signed in & told the people when to wake you. But it was not a pod, more like a room full of cots.

      I used it once or twice but usually just napped on the train.

    2. Sunflower*

      I’ve been throwing out this idea for the workplace for years. Little rooms for when employees work late or when there’s a snow storm.

      1. Free Meerkats*

        When I was at the Nuclear Power Training Unit in Idaho in the Navy back in 75, we had a full, always dark except for 1 hour/day for cleaning, barracks for people who didn’t want to ride the bus back into town. We couldn’t live there, but IIRC, could spend up to 5 days in a row. There were times when the 1-2 hour bus ride each way on top of a 12 hour day was just too much.

        I also had more food stolen from the fridge there than anytime since…

  42. chellie*

    I was on Capitol Hill a few years ago. We met with our (creepy and thankfully no longer in office) Congressman, who, instead of talking about issues, showed us the Murphy bed he kept in his office and told us how much he saved by sleeping at the office . Now, affordable rentals are a real problem in DC. And, an image of him toddling down the hall in his pjs carrying his toothbrush was not necessary.

  43. Free Bagels in the Breakroom*

    I think I might come to Bob first, and frame it as “I’d like to know what’s going on so when I bring this higher up I can help.” Everyone has anecdotes of a person “gaming” the system like this, but let’s not pretend it’s the rule: if a person is living at their office, more than likely it’s because they don’t have any other options. Since LW is senior, if I were them I would say “Hey Bob, I noticed your car in the lot after hours a great deal, and I was curious to know what was going on. There could be liability concerns if you’re in the office after hours, and we should let the appropriate people know if that’s the case.” I would just want to let Bob know this is a problem, he might say “Oh yeah no it was just last week, I finished my project and you won’t see me anymore.” He might say “Oh yeah I live here.” Who knows? I would ask him, but make it clear this has to go higher up if it needs to.

  44. Anon here*

    Just for some context in case no one has tried to rent recently, but housing prices are up at least 33% since this time last year. Bob may well have been priced out of his area, and I highly doubt he is doing this to save money just because he’s a cheapskate. I would recommend asking him discreetly about this first before escalating the issue and give him the opportunity to find other housing in a suitable amount of time.

    1. Sea Anemone*

      Since OP hasn’t talked to Bob directly, he hasn’t had a chance to say, “I would prefer not to.”

  45. Temi*

    If his van is constantly parked in the office parking garage, then its also a liability/insurance issue.
    I agree with the comments, if there’s an EAP he needs to use it to secure his own housing.
    He could have moved here and thought it would be temporary. OP doesn’t state they are in a high COL area or make below a market salary.

  46. Seeking Second Childhood*

    I’ll throw out a completely different idea. What if Bob has someone at home immune compromised and he doesn’t want to bring any covid home? Or on the flip side, how long has this actually been going on? Is he living in the office for two to three weeks while his significant other quarantines?

    1. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      That’s an interesting thought experiment.

      To echo Alison’s request, how would that change the advice to a third party? I think you still want to extend a heads-up to HR; if it’s approved and on the up-and-up, then there’s no harm or foul, but if it hasn’t been properly approved, then that would set Bob and the organization on the path to resolve the situation one way or the other (i.e. to stay there temporarily above-board or to get Bob into suitable temporary lodging).

  47. I'm just here for the cats*

    It sounds like the OP is at the same level or higher than the manager who is living at the office. Why can’t you just ask him? Next time you catch him ask why he is living at the office. You might learn something.

  48. We Put the Fun in Dysfunctional*

    Something similar happened at a previous workplace before I started working there. It had a shower so it was feasible. I think he left about quitting time to get food, then came back in to sleep once everyone else was gone. We all had keys and there was no security system, so he’d just have to get ready for work before anyone else arrived.
    One of the faculty at my university also tried it. I think that person made it longer because academia expects strange hours but ultimately both were discovered and fired. I’m not exactly sure why being homeless is also ground for being jobless, but OP isn’t the only one uncomfortable with the situation.

    1. Queenie*

      It’s not the homelessness that is grounds for termination. It’s improper use of company property.

  49. Ssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

    Someone waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay above mentioned paramedics. I’m thinking about my last three jobs sites and all of them had access passes to them and often several doors to go thru and to top it off, a security code to arm and disarm the alarm system.

    If they were alone at night and needed a paramedic, it would be very hard for one to enter the office space after hours in the last three locations I can think of. In all of them it would be very difficult to leave a door ajar.

    I feel for this person but he really can’t stay there.

    1. Charlotte Lucas*

      Yes! Every large building I’ve worked in has had people available to guide the first responders in the case of an emergency. Finding one person at night in an empty building would be more difficult…

  50. RussianInTeaxs*

    Oh man! Back in the 1990s, I think 1997, dad’s company (very large company at that), had a manager who, turns out, basically lived in the office. He also lied on his resume. They thought he was quite at the meetings because he was new and shy, and not because he did not in fact had the engineering degree and didn’t know anything.
    All of that came out after he was repeatedly rude to the department’s admin, and she started to document all the “weird” stuff about him. The campus security caught him sleeping in the office after hours.

    1. Cheerfully Polite Grey Rock*

      Yet another reason not to be rude to your admins, especially if you have something to hide!

  51. Red Wine Mom*

    Back in 2007, there was a story about an artist getting arrested for outfitting a small hidden space in a parking garage in Providence RI – and living there FOR FOUR YEARS!

    “An artist in Providence, Rhode Island was apprehended the other day by mall security as he left the secret apartment he’d built almost four years ago, in an unused utility space in the mall’s parking garage. The apartment had no running water (they used mall bathrooms), but it did include “a sectional sofa and love seat, coffee and breakfast tables, chairs, lamps, rugs, paintings, a hutch filled with china, a waffle iron, TV and Sony Playstation 2,” according to the Boston Globe.”
    https://consumerist.com/2007/10/03/man-builds-secret-apartment-at-mall-gets-away-with-it-for-four-years/

  52. Queenie*

    Given OP’s comment about Bob making a deliberate lifestyle choice, I am very firmly AGAINST approaching him directly at this point. Even without that comment, I was hesitant, because doing so could have opened up OP to too much personal information and becoming an active participant in his recovery from whatever situation was taking place.

    OP should approach whatever upper management currently exists at this point and focus on the potential liability of something happening after hours and nobody knowing whether Bob is in the building. And honestly, if it continues once the management situation settles down, I’d bring it up to the new management as well.

  53. BlueBelle*

    This happened at my work! The man had a storage closet that could be accessed only through his office. In the storage closet, he had a camp cot, shelves with food, a crockpot, microwave, and refrigerator. He would shower in the office gym locker rooms. It was discovered when the vending machine people would mention to the facilities Admin they saw someone late at night in the building. HR pulled his badge usage and then investigated further. He was fired.

  54. Sleepless*

    This is making me think of “For All Mankind” where the NASA director was secretly living in her office, and nobody knew except her admin.

  55. I Wrote This in the Bathroom*

    Just realized that this couldn’t have ever happened at my old office, because there were apparently motion detectors throughout the building. I worked an all-nighter once, that wasn’t planned. Stayed late to meet a deadline and then it was four am and too late to go home. The IT security manager came into work at six in the morning, and informed me that, when I’d gone to the bathroom at 2:30 AM, an alarm went off. Apparently the cops came out (and then left when they didn’t find any suspicious activity), and the manager got a phone call at home saying someone was in the building. Makes all the “oh right, this happened at my work” stories even more interesting to me, since it couldn’t have happened at mine.

  56. Anon Letter Writer*

    LW update — without revealing identifying information, it was clear that this was a lifestyle choice for Bob so I took Alice’s advice. It turns out that leadership is aware of his living situation. The COO shared that the former CEO approved this and she was aware. I got the impression from her reaction that they approved him living in his van at the office but that they may not be fully aware of the extent to which he is using the office. In either case, she said it will be up to the new CEO how they want to move forward with this living arrangement.

    1. Observer*

      This sounds like a good resolution for you. You’ve done what you needed to, and now it’s not your problem.

      I wonder how the new CEO will handle it. I also wonder why the former CEO was let go…

    2. Mayflower*

      If I may bring my expertise as a landlord here: if you are in the US, you absolutely cannot house people without a rental license. The company cannot single-handedly approve the situation, just like they cannot approve not paying taxes. With all due respect to the well-meaning people who want to protect Bob, if you are not a housing provider/landlord, you have no idea of the issues involved (city, county and state level).

      LW, if your management doesn’t take action, call you city rental license office anonymously. This is not okay.

      1. Gerry Keay*

        Wow, it seems like you’re now recommending OP now go out of their way to intentionally kick this person out of their housing. If you’ve never faced housing insecurity, YOU have no idea the issues involved in surviving. This would be callous and cruel, and I hope the OP does not follow your advice.

        1. Mayflower*

          I am currently housing 4 formerly homeless families. The ad hominem is always unnecessary, but in my case, it’s particularly undeserved. As I said, unless you are a housing provider or a case worker experienced in dealing with these situations, you have no idea of the issues involved.

          1. Isabelle*

            Interesting. So, you’re letting four formerly homeless families occupy your properties free of charge? That is indeed quite generous.

            Or, by “housing,” did you mean that you’re accepting payment in exchange for their occupying those properties (i.e., “renting”)?

          2. Not Ad Hominem*

            *whispers* this is actually not an ad hominem argument, as Gerry Keay’s response is directed at your advice (e.g. “this [action] would be callous and cruel”), not at you personally. An ad hominem argument would be responding to you as a person (e.g. by calling you names, harping on your identity as a landlord, etc), in lieu of engaging with your actual comment.

            It’s legit to say that you have more expertise here, but it is also legit for Gerry to find the advice given poor and hurtful to those involved.

      2. Sea Anemone*

        OK, it’s not clear from the information provided, including in the updates, that Bob is actually housed inside company property. We don’t know the extent of the previous CEO’s approval, and we definitely don’t know the extent of the future CEO’s approval.

        Plus, I don’t think that a rental license applies if they are not renting the space.

          1. Sea Anemone*

            Alison writes the titles, not the LWs. There is nothing in the letter that says that they know for sure that Bob is actually living in the office, as in, sleeping there and storing his stuff there. All they say for sure is:
            -Bob sometimes looks like he just woke up
            -Bob is sometimes in his office but not working
            -Bob is present at odd hours
            -Bob uses the kitchen facilities
            -Bob says he lives in his van

              1. Sea Anemone*

                I did just cite all the evidence LW provided without questioning its truth, so I believe I was taking them at their word.

                1. CBB*

                  I agree. You’ve accurately summarized the facts as reported by LW. But the conclusion–that these activities constitute “living in the office”–leaves me with questions.

                2. AMT*

                  I assume that the LW has some amount of evidence that the coworker is living at the office beyond what they wrote here. Letters are edited for space, and LWs are not going to go into a detailed accounting of all the evidence if it’s not relevant to Alison’s advice.

      3. Observer*

        Why would the OP do that?

        You are making a lot of assumptions here, and you have no evidence for any of them.

        It’s not the OP’s responsibility to police the COO and CEO. Nor is is their responsibility to assume that neither of them know or care about the laws and regulations at play and are doing something wrong. Absent some really good evidence that they are ignoring legal obligations, the OP should NOT call any regulatory agency.

      4. Observer*

        On a totally separate note, what you are saying makes no sense. There is no such thing as a Federal rental license. With a few exceptions (eg Fair houseing act, Section 8 housing subsidies) most rent related laws are local / state. As for requiring a license to HOUSE people? What are you smoking?

        Also what “rental license office” are you talking about? New York state, for instance, does NOT require registration, nor does NYC. Now, there are some situations that require registration. But they only apply to actual rental situations, and most definitely not universally.

      5. Colette*

        And there are usually laws about what an appropriate rental is, including things like emergency exits, heating, water, etc. I’m not sure if an office space would qualify.

        1. Sea Anemone*

          Which only matters if the company is actually renting the space out to Bob. We don’t know that.

          There are plenty of good reasons not to allow an employee to live in their office without inventing problems related to leasing that probably isn’t happening.

          1. Observer*

            Exactly.

            The OP did what they needed to do. They don’t need to make sure that the company makes a particular decision.

      6. Lynn Whitehat*

        I’m a landlord in the US too, and where I live, there is no such thing as a “rental license”. In the LW’s shoes, I would leave this situation alone.

  57. Carolyn Peterson*

    I worked overnight at a radio station and there was a partimer who was amzing at his job but had a horrible track record. Radio broadcasting is a small community and everyone knows everyone’s background and his was bad, but he was truly good on air. At 2AM (our office was glass walls everywhere) I saw a shadow of a grown man lurking around the corner, go into a conference room and shut the door. I walked down the hall to the conference room and there he was getting comfortable on the conference table with blankets and pillows. I opened the door and asked “what’s up”? He said he didn’t want to drive home from the bar (where he had been drinking) and decided to sleep at the station. btw, his background included lot’s of drugs, drinking problems (DUI) and evading child support. I let him do his thing but commented to the next shift person that he was sleeping in the conference room. He said “oh yeah, he’s been here for 2 weeks and also does his laundry in the men’s bathroom. How I didn’t notice he was doing this I don’t know, but I sent an email to management and asked them to intervene. He was fired that day as they put 2 and 2 together and solved a rash of petty thefts taking place at the station. Someone was going thru desks and helping themselves to $, small change, snack etc. Security was increased, key cards updated etc. And the guy who had known he was sleeping in the office for the past 2 weeks was given a hand slap for knowing about it and not reporting it.
    This homeless partimer had everything going for him. A natural athlete (had scholarships etc, but walked away) he was seriously great on-air, and good looking. Sorta sad how low he had landed in life and not out of his 30’s, it all happened in the early days of crystal meth, before most of us know anything about the drug.

  58. Been there*

    I did this. I was a child and my father, a single parent, couldn’t afford rent at the amount the technical college payed him. We lived in a closet of the room he taught in. All we had were two laundry baskets of stuff. We just slept on the floor all four of us. This went on for a while (a couple months maybe) until he found a place cheap enough to rent. Till we couldn’t afford that anymore and we had to go to the one homeless shelter in the tricounty area. I preferred the closet. No homeless men hit on me (still a child) in the closet. The shelter took away your dignity as a person, like you were being judged at all times. But there wasn’t another option till we could find somewhere to live. I don’t know what this dude is doing but be prepared to have compassion.

    1. Despachito*

      I am so sorry you had to go through this. For a time, I also lived just with my father, and although we did have housing, we were otherwise dirt poor, and the housing was one of the few certainties and safe things in all that misery, so your story really touched a string.

      It is because of situations like yours that I would be wary of telling on Bob. Fortunately, there are no kids involved, but God knows in what awful situation he might be in.

  59. Wash Your Dishes!*

    I have managed several large offices and usually the landlord has a very clear rule that staff are not allowed to live at the office.
    In the settings I’ve worked in, the facilities/maintenance staff would tell building management that someone appears to be living at the office so it does become a larger issue. The cleaners need to be able to get in and clean and expect to clean a mess equivalent with an office, not living quarters. That said, maybe this is a person in need of mental health support, as this is not typical workplace conduct, and that is the most important reason to bring this up.

  60. A Kate*

    I guess I’m in the minority here but I would absolutely consider this neither my business nor my problem. The OP isn’t 100% sure he’s living at the office, but I don’t really see a world where she is responsible for the company’s liability issues, should they ever come up. If she is ever asked “did you know this was going on?” she can honestly say she was not sure.

    That said, I’m really not sure why the move here isn’t to just…ask Bob directly before going behind his back to air suspicions with HR or another boss. If he’s really in a pinch, he would probably appreciate someone approaching him kindly about it, even if the OP would then be more obligated to speak up (but she could at least do something like give him time to let them know himself/get another situation together so the whole question of company liability would be moot). If he’s just running a grift to save money and fight the man, well, then the OP doesn’t have to feel as bad about it if she sends it up the chain. But I feel like: either ignore it entirely or be a human being about it.

    1. Despachito*

      ” I feel like: either ignore it entirely or be a human being about it.”

      Me too, and thank you for that.

  61. Enna*

    We had someone doing this for awhile. He actually had a home, but he was one of those people who thought the more hours you put in at the office the faster you would rise. He thought if he was there before everyone else and stayed later than everyone else it looked better for him, so why go home at all.

    It was a factory with 24 hour a day production, so people sort of knew but nobody said anything. For the most part factory employees didn’t go into the engineering office space.

    It wasn’t until he decided he didn’t even have time to go up two floors to the locker rooms to change clothes and got caught changing in his cubicle that he was made to stop.

  62. Anon for this*

    Just wanted to exhort you to please not underestimate the safety aspect of this. There’s a long history in New York City of spray-painting AIR (or artists-in-residence) on commercial-space buildings where artists were illegally living, due to many tragic deaths where firefighters assumed the buildings were empty overnight.

  63. James Harden*

    After reading some comments here and Alison’s response, I am definitely in the minority here when I say just let the man be.
    I understand all the legal and health and safety argument, which are completely valid. But just on a human level, leave the man be. I am sure if the guy could he wouldn’t be living in the office, so I would just let him do his thing, let him figure his shit out. The last thing you want is to get him fired when he is already having a hard time in life.

  64. Betteauroan*

    I feel bad for the guy. You don’t know what his situation is or how long he’s been living there. However, I am 99.9% certain that management does not know about this. As Alison said, there are some huge safety and liability issues at stake here. As a former insurance agent, I can tell you that it is unacceptable from an insurance standpoint. It is a huge liability risk. And the landlord would never approve of this either. OP, I know it’s going to be hard to blow up this guy’s comfortable little arrangement, but you have to let someone know.

    1. Observer*

      Well, the OP updated and says that management actually IS aware that he’s there. The new CEO will need to decide what to do going forward.

  65. Shelton*

    It’s possible that some of Bob’s coworkers/superiors are aware that he’s staying there and while they can’t explicitly allow it, they are looking the other way because he’s in a bad spot and it’s temporary. If you tattle and he ends up in a shelter or on the streets, you could have a bunch of people hating your guts. You’re also making yourself the office narc, a rep that you’ll never be able to shed and one that will follow you around. No one is going to buy the whole “I was terribly concerned about a possible gas leak and/or zoning infraction” stuff. Bob could be very popular with VIP people. You are new, so you don’t know what’s at play. It doesn’t sound like whatever he’s doing is negatively impacting your work or your life (except that you “can’t stop thinking about it” which seems obsessive, IDK), so I’d just let it go. The situation will probably resolve itself naturally anyway.

  66. PNW Forester*

    I understand some of the safety concerns, but I also agree with the comments that OP should go to their coworker first and approach this situation with as much compassion as possible. It’s been an incredibly challenging time for many people and it sounds like this coworker might be doing the best he can under whatever circumstances he’s facing.

    On a related note about compassion, amazing bosses, living in vans, and doing the best you can under challenging circumstances, I’ll share that I’ve been not-at-all secretly living in a van at my place of work off and on for the past year, though the details are a bit different.

    I started working for a small tree care and forestry consulting company on an island in the Pacific Northwest in February of 2020. The owner/director essentially created a position for me to combine my background in forestry and my growing skills in marketing (web design, social media, etc.). I had moved to the island in June of 2019 to take a chance on a relationship (we’re engaged now!), and after giving myself a few months to recover from 15 years of being overworked and underpaid at non-profits, I was growing increasingly stressed about not having a job and had just been turned down for a position I was excited about but overqualified for. Then, this opportunity materialized and I was stoked!

    I started work and within a few weeks, COVID shut down the state. Initially we thought we were all going to be laid off and I was panicking because I hadn’t worked for the previous 8 months and had never been employed in Washington, so I had no idea if I could collect unemployment. My boss essentially told me that we might have to rework my job description, but that he’d do his absolute best to keep me employed. (Ultimately, he ended up getting PPP funding, most of our services qualified as “essential,” and we kept everyone employed, but still…)

    Fast-forward to August 2020 when my partner suffered a serious spinal cord injury and ended up hospitalized in Colorado, paralyzed from the waist down. I dropped everything to go to Colorado too and was completely supported by my boss and the rest of the company in the first few days and in the weeks and months that followed. We have very little medical care on the island, so my partner and I decided to stay in Colorado for a year following his hospitalization so he’d have access to the best possible rehab. We rented out our house on the island to afford an apartment outside of Denver, and I bought a 2001 Dodge Caravan to use as both my transportation and housing when I was in Washington, since I needed my Subaru in Colorado. When I’m on the island for work, I park at our office/shop and some days, my morning alarm clock is our crew showing up for work. (I should probably also mention a few details that make this different from the story above, including that the shop/office is on a big property that also has a house and an RV trailer with tenants. I’ve never slept IN the office but if I had, I wouldn’t have been the first. The boss put in a full bathroom with a shower. I have a camp stove set up out back (and we have a shop grill) and a smoothie blender on my desk, and I’ve subsisted mostly off of Sunbasket and Daily Harvest meal deliveries when I’m there.)

    This year has been BANANAS (I’ve taken 26 flights since last August), but my partner is doing well, our relationship is great, and on the work end of things, I’m still happily employed. Not only that, but my role and responsibilities have grown, I’ve learned a lot, I’ve gotten a raise, I feel appreciated, and work has been a really positive constant for me in an otherwise chaotic year. This week I’m moving out of our apartment in Colorado and back into my home in Washington (my partner is participating in a great clinical trial in Chicago, so he’ll join me when that ends), so I’ll no longer be sleeping in the work parking lot. I did, however, decide to sell my Subaru and keep the minivan, so I’ll still have the option!

    TL;DR: Sometimes the boss is totally okay with an employee living in their van in the work parking lot.

  67. nnn*

    I think in LW’s position I’d pretend not to notice. The way I see it, my duty not to put a fellow human being out on the street outweighs any concerns about my employer’s potential liability.

  68. Granny Pants*

    Ever since I was a fort-building kid I’ve daydreamed about living in a store, my school, a van, etc. when I became an adult I daydreamed about living in my office. Some people take it a step beyond daydreaming and have made it a reality. I’ve read many times about people living in shopping malls, etc.

  69. Retired Prof*

    When I was in graduate school, it was an open secret that one of the PhD students (who seemed to be on the ten-year plan) was living in his lab. One night, when the building was mostly empty, I went to the fridge for a beer and it was empty (I was in charge of the weekly beer hour). I went prospecting through the building for a beer and found Bill in his lab (of course! Where else would he be?) Did he have a spare beer? “No, I don’t drink beer. But I have some very nice port.” And that’s how we became friends.

    1. Dramatic Romantic*

      The college I went to, you could rent a study carrel for something like $60 a semester. These were 6×8 locking rooms, sometimes with a window. There were absolutely people who lived in their carrel. As a student you’d have access to gym locker rooms, so you could shower. And the library was open almost all of the time. There would only be a few hours – midnight to 6 AM – when you would have to hide out in the room and hope that security didn’t find you.

  70. Dildo Factory Dozer*

    I actually had a date with someone who slept at an office. Actually, it was our first date (met him online, we are both gay men) and he told me his friend owned a dildo factory and he would sleep there in a sun lounger at night. He didn’t work there, and would just fold up the lounger before dawn and leave, then come back during the evening when no one was around. I’ve heard there actually is a large (no pun intended) dildo factory not far from where I live, so it didn’t ring too false, but I ghosted him after that. Dating a near-homeless man 15 yrs older than me wasn’t my thing. Definitely one of the weirdest dates I’ve ever had.

  71. JN*

    I lived in a van. I never, ever overnight parked at the office. Because boundaries. How I chose to live my personal life should not affect my work life

  72. Hats Are Great*

    I had a coworker who moved into the office, and it was the worrrrrrrrrst. It was a small, shared office with ten desks, and two small closet-like rooms on either end that were intended for private phone calls. Dude moved into one of the closets, emptied the file cabinets to store his clothes and sleeping bag and so on, and just locked the door all the time from the inside. He rarely left. It smelled … not great. None of us were really sure what to do. It took a long time for us to realize he was living in there, and then everyone was really hesitant to get him in trouble. It came to a head when a younger female colleague walked in on him in his boxers and finally went to HR.

    It turned out that he and his wife were in the middle of a nasty divorce and sleeping at the office was kind-of his only option. I think he ended up in a homeless shelter for a while. The company gave him some time to transition but made it clear that after secretly living in a shared office and the boxers incident, he needed to resign relatively rapidly.

    It was awful for absolutely everyone — it sucked for our ability to do our work, it was awful for our boss having to confront him, it was traumatizing for the woman who walked in on him mostly-naked, and above all it was absolutely horrible for him. And, yeah, like someone said above, the incredible precarity of housing in the US is really scary.

  73. Former_Employee*

    I was really surprised by some of the comments about how Bob might end up on the street if the OP “outs” him to someone at a senior level at their company.

    Bob is a man who is in management at a corporation.

    What are the odds that he is so poorly compensated that he is unable to afford housing?

    1. Anon Mouse*

      I live in the San Francisco Bay Area where housing is EXTREMELY expensive. If he lived here, and was contributing to housing already for a a partner he is separated from as many commenters have theorized, yes, he probably could not afford a second place for himself.

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