volunteer’s mom hangs out in our office, refusing to comply with a vaccine mandate, and more

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

1. Refusing to comply with a workplace vaccine mandate

Now that we’re seeing the vaccine mandates take effect, I was wondering whether the people who leave their jobs after refusing to take the vaccine would be considered to have quit or been fired.

It’s not clear-cut and will probably be up to the employer to decide what they consider it, but fired seems most logical to me since the person is refusing to comply with a condition of the job.

2. Volunteer’s mom is hanging out and distracting an employee

I manage a small nonprofit organization. It’s usually a pretty quiet and relaxed environment. We have a young girl (around 12) who volunteers for us and she’s great. Her mother has befriended one of our staff members and they spend an excessive amount of time socializing during her shift. This mother will follow our staff member around for an hour or more talking to her while she’s working. I often find them looking at photos and videos together during her shift. Our staff person enjoys this, and I realize other channels for socialization have been curtailed due to the pandemic. I feel awkward about addressing this, but it is disruptive and it does interfere with her work. What is the best way to handle this?

The easiest way is to address it is with the staff member, since you have direct control over how she spends her time at work. Let her know that the socializing has become disruptive and she needs to keep focusing on her job even if the mom is around. I’d talk with her how to message that to the mom too.

But I’m also curious about why your volunteer’s mother is hanging out in the office in the first place. If it’s because she doesn’t want to leave a kid that young there alone, you could let her know that you’re happy to have her stay but your staff need to stay focused on their work and so you’re going to set her up in a conference room instead. But if she’s just sticking around because she’s befriended your employee, it’s reasonable to explain that you’re not set up for visitors to hang out in the office (but maybe she’d like to be put to work too!).

Read an update to this letter here

3. How much loyalty should I have when working with recruiters?

I work in a field that has become very “hot” in the past few years. I recently had a call with an external recruiter who wanted to propose me for a position. After discussing it, I was not really interested in the position itself but I thought it could be a good idea to explain what I was looking for. They told me I could leave my resume with them and they would share it with their network so it could reach people who were working more closely to the sub-field I was interested in.

I sent my resume by email and they thanked me and said they were always available to help, and if I wanted to send my profile to any specific company I could let them know and they would intercede for me.

At this point I am not sure if I have made the correct choice in sending my resume. I thought it couldn’t hurt, but I am now scared they might send it to companies directly, without asking me first. I also wonder if this means that I cannot work with other recruiters, in case they come to me with more interesting roles. I just received a message from another recruiter, and I don’t know if it would be fine to hear about what they are proposing. How loyal do I have to be to the original recruiting company?

You don’t have to be at all loyal to the original recruiting company! It’s very common for people to work with multiple recruiters. There’s no exclusivity agreement. Go ahead and talk to that other recruiter.

Also, do not ask that first company to be your intermediary for other jobs you want to apply for! If they happen to be handling the hiring for a particular role, you’d go through them — but otherwise you should apply directly to the jobs you see that interest you. If the recruiter doesn’t have an existing relationship with that company, they won’t bring you any advantages that you wouldn’t get from applying on your own. And in fact, going through them could actually hurt you, because once a recruiter submits you for a job, they “own” your candidacy with that company (according to the terms by which companies and recruiters work together), which means the employer would need to pay them a fee if they hire you. If the company is already working with that recruiter, they expect that fee — but if they’re not, that will immediately make you a more expensive candidate than you would be otherwise. And if a company isn’t interested in using a recruiter (and many aren’t) or in using that recruiter, they’ll often just automatically nix your candidacy if a recruiter presents you.

4. If a company recently rejected me, will they keep me in mind for other jobs?

Lately I’ve been getting to the final round with companies but not getting offers. Usually I feel like I did pretty well in the interview, so probably someone else was just a better fit. (Not that I’ll ever really know.) If those companies post another job I’m qualified for, part of me wants to apply … but part of me figures they know who I am already, and they know I’m looking. If they thought I might be right for this, would they reach out to me?

Especially if it’s a small-to-medium company and I interviewed quite recently, what’s best practices? It almost feels delusional to apply to a small org that rejected me a month ago, even if it was for a different role.

You should still apply. The position could be on a different team with a different hiring manager, and that person probably doesn’t know of you at all. But even if it’s the same hiring manager, there’s no guarantee they’ll think of you. Managers often just move on to the next job they need to fill and focus on the applications they have for that one, without thinking back to other applicants they saw recently. When you’re doing interviews, it can be easy to forget about the person you talked to six weeks ago who wasn’t right for that job but might be right for this one.

So go ahead and apply! It won’t look odd. And even if it turns out that you’re not right for the second role, there’s still no shame in trying; people submit applications for second, third, even fourth jobs at the same company all the time.

5. Looking fresh after biking to work

I’m about to start my first professional job out of college in a new city. Although I’m close to public transportation, the bike commute time is 20 minutes while the train is 40. I love biking, so this is a perk, but I’m worried about ruining my work clothes and showing up sweaty! Do you (or readers who bike) have any tips on looking fresh for work after biking there, especially while managing rain and snow? (I doubt the office will have a shower.)

Let’s find out. Readers?

{ 681 comments… read them below }

    1. Viki*

      OP5- My partner does this. But he’s been a cyclist for 20 years, going for 8 hour rides on the weekend, so there might be a different level of sweat/exertion to play. He also has a 25 minute commute by bike.

      He has his backpack with a dry sack which has his work clothes, and he just changes in the office. He has deodorant etc at the office and his shoes there as well. As far as he/I know, he doesn’t get a sweat, no one comments on it. But he’s also at a high enough level that he can get his quirks without being penalized if someone sees him in the neon yellow before he changes.

      1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

        This is what I do when I bike to work and I am a sweaty person as in I sweat with any kind of movement (plus side – I never feel hot), so here are the sweat tips:
        – Have a pack of wipes, deodorant, etc in you work bag to freshen up
        – Bring a change of bra/underwear if you use either for extra sweaty days
        – If you wear make-up, apply it after biking (sounds obvious but I learned this the hard way)
        – In a pinch, hand sanitizer works as a dry “shower” do have a big bottle stashed in your desk for the days that wipes won’t cut it (looking at you monsoon season in the Southwest)

        1. Not A Girl Boss*

          I got those hiking wipes and they make a big difference, I just go into a bathroom stall and wipe down. I definitely agree on having a change of bra, I really underestimated how sweaty I get along the band. The rest of it can be mopped up with a wipe.

          I wear my hair in braided pigtails under my helmet, and that is a lifesaver for keeping hair tame, so I just have to brush it out when I get to work.

          I keep a toiletry bag in my desk drawer – wipes, deodorant, brush, hair ties, and my one ‘work bra’ I change into all week long before bringing it home to wash. I take my sports bra off and stash it in the bag, then swap bag to it in the afternoon (I know, I’m gross, but it works for me). I just grab the bag and go to the bathroom right when I got in. At first I felt pretty mortified having to swing by my desk to see my coworkers still in my post-bike look, but turns out they are all jealous/impressed that I bike to work and otherwise literally don’t care what I look like the first 5 minutes of the day.

          Otherwise, I don’t really get that sweaty during my commute and just wear my work clothes on the bike. The key is to have layers. In the fall its work shirt, sweater, windbreaker. Halfway through the ride I will stop and take my sweater off – or I just suffer until my blood gets pumping and I warm up a bit. In the winter, I have these cheap amazon windbreaker sweatpants I wear over my work pants, and wool socks.

          1. Kasbot*

            Stash of extra outfit is key- including shoes. I commute in bike shorts/pants (to keep from ruining all of my normal work clothes) and bike shoes… so inevitably there is an instance every year or so when I forget a key piece of clothing (shoes, underwear…) in my packing. So… having a spare around is great. I actually keep fresh, clean, in the package underwear for this emergency case just in case someone stumbles upon it? Why they would- i don’t know, but it makes me feel better.

            1. Eve Polastri*

              Good call on the spare clothes. One time of forgetting the underwear and i’ll never not have a spare again!

          2. PinaColada*

            I am here to encourage you to bring a hand towel to work instead of the wipes! It’s easy enough to wet it at the sink, use it in a stall to freshen up, and then bring another small towel for a dry wipe if you need :) and they’d wring out and bring home each night, with a freshie the next day :)

      2. Oodles of Noodles*

        I did something similar. I didn’t commute on a bicycle, but rather a motorcycle (65mpg!), but you’re still exposed to the elements. A good rain-proof case is important, and I wouldn’t normally change when I got to work. And I kept a complete change of work clothes in my office, just in case I showed up after having been dumped on with rain.

        I didn’t keep a stick of deodorant at work, but I did have mousse to get rid of the helmet-hair. (And cyclists should be safe and wearing helmets as well!)

      3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

        Probably should go without saying – but add your freshen up/clothes changing time to your commute time (as in be just a few minutes earlier) just in case you’re in an office that is a stickler for starting time is starting time.

        1. GreenDoor*

          I was going to suggest timing the ride such that you know about how long it will take to change/freshen up plus a bit more for wiggle room. Say that’s 15 minutes….then plan on getting to work that 15 minutes before the majority of co-workers start showing up. That should give you enough time to freshen up and stash your dirty clothes/unmentionables with the barest minimum of people seeing you. Plus you’d probably have near-complete privacy in the restroom. Our stalls are so small I’d be whapping myself all over trying to pull a sweaty bra off or position my arms for deodorant.

          1. TardyTardis*

            Most restrooms have a handicapped restroom which is somewhat larger. If you’re the first person there and in and out fairly quickly, that should work out all right.

            1. Sushi roll*

              I discourage using those unless it’s a need. Sometimes handicapped people have issues also holding it and it contributes to an accident. They are sometimes forced to go into smaller stalls without the handrails and stuff. I’ve been there and it’s rough when someone went into the stall that didn’t need to but just liked the extra space.

              1. Genevieve*

                Adding onto this that not all people who need the larger stall with rails outwardly look disabled. Don’t think that because you don’t have anyone using a wheelchair that stall isn’t necessary/is free game.

                I don’t need a wheelchair or a cane, but due to my cancer treatment, I’m losing muscle/have a weakened core and my balance is suspect about 50% of the tine. I use the rails in the handicapped stall to not lose my balance when wiping (TMI, I know) and navigate getting up and down from the toilet. I can manage okay most days in a regular stall, but my heart leaks with JOY when the handicapped one is available.

        2. MCMonkeyBean*

          I was thinking the same–time it out a few times on nice days, because I wonder if in the worse weather like rain or snow the time to freshen up afterwards might be long enough that the train is still a better option.

          And this may already be the plan, but I would definitely wait until after the first week or at least the first couple of days before biking–partially so you can scope out the office facilities and figure out where you would be getting ready, and partially so that none of your first impressions are accidentally made before you’ve had a chance to freshen up. I think in general it’s awesome to bike to work and I’d think most coworkers would be cool with it, but I don’t think you necessarily want to become The Person Who Bikes To Work on your first day.

      4. PT*

        Once you’ve been biking awhile, it will take less exertion, too!

        I bike commuted a short distance for a bit. At first it was exercise, then it was like walking, then I got a car and only bike commuted when my husband needed the car and it was tiring again because I was out of shape.

      5. Stina*

        I’d check to see if the building does have an on-site workout facility – more and more are including them – and what you’d need to do to get access. Or look into gyms close to your building that you can get a cheap membership to use their showers and maybe workout on days you can’t bike. And I second the recommendation of having biking clothes and your office clothes and a basic clean-up kit in your pack to change into. Look to ultra-lite hiking clothing & towels/cloths to reduce bulk or weight that are quick-dry so you don’t have to deal with soggy stuff in your office.

        1. Gan Ainm*

          This is exactly what I did. For reference I commuted 10-12 miles each way. I also used to leave a weeks worth of clothes and hanging in my work coat closet/armoire thing (it was my own, not communal. It’s part of the furniture other everyone gets even in a cubicle) because my office was very formal and the kind of dressy fabrics I had to wear would be a wrinkled mess after any time in a bike bag. I also left some shoes that lived at work permanently because heels take up a lot of space. It took some planning at first but once I got used to it it was fine. Test run the commute on the weekend, and remember to check the weather every day. I didn’t and once left at 6 am on a beautiful sunny morning just assuming it was going to be a nice day and by noon there were tornadoes (in a part of the country that doesn’t even get them!)

      6. marvin the paranoid android*

        I do this as well. My tips are these:
        -Invest in a travel clothes folder to keep your clothes from getting wrinkly in transit. Mine only cost about $20.
        -Leave a pair of shoes at work so they don’t get too wet or scuffed up.
        -Invest in some good rain gear (rain pants, a good coat, waterproof shoes). I don’t bike in the snow so I can’t speak to that, though.

      7. MapleHill*

        I have never biked to work (that’s not a thing here, plus it’s always too hot, plus I sweat like crazy so never), but I’m chiming in to say that maybe get with your boss or a colleague you connect with right away and let them know you’ll be biking to work, you’re nervous about being stinky and to please let you know if you ever smell bad. Just be lighthearted about it and say you’d rather have someone tell you than get a bad rep at a new job as the stinky person. Since you know this could absolutely be an issue; this way, you’ve gotten ahead of it and have someone who will feel more comfortable about letting you know since you told them to, rather than people trying to avoid being near you and going to HR instead. Having been the HR person who received complaints of a smelly coworker where they don’t feel comfortable telling that person they smell, this would really help with any awkwardness.

      8. Claire*

        My spouse used to bike to work before the pandemic. His bike commute was about an hour, so he did arrive sweaty and disheveled, so he always packed work clothes and deodorant in his backpack**. He was also lucky enough to work for a company that had a gym and showers on site.

        ** For Christmas one year, I gave him a backpack that had stabilizing strap that adjusted the load, which made his commute SO much easier and more comfortable. I believe I found the backpack on REI’s online store.

    2. RKMK*

      #5 depends on how intense the ride is, your morning routine and clothes. If it’s fairly flat/downhill, you could likely get away with keeping baby wipes at your desk/in your office with deodorant and doing a discreet mop-up when you get in. If it’s uphill the entire way, you might want to consider rolling your clothes into a backpack or pannier and changing at work. I found a ball cap was good for keeping rain out of your eyes/off your face. I don’t bike in active snow season personally, but this is the sort of question you can ask on social media and the very enthusiastic cycling community will swoop in with solutions and suggestions.

      1. RKMK*

        Oh, and the type of bike might come into play – a city/Dutch style bike is easier to mount in “work” clothes, and have covered chains so you don’t muck up your clothes. But there are ways to work with other kinds of bikes, too.

      2. LilyP*

        I’m curious, for the people recommending changing at work, do you typically do that in your own office (assuming I guess you have a private office with a door that locks?) or in a single-occupency bathroom or a bathroom stall? Or somewhere else? Any tips for changing least awkwardly if you do have to change in a bathroom?

        1. What watch? Eight watch. Such much!*

          I change in the bathroom. Don’t have my own office. I don’t understand the awkwardness.

          1. To whom how...*

            I think bathroom is perfectly fine. If it was a single occupancy bathroom, it’d have the added value of being able to wash whatever part of my body felt sweaty in the sink, but I’d reckon that in a stall I could at least wet a cloth and wipe the sweaty parts in the stall.

            1. Sparkles McFadden*

              Not a biker but a coworker of multiple bikers chiming in to say that washing up and changing in the bathroom is fine. Even using the sink is fine, but please, please, please wipe everything down afterwards. Do not leave pools of water everywhere. It’s the same etiquette as for people brushing their teeth at work or any other personal hygiene task in the bathroom.

          2. Bowserkitty*

            In my case, the awkwardness is more the physical aspect because they can be pretty cramped to change in at times. Otherwise I agree, it isn’t awkward in a social sense!

            1. JB*

              It takes you only a couple of minutes to change, right? I think it would be fine to use a handicap accessible stall that offers you more room as long as you’re not hanging out in there for an unreasonable period of time.

              1. Crocheted Familiar*

                No. Sorry, but no. For a start, people often underestimate the time they take to change and when there’s only one stall you can use that’s an unfair burden to place on the disabled person who may need to use it. For another, if several people do ‘a couple of minutes’, that adds up quickly. And for a not-insignificant number of disabled people, needing the bathroom *immediately* is a thing, and those couple of minutes can be a major problem (especially as, again, there aren’t usually multiple accessible stalls in one place). Please don’t use accessible toilets as changing rooms. That’s not what they’re for.

                1. Hannah*

                  I hear you and I agree in many situations! But, for example, I worked in an office for about 10 years which had 3-4 bathrooms per floor. I would always walk to the furthest end to get my steps in and I may have literally been the only one that used that room. I think that, especially if the biker shows up before official opening times when the place is a ghost town anyway, 5 minutes in the handicap stall is not going to hurt anybody.

                  Again – great point and something to be aware of! But it’s not going to be a one situation fits all sort of thing.

                2. Jackalope*

                  Yeah, I agree with Hannah. If I were waiting to change and someone came in needing the accessible stall they would go to the front of the line and I would happily wait until they’re done. But at my job at least we don’t have anyone who is in a wheelchair or scooter or anything along those lines, and when I get to work on my bike there’s hardly anyone there. Having changed in the tiny regular stalls and had things fall (including my cell phone falling in the toilet and other things almost doing that as well), it’s not reasonable to say that the accessible stall is completely off limits to everyone all day to leave it available for an as of yet imaginary coworker while making the people who need to change contort themselves in a tiny, tiny space.

                3. MK*

                  I think it’s a “read the room” thing. Are you in a busy office where many people share a bathroom? Or are you changing before most people even show up?

                  For example, if the office is small enough to have a one-holer bathroom, you’re blocking it for the time it takes to change. If you use the ADA stall in a larger bathroom, same thing. Of course it would be preferable to have changing rooms, but most places don’t.

                  The key is to know who else is about and might want to use the toilet.

                4. hamsterpants*

                  Perhaps this is a regional thing. In the US handicap stalls are not reserved only for people with mobility devices. As others have said, you just read the room.

                5. JSPA*

                  The handicapped accessible stall should be ceded to anyone needing it for reasons of medical handicap, but the active expectation (by law and by planning code) is that anyone can use it, for any reason, under any other circumstance. No, it’s not a reading room– but two minutes of wet wipe and change is no different in scope than other normal bathroom use.

                  I suppose the misconception springs from handicapped parking? But “handicapped accessible” is about priority, not exclusive ownership.

                6. Hippo-nony-potomus*

                  It’s not a reserved stall; you get first dibs on it, but not the right to exclude other people from using it.

              2. Sushi roll*

                Yea please don’t do this. Sometimes handicapped people have issues with being able to hold it, creating an accident. Then you have the issue of them being forced into a small stall which could be dangerous especially if they have to leave their wheelchair. Been there. Please don’t do this! It’s really rude and wrong

          3. Epsilon Delta*

            For me it’s awkward because I don’t want my clothes or bare feet to touch the floor or toilet, which can be exceedingly difficult sometimes! Logically, I know the bathroom is probably clean enough that I don’t need to really worry (especially at my office where they clean it multiple times a day), but it’s still an ick factor.

            1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

              Folks might laugh, but I carried a silicone baking sheet and hangers in my bag too. I arrived before the cleaning crew got to our floor, so the bathroom was at least 24 hrs uncleaned when I used it to change, so I was leery of putting bare feet on the ground or my clothes.

              1. WantonSeedStitch*

                That’s actually a brilliant answer to the problem of not wanting to stand barefoot on a restroom floor! Doesn’t take up much room, and it’s impermeable to liquid. Genius!

                1. pancakes*

                  But then you’d be carrying around something that’s been on the bathroom floor. I’d rather stand carefully on one of those disposable seat covers, or just step carefully into my shoes.

            2. Just a Cog in the Machine*

              I have changed in multiple mildly disgusting bathroom stalls (it’s either that or spend an hour or more until I get home and can change out of my gross clothes), and I sometimes keep a beach towel in my bag. I stand on it (and can set my clothes on it if there’s no other place. Then, when done, I fold it so the dirty part is on the inside and put it back in my bag with my dirty clothes.

            3. Shad*

              Women’s restrooms typically have bag hooks. I’ll hang one strap of my bag over the hook, letting the other side dangle so it stays open for easy access. The clean and dirty clothes do touch a little bit, but not enough to cause problems in the time I’m changing.
              As for shoes, it probably helps that I tend to wear flats, but I basically stand on top of my shoes while I’m changing.

              1. YuliaC*

                I do this exact thing, and stand on top of the biking shoes that can take it, unlike my dress shoes.

            4. marvin the paranoid android*

              For biking to work, you can get around the bare feet issue by biking in your work pants with a pair of rain pants over them for protection. It’s less awkward to change when you only need to change your shirt.

              1. azvlr*

                In my case I ride a road bike and have to clip in to my pedals, etc. I can’t image wearing non-padded shorts with the seat I have. They do make padded cycling underwear that you can wear underneath street clothes, but those tend to have lumps and bumps at the seams that could be uncomfortable.

            5. JSPA*

              Unless the wall is gross, lean on the wall, and step gingerly in and out of your shoes. A pair of loose fitting flats works well. You can leave them under your desk if your “on display” shoes are higher, fancier, tighter.

            6. sb51*

              Change your shoes and socks at a non-bathroom location! I have some slip on shoes at work primarily for (snow) boot season. Then if I’m changing in the bathroom I can step out of a shoe and pants and down into new pants/the shoes. Even if you need more formal shoes, a set of slides/flip flops just for changing might be worth it.

          4. Panhandlerann*

            I find it awkward physically to change clothes while standing (it’s hard to put pants on, for example), and usually, in a bathroom stall, standing is the only choice.

        2. Alcott*

          Bathroom stall. It’s not awkward and really doesn’t take any longer than an average pee to change clothes. Of course, I don’t bother with makeup and have an easy hairstyle that goes in a bun under the helmet and can be finger-combed out when I get to my desk.

          My office is in a city where hour+ commutes are common and pretty much everyone leaves exactly at 5:00 pm, so as a courtesy I don’t comandeer a stall during last 10 minutes of the day to avoid the bathroom traffic jam. But really, no one cares.

        3. hamsterpants*

          Anecdote: when I changed in a stall of the multi-stall bathroom at my old job, if there was already a woman in another stall, like at least half the time she’d just sit there in dead silence for the ten minutes it took me to change. I asked the internet about this and the consensus was that many people don’t like to do bathroom business with other people around.

          I didn’t modify my behavior over this but it was a thing to think about!

          1. Mid*

            Without being glib, that’s a them issue. Public bathrooms mean that people sometimes hear you using the bathroom. We all use the bathroom. We all make the same waste. If someone is immature enough that they have to sit in silence instead of using a toilet in a room designed for using the toilet, that’s their issue to deal with, and you shouldn’t change your plans to deal with that.

            1. Mental health is health*

              I’m not immature. I have extreme anxiety issues. And yes, it’s a me issue and I’ve spent a large part of adulthood working on all my anxiety in all it’s facets. It’s extremely rude and hurtful that you’ve called all people with this problem immature.

              1. marvin the paranoid android*

                This is me as well. I really hate running into coworkers in the bathroom so if I think they’re going to get out of there before me, I just wait them out. Sometimes this unintentionally turns into a game of bathroom chicken.

                1. JSPA*

                  And i say this as someone who has to cover my own ears, close my eyes and sometimes even hum quietly, to ignore the fact that I’m peeing NEAR SOMEONE. But as I’ve outgrown other aspects of shyness as I matured, I expect I’ll get there, eventually.

              2. JSPA*

                If you’re not yet where you want to be, regarding this topic, it’s pretty much semantics, isn’t it? The goal of “becoming someone who doesn’t care as much” is another name for maturation. And there is nothing wrong with being intrinsically slow-maturing (or never maturing) in one or another way. Most people have some aspect that’s under- developed (or more common in much younger people). I mean, “immature” (like most words) can be thrown as an insult, but it can also be a neutral descriptor. “Not one of my most mature traits” can be a helpfully de-escalating way to think about one’s own quirks, as it partially sidesteps the anxiety mill.

            2. Serenity*

              Nobody said it isn’t “a them issue,” but using the word “immaturity” instead of anxiety is highly inappropriate and judgmental. Please rethink your perspective.

              1. Fust*

                Why would anyone apply anxiety to a maturity issue? That would be diagnosing a complete stranger. It IS immaturity to not be able to use the public restroom. Full stop.

            3. kitryan*

              I think that overall, just acknowledging that everyone has bodily functions, sweats, pees, poops, farts, and so forth, and we have varying amounts of conscious control over them, which control varies both by function and by person. Some people sweat more than others, some people can hold a fart to get to the bathroom, some can’t, some people have shy bladders (me, on occasion) and have trouble peeing in the company of others, whether we want to or not.
              Outside of those who monopolize the restroom for inappropriate reasons (long chats, extended makeover sessions, long sessions of unexplained sex noises), there’s a wide gamut of human behavior (including both the bikers needing to change and the folks who have trouble going to the toilet in company) that we should all try to be as understanding of as we can.
              Ideally, everyone tries to make room for everyone else’s quirks and issues and we all give a little and we all get a little grace from everyone else, (though in practice, unfortunately, there are definitely those who get way more than they give).

            4. SpaceySteph*

              The other day I went to do that kind of business and these 2 women were having a conversation by the sinks. I at first thought oh I feel rude that I am gonna stink up this bathroom where they’re chatting, but then I’m like… they’re chatting IN A BATHROOM. That’s what its made for and if anyone is being rude its someone who expects other people not to poop in a toilet.

          2. Kal*

            As someone who has done the awkward wait before, I wouldn’t begrudge the other person for existing and using the bathroom for normal things like its primary function or to quickly change or things like that. I recognise my awkwardness is my own and mine to deal with. I only tend to begrudge people if what they’re actually doing is deciding to hang out in a bathroom so they can chat with their friend on the phone for half an hour or something like that where the bathroom is a weird place to do it in the first place AND they’re doing it for extended lengths of time. Even for something like someone taking a quick call to make an appointment

            As a note, a large part of why I have that awkwardness is a lot of shame I was taught to have, in particular due to bullying when I was a child because I peed too fast (apparently girls aren’t supposed to do that? like, WTF is that nonsense, and also how WEIRD is it to be actively listening for other people’s sounds in the bathroom? But its still hard to get over the shame once its been ingrained), and it sucks that people are taught to feel that way about their bodies. Otherwise, its because of the actually legitimate concern about my IBS being very unpleasant to smell and I don’t wanna subject other people to that if I can avoid it, so that ones just straight practicality.

            But either way, as long as you’re (general you) not doing a 30min+ full hair and makeup or such in the bathroom while someone else is in there, its not really something to be too worried about. A quick freshen up and change is a pretty normal thing to do in a bathroom when there aren’t better options for somewhere to do it.

            1. MissBaudelaire*

              The girls at my school made fun of another girl because they could hear when she peed. As in, they could hear the pee hitting the water in the toilet. As if that was something she had any measure of control over.

              1. banoffee pie*

                Yep same at my school. Pretty daft to bully people over something everyone does, but hey, that’s bullies.

          3. banoffee pie*

            Apparently in Japan some of the toilets can play music to cover up any noises. Sounds like a good idea to me. It isn’t so bad if everyone else goes ahead and ‘does their business’ but it’s pretty excruciating to be the only one making noise in a public toilet. You just know everyone else is trying to wait you out and won’t start til you leave but somebody has to blink first lol

          4. Rayray*

            Definitely true. One time I was at the mirror to do some face makeup for our Halloween party and it took a good 10-15 minutes and someone just sat in one of the stalls the whole time. I didn’t care though. I understand that it feels awkward sometimes especially if you need to go #2, it’s not my problem.

        4. londonedit*

          I don’t cycle, but I do run and when I was working in the office I’d often change into my running clothes at work if I had a run with my running club in the evening, so I could go straight there. I’d always change in the toilets – either in a single toilet if available or if not, in one of the stalls. It wasn’t awkward at all! It hardly takes any time to get changed and put your work clothes in your bag. I’ve never had my own office.

        5. Sapphire (they/them)*

          When I biked to work in the pandemic and the gym was closed (so no locker rooms), I would change in a bathroom at the beginning of the day, and then back into my biking clothes in an empty conference room that had blinds over the window. In the bathroom, I could towel off the sweat and freshen up.

        6. Yorick*

          If you’re freshening up your hair/makeup in a single person bathroom, you can open the door slightly at that point so someone can let you know if they need to use it.

        7. Kevin Sours*

          I’ve always changed in the bathroom aside from one place where they had a gym/locker room in the building. Honestly I solved the awkwardness problem by not caring but YMMV

        8. Kuddel Daddeldu*

          Currently, I change in my own office or (when wet/too sweaty) in our locker room (with showers, yay!)
          We will change to a shared desk setup soon so I’ll see what the norms will be then. Being in Germany, people are generally not pearl-clutchingly shocked to see someone changing in a semi-secluded corner. Privacy just has a slightly different meaning here.

          Cycling to work is extremely common in our office; I’d guesstimate at least 50% cycle at least occasionally – in my case, it’s 11km/7mi. Even though I’m privileged in actually having a parking spot in the office, I only drive when I must (torrential downpour, transport of equipment, or having to go to a client’s site).
          I keep a full set of Business Casual work clothes plus a full business formal set in my office just in case.

          In case your commute is leaving you too exhausted/sweaty, you could consider an electric bike – they have become very popular here.

      3. OP5*

        OP5 here! It’ been about a month since I submitted my question and I started work last week. As it turns out, there is a shower and locker room attached to the parking garage, and my ride is downhill most of the way. I like your idea of using a ball cap to keep rain out of my eyes– I wear glasses so when they get wet it’s hard to see.

        Unfortunately, it’s a fairly professional office setting (federal government) and I don’t think it would be appropriate to walk around the building proper in cycling clothes. So looks like I will be bringing along work clothes on a daily basis once inclement weather becomes a problem.

        Thanks to everyone who’s answered already!

        1. StudentPilot*

          Hey OP5! I work for the Canadian federal government, and (up until the pandemic) biked to work in the spring – fall. I’ve worked at various departments (including the headquarters of a fairly large prominent department, where the Minister and other upper upper level had offices) and tons of people biked to work, and walked through the halls to the bathrooms to change (no locker room or showers alas). Obviously, your mileage may vary, and your office may be more formal!

          For rainy days, I ended up buying splash pants and a vented rain jacket that I could put on so that I didn’t arrive soaking wet.

          1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

            Seconding this. I am in the US and have worked for federal and state agencies with formal dress codes. Wearing cycling clothes for a minute is NBD, even if you work in a suit/tie/pantyhose office. Downside is that you will get grabbed for photo ops during every single wellness event and earth day as the poster child of what the agency’s employees do to support both.

          2. Zoey*

            Third! I worked in the federal government until a few months ago and pre-pandemic would wear my workout clothes into the office nearly every day, then exercise, and get ready in the locker room. Granted, it was early, but I ran into coworkers fairly regularly both in the office and in the gym. I think as long as you’re clearly transitioning in the morning, you’ll be fine.

          3. Forty Years in the Hole*

            Former Cdn military/PS here: yes, no one ever batts an eye when folks haunt base HQ – even on the exec floors – in the most amazing array of bike/running gear (…and…one kayaker…). But most of the HQ buildings have shower/lockers, so that was a bonus I realize not all offices have. For other leased buildings, bikers/runners would just use the ladies’ for a quick change, mop n go (ie “field wash”) – sometimes in the stalls, sometimes in the common space. Whatever. Practically everyone had a curtain to draw across their cubicle when changing – kind of code for no peeking.
            Then there was that dude who hard-biked in to work, and w/o even a bathroom “field wash” changed in the conference room, then tossed his grody uniform on his desk at day’s end. Never seemed to launder his uniform, and no one could use the conference room first thing in the AM, cuz: Hoo-boy! Don’t be that dude…please!

            1. Miller-Admin*

              Prior Post?

              Didn’t someone post about their supervisor hanging their smelly shorts or underwear on their office door knob. Was that ever resolved.

          4. Formerly Ella Vader*

            When I was packing up my office after a couple of years working for a Canadian government department in Ottawa, I found three pairs of my underpants in my filing cabinet. I had a private office with a door, and I did a lot of biking to/from work and swimming at lunchtime, which sort of explains it …

            It was definitely part of the culture to be in the building in exercise clothes. I think there may have been a shower (a men’s shower?) in a different part of the building where people did more strenuous work, and I remember some male colleagues running at lunchtime. When the building re-opened after the big ice storm/power shutdown in 1998, I took the bus to work wearing my sailing foul-weather gear (a heavy yellow waterproof suit) thinking I’d probably fall on the sidewalk, causing one of my co-workers to take one look at me and shout “Thank God, it’s the Hydro!” (meaning, the electric-power utility)

            1. Red Panda*

              As a lifelong Ottawa resident and a current government employee, this is soooo true. The overlap between government people and outdoor sports people is massive :D

        2. CountryLass*

          You could also see (if you don’t have your own office) if there is somewhere that you can store an extra outfit or two, so that you have a spare in case you fall off or your bag with your change of clothes gets ripped our similar.

          1. I Herd the Cats*

            +1 to this — I’m a fan of keeping an extra couple of clothing items at the office anyway — if you spill your lunch on yourself before an important meeting, etc. Most of us in our 30-person office had a spare shirt and trousers stashed, plus a blazer if you were suddenly on the docket for a VIP meeting and you felt slightly under-dressed. (I worked in a relatively formal office.) This also worked out great a couple of times when I somehow FORGOT the bottom half of my outfit, I had a bike commute to the subway and wore leggings, with my skirt/trousers in my bag.

        3. Sapphire (they/them)*

          I kinda figured that the building would have a shower and a locker room. More offices are hip to the idea that people want to bike to work, and try to accommodate that as best they can.

        4. Junior Assistant Peon*

          That’s what I was going to suggest – many workplaces have a locker room somewhere if there are employees who need to shower and change, such as plant floor workers who change into coveralls at the beginning of a shift. If you’re on the office side of things, you might not realize there’s a shower available somewhere. I could have taken a shower at almost every workplace I’ve had if the need ever came up.

          The cap is a great idea too. I always keep one of those free promotional caps in my car to keep the sun out of my eyes.

          1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

            While a cap may keep the sun out, it won’t help much if you get into an accident.
            Please, people: Cycle safely! That includes a helmet, visible clothes, and good lighting on your bike. A cyclist presents a very thin silhouette and is easily overlooked.
            Not long ago, an acquaintance of mine was killed by a truck driver doing an unexpected right turn :-(

        5. Workplace cyclist*

          In my experience, as long as you make a point of getting in a few minutes early, nobody will make too big a fuss.

          At one point I stopped my desk in my bike gear to grab the makeup and deodorant I kept there – and my grand-boss came over to ask me an extremely involved question. I smiled, said “I’m sorry you caught me before I got dressed — ” and he offered to give me a few minutes to change. But it definitely helped that this happened at 8:50 and not 9:05, even though it wasn’t a particularly punctual office.

          1. Not A Girl Boss.*

            Meh, I actually am one of the last people to get into work and it’s still not an issue. At first I felt super mortified when I was still in my cycling clothes and got ambushed at my desk first thing with a question someone was waiting to ask me. But as time went on, I realized literally no one cared but me. They actually seem to really respect/envy that I ride to work. It does help that I wear some baggy shorts over to cover my bum. But in general my hair would be a mess etc and no one has ever batted an eye. The CEO even ran into me once, said “oh do you bike in? That’s cool.” And walked away.

            1. azvlr*

              If you conduct yourself like it’s 100% normal, it will be 100% normal and may turn others on to bike-commuting.

        6. Ali G*

          The CEO and the COO of my org both bike to work. They lock their bikes in the bike room, come up to the office, grab something from their stash of clothes and go shower. It’s totally fine where we are. We also have a large US Fed office in our building and lots of those folks bike too. It’s very common these days.

        7. sara.bellum*

          OP5 – I was hoping that would be the case – we are seeing that more and more in office buildings here. Enjoy your commute!

        8. Roscoe da Cat*

          I work for the US federal government and I can guarantee that people are coming in dressed in workout clothes and then changing. So many people…DC is very exercise-focused town.

        9. Phlox*

          I know State Department is a full-professional clothes right from commute vibe according to friends so they tend to bike slow, have a pannier (not backpack) to avoid sweat (there are some brands that look “office-y” and not sporty, and do a bathroom refresh. But the great thing is that basically anything can be “cycling” clothes, especially for a 20 min commute!

          1. Not A Girl Boss.*

            Panniers are just life changing in general for comfort while cycling.

            I love the Ortlieb panniers, they make one that is indistinguishable from a laptop bag and completely waterproof. But I use a regular big old pannier from them and no one seems to notice, I love that how works for piling clothes on top of my lunch. I also have a Chrome handlebar bag that I use as my purse and is great for stashing my lock key, phone, and badge for quick access when I get to work.

            1. kt*

              I love my Arkel panniers. They’re made in Canada, last a long time, and have a variety of pannier-to-backpack, pannier-to-messenger-bag, pannier-as-laptop-bag options. Have been using two of their products for >15 years now.

          2. OP5*

            That is extremely similar to the place where I work. I’ve been here a week and I haven’t seen anything else but professional-wear unfortunately.

        10. Galadriel's Garden*

          One thing I’ve seen suggested and want to also recommend is a pack of backpacking wipes, in case there are days where you end up surprisingly sweaty – I just used them on a 9-night camping trip last month where we had no showers, and they made a *world* of difference in managing the grossness. Between those (Sea to Summit makes great ones), some face wipes or wash, and some dry shampoo, you should be in good shape.

        11. CityCyclist*

          I cycle commute (about 30 mins each way) and recently came across a range of hybrid active/officewear trousers from Uniqlo that have been brilliant – they are quick drying and comfortable to cycle in but look smart. Now I only need to change top.

          Pannier bags make a huge difference too.

        12. SarahKay*

          Not sure if you are a wearer of skirts, but if so, as a walker to work I find that on wet days a knee-length skirt is a far better option than trousers as legs/tights (both sheer and thicker woolly tights) dry far faster than trousers or jeans. (In fact jeans on a wet day are the worst!)
          And as of my last birthday I have a waterproof ‘kilt’ that my Mum made me which is fantastic at keeping my skirt entirely dry. It’s made of waterproof fabric, and doesn’t have the pleats at the back, but does just wrap round over my work skirt with a double layer at the front in the same way that a kilt has. I haven’t tried it on a bike, but I’m pretty sure my step-Dad used one when he was doing a lot of cycling, although in his case he wore it over shorts.

          1. Batgirl*

            +1 to cycling in a skirt. Bare legs dry so much faster than wet pants, and you also have the option of putting leggings on beneath (a lot of my work pants got nicked by the chain at the hem) or switching them out for tights at the office. If you’re bare legged: a heavy fabric skirt won’t budge, and you can also do the “penny in your pants” trick if you have a flyaway skirt on one day. Or wear actual cullottes! I also approve of the peaked cap idea; it’s totally miserable to have driving rain in your face, and quite dangerous with glasses. I used a baker’s boy cap in winter. It’s warmer, and I could pile my long thick hair into it and it would stay dry. Do consider whether you need to be wearing a bike helmet instead though (I was using an off road cycle path).

            1. No Sleep Till Hippo*

              I am dying to know what the “penny in your pants” trick is, and I’m too afraid to google it….

              1. Mizzle*

                If you include “trick”, it’s probably quite safe.

                Apparently, the idea is to hold the back and front of the skirt together (while wearing it, so between your legs) and hold a penny behind both layers of fabric. Wrap a rubber band around the fabric-covered penny and voila, you’ve improvised a fastener.

            2. Kevin Sours*

              Just keep in mind that anything long and flapping around *is* going to get caught in your chain. Which is both a safety hazard and likely to be very hard on the clothing (chain grease is not easy to get out of things)

              1. A Grenda*

                That’s only true if OP#5 has a road bike. For a 20 minute ride it’s very possible that they are riding a commuter bike. Many commuter bikes come with a built in chain guard. One can also buy after-market chain guards of varying quality that are designed for use with commuter bikes. The difference between a road bike and a commuter is like the difference between a sedan and a pickup. They’re both cars, but they’re very different vehicles with different features.

          1. Carol the happy elf*

            A bike helmet is a need, not a luxury. I have a face guard, which I put on with snaps, and when a large dog ran right into my front tire, I slid along and the face guard was deeply scratched, but my head was protected. Skin was mostly protected, but I did have a shoulder sprained. The ER doctor told me that I would have left most of the side of my face on the road without the face guard, and wouldn’t have survived without the helmet. I replaced it immediately with another just like it.

        13. Rock Prof*

          My commute is sadly too long (>30 miles) to bike regularly, but my husband has a 20 minute ride. In the winter (we’re in the midwest, so it gets cold and gross), he’ll drive in once every couple weeks and take in a load of clean work clothes, so he doesn’t have to carry them with him. He’ll bring it home for washing similarly. If you have a place to store it, taking a bunch in at one time could be easier than doing it every day.

        14. Ace in the Hole*

          You can also look into rain pants and jackets. I have a pair of rain pants that zip completely open at the sides, so they’re really easy to put on without fussing with your shoes. With good rain gear you won’t get your clothes wet even in pretty heavy rain.

        15. Hydrangea McDuff*

          I also work public sector and have a similar sounding commute. I go straight to the restroom to change and I keep a bag of toiletries—deodorant, baby wipes, makeup, Bobby pins and a comb— in the shared bathroom (it’s not super public). I do wear bike gear to work especially during inclement weather, but if the weather is ok I sometimes ride home in my work clothes. I don’t keep a full set of clothes at work, but I do have socks and underwear.

          I live in a super outdoorsy area so this is not an unusual practice. I honestly felt more nervous at first than anyone ever made me feel. The only comment I’ve ever gotten was, “oh did you bike today? Cool!”

        16. Sandman*

          You know, for a 20-minute ride you might not even need to change. This is going to be very person- and weather-dependent, but if you use a bike with fenders and a chain guard and ride at a walking pace you may be able to ride in your professional clothes. I’m not working in an office now, but that’s what I did when I was.

          And it sounds like you’ve figured this out, but a good lock, lights, waterproof panniers and solid rain gear make all the difference in the world as well. Pogies for your hands when it gets cold are pretty amazing, too.

      4. ForeignLawyer*

        Speaking up for the pannier option here. I find using them really reduces back sweat and also wrinkles/wear and tear in your work clothes if you wear your work clothes on the bike. Plus they hold more, and if you get one meant for bike packing IME they are much more waterproof than backpacks.

      5. Paul B*

        My commute is only 20 minutes, so I don’t break much of a sweat. I ride in bike shorts or bib tights. Then I change in my office, where I keep a stash of shirts, pants, and ties (on hangers), socks (in a drawer) and shoes (on a shelf). This works because I have my own office. I’ve done this for the last five years.

    3. TCO*

      OP 4: It’s possible to freshen up at the office without using a shower. When I bike commuted, I wore exercise clothes for the ride and carried my work clothes in a bag/pannier. At the office I’d freshen up (you can baby wipes, or carry a washcloth in a plastic bag), change, and put on my makeup.

      The trick is to have the right products with you, whether in your bike bag or at the office. Deodorant, hair products as needed, washrag/towel/wipes, makeup if you use that, etc.

      If my bike clothes were sweaty by the time I reached the office, I’d try to leave my bag open under my desk or hang them up if I had a discreet place to do that, so that they didn’t sit damp all day. Of course, make sure your bike clothes are frequently washed so they don’t smell.

      In many places, biking to work or otherwise changing into/out of exercise clothes isn’t uncommon. It might feel weird to arrive at the office without being perfectly dressed and polished for the day, but most people won’t bat an eye.

      1. hamsterpants*

        This is all great advice. I bike commuted, including through inclement weather. Washcloth in a ziplock bag gets you mostly clean. Remember that “body odor” is not the smell of sweat itself but the smell of bacteria that feed on your sweat. If you are clean before the ride and your clothes are clean too, then there won’t be many places for the bacteria to come from. The exception would be if you’re sweating out food smells, but those can be controlled by avoiding especially smelly foods.

        A good sporting goods store like R.E.I. will carry special laundry detergent for extra-smelly sports clothes. I found the stuff sold at sporting-goods stores was much better than the “extra strength” detergent from conventional grocery stores since the latter was just, like, triple perfume, and that’s not what you want.

    4. The German chick*

      #5 Change into your shirt, shoes and blazer at work; get a good pair of rain pants and coat. If it rains heavily, consider walking with an umbrella. That’s what I did when I was working in a job with a rigid dress code (diplomacy).

    5. What watch? Eight watch. Such much!*

      Biking question: there are lots of techniques depending on how formal your work is and how messy your commute is. Also, if you have your own space, can you hang a towel? For more professional: pack a pannier with your nice clothes wrapped with a towel, so they won’t wrinkle too much, and wear cycling clothes to bike. If it’s more casual, most days you can just wear your work clothes – you won’t want to on rainy/snowy days though(unless you’re too sweaty, then continue to carry work clothes in your pannier). It’s also helpful if you can stash spare work clothes in a drawer, because accidents happen. I find spare shoes handy, for rain – I don’t want to wear wet shoes all day. (you’ll need different shoes if you have cycling shoes anyway). You can also get a quick-dry microfiber towel, and wash yourself down at work. Don’t forget lights, as we get into winter. I have both battery and USB rechargeable ones.

      1. Telgar*

        To me having spare socks in case of rain/snow was the most important thing (my shoes were waterproof but the socks get soaked from the top).

      2. April*

        Re: lights: I got generator lights on my commuting bicycle and it was the best money I’ve ever spent on ANY of my bicycles. I never forgot to bring them with me, or forget to take them off in high-theft areas, they didn’t bounce off my rear rack and break (I lost. SO MANY. rear lights this way???). They also don’t provide any noticeable resistance at all. Being able to just get on my bicycle and go (and have daytime running lights for that matter) has been worth every penny! I got them put on in 2012 and have had ZERO problems with them since. :D
        (Seriously, the only downside has been people telling me “hey your bike lights are on” when I walk away from the rack, because it takes a couple of minutes after stopping for the lights to fade.)

    6. Jojo*

      #5 -I have had two professional jobs to which I walked/biked to work 30-60 min. in a hot climate, and these are my thoughts, FWIW:
      1. Change of clothes is key. For one job, there was no shower. I kept my professional clothes in my office (file cabinet, and back of door for suits), and then had commuting clothes. Changed everything – down to undies. Bought a backpack that would be comfy for taking clothes back and forth (but would leave jackets in office and swap out on occasions with transportation.) For other job, there was an office gym (w shower), so that made it easier. But still did backpack and in-office clothing storage.
      2. If you can plan your wardrobe with this in mind, it’s helpful. I had an army of wrinkle resistant shirts that looked great out of backpack, non-distinct suits that went with any shirt and wouldn’t be noticed if worn multiple times in week.
      3. Downy wrinkle releaser. Learn it, live it, love it.
      4. It helps if you have a low maintenance look. I’m a woman, but have short hair and minimal makeup. If you take 45 min to “do your face” in the morning, then this might not work for you.
      5. Genetics help, but that’s not something you can control. Just more of a – “Is this realistic for me?” For whatever reason, I really don’t have a strong personal odor, and I don’t sweat a lot. So, this was doable for me. I’m contrast, I had a colleague who was a former professional athlete, who would take an hour to stop sweating after working out at the gym. There would be no way he could commute outside with no shower.

      1. Batty Twerp*

        Just to add, in case wrinkle release products are not available (I’m in the UK, that brand is unfamiliar, but I believe we have something similar in poundshops) – learn the roll packing technique. Don’t fold your clothes with a towel, roll them. Done properly they also take up less space.

      2. Dust Bunny*

        All of this. I’m on the US Gulf Coast and there is no way you could be presentable after a bike ride to work in this climate, most of the year, without a complete do-over once you arrived at work and cooled down. On days I ride the bus I have a block-and-a-half walk from the bus stop and you sweat just doing that because it’s 85 degrees and humid at 7:30 in the morning.

    7. L'étrangere*

      OP5, another solution is to take public transportation to work once a week or so and bring enough clothes for the week, so you don’t need to schlep spare clothes every day. Much depends on how much storage you can dispose of at work. You might also investigate whether you new job has a deal with a nearby gym, which would allow you to shower before work. In any case you should mention your desire to bike to HR when you get oriented, there might be resources you didn’t see in the hiring process

      1. Wendy*

        Piggybacking on this – if there’s public transportation available (or a kind significant other with a car), that can make a HUGE difference whether biking is a reasonable option or not. Biking 100% of the time (through blizzards, heavy rain, August heat waves, etc.) may be a stretch, but biking 90% of the time may be much more doable as long as there’s a contingency plan for bad weather. I found that having a roommate willing to drive me when it was pouring outside made biking the rest of the time a pleasant bit of exercise instead of a total slog.

        1. amoeba*

          Yes – I love biking to work but really can’t be bothered to do it when it’s pouring or snowing etc., so I mix it with public transport. Helps a lot to not be completely dependent.

          For the rest – for me, I don’t really need anything for a 20 min bike ride, but then we don’t have a dresscode, and jeans and shirts/T-shirts etc are fine for biking for me. If it rains, I just wear a raincoat (or, again, take the bus). Don’t really get very sweaty unless it’s super hot – and then I’d be sweaty after the bus ride as well, so no real difference there!
          Of course, it’s a difference if it’s 20 minutes of more or less relaxed cycling through the city (which for me isn’t even really a physical activity0) or 20 minutes of full on racing uphill…

        2. Splendid Colors*

          Another idea is to see if public transportation can take you most of the way and you just need a bike for the “first mile & last mile” of the trip.

          I’m in the SF Bay Area, and the commuter rail between SF and the South Bay has 1-2 “bike cars” specifically for people to transport their bikes so they can ride to the train, and from the train to their office.

          Likewise, the VTA Lightrail has spaces onboard for 4 bikes per car (usually 1-2 cars per train) and BART (subway) has room for maybe 2-4 bikes per car (usually 6-10 cars per train). I’m not super familiar with all the bus agencies, but VTA in the South Bay has racks for 2-3 bikes on the front of each bus. The double-length articulated buses also have a rack for 2 bikes near the rearmost door.

          I haven’t traveled outside the Bay Area since 2010 so I don’t know what other transit systems do about bikes.

      2. Seeking Second Childhood*

        Ask about the shower. If the company has a lab or manufacturing area, they may have a shower as a safety measure in case of a chem spill. (Although here at least, newer buildings are installing emergency deluge shower heads right in the lab…so do mention it’s for commute not safety.)

        1. hamsterpants*

          Every shower I’ve seen in chemical labs for safety is only for emergency use. It’s not a nice private stall but a showerhead in the laboratory. Zero privacy, no hot water, water sprays all over peoples’ work areas. It’s to keep you from sustaining chemical burns, not to freshen up.

          1. Junior Assistant Peon*

            Chemist here. The emergency safety showers are ice-cold, and many places with labs will also have a regular showerstall in the restroom so you can take a warm shower after using the emergency shower. These are also great for people who like to bike to work or go jogging on their lunch break.

            If there’s a manufacturing area at your company, there is very likely a locker room for the plant workers to change and shower.

          2. Ace in the Hole*

            This wouldn’t be the emergency shower in the lab itself – safety showers are definitely not appropriate for ordinary washing off. It would be a regular shower in the bathroom or locker room. It’s not universal, but plenty of places do have a small shower area… especially if there’s a risk of employees becoming soiled while doing the job.

            We have a deluge shower unit in the hazmat handling area for emergency decon, but we also have a regular shower in the bathroom for things that are not emergencies (like getting splattered with rotting fish or latex paint).

          3. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Exactly–those don’t count. My mfg site is in a building so old that it doesn’t have those. But it did add a single shower stall to each bathroom along the side of the mfactory floor. So yep OP should ask.

      3. azvlr*

        I keep a spare outfit including underwear and a few pairs of shoes at my desk. I also keep a variety of condiments at my desk so I don’t have pack them with my lunch (salt shaker, soy sauce, chili-salt, etc.)

        Every once in a great while I’ll drive to bring things in.

    8. Astrid*

      Premium Formulations Shower Solutions – Adult Bathing Wipes are your friend – they’re a shower substitute.

      1. Chels*

        I was going to recommend this also! I’ve used a different brand, scrubzz, but same solution. I couldn’t shower for a few weeks after a surgery, and these were awesome and perfect and surprisingly effective.

    9. Allonge*

      Take enough time for the ride to the officec so you don’t have to rush – I am really not fit, but an added five minutes can help (I realise time is a consideration for you, but still). You can push it going back home.

      If there is no shower, is there a single-stall restroom with a sink? You can freshen up there.

      I usually wear something weather-appropriate and breathable for the ride and bring a set of clothes with me to change into, at least for my top half which gets sweaty.

      And rain gear! There are various types, pants, ponchos, coats… it’s a bit trial and error, but figure out what works for you, especially to allow you to see – I have glasses; rainy, dark November mornings took some time to figure out. A controllable hood is great, so you can tighten it up against a wind.

    10. TBS*

      I think this depends a lot on office vibe. I bike 40 minutes to work and have a casual office. I wear workout clothes and change into my work clothes once I get there. I bike in sneakers and always keep a pair of work shoes at the office that I change into for working hours. Once I arrive I change in the common bathroom (in a stall of course), apply more deodorant, and do a 3-5 minute makeup routine (think just sunscreen, bb cream, and mascara). Sometimes I change for the ride home and sometime I don’t, depending on the weather and my outfit for that day. People do see me in my workout outfit, but again, my workplace is casual enough this doesn’t matter.

    11. LilyB*

      Take the bus on the first day and scope out whether there is a shower! You may have to ask the office manager. In Seattle, it is VERY common for offices to have bike storage and a shower available, but it could be on another floor or in a covered garage.

      Your other option, if you live in a city and decide you really want that shower, is to get a gym membership within a block or two of your office. Doesn’t need to be a nice one!

      1. Tilly*

        I’m my office (SoCal), our “office complex” has a gym. It’s in another building across the street, and I only know bc I asked.

        In prior job (DC), my company had a gym (with locker room/showers) in building but it was in basement (and company was on floors 6-13). I knew bc they prompted as perk.

      2. Bowserkitty*

        Your other option, if you live in a city and decide you really want that shower, is to get a gym membership within a block or two of your office. Doesn’t need to be a nice one!

        Seconding this; I have friends who do this!

      3. Aquawoman*

        My husband biked to work and he was able to get a gym membership that was just for the use of the shower at a reduced cost, so I’d suggest asking about that as well.

    12. Megan*

      So like others have said, it depends on how challenging the commute is, but generally changing at work is ideal. If your ride is pretty low key and not one where you’re likely to sweat a ton, you could get away with getting those clothes that are professional, but also functional and stretch and dry fast like LuLu Lemon, Athleta, or Prana type clothes if your office is more on the business casual side of things. If it rains and you aren’t changing clothes then get some good rain pants and jacket. I’d also recommend a strap to wrap around your right leg to keep your pants legs from catching on the chains or getting oil on them if you’re biking in your work pants and they aren’t a skinny fit.

    13. verruecktsax*

      #5–I bike 25-30 min to work each day in full kit. I’ve found that these things work for me.

      1) I keep clean clothing and shoes in my desk drawer. I typically bring this to work at the beginning of the week and swap everything but the shoes at the end of the week.

      2) I have a travel size deodorant, dry shampoo, and wet wipes for when I can’t make it to the shower. In non-pandemic times when I could shower, I kept a quick-dry camping towel with my gear.

      3) Good rain gear is critical to not look / smell like the “Swamp Thing” on your rides into work. At a bare minimum, a good jacket and backpack cover. Ditto for good cold-weather gear so you don’t spend all morning warming up.

      4) I love my backpack, but I know others swear by a pannier rack. Try both and see what works for you.

      1. Splendid Colors*

        I use a backpack sometimes, but it’s not my favorite way to carry things on a bike.

        The allegedly anti-sweat mesh facing your back is more likely to cause friction damage to clothing (pilled sweaters, for example) than to prevent sweating under the pack. Also, having a weight above my center of gravity can change my balance on the bike. The weight of a pannier is below the center of gravity and tends to stabilize the system.

    14. John Smith*

      People often commute by bike where I work. It’s actually encouraged, especially for being green and healthy. Of course you’re going to turn up all hot and sweaty! What you don’t want to do is not be able to have a shower when you get there though. You can always change in a bathroom if there’s no other facilities (but don’t hog the place). But please please don’t be like Jeff at my place who struts round for an hour or so in unsuitably tight lycra, leaving a trail of sweaty BO behind him. I think he thinks people enjoy looking at the outline of his nether regions. We don’t.

      1. Brooks Brothers Stan*

        I was just about to add to the list of comments suggesting changes of clothes and such but now I have the overwhelming urge to update the Don’t Be A Jeff section of the employee handbook.

    15. allathian*

      My husband rides his bike to the office occasionally, sometimes he’ll run one way and ride the other, they have storage space for bikes at his office’s underground garage. He’s a marathon runner, so he’s fine with a half-marathon each way. He keeps some clothes at the office. His employer’s even provided a small changing room with lockers and a shower.

      I’m not as fit as he is, so for me to do the same would require an electric bike. My office also has both changing rooms and lockers, but I’m very much a fair weather biker, I’ll only ride if it isn’t too cold, too wet, or too windy…

      My sister also rides a bike to her job, she’s a scientist and needs her lab, so she’s been going in about once a week even during the pandemic, and she can also shower at work. Luckily she can do most of the writing from home.

      1. Not A Girl Boss.*

        I’m so excited that e bikes are making cycling more accessible for the not-ultra-fit. I’m one of those, and it makes it so I can actually “keep up” with my husband who is a 300-mile-a-week cyclist, when we go on weekend rides together.

        I used to be a very fair weather bike commuter, but the more I did it (and the better my cardio got and so the less everything burned….) the more I caught the bug and the less weather bothered me. Now I think it’s the single best thing I do for my physical AND mental health each day. It’s amazing how the terrible work problems don’t seem to follow me all the way home when I bike.

        Anyway, I’ll get off my soap box now lol. My only point was that I think it’s worth trying even if it’s just once every few weeks. You don’t have to sign up to commute daily for the rest of your life to enjoy the occasional extra outside time.

        1. Hydrangea McDuff*

          yes! This. I have always wanted to be a bike commuter but time and terrain (and having small kids at the time) always interfered. My ebike has made it possible.

    16. Sleeve McQueen*

      This has me curious – how common are end of trip facilities in the US? At least in the city, here it’s not uncommon to have bike storage and showers in office blocks. Some even have towel service!

      1. Blueberry Girl*

        I don’t think it is super common, but probably depends on your region. My campus has free showers in multiple buildings (not just the rec center where you might expect), complete with lockers you can rent for super cheap to store your stuff. However, I also live in a rural place where people chose to live in cabins without running water and might also be high level professionals, so I don’t think my campus is a good standard by which to judge the rest of the country.

      2. Stitch*

        It can depend on the job too. I work in an office building and our only on-site showers are in the gym (which is highly discounted but you have to join).

      3. Zircon*

        I’m not in the US – I don’t think I have ever worked at a place that DOESN’T have showers. Not everywhere has bike storage, but those that didn’t had safe places to lock a bike. Businesses must have full access toilets for staff and clients. Most of the full access toilets include a shower. They have always been available for staff use.

      4. April*

        I must be the least sweatiest person on earth–I’ve been bicycle-commuting since 2006, sometimes long distances, and never felt like I needed a shower when I arrived at work? Especially when I worked “normal” office hours–it’s usually chilly in the AM.

        1. Bamcheeks*

          Same! I spin between, “everyone else is just paranoid”, “it must vary a lot from person to person and I’m lucky?” and “what if I stink and just … don’t know?”

          That said, in these covid times, nobody should be getting close to notice!

            1. Aquawoman*

              Right, I live in DC where it’s hot and very very humid. There’s no way you could bike to work in 80+ degree weather with high humidity and not sweat. Also hilly.

              1. Birdie*

                I used public transportation when I lived in DC, and I would still plan to arrive to work early in the summer so I’d have time to cool off and clean up a bit. I’m a naturally sweaty person, so a 10 minute walk to the subway then waiting in a stifling hot station meant I was a mess before I even got on the train. There’s NO way I could’ve biked and not needed a shower prior to work.

            2. Sleepless*

              Climate is a GIANT factor. I live in Atlanta, where the humidity is so high that you will arrive soaking wet, except in winter, regardless of your fitness level.

            3. Birdie*

              Definitely. I’ve lived in four different regions of the country, and only in one of them do I think it would’ve been consistently pleasant enough in the mornings to bike without sweating a ton. Not surprisingly, that was the most bike-friendly place I lived – a lot of people took advantage of that weather.

            4. Bamcheeks*

              Oh well yeah, I definitely can’t speak to what it would be like cycling in weather hotter than 30°! But I mean when I’ve had conversations with people in the same country as me. :)

        2. AnotherAlison*

          You’re lucky! I don’t bike to work because I currently work from home, and other jobs have been too far, but sometimes I will do a casual “zone 2” 40-minute training ride outdoors, and even on a nice, cool 65 F day, I still stink. I have some sort of special BO. I’ve raised teenage boys and I smell worse than my son’s car after he would leave baseball gear in there for a season. I have to put my clothes in the laundry room to air out, rather than the master bath because it’s so gross. I went to the dr. for it–no answers. Just no biking for anything but fitness in my future, I guess. I don’t sweat a lot when I’m not doing anything at least.

        3. TechWriter*

          When we had a downtown office, my bike ride was ten minutes, very little slope. I have 0 pace though, so even in spring/fall, I would arrive sweaty. Same goes for when I walked in the winter! Needed a warm jacket and wind-breaking pants to keep out the wind and cold, but worked up a sweat underneath all that because of my Need for Speed. (My skate-commutes were the worst for arriving dishevelled, but that probably goes without saying.)

          Thankfully, my office had a bike locker and shower facilities. Also thankfully, I am a very low-maintenance person in a pretty relaxed office. I would hang my sweaty shirt under my softshell jacket in my cube. In retrospect, not the most professional thing, but I didn’t GAF at the time and I’m pretty sure no one else did either.

        4. marvin the paranoid android*

          I’m also surprised by all the office showerers in the replies. I don’t usually shower even after a multi-hour bike ride. I feel like I don’t sweat much when I bike but maybe I’m secretly very gross?

          1. Batgirl*

            I never needed to shower when I biked either but this seemed to surprise people. It was barely 15 minutes downhill; in winter I was barely above chilly.. I was certainly not hot enough to sweat, even in summer. Which was fortunate because there was no way provincial newspaper offices in the UK were going to provide showers.

        5. Not A Girl Boss.*

          Me too! I’ve even made friends at work smell me. What I can say is that my commute-rides are nothing like my exercise-rides. I make a concerted effort to stay in Zone 2 when I’m commuting, just because it’s a good way to log those Zone 2 hours in and avoid getting over sweaty. I live in New England so it certainly gets hot, but I can say I never even tried riding after 8am when I lived in Florida. I actually get sweatier in the winter because I’m a cold wimp and constantly start my ride over dressed.

          I’m also lucky that the only horrid hill on my commute is on the way home, on the way to work I just sit back and fly down that hill.

      5. JB*

        We have a couple of showers on our work campus, but they’re in particular locations (where people higher up the chain work). I did know someone on the customer service team who was given a key to one of these shower facilities when he started running to work.

      6. Ace in the Hole*

        I’m in a small city in a rural part of the US… I’ve never seen dedicated bike storage or shower facilities here. Some places have a bike rack outside to lock up at, some will let you put the bike inside if there’s spare room. My work has showers but they’re not convenient to use routinely as they’re only intended for cleaning off if you’re splashed with something really gross.

        Of course, we also don’t have large office blocks in my city. Most offices are in small old buildings (sometimes even converted from houses) that have a 5-10 person capacity.

    17. Elbereth Gilthoniel*

      For very warm days, keep a stash of shower wipes at your desk. I won’t add a link to a specific one (because I don’t have any specific brand loyalty), but you can google “no rinse bathing wipes” or “shower wipes”. They’re stronger/thicker than baby wipes.

      Also, I agree that if you can, bring your work clothes in a bag and change in the office.

    18. double pluggers*

      I had a 40 minute uphill commute to work (still quicker than PT! and the roll home was an exceptional way to end the day) and would arrive at the office a complete mess. Luckily my office has a shower, so if I was particularly gross, I could just pop in there. It’s surprisingly common where I am, in notoriously cycle-unfriendly Australia. Maybe your new place has a shower? Bring a set of flip flops (I would say thongs….) to wear in the shower, to avoid any conversations where you need to accuse a coworker of giving you tinea. Otherwise I’d just get changed in the bathroom stalls, comb my hair and reapply deodorant. My office is pretty casual though. If I had an in-person client meeting, particularly in the morning, I’d leave the bike at home and take PT. Though I suppose I could have spun the red face and sweat: “I put AN INTENSE AMOUNT OF ENERGY into writing for your company!”

      1. TiredTeacher*

        I teach in a school and cycle an hour each way (this is the longest cycle commute I’ve had but I’ve been cycling for 30 years). I take a pair of trousers to work at the start of the week and leave them there, shoes are permanently there and I roll up a shirt and put it in my bag. I don’t sweat anymore than I do in my daily lessons (menopausal!), not aware of a smell but if it’s particularly bad I keep wet wipes on hand. Change in the bathroom, I make sure I’m in before the kids and leave after them… also a haircut that isn’t affected by the helmet (or a buff under your helmet to avoid helmet hair all morning…)

        1. TiredTeacher*

          Also I find I’m hungrier with my (longer) cycle commute – I usually also keep cereal bars at my desk!

    19. Not Australian*

      DH and I tried biking to work and back in the mid-1990s and ran into problems, some of them due to the terrain/quality of the route but others not; it was the lack of safe/adequate bike storage and washing/changing facilities that eventually scuppered us. The conclusion I came to was that cities need proper facilities for cyclists to store their bikes during the day, and which would also hopefully also include showers and lockers; I was in a relatively front-facing job and *never* felt clean and fresh after cycling in, even though most of it was downhill…

    20. LilacLily*

      my suggestion is: ask! message your contact at the new company and ask whether people bike to work and how they (the employee and the company) handle it. they should at least know that so and so bike to work and can ask them about it for you or you can ask them yourself on your first day. a 20 minutes cut on commute sounds amazing, plus it’s a great exercise to start the day! I hope you manage to make that your commute :)

    21. CreepyPaper*


      I don’t know what the terrain is like where you’ll be riding but if it’s hilly, seriously consider an e-bike because it will reduce exertion and therefore you won’t arrive too sweaty.

      I believe there are conversion kits for regular bikes that can turn them into an e-bike if you can’t shell out for a second bike. I’m speaking from the UK here so wherever you are, have a look and see what’s available and within budget.

      1. Juniper*

        I just recommended the same thing — I’m also in Europe and it seems like more people are riding e-bikes than the traditional kind.

      2. TechWorker*

        The conversion kits are I think still more expensive than the cheapest e-bikes. I don’t disagree with the suggestion at all, but e bikes are a significant cost (at least double the equivalent non-e bike) and the cheaper ones weigh a tonne and so may not be feasible depending on where the bike needs to be stored. For example the first time I cycle commuted I was living in a 3rd floor flat in an area where any nice bike outside would be at risk of being stolen. I owned an e bike a few years later so know from experience lower end ones are completely impossible to lug up stairs!

        1. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          In some cycle-friendly places, like my little suburb of Paris, the local council will stump up a good 50% of the price for an e-bike, which means you can look at pricier, more lightweight models.

        2. marvin the paranoid android*

          This might depend where you live. In my experience, the conversion kits are a bit cheaper than the cheapest e-bikes, but depending on your bike frame, they might end up putting the battery somewhere awkward like on the rear rack. And they are at least as heavy as the cheapest e-bikes, so there is no huge advantage to the kit unless there’s something specific about your bike that you like.

        3. Toothless*

          I lugged my ebike (Liv Amiti E+) up and down three flights of stairs for a couple years and it was doable but not fun :D It weighed almost 50 pounds, but the battery was in the frame so it was reasonably balanced. It works if you have decent upper body strength and aren’t carrying a lot of stuff on the bike itself, or if you’re able to make one trip for the bike and one trip for the stuff you’re carrying.

          1. Splendid Colors*

            That sounds pretty light for an ebike. I have an non-electric cruiser that weighed something like 44 lbs out of the bike store, plus the heavy duty rack and two U-locks.

      3. hamsterpants*

        Be careful with this. Depending on where you live, e-bikes may be classed as motor vehicles and thus have different access to e.g. bike trails.

        1. CreepyPaper*

          But you still have to pedal so they’re still a bicycle. Over here all e-bikes can go the exact same places as a normal bike. I see them every weekend on the local mountain bike trails so unless I am defining ‘e-bike’ very differently to you I don’t think there’s an issue. I mean a bike with a battery that gives you extra assistance – my husband has a Canyon Grail:On which is an electric gravel bike and he’s never been told he can’t ride it anywhere a normal bike can go.

          1. hamsterpants*

            In at least one US state the laws distinguish the two. Also your husband might be in violation of the law but it’s not being enforced. It’s just a thing to be aware of.

            1. Splendid Colors*

              Laws vary from state to state, but at least in California it seems the manufacturers are staying on the “bike” side of the “bike vs. motorcycle” rules. I remember wanting a moped when I was in high school and changing my mind when my mother found the DMV rules saying I’d need a motorcycle license for most of them because they had a maximum speed higher than the limit to qualify as a bike just because of having pedals.

              Definitely check your state laws, though.

        2. Toothless*

          Only in some cases! There’s three different classes of e-bike:
          Class 1 has no throttle, only pedal assist, and the motor cuts out at 20mph (so if you go over 20mph, the motor stops assisting you until you go under 20mph again). These are legally equivalent to a regular bike, so you don’t need a driver’s license and you’re legally allowed to go anywhere a regular bike could. My bike is class 1 (Liv Amiti E+) and I love it.

          Class 2 has a throttle, but the motor cuts out at 20mph still. These have slightly more restrictions, I think mostly in California, but you still don’t really need to worry about it.

          Class 3 has no throttle, but the motor assist cuts out at 28mph instead of 20mph. I think where I live these aren’t allowed on multi-use trails and sidewalks, but they’re fine in bike lines.

          Keep in mind that 20mph on a bike feels VERY FAST compared to 20mph in a car. 10mph feels like normal, recreational bike speed; at 20mph I pass pretty much every other cyclist I encounter on a trail. 28mph is going down a huge hill with your eyes watering from the wind and watching very carefully for potholes because if you hit one going that fast, you’re going to crash.

          1. Kevin Sours*

            10 is a pretty sedate pace. 20 is a good clip but 30 isn’t that hard with a solid tail wind or a modest hill. You can get faster than that going down a huge one.

            1. Splendid Colors*

              You CAN get faster than 20 mph on a bike, but many roads in my city have too many potholes, patches, giant tree root cracks for it to be safe. If you’re going downhill with a tailwind, you don’t need motor assist anyway.

      4. sb51*

        +1 for pedal assist ebikes! And I say this as a pretty serious cyclist who often commutes as exercise on a non-electric bike — but I have a shower at work, and a very wash-and-go personal grooming routine.

        You choose how much assist—maybe you only need it on hills to keep from sweating. Or maybe you ride to work with the assist on full blast and turn it off entirely on the way home where your shower awaits.

    22. Juniper*

      If your budget allows, get an electric bike. You go faster and don’t even break a sweat. Plus, if you want to get some actual training on the return trip, you can adjust the resistance up. I might change my shirt just because it’s more comfortable to wear workout gear when you’re active, but that and fixing your helmet hair is about all the “freshening up” you’ll need to do.

      1. Anima*

        Dress a little bit less than the weather requires. It’s hard to explain, but I take a thin raincoat and leave my knitted sweater off. The first few minutes on the bike are not comfortable, but you’ll warm up quickly without breaking out in rivers of sweat. I then put my sweater on when I arrive to keep warm while sitting.
        That said, rain clothes, second set of clothes, shower if possible are all good tips.

      2. Toothless*

        Tips for helmet hair!

        – My hair is long now, but when it was shorter I had a chin-length haircut that flipped out right where my helmet hit so I could shower and then bike with wet hair and it would sort of set it into place for me. On the way home I could pull the top half up and it worked okay.
        – French braids are the easiest option; you can wear a thin cap or something to keep your helmet from frizzing things up too much.
        – If I have my hair down and curly, I’ll twist it up into a bun shape on top of my head before I put my helmet on and then when I get where I’m going I’ll take it out and scrunch it back into a nice shape with water or something.

    23. April*

      Oh hey! I can answer this one! I’ve been bicycle-commuting to literally every job I’ve had since 2006–up to twelve miles each way, in some cases. :D

      Probably going to echo what everyone else has said, but:

      1. fenders!!!! (or mudguards, as they call them in the UK). Seriously. They help SO MUCH.
      2. a chain guard is also nice but they don’t work on derailleur bicycles. If you have a single speed or internal hub (like a three-speed) they’re great for keeping grease off your leg/pants.
      3. RAIN GEAR. If your commute is only 20 minutes it’s probably fine to wear less-expensive (but you’ll still want cycling-specific, usually) rain gear. A coat (with a hood), pants, and boots or shoe covers. They’re also REALLY helpful in cold weather because they block the wind! REI has options. So does Sierra Trading Post, though the selection is unpredictable. Many of the options easily fit *over* normal clothing, which means you don’t have to change when you arrive–just remove the outer layer. (Rain pants often zip way up the outside of the leg so they can be removed over shoes, even.) I live in the Pacific Northwest. Having proper rain gear is worth every penny. You will be SO much comfier, especially on a commute that short.
      4. In nice weather, just wear normal clothes. Pants can be held out of the way with a dorky little strap (it works, okay) if they’re not “skinny”-fit. Pencil skirts usually don’t work but a-line almost always does. You do not need a “women’s” frame to wear a skirt on a bicycle. And heels are not an impediment either–you pedal with the ball of your foot, anyway. I have biked in heels and dresses on a diamond-frame bicycle many, many times. (The real problem is button-up shirts with tight shoulders!)
      5. When it’s hot as balls, wear as little as you can decently get away with and then put on more clothes when you get to work. If you work normal office hours, in most places the morning is reasonably fine. But if you have to go anywhere in the afternoon, give yourself time at your destination to stand in front of the a/c vent (or run cold water over your wrists in teh bathroom) and let your sweat dry a little. Showers are usually overkill. If it’s a problem, bring a hand towel or wet-wipe.

      In general: cotton is great in the summer but terrible in the winter, because once it’s damp it takes forever to dry and provides zero insulation. If you’re wearing rain gear it’s not too bad on a commute that short, though.

      Seriously though, a 20-minute commute is just not that long and most of your normal clothes plus protection from the elements will be more than enough.

      1. April*

        Oh, other things I forgot to mention:

        A pannier on a rear rack is always going to be comfier than a backpack, and many panniers are more spacious than your average backpack.

        Don’t forget you’ll need sunscreen for at least one half of your commute for most of the year! Sun damage is irreversible and cumulative and happens even when it’s cloudy!

        Mittens are warmer than gloves, but some brake/shifter setups make mittens awkward. Wind and rain can make your hands FREEZE. There’s lots of fancy cycling-specific gloves out there, but my commuting bicycle is a three-speed so I’ve been wearing the same pair of thick hand-knit wool mittens since, like, 2012. (I did have to patch them last year, they’d worn so thin where I use my grip shift.) They’re nearly waterproof and I *never* have cold hands.

        1. IndustriousLabRat*

          Have you seen what I call “lobster gloves”? I’m sure there’s a term for them but they remind me of a lobster, so gonna roll with that… They are like mitten glove hybrid monstrosities with either the index finger free of the rest of the mitt, or the mitt split into two 2-finger sections (which I prefer, being warmer). And they tend to have good palm grip material too, as they’re made for skiing. I love them for riding my motorcycle in the winter (I’m in New England) and still being able to operate brake/clutch levers.

          Also, do you have toe straps on your pedals? The only issue I find with heels is that the soles are so often without sufficient grip not to slide around- smooth plastic, leather, etc. I ride in heels all the time- seriously; it’s easier than walking in the silly things- and have to be sure to buy only ones with proper treads, or gum-rubber soles.

          1. April*

            Lobster gloves are in fact what those are called, lol. I’ve seen lots made specifically for cyclists, which I think is great!

            I have toe straps (Power Grips) on one of my bicycles, but they’re REALLY loose, because I can’t push my heel out very much–I have to be able to basically pull my foot out straight. But it’s a good point to note that slippery soles + metal pedals can be a disaster. (Actually now that I mention it–I fell off a bicycle wearing cheap flats with slippery soles once because of this. Went to stand on my pedals to go uphill and one foot just slid right off the pedal.)

            But yeah, thin rubber stick-on treads for shoes with heels are actually pretty cheap? (American Duchess sells them to put on their $300 shoes, even.) I also once saw a trick women in Denmark use, of wrapping flat pedals in rubber bands to make them grippy. There’s also a variety of grippy pedals.

        2. Keanu Reeves's Patchy Beard*

          Bike mitts! They fit over the handlebars/brakes/shifter. There is increased wind resistance, but not enough to really slow you down.

        3. Batgirl*

          Ooh good point about gloves. The only things that ever kept my hands warm while cycling was leather gloves+cashmere lining. Fleece and wool were useless, but I do have particularly cold hands.

      2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

        I really wouldn’t recommend cycling to work in high heels. Much better to leave a pair of pumps at the office and wear something sturdy. It would be so stupid to break the heel off if your brakes failed and you had to put your foot down.

        Although apparently if you look very feminine on a bike (flowing skirt or scarf, hair loose, etc.), motorists tend to give you a wider berth, because they think you’re probably going to fall off any minute.

        1. April*

          If your heels are so cheap/poorly made that putting a foot down would break one off, AND your brakes are so bad you might have to put a foot down, then sure? I guess? I’ve never had either of those things happen, though; even in shoes I stole from my mom that were cheap in 1977 for a bicycle ride in 2011. (Also I can only put my foot on the ground via getting out of the saddle? Is your saddle high enough?)

          The only actual danger I’ve had from cycling in heels is forgetting they can get caught on my pedal, and having a split second of “huh? oh!” when stopping. Bicycling in them is way easier/comfier than *walking* in them, quite frankly.

          And yeah there’s a thing I’ve seen called the Mary Poppins effect (i.e. if you wear “feminine” clothing drivers are nicer to you) but as I understand it, it’s not about falling off the bicycle (why on earth would a skirt or loose hair make me *fall off*) and more about how a lot of drivers see cyclists as…not people. You’re a “cyclist” which is somehow different. Wearing “normal” clothing humanizes you, which is kinda sad if you think about it. (Other things that apparently humanize you, judging by how drivers act around me and others: having things like just-bought toilet paper bungeed to the rear rack, anything involving carrying a pet, riding with children, bicycle baskets used to carry anything, really.)

          1. Seeking Second Childhood*

            Your skirt comment made me remember my disastrous attempt to bike to school in the 80s with a trendy long, flared, flouncy skirt. Totally tangled before I got down the driveway. I had to change and repair.

          2. IndustriousLabRat*

            “The only actual danger I’ve had from cycling in heels is forgetting they can get caught on my pedal, and having a split second of “huh? oh!” when stopping.”

            So… this gave me a flash back to my most embarrassing cycling moment ever. I had just changed the cleats on my cycling shoes, and didn’t scuff the new ones down, and completely forgot how stiff the spring on my clipless pedals was, when combined with factory-thickness cleats… You can only imagine the mortification of coasting up to the lights in the main intersection in my bustling college town, full VERY BRIGHT lycra, front of the line, 3 lanes in each direction, busy midafternoon downtown traffic… and just… slowly falling over, unable to release my damned foot from the pedal. I wanted to crawl down the nearest storm grate.

            Just goes to show, even purpose-built cycling shoes are not without their perils!

            1. April*

              LOL all my friends who have worn those shoes have done that at LEAST once, it’s like a rite of passage!

      3. OP5*

        Thank you, April, this is so helpful! I think I’ll have to get a pants strap, as most days this week I’ve walked around with one pant leg rolled up before realizing it looked like I was really trying to show off my socks.

        For rain gear, I’m thinking about getting a poncho so I don’t sweat so much and maybe to reduce clothing changes. Has anyone here used one of those? (Am looking at Cleverhood)

        1. Anne Kaffeekanne*

          I used to cycle to work (and everywhere else – very bike friendly city) and a poncho is a godsend! L o v e d it. No idea what brand I had because it was dirt cheap from a dollar store equivalent, but in general, rain poncho while cycling – very useful, would buy again. Make sure it really is big enough to cover you when you’re sitting on the bike.

          1. PT*

            I had a rain poncho when I was biking. I had to add a sash (It was a piece of fluffy yarn off a skein I had, very attractive) because it billowed out like crazy when I was riding and I looked like the Headless Horseman. But it was big enough to cover my backpack.

        2. Jennifer*

          You are reminding me that some summers ago when we were visiting Hamburg, a city in north Germany where (1) people dress much more formally than anyplace I’ve been except Federal workers in DC, and (2) the weather is dreadful, people were biking to and from work in professional clothing, on sort of “cruiser” style bikes, while holding umbrellas. (Because it was raining, obviously. More-or-less continuously.)

          More practically, much of the issue in DC will be hot weather, and you mentioned earlier that your commute was mostly downhill. Wear as little as you can, and see if you can hit the sweet spot between hardly working to pedal and getting a breeze. When I was doing that commute, somewhat professional-looking tank tops or cap-sleeved shirts over which I could put a light jacket when I got to the office were my favorite choices. Rain gear is good to have (and needn’t be particularly expensive: you can get hiking rain pants and use that same dorky pants clip/strap), and … honestly? I would just take the subway on the rare occasion when it’s snowy or icy. DC drivers are pretty bad at the best of times, but absolutely dreadful in snow and ice.

          1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

            I can attest to that (happen to live in Hamburg for some 30 years). Our weather is a carbon copy of Seattle’s and it’s true that many offices are (or at least used to be) on the formal side.
            Cycling to work is fairly common and the city is doing a lot to encourage it, with good bike paths and “veloroutes”, purpose-built cycling roads.

        3. April*

          Ponchos work great! They don’t always cover your lower legs/feet enough depending on wind conditions and road spray and they can increase wind resistance, but my friends who’ve worn Cleverhood really like it.

        4. Sandman*

          I just asked Twitter for bike poncho recommendations yesterday and every single person suggested Cleverhood.

        5. Amsterdam Commuter*

          Late to comment so you may not see this, but I would recommend looking up Dutch rain gear brands. I live in the Netherlands and 1) everyone cycles everywhere and 2) it rains All The Time. I’ve got a MAIUM brand raincoat that has side panels that unzip and can go over your bike handles to keep you dry on the bike, then zip up if you’re not on the bike and still need a decent rain coat.

      4. Toothless*

        I also live in Seattle and I have ALL the rain gear tips! My favorites:

        – Waterproof shoes are much easier than shoe covers, especially boots are because they’ll keep the hem of your pants dry. I like the Kodiak women’s original leather boots a lot.

        – If you’re female-presenting enough to wear a skirt, an online shop called Georgia in Dublin makes a waterproof wrap-around skirt for cycling and it is a GAMECHANGER. It packs up small, is incredibly fast and easy to put on and off (like pull your bike over and put it on when it starts raining and be cycling again in less than a minute), and keeps rain and wind off the top of my thighs and far enough down my calf that my boots take care of the rest.

        – Panniers are great because I can tie my jacket around my waist as well so I can avoid getting sweaty but still get it on quickly if it starts to rain.

        – The Georgia in Dublin skirt also has an elastic clip-on garter, and it’s great for biking in a skirt. I clip the garter just under my knee and safety pin the hem of the skirt to it. They sell the garter separately if you want one for each leg or just want to have extras in case you lose one.

        – Georgia in Dublin also makes waterproof glove cuffs that you can buy separately, and I’ve found them to be just as helpful as the skirt. They don’t keep all the wind and water off your gloves, but they’ll keep a regular pair of waterproof gloves from getting soaked through and act like a windbreaker to make them warmer. I also sometimes take a small electric hand warmer when it’s really cold, because I can tolerate much colder hands while riding if I’m able to warm them up quickly when I get to my destination.

        – I use a terry-cloth lined shower cap as a seat cover on my bike so that when I have to stop at lights and stuff, the rain doesn’t bead up on the seat and soak into my pants as soon as I sit down. If I have to park my bike outside, I turn it the other way around so it waterproofs the seat. The other nice thing about this is I can wash it as soon as it starts getting smelly so the smells don’t transfer back onto me later.

        1. April*

          Man I have been SO TEMPTED by the Georgia in Dublin rain skirt. Glad to hear from someone who’s used it!

          And yeah I have a pair of Merrell boots that look just like normal women’s leather boots and are dressy enough for most office jobs, but are waterproof–they were pricey (I waited for them to hit a discount site and they were still $120 I think) but I’ve had them since 2014! They badly need resoling at this point, but even if I just tossed them, I absolutely got my money’s worth. They’re calf boots, so that and my rain pants kept my legs plenty dry. I don’t know if they make that style anymore, though.

    24. Bamcheeks*

      My bike ride is currently 15 minutes downhill on the way to work (hooray!) so not too intense or hard work. I can get away with wearing leggings, normal shoes and normal work tops with a reflective jacket over at the moment, and then I just put a (big, midi) skirt over the top when I get to work. (Business casual, I tend to wear full midi skirts and jumpers at the moment.)

      As it gets into winter, I find I need to change more not because it’s sweaty, but because it’s rainy and I don’t want to get road muck all over my nice shoes and skirts and tops. Plus, I’ll be wearing heavier jumpers and they’ll be way too hot to cycle in, and if I get PROPERLY wet, it’s very good to be able to change out of wet leggings, socks and shoes into something dry.

      Good luck! Personally, I LOVE cycling to work— I used to get so cold sitting at a desk all day but when I’ve started the day with a bike ride it seems to kick my circulation into gear and it lasts all day. Plus if I’m changing anyway, sometimes I wear fancier clothes and shoes that I actually wouldn’t want to wear to bus/walk in.

      1. Bamcheeks*

        Also, if you are anywhere where the temperature regularly goes below 5 degrees, spend a decent amount on gloves. If you’re in the Midwest or something, probably spend more than your bike is worth on gloves. Your hands get SO COLD on a bike because they’re stretched away from your torso and curved around a handlebar, and once they are cold you just cannot. get. warm. until you get to your destination. I spent about £12 on a secondhand reflective jacket, £15 on leggings (not proper cycling leggings, you don’t need bum padding for a short commute), and £30+ on gloves.

        1. Green great dragon*

          For cool summer mornings, cycling sleeves are great. They roll up small enough to shove in a pocket.

        2. RebelwithMouseyHair*

          I actually wear double gloves and socks when it’s very cold, I usually peeled one pair of gloves off half-way along my commute.

        3. mskyle*

          Forget about gloves and get bar mitts or motorcycle/snowmobile pogies! Then you can just wear any old gloves (and have much better contact with your handlebars besides than with serious warm gloves).

          Otherwise, yeah, everyone else’s advice stands here. My main tip is “just don’t go so hard!” You’re not racing, and in fact if you ride so hard you make yourself sweaty and have to give yourself a sponge bath, you’re costing yourself time. And on days you know you’ll need to change your clothes (hot or rainy) make sure your clothes are easy to change in and out of.

          1. April*

            I have cyclist friends who live in Minneapolis and Edmonton–places where in the winter you have to bicycle in snowboarding goggles or YOUR TEARS FREEZE. I do not think I am that hardcore. But yeah, for winter cycling they often have a different bicycle with studded tires–and pogies on the handlebars. I don’t think you can use them on drop bars, so that’s worth keeping in mind.

            Re: heat: in places with low humidity bicycling slowly can help re: sweatiness (where I live has relatively low humidity in the summers, and often a really great breeze on hot days) but in places with high humidity and 90F/32C high temps… It’s just not going to help much. You step outside and you’re sweaty to the point of dripping just standing still in the shade within seconds.

            I know that wearing patterned/darker colored clothes can hide sweating a lot, but given the option, just wiping down and changing at your destination is usually better.

        4. Sutemi*

          Neoprene bike mitts are my favorite bike accessory for winter weather! They make a huge, huge difference in hand temperature while biking, because they wrap over the handles and protect you from the wind all the way up your wrists. This way I can wear thin gloves and retain dexterity to shift and break, but the extra layer keeps all the wind away. I have the Bar Bitts brand but there are others!

        5. NeonFireworks*

          THIS, this this this. I was a bike commuter in the Midwest for a bit, and even in the fall, the worst part was how cold my hands got. I spent $55 on a pair of hardcore ski gloves, which solved the problem.

        6. Kevin Sours*

          I was going to say that I’ve literally been called crazy for biking in the cold and I tap out at 10 degrees. But I think we might be working on different temperature scales.

    25. Green great dragon*

      Does depend a lot on the commute. I cycle about that distance to the station at a very stately speed, and get a lot hotter squeezed onto the train than I do cycling, so I often just wear work clothes, especially if it’s a loose top (the jacket is stashed in the bike basket). But if it’s a hot day I’ve been known to change in the station toilets.

    26. Anon Manager*

      I used to bike to work for years. I grabbed a gym membership at a place a block or two from my office. After biking, I’d go to the gym for the locker room and the shower.

    27. UShoe*

      As a lot of people said, it’s going to depend on your cycle. If you’re doing 6 miles and plenty of uphill in 20 minutes you’re going to be working a lot harder than if you’re going 2 or 3 miles at a sedate speed. It also depends on how you present yourself at work.

      Your office may well have a shower, don’t rule it out. But if they don’t, and its a high-exertion ride, babywipes, deodorant and changing in the toilets could be sufficient if you’re happy with it. Make sure you give yourself enough time to change, you don’t want to be rolling up to work at 9am and then spending 10 minutes getting changed. I chose to wear makeup and perfume, so I bring those with me and wash my face in the bathrooms before applying. You’ll cool down and de-sweat within the first hour, and most people will be impressed by your commute not judgemental.

      Just use your common sense and if you have a big meeting first thing, or an especially formal day in the office, opt for public transport even if it takes longer. I’d also suggest doing this on your first day anyway (first impressions and all that) and then asking about cycling and facilities when you get there.

      1. dontusuallypost*

        Agree with all these comments. I used to do a 50 minute cycle to work every day and I didn’t use showers once I got in. I had a special ‘cycling cardigan’ which was very light cotton so it didn’t make me sweat much, and I wore a light anorak over that. At some traffic lights about halfway I would normally quickly take off the anorak and put it in my backpack if it was dry, as I’d got too hot by then (but would have been too cold starting out, without it). I am one of those people who has to cycle essentially as fast as they can, so I would work up a bit of a sweat but still not too much as long as you use good deodorant! If you’re worried about getting too sweaty, I’d just say go a little slower and start out 5 minutes earlier. Give yourself 10 mins when you get in for the ‘helmet head’ to wear off, check your face in the mirror (I used to get pollution specks on my cheeks from riding behind buses! Gross), change into a different jumper. Personally I never had an issue with work clothes (even riding on a men’s racer) as I just wore dresses with loose skirts, jeans, or if wearing a long skirt, made sure it was stretchy material. But that’s also my office culture and personal comfort preferences!

    28. me*

      * scope out the ride ahead of the first day you want to commute if you aren’t 100% sure of the route so you don’t have to worry about getting lost the first time you bike in (like I did, oops!)
      * talk to the building manager about where you can leave your bike. some buildings have bike rooms, but I’ve found that leaving the bike locked at an appropriate place is usually pretty safe.
      * your building might have a shower or even a gym on-site if you need to shower
      * a bike bag that hooks to the rack of a bike is much more convenient than wearing a backpack
      * regardless of whether I’m taking public transportation or riding my bike, I have “work shoes” at work and “commuting shoes” for the commute
      * baby wipes and deodorant can go a long way to feeling comfortable upon arrival. I also have a desk fan at my desk that goes a long way to cooling me down if I come in sweaty
      * my current job requires some standing up and moving around, so I usually wear knee-length leggings under my skirts and dresses at work (it’s a casual office). When I bike, I’ll often wear these leggings, a sports bra, and a tank top during the ride and throw my dress / skirt / sweater choices on over these when I arrive. This works because it’s a more casual office with different wardrobe requirements than other offices I’ve worked in.
      * be aware of your public transportation options, even if you only rarely use them. there may be a day where you wake up to find a flat tire and don’t have time to change it, or a freak rainstorm that you don’t feel like biking home in.

    29. Jenny D*

      I used to bike about 10 kms to work. If it was heavy rain or ice/snow on the roads, I’d take the bus instead.

      We didn’t have a gym, but all the toilets were single occupancy. I’d bring a change of clothes, and give myself a quick sponge bath with a washcloth, dry off, get into fresh clothes and comb my hair and be okay for work. I kept a pair of indoor shoes, and a jacket and a cardigan at the office so I didn’t need to worry about getting those creased; for the rest, I chose clothing that didn’t wrinkle and was careful with packing.

    30. Elwingdepelwing*

      My mom bikes into work (1 hour each way) and she changes her shirt in the disabled toilet. She wipes her face, neck and armpits with a disposable wipe and puts on fresh deodorant. It helps that she knows no one else wants to use those facilities at that time; obviously it’s not the greatest idea to block off the disabled toilet for 10-15 minutes every morning and potentially hinder other people.

    31. Ed123*

      I’ve never had a car so I’ve always cycled to work and school. My advice is to just adjust intensity. I cycle slowly enough not to get sweaty cause I don’t wanna shower or change clothes. Sometimes I might put a workshirt in the bag. I also have deo at work.

      Rain: I have a raincoat and trousers (helly hansen). I also have wellies and work shoes at work. Cap is good under helmet not to smudge makeup.

      Snow: winter tires for snow and ice. Wither winter pants or using the rain pants and my regular winter coat on top.

      It’s all about the layers. However this only works if the cycling is not too intense.

    32. Medusa*

      I’ve bike commuted in very different climates. When I was in a scorching hot place, I had to bring a change of clothes with me. In other places, cycling to work in my clothes has been fine. During the heat wave, everyone was sweaty, regardless of whether or not they cycled.

      There are also moisture-wicking formal wear, which I’ve never tried, and is expensive, but might be worth a shot.

    33. Frances*

      OP 5 – I guess it depends upon the type of commute you have but I wouldn’t wear your work clothes while biking. I put mine in my backpack and wear casual clothes or biking clothes on the commute. I also have a stash of work clothes at the office as a back-up and some basic toiletries (deodorant, lotion, etc.). Unless you are chugging up a bunch of hills, you won’t get too sweaty on a 20-minute ride so a quick change in the bathroom (paper towel off any sweaty bits if need be) and you should be fine. Oh, and bike fenders for the rainy snowy days.
      Biking commuting is a great way to start and finish you work day. Good luck! :)

    34. None*

      #5 I totally agree that it should be fine to bring clothes to change but wanted to add that GoodWipes brand wipes are awesome. It’s really like a shower in a wipe. We often walk, at lunchtime, and I use them on warm or humid days.

    35. MainelyProfessional*

      I dunno: in Philly I biked in a suit and heels on formal days, office-y clothes otherwise, and just wiped out my pits when I got to the office. No one ever complained I was stinky. When it snowed I took the bus until things were plowed out. Lot of bike commuters in the city, and I never saw anyone commuting in full bike gear/workout clothes unless they were doing like 15+ miles in from the ‘burbs.

      1. Doc in a Box*

        Agree; I used to bike everywhere in Philly in work clothes (often had to commute between two different locations on the same day, and it was quicker than waiting for/taking the bus).

        Now I live in NC and between May and September, can’t be outside for more than 5 minutes without rivers of sweat. Between that, the aggressive drivers (more dangerous than Philly because they are going a lot faster), and the lack of bike protections, I stopped bike commuting entirely. :(

    36. EE*

      I’ve often cycled (am female) in full trouser suit with no modifications, just adding raingear weather-dependent! Backpacks are handiest but lead to more sweat than a pannier, so consider a sports bra and then changing into other bra in the office.

    37. mskyle*

      Oh one more thing about being stinky: If this is a problem for you, always take a shower before you ride in. I know it seems counterintuitive to shower before your “workout” but I swear, for most people fresh sweat takes a while to start stinking, so if you start with a clean slate you’ll be sweaty but probably not stinky by the time you get to work.

    38. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Only one trick to add –baby powder. Gets rid of lingering damp feeling, especially for armpits & under bra straps. Drawbacks are that the bits that fall can be slippery on a tile floor, it’s visible against dark clothing, and the cornstarch versions might be bad in an area with endemic cockroach issues.

      1. kitryan*

        To minimize waste and overspray type issues, I put a smallish quantity of powder in a circular tin (I use the shampoo bar tin from lush but any appropriately sized reasonably airtight container would work) and top with a powder puff (like for makeup, available in 3 packs at most drugstores) that closely fits inside the tin. If the fit is good, even when carried around, it all stays pretty tidy. This way you don’t have the full bottle of powder that might spill or poof in an unwanted way, just enough for a couple days/a week, and you can pat the puff where you want the powder to go, with minimal extra going every which way. The whole set up is kind of a makeshift version of the loose powder tins for make up (which probably could also be repurposed to suit) and I find it quite handy for dispersing a bit of powder under the arms or boobs or wherever it’s needed.

    39. FD*

      A lot of this depends on if you’re a heavy or light sweater by nature. If you sweat really heavily (e.g. dripping with sweat, hair soaked), you’re going to have a really hard time cleaning up in the office to the point of being presentable. But if you’re a more moderate sweater, you will be okay. Things I’ve done:

      1) I don’t ever ride in my clothes–I change at the office. The best case is if you have an office with discreet storage and can leave at least some work clothes there, such as a change of shoes, makeup kit if applicable, suit blazer if applicable, so you only have to ride with your base work clothes, which aren’t generally too heavy.

      2) I imagine you have this, but a good waterproof bag for your bike is a must so you can store your change of clothes.

      3) When you pack your clothes, remember a full change of underclothes. When you sweat, a lot of the sweat ends up on your underwear and bra (if applicable). Changing out of that takes a lot of the cuss off.

      4) As others have suggested, baby wipes. You can also carry a dry washcloth and wet it down in the sink if a baby wipe doesn’t cut it.

      5) Have new deoderant to apply; you’ll probably sweat the old stuff off. I personally liked to store some in the office in the same place as my change of shoes so I wouldn’t accidentally leave it at home.

      6) Have a supply of baggies–I like to reuse plastic grocery bags for this–to seal up your stinky clothes during the day, even if you’re putting them back on after work. This keeps you from stinking up the office.

    40. ObsessedCyclist*

      Get a few cheap drawstring bags and pack your clothes for the week, which reduces what you need to bring in each day. Shower if they have it, otherwise bathing wipes and deodorant.

      1. Single Speed*

        There’s a product called dry body wash and it’s amazing. It helps take away the stickiness from being sweaty much better than baby wipes. If you’re a makeup wearer I’d suggest doing your makeup at home and then just doing a little powder to fix where your helmet rubbed. If you’re going to be biking with a company laptop make sure you have a plan to prevent rain damage. If you’re going to commute in bike shorts, discretely keep a pair of underwear in your desk or your bag in case you forget to pack them with your outfit.

    41. StateWorker*

      I’m a pretty sweaty person and I haven’t had anyone in my offfice care. People in the elevator even comment on how awesome it is tht I bike. I often hang out at my desk in my biking clothes until I dry off and then change into my work clothes. I put makeup on at home and then use a buff band to absorb my forehead sweat. And I put my hair in a bun and let it down as soon as I take my helmet of.

    42. House Tyrell*

      Depending on your budget and how early you want to wake up, someone from my grad program joined a gym in the same building or close by to their office solely to shower there after the bike ride to work but they also biked up and down hills on city streets in the south so they were like ~really~ sweaty. I think they also got a few free months but taking advantage of “first month free” deals at surrounding gyms if you want to try that and see how you feel!

    43. This Old House*

      When I biked to work in a not-overly-formal office, I tended to just wear my work pants (which were of a quality that reflected my non-profit salary, anyway) because they looked more or less the same regardless of how I’d commuted. But I wore a t-shirt and sports bra to bike and packed the top half of my work attire, and changed quickly in the (single occupancy) bathroom when I got to work. I was not as committed as some here – I just took the subway in bad weather.

    44. kiki*

      As someone who has biked to work and who has worked with a lot of people who bike to work:
      1) accept that you will smell a bit ripe after biking and act accordingly, don’t think “Oh, I’m sure nobody will notice!” I’ve worked with a few people like that and they’re lovely but I do notice and it’s not pleasant. I’m sure there are people out there who *truly* do not smell after biking, but it’s definitely a minority of folks.
      2.) bring separate biking and work clothes
      3.) pack a wash cloth, small towel, or body wipe so you can wipe yourself down in the bathroom after biking
      4.) bring a snack for after you bike to work (I’m always hungry)

    45. Suz*

      When it’s hot out or raining/snowing, I change into my work clothes once I get to the office instead of wearing them on the commute. I also keep a pair of shoes at work so you can wear rain/snow boots when the weather is bad. I sweat a lot more with a backpack so I found hauling my stuff in panniers instead of a backpack helps a lot.

    46. Erin*

      I would definitely not bike the first week or two. Feel out the vibe of the office first.

      I work in tech, and when we were in-office, nobody would have batted an eye at cycling to work. There were lots of cycling commuters. The dress code is/was anything you want (including Spongebob jammies), and some buildings have showers & bike lockers.

      Buuuut, that might not be the case where you are. Feel it out first to save yourself from any totally avoidable embarrassment.

    47. queen b*

      my dad has biked to work my whole life (I’m 27) varying commute from 3 miles to 30+ (yes, even in minnesota winters). as others have suggested he keeps a pack of clothes and also just clothes at work sometimes to quickly change into. if you live in a biking city though, it’s not a huge deal and as long as you’re clean and don’t smell I really think because you’re even thinking about it this carefully you’ll be fine! happy biking :)

    48. Ann O'Nemity*

      I agree with the advice to bring clean clothes in a dry sack. If you have a desk and/or storage at work, leave a few things there to help you freshen up. Deodorant, perfume/cologne, hairbrush, make-up, etc. And a pair of nice shoes that you don’t have to lug back and forth to work every day.

      Get a nice rain jacket that has a hood specifically designed to go over a helmet. I found a nice Marmot one that works well, and you can scrunch it up really small to fit in your backpack when not in use. I’ve found that the hood does a much better job of keeping my hair dry than the helmet alone does.

      Regarding snow – I’ve never tried biking in it. One of my colleagues does, but she invested a lot in special tires, bad ass gear, etc. It doesn’t look easy!

    49. kt*

      I had a commute of ~6 miles for about 5 years. I am a woman. My tips:

      * Just don’t work that hard…? :) Sometimes a leisurely ride works well and you don’t get that sweaty.

      * Figure out hair. For me, ponytails/buns were great.

      * Layers are good in summer: bike in tank top and bike shorts, then throw on a dress and a necklace for the office.

      * In winter, I did stop when roads got too icy or when snow was packed in a way that made my commute too difficult. But again layers are useful, and keep a coat in your office if possible: for biking you’ll want something rather lighter (even if it’s very cold) and if you need to walk somewhere to lunch and you’re in a very cold climate you’ll be unpleasantly cold with only your biking jacket.

      Honestly I just didn’t get that sweaty/disheveled. A good deodorant and clothes that packed well when I wanted to look very nice were all that I needed. I certainly biked in jeans and shell many times and then threw on a blazer in the office and was fine.

    50. Andrew*

      I used to bike to work all the time and just arrived 15 minutes early to clean up a bit. Bike to work in shorts and a t shirt and then change when you get to work! Strategically applied wet wipes and deodorant after you change clothes will keep you from alienating your coworkers. Being fairly anxious I checked in with a few folks about it and they all said they didn’t notice any funky smells.

    51. azvlr*

      I haven’t seen this mentioned yet:
      Get a bike fit or if cost is a factor, look for some DIY videos. Keep your bike well-maintained, and make sure the tires are properly inflated. I inflate my tires on Sunday nights and lube my change every couple of rides (maybe too often, but it seems to make a difference).It will save you a lot of sweat-inducing exertion, and you’ll feel like a bad-ass when you can zip along.
      Learn how to change a tire and keep a tire change kit handy.
      Your local bike shop may offer workshops on maintenance or bike commuting. Subscribe to cycling forums for additional support.
      WELCOME! The world needs more bike commuters!
      Thank you, Alison for posting this question. I’m getting some good tips too.

    52. Carrie*

      I bike to work often and always just wear whatever pants I want to wear to work that day with a plain tshirt, then changed my top in the office bathroom. I figure my top half is what gets sweaty and as a woman I’m much more comfortable walking in wearing professional pants (rather than leggings or shorts) while the top is more flexible. Also if your looking at biking as your commute rather than exercise, give yourself some extra time so you can take it slow and relax without getting “I just left the gym” sweaty. I sometimes find that I’m more sore after an intentionally slow ride anyway.

    53. Meery*

      I’ve seen a lot of people mention wipes but specifically witch hazel wipes (they make like baby wipes sized ones) are the best I’ve found for freshening up. I feel like they also reduce odor better than other wipes I’ve tried.

    54. JT*

      I’ve biked to work for years! In the before times, when I wasn’t working from home, I’d pack my work clothes, fresh underwear, deodorant, and any other “might needs” in a bag along with my lunch. Wearing the backpack made me even sweatier, so I used a basket on my bike rack to store it – I also keep large plastic bag in the backpack so I can wrap it up in wet weather. Now I have saddlebags, but I found the backpack in a basket just as easy.

      I have curly hair, so that was the hardest part to figure out what with the sweat and helmet. I found what worked best for me is scrunching my hair up and tying a bandana around it, before putting on my ear warmers/toque/helmet.

      I would get to work around 20 minutes before my “start” time. I’d sit at my desk for a few minutes looking at social media so I could cool down some, then head to the washroom to get changed. I unwrap my hair, using water to refresh the hair product and get my curls into a satisfactory chaos, then grab some wet paper towels and head into a stall (yes, I’d use the accessible stall because no one else is around at that time) for a “sponge bath-lite”, get dressed, and pack away my riding clothes into my bag in a way that they get the most opportunity to dry during the course of the day.

      Going home at the end of the day is everything in reverse, except I get to have an actual shower once home!

      I’ve never felt judged for arriving to work sweaty. My workplace culture allows people to go do workouts on their lunch breaks and that sort of thing, so it’s acceptable (momentarily). People are fair more likely to admire you for biking your commute.

    55. Phil*

      I don’t know what I can add but I cycled to work for many years. But I didn’t work in an office so I could work in casual clothes-shorts, jeans, etc.
      I guess my best tip would be don’t treat your ride to work as a training ride. Take it easy. Try not to break a sweat, which is easier said than done.

    56. Susana*

      I used to bike to work – or even walk 3 1/2 miles, which was pretty sweat-provoking in warm weather. For the walk I would wear a T-shirt with whatever I had on for work, then bring a clean shirt and underthings, and just kind of freshen up with baby wipes in the bathroom. Biking, I brought my work clothes in my backpack and did the same. As long as you are not sweating so much that you need a full shower, it’s doable.

    57. Eleanor Shellstrop*

      Not directly about biking, but if you’re storing your work clothes in your bag and changing into them once you get there, I recommend packing a travel sized bottle of Downy wrinkle releaser for the fabrics that tend to get more rumpled

    58. Eye roll*

      Haven’t specifically biked, but I did often do pre-work exercise, hikes, walks, etc over the years. I always packed my work clothes and had appropriate shoes under my desk. Invested in a really good setting spray for my makeup, and wore updos with tons of pins and spray (plus I kept dry shampoo in my bag for emergencies) so that I wasn’t completely getting ready in the office bathroom. Routine was: get to work, get in a stall, completely wipe down with a shower wipe/hiking wipe/camping wipe, change 100% of my clothes (bra and underwear included), slip on some of those packable flats for the trek to my office, and put on my real shoes there. Took about 5 minutes.

    59. freddy*

      OK – I’m an experienced bike commuter and I teach people classes on how to bike to work. Most of what I usually recommend has been covered, but there’s one thing I think hasn’t been brought up yet. It sounds like your workplace is fairly formal. I recommend you leave a couple of suits and a week or two worth of dress shirts at work, and get them cleaned at a dry cleaners that’s near your work. This is much less hassle (and fewer wrinkles) than schlepping a suit and shirt in your bike bag.

      Other than that, I hope you find a route you like, and that you have a good (secure and dry) place to lock up. Oh – on that note – if your office is like mine, the employer’s insurance policy would not cover it if your bike were stolen out of the company bike room. So I strongly recommend locking your bike in the bike room/cage, preferably with a U-lock to something immobile. Remember, when it comes to bike locking, you don’t have to be faster than the bear, you just have to be faster than the other guy (as in, if you’re the only one with a locked bike, it won’t get stolen if there’s an easier target there).

      Enjoy your commute! I have been going batty during the pandemic year without my bike commute – I’ve gained weight, and despite working out daily I feel like my baseline level of fitness has degraded. Plus it’s tough on my mental health. I’m back to working one day a week in the office and I look forward to my bike commute every Wednesday.

    60. 404_FoxNotFound*

      OP5: most of these have already been said from what I read, so seconding.
      – lights, helmet, whatever you need to bike legally and safely in your area. If you’re not sure about wanting to invest, there are very cheap $20 USD/local equivalent bike lights with rubber attachments. Having ridden on trails and roads w no artificial lighting, I will recommend a slightly more expensive headlight to get that extra brightness.
      – figure out a safe route. I will almost always rec a slightly longer route on bike trails over roads in the USA, as most drivers don’t do well around bikes. Local bike groups on social media may have advice to add about biking in your area, esp if in a larger city/town.
      – clothes to change into, either brought with/left on site. Depending on your job this may be full more formal outfits/grooming and makeup supplies, or just a spare polo. I’ve kept a full emergency work appropriate outfit and underthings at my desk (in a bag under it/in a filing cabinet drawer) as it is easier to use that outfit for biking instead of the other way around!
      When I was temping and didn’t have a permanent desk, I’d make sure everything I brought was self contained in a nice enough looking backpack that had my name somewhere in it, or keep it all contained to my panniers.
      – emphatic YES to bike specific bags/panniers. It’s a bit more of an expense for both bags and rack to mount them on, and you’ll want to make sure they are reasonably rainproof/come with covers, but they are *so* worth it. I recommend larger capacity ones, esp if you need to bring spare shoes.

      If this turns into a good fit for you, see about investing in:
      – nicer lights, either higher end/durable/brighter lights

      (thank you everyone else in the thread, these have all been excellent suggestions I want to think about as a fellow spring-autumn bike commuter)

      1. 404_FoxNotFound*

        fail, hit enter accidentally…
        Basics con’t:
        – reflective gear is nice. I invested in a $20 reflective, oversized vest that could fit over any and all of my gear, rain or sun.
        – waterproof gear: I highly recommend the rain jacket with hood/visor that has vents, and oversized waterproof pants you can cinch at the ankle. I tend to get mine oversized and layer under for colder weather.
        – back up pair of bike ok shoes, if you get soaked and they don’t dry in time for your next commute
        – for any outerwear, anything you can comfortably move in will do the trick. I do recommend zipped garments or easy temp control while biking.
        – don’t skimp on gloves. You need ones that you can safely reach brakes with, and ideally something that keeps you warm when wet/cold. This (and warm headgear) is where I recommend splurging for bike specific stuff.
        – getting a helmet with an adjustable head size is really good for going from bare head to winter woolen bulk.
        – definitely get yourself extra time to change/clean up. I have done everything from bringing a small camp towel and washcloth to just using paper towels in a single person bathroom with a sink.
        – Thirding treating biking in like it’s nothing – this is another means to commute, and having done this for years, it feels weird to expect coworkers to be weird about another coworker biking in assuming they’re not smelly and are dressed appropriately.
        – don’t plan to absolutely definitely bike during winter as a beginner bike commuter, unless you’re familiar with what that entails (gear, local weather conditions if snowy/icy, roads, etc.)
        – back up route to work, be it a few $ for public transit, access to a car/taxi, etc. There are going to be days where it’s actively dangerous for you to commute by bike, so have that backup plan for the 10% of the time/deep winter.
        – access to indoor/safe bike parking, both for your safety, and so your bike is less likely to get stolen. You may need to work out where in your office building/vicinity is safe/appropriate w various parties, and/or acquire the right key/access to parking space which takes time.

        Nice to have stuff:
        – upright style bike, electric assist, chain guard, good lock (esp if in city center/where a bike is at all likely to get stolen): all of this has really improved my commute and health/disability that’s affected by biking.
        – WARM gloves with several layers, hats with visors for warm and cold weather, masks that don’t fog up glasses, sunglasses, sun sleeves (lets you avoid a lot more sunscreen/mess, wicks sweat)
        – baking soda/extra de-smellifying laundry additive for the spandex/lycra having clothing. Sports clothing tend to get smellier as they age.
        – rechargeable plug-in lights, generator lights, or built in bike lights on an e-bike is so lovely as that is one less thing to worry about!

    61. CyclingCommuter24*

      Some extra bits of advice, so as not to echo the already excellent things you’ve read:

      1. Consider looking at Wind-Blox. They’re foam pieces that attach to your helmet straps and reduce the wind noise when you ride. I really dislike the noise, and when my ears get cold they ache for hours afterwards. These really help.

      2. Not clothing related, but as we head into fall, ensure you have enough lights/reflectors on your bike. I added reflective clips to my tire spokes. They were cheap and easy to install, and make me visible from all angles.

      3. When I first started cycle commuting, my glasses/sunglasses didn’t fit with my helmet on. I went into the winter gear box and found some snowboarding goggles. Do I look a bit dorky? You bet I do! But they keep everything out of my eyes (wind, sun, bugs, rain, snow), fit neatly under my helmet, and when I need to wear my glasses, it’s not extra pressure on my ears under the helmet.

    62. Catie*

      Try an e-bike! There are some great models for <$2k. Your city likely has e-bike rental options or a bikeshare models that you can try before you invest in one to see if that cuts down on your worries. For bad weather, definitely try a rain cape since it keeps your legs dry and still gives you plenty of air circulation (unlike rain-pants). For myself I would probably still just opt to take the train in bad weather.

    63. Toothless*

      I know you asked about biking clothes and not safety tips, but I can’t let a biking conversation go past without recommending the Garmin Varia! It’s a taillight with a radar built-in that can connect with pretty much any Garmin device, your phone, or a dedicated handlebar unit. When it senses a car behind you, it beeps and a dot shows up on the screen and moves up the side of the screen to show you where the car is (or several dots if there’s multiple cars). I bought it after getting rear-ended by a car a year and a half ago, and I won’t ride in traffic without it.

    64. Eve Polastri*

      I’ve been biking a 23-25 min commute for 25 years. I definitely sweat so i ride in a t-shirt and shorts/tights. I found that just by changing my clothes, i don’t need to shower. i keep a towel in my office to wipe down if it’s really hot and humid or rainy but that’s not too often. For the winter, i can hang all my wet stuff around my office and it will dry by the time i left. I kind of miss the days of the huge monitors because those things put out enough heat to dry socks pretty quickly :-)

      The benefits of biking in far outweigh any of the ickies. i love the fact that i think about work the closer i get to the office on the way in and forget about it the farther i get on the way home. I now dread it if i have to drive in for any reason.

    65. Normally a lurker*

      If you can afford it, invest in a pannier rack and panniers so you don’t have to use a rucksack. This keeps it off your back so you don’t get a sweaty back

    66. EngineerMom*

      I bike to work fairly regularly.

      Find out if there is a shower or at least a good space to change!

      For both situations: Get a haircut you can easily fluff/style after riding. Always pack deodorant and a small towel. Get fenders on your bike to make riding in the rain less of a “skunk stripe” situation.

      If no shower: plan to ride a little slower, bring at least a shirt/bra to change into, and keep a complete change of clothes in your office for unexpected bad weather days.

      If yes shower: You can ride faster! Keep the shower stuff in your backpack so you can go straight there, and use a small microfiber towel to dry off.

    67. Kevin Sours*

      Not a ton of advice to add, but I’ve biked to work more often than I’ve done a traditional commute. Never had a problem. Though as a programmer I’ve never had to worry about working in fancy clothes. Which helps.

      For the most part people more impressed than anything else when you roll after a ride to work even if you haven’t managed to clean up yet.

    68. Aphra*

      Can I make a couple of pleas on behalf of your new colleagues? Please don’t get changed down to underwear in a glass walled conference room. Please don’t hang your sweaty cycling clothes on the backs of chairs belonging to colleagues who are on a day off. Please don’t hang your sweaty cycling clothes on heating vents or radiators so that the whole office gets to smell like, well, sweaty cycling clothes. It’s been several years but I still remember the horror, the horror……!

    69. Third or Nothing!*

      I don’t bike to work but I run during my lunch break. What I did when I was still in the physical office was bring a complete change of clothes, deodorant, giant wipes, and dry shampoo plus a brush. Took me about 7-10 minutes to freshen up post run once I got into a groove. Those giant wipes and the dry shampoo helped so, so much.

    70. Cedrus Libani*

      I used to have a similar commute – 5.5 flat miles, mostly along a riverfront trail, in/near Boston (they plowed it in winter!). As mentioned, I honestly didn’t get sweaty enough to make it a problem. I wasn’t racing, it was basically a walk in terms of exertion. I did keep a fresh shirt and socks in my desk in case of emergency.

      I worked in a casual environment, so I could wear clothes that were perfectly fine for biking in. I also kept my hair short, such that I could tousle it and it looked like I meant to do that; frankly, a bit of helmet sweat made my frizz-prone hair look better.

      Like the writer, I also had a public transit option that would do the job, even though it would take twice as long to get there. I was grateful to have the option – when the weather is truly dire, it’s worth the extra 20 min to ride the warm, dry bus.

      1. Kevin Sours*

        From experience log hair works just fine too if you can get away with just pulling it back into a ponytail after a quick brush.

    71. English Teacher*

      As someone who walks to work whenever possible, I would say to just use the public transportation (or ride-sharing if it’s reliable where you live) on days that are rainy, snowy or especially hot. It might take a little bit longer, but I find it to be a nice break once in awhile anyway

    72. stefrr*

      This is my favorite topic! There are essentially two different ways to bike commute: 1. wear bike clothes and change when you get there, or 2. wear work clothes that work well on a bike.
      I’ve done both and I prefer the second route – here’s how. Good weather is pretty easy – lots of professional slacks are good for riding in (especially capris), although I’m a fan of dress pant yoga pants (with pockets!). Summer dresses and skirts work too. There are even bike short things people wear underneath, but I can’t remember what they’re called.
      Winter is tougher but still doable. Most of my wardrobe is wool because it dries fast and smells less than synthetics, and in winter I wear lots of wool dresses with tights. I live in the pacific northwet, so when it rains for four months straight, I use a big dorky poncho, waterproof mittens over my gloves, and waterproof shoecovers. And when I get to work, I just peel it all off and no one even knows I rode. Sometimes I touch up makeup when I get to work.
      Unless you have enormous hills or pedal really hard, its unlikely a 20 minute bike ride will make you very sweaty! I’m generally a pretty sweaty person and never have issues. And no one has told me I smell (yet).
      I recommend trying it out when the weather is good because all the stuff that can go into staying dry is a little to get used to.

      1. Cynara C*

        Seconding all this as a seasoned bike/transit commuter in two very different cities, now in the PNW. Except for the poncho in rain – when I’ve tried ponchos, they pool water in the lap, which doesn’t work for me, but rain skirts are A+

    73. Bike Curious*

      My bike-to-work de-dishevelment tools are as follows:
      +Wipes or a damp paper towel to de-sweat
      +Deodorant I keep in my drawer (and Pretty Frank deodorizing powder if I remember to pack it)
      +Dry wax powder and a brush to fluff my hair also live in my desk drawer (if you don’t mind perfume-y smelling sprays, Prêt-à-powder Post Workout Dry Shampoo Mist is pretty good!)
      +Spare bra and boxer briefs if it’s a super hot day
      +Change of clothes also depending on weather – sometimes a change of shirt is all that’s needed, other times I’m wiggling out of bike shorts and into real pants in the bathroom stall
      +Backup shoes under my desk (flats if I don’t mind looking femme, slip-on black sneakers if I do)

      It takes about 10-15 minutes on a sweaty hot day, 5-10 on a cool day, to get myself together and not be a sweatmonster. Since I only can change in a tiny bathroom stall, that takes longer as I balance and try not to drop anything into the water.

    74. SJ*

      I had a team member who commuted 10 miles by bike into the office — let me share a thing not to do — please do not take up a spot on the communal coat rack with your wet towel that you only take home every 3 or so months to launder. Your coworkers will notice and comment.

    75. LGC*

      LW5: I am 1) a dude and 2) a feral dude, so this might not apply to you. But what I’ve done is carry my work clothes in my bag and change at the office. (Mostly, I’ll put a button-down in my bag, although on really hot days I’ll also put my pants there too and wear shorts.) It does depend on your route and your intensity – I don’t usually have problems with looking too messy unless it’s mid-summer, but that’s in the NY area.

      Also, honestly, deodorant/antiperspirant is also a good idea to have.

      During inclement weather I don’t usually bike.

    76. bubba*

      Kind of off-topic, but when I was working at a company that had 110% annual turnover there was one employee who biked 10-15 miles a day to work, and would change his clothes at the office. When it became obvious to him that he would soon be let go, he began filling his bottom desk drawer with his sweaty underpants.

      When the time came for him to be escorted out of the building, he left knowing that the assistant manger he hated would have to clean out his desk, including a few months’ worth of dirty, smelly underpants.

    77. Cynara C*

      Do few test rides and see how you end up on the work end. Mileage for a 20-minute ride can vary from just a couple to for a fast rider, of course, to several, depending on exertion. An 20-minute on a mostly flat route is barely more exertion than walking if you’re not going all out, and you may need only to freshen in the restroom, for example. Hills? Maybe take a few minutes outside to cool down.

      Also -if sweat and exertion and odor is an issue for you or colleagues but you really like the good stuff about bike commuting, like fresh air and exercise, an e-bike can elminate or minimize a LOT of exertion/sweat stuff and you still get some physical activity. (And you can turn off the motor on the way home if you want more of a workout.)

      For weather, consider a rain skirt instead of pants (I find them more flexible and better than capes), and in more extreme cold probably allow extra time to clean up/don fresh clothers because you may need to layer more and that is more likely to mean sweat.

    78. Sarah*

      20 year bike commuter here! My current commute is about an hour in the morning, and I don’t find it to be a problem at all. I really don’t feel like I arrive *all* that sweaty, more like glistening in the face that clears pretty quickly. I’m biking at 6:30-7 in the morning, which helps- it’s just not hot. I get super-sweaty on the way home, but that doesn’t matter to me.

      You should absolutely consider getting a saddlebag/pannier. Most people who complain about arriving to work sweaty are using a backpack, and having your things off your back makes a huuge difference in terms of comfort and sweatiness.

      Plan to arrive at work 10-15 minutes before your official start time, to give time to catch your breath, change if you need, fix your hair and pat sweat off your face. You really don’t want to be doing official work the second you step off your bike.

      Sometimes I will do a full change into work clothes, but a nice compromise is to bike in your work pants/shoes with an athletic top or whatever you are comfortable biking in (wool helps w/ temperature regulation and you’ll sweat/stink less), and then only change your top when you get in. This is much easier to do in a public bathroom than changing pants is. If you need to dress more professionally, keep a blazer or two hanging at work (and dress shoes maybe), and then you potentially only have to pack a shirt or shell each day to change into.

      Another helpful trick is to keep a few basic toiletries at work in a bag or drawer- basic make up for touch up, deoderant, etc.

      And finally, a trick I’ve learned in reducing helmet hair: The moment you get off your bike, even when you’re still outside, take off your helmet, flip you head upside down and vigorously rub your fingers through your hair along your scalp. It might sound silly, but if you don’t catch your hair before the sweat dries in your hair, you’ll be stuck with that dent in your hair all day.

    79. Buu*

      OP#5 you may just want to ask if anyone else bikes and ask if they have facilities. Not only might they have a shower or gym access but they may have a secure bike lockup. My office has both but like parking they need to know about bikes so they can manage space.

  1. Stitching Away*

    LW1 seems backwards to me, unless it’s a medical issue. They have the option to be vaccinated and continue working. They’ve chosen to quit instead.

      1. Mia*

        I believe at my company HR is considering it a voluntary resignation. I’m not quite sure why – the only thing I can think of is that would have something to do with unemployment?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Ooooh — that’s a good point; if it’s a resignation, the person wouldn’t be eligible for unemployment. Although they might not be with a firing either; in most states you’ll be eligible if you were fired for something like work quality (where you might have been trying but just not cutting it) but not for black-and-white rules violations.

          1. I Work in Unemployment!*

            Alison, yes, from an unemployment standpoint, it would be considered a quit. A quit is when an employee chooses to end their employment for any reason. While it’s a little murky, what it comes down to is that it is the employee’s CHOICE whether or not they want to continue the employment. In unemployment, that doesn’t necessarily mean you won’t get benefits, but I’m guessing that in this case, benefits will be denied – but each state will be different.

            1. anon for this*

              Fellow unemployment worker seconding this! It definitely depends on the case, and the state, but if the employer has a mandate as a condition of employment, it can be seen as a “constructive quit.” Similar to if your boss says “if you walk out of this meeting right now, you’re fired!” and you walk out, you were ultimately the party that made the choice to end your employment.

          2. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

            My job gave us a deadline. Vaccinated by December 1 or you are fired with cause (because you ignored a direct order and knew about the consequences in August).

            1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              Deadline in my office was COB today (or 18:30 MST). I’ll see what shook out come Tuesday.

              Don’t think there will be much change on my shift – we’re 95% vaccinated. The others have exemptions on file.

          3. Greg*

            This is what we are seeing in NYS – it looks like unemployment benefits could be contested by the employer if the employee left for lack of vaccination.

            CA has indicated this is their policy as well.

          4. aliohh*

            This is how my employer is doing it as well. Those separated for non-compliance are not eligible to receive unemployment.

          5. Global Cat Herder*

            My very large employer announced their vaccine mandate two days after the Pfizer vaccine was approved, before the government mandate. The Legal department definitely drafted the wording. As “I Work in Unemployment” said in their comment, the word CHOICE appears repeatedly. You can choose to continue your employment (by choosing to provide proof of vaccination or an approved exemption). Anything else is choosing not to continue your employment.

            Deadline is X. On day X+1, we’ll start processing voluntary resignations for people who have chosen not to continue their employment. Per Employee Separation Policy #HR86, this is a voluntary separation, which means you don’t get severance pay, we won’t pay your COBRA, and you won’t be eligible for unemployment benefits.

            You will not be eligible for rehire for Y period of time. If you choose to get vaccinated and choose to apply to the company after that, you will be a new employee with a new start date, with ZERO years of service per Employee Rehire Policy #HR69. Here’s what that looks like for vacation accrual (you’re back to two weeks!) and profit sharing (you won’t get the tiny fraction of a percentage more for being here a long time) and employee recognition (it’ll be ten years before you see the “service anniversary gift catalog” again) and retirement plans (you froze your grandfathered plan when you quit!) so we really hope you choose to continue your employment with us.

            Our annual attrition rate is 9%. We’ll lose about 1% over this. Very manageable numbers.

        2. CoveredInBees*

          I’ve heard that some states have already said people who are fired/quit will not be eligible for unemployment.

          1. LQ*

            There’s already a decent bit of case law around this (your state may vary of course, current case law is mostly on flu shots) but as long as there is an alternative (testing/med exemption) you are not likely to be eligible if you try to collect unemployment.

            **Each case would be individually reviewed.

        3. WomEngineer*

          Mine too. Right now, disclosing your vaccination status is a condition of employment. If you don’t comply by the deadline, you effectively resign. This is the first step to getting everyone vaccinated (unless executive orders change).

        1. ecnaseener*

          Yeah, but choosing to leave on the day you would’ve been fired is a sort of grey area. If someone quits in advance that’s more clear to me.

      2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        My employer first gave a month of unpaid suspension as an opportunity to change one’s mind and get started, then considered continued refusal a termination for cause and marked people ineligible for rehire.

            1. Lyudie*

              This is my thinking too, you’re saying a lot about yourself to continue refusing an explicit mandate even after the consequences have been made quite clear.

              1. Rose*

                This is a mandate around a medical decision. It’s not the same as someone stubbornly refusing to follow dress code or a new SOP. Expecting someone to be so deferent to their company that they make medical decisions they’re uncomfortable with according to their wishes is nuts.

                People’s responses to this are clearly colored by their feelings about the vaccine and unvaccinated people. Comments are usually up in arms if someone’s boss wants their hair a natural color. I’m vaccinated and I’m frustrated with the vast majority of unvaccinated people but a lack of medical/scientific knowledge is not tantamount to an attitude problem. When my company issues our vax mandate many people respectfully declined and smoothly transitioned out during the grace period.

                1. Lyudie*

                  It’s a safety issue. It’s much more important than a dress code or SOP, so it’s taken much more seriously. The vaccine protects you and also protects the people around you. My company has exemptions for medical reasons and likely religious reasons (I’m not privy to those details) and I’m sure others do too. I’ve worked in industrial settings and if you are uncomfortable following OSHA guidelines or wearing steel toed boots, it is absolutely within the company’s purview to address that. I don’t see this as any different.

                2. Recruited Recruiter*

                  In my region, the only employers with true vaccine mandates are healthcare organizations. In the case of the nurses that have been fired for refusing the vaccine, lack of medical/scientific knowledge is absolutely tantamount to an attitude problem. I am absolutely on board with their choices to make refusers ineligible for rehire – someone who puts what they heard on Fox News above the safety of their patients should not be employed by a trusted healthcare institution.

                3. doreen*

                  But Red Reader the Adulting Fairy wasn’t talking about people who declined and transitioned out during the grace period. That post describes people who had to be terminated after a month’s unpaid suspension – that’s an entirely different situation than someone who doesn’t want to be vaccinated and resigns than comply. The person who had to be terminated after a month’s suspension – that suggests to me that either 1) the person believed they would receive unemployment if they took that route or 2) they somehow thought that after the suspension, the employer would back down on the mandate. Those are the attitudes that would make someone ineligible for rehire, not simply declining to get vaccinated.

                4. Moof*

                  I disagree – if someone stubbornly refuses to wash their hands / use sterile technique before surgery, I would want that person fired / would not want them as a coworker / would steer patients away from them as much as possible. Not getting vaccinated outside of a real medical reason (and those are not common) is basic hygiene to minimize risk to our patients.

                5. Hex Libris*

                  Couple things.
                  – Vaccine requirements in workplaces are not new.
                  – Describing receiving this vaccine as a “medical decision” has a real point of view that not everyone agrees with. It’s technically correct, but it’s about the same level of “medical decision” as taking a prescribed course of antibiotics for a modest ailment, not a “should we operate” level.
                  – Most non-healthcare employers that I’m familiar with are providing ongoing testing as an option.
                  – We’ve seen a VERY substantial overlap between lack of knowledge and attitude problem.
                  – People keep framing this as a personal decision, but the reality is that it affects everyone around them. That’s why these mandates are having to be done, because the decision not to vaccinate is a decision to prolong a pandemic and threaten your own health and the health of those around you to an unnecessary degree.

                6. Yipsie*

                  It’s not about not having enough deference to the company or their policies. It’s about not having enough deference towards the health and safety of the people around you.

          1. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

            Same at my work. In August they said “Get vaccinated by December 1 or you are fired for cause”. Once you are fired for cause, you are not eligible for rehire. It is considered “for cause” because you were given 4 months to comply with a workplace policy and didn’t. Now, if you quit in between 8/1 and 12/1, but didn’t say you did it because of vaccination, got vaccinated, and then came back you’d be eleigible for rehire (albeit with a bit of side-eye if you tried to come back in a super short time period, but that would happen even if there was no pandemic).

            1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

              Yep, pretty much — we had about the same length of notice (I don’t remember exactly how long, but I know it was more than 3 months), and yes, being fired for cause (such as violation of policy or insubordination, either of which would be applicable here I would think) results in a not-eligible-for-rehire flag.

              1. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

                Also, out of 36,000 employees, we ultimately lost about 170 to the vaccination policy.

                1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

                  I want to say the estimate on how many we will be loosing at my company is proportionally the same. I have a feeling we’ll get the initial numbers in about a week. Deadline day was today. We may also have a trickle of other firings amongst people who filed for exemptions but miss testing requirements.
                  (I heard/read that it will be warning + suspension for first missed test and fired for cause for a second missed test.)

      3. HB*

        I know from a friend of a friend that at least one company, the people who refused to get vaccinated were in fact fired. (The friend of the friend is in HR and *might* have enjoyed conducting these firings quite a bit… )

      4. KHB*

        It’s a newly implemented policy, though, and in my opinion, that makes a big difference. If the employee was happy to follow all the employer’s policies that existed at the time they signed up for the job, it doesn’t seem right to consider them to be “fired” because the employer changed what was required of them.

        Would you feel the same way if the newly implemented policy was one you disagreed with? If, for example, an employer suddenly required regular drug testing (where they never did that before), and an employee chose to quit rather than comply, would that be a “firing” too?

        To be clear, I’m strongly on board with vaccine mandates, and I think that people who are voluntarily unvaccinated (i.e., not those with a medical or other legitimate reason) are recklessly endangering public health. I’m just not sure how much my personal feelings about this specific policy should color the answer to this question.

        1. LKW*

          But changing policies happen all the time. I (used to) travel a LOT for work and at some point they changed the rental car policy so that you couldn’t get a rental car to travel from your home to the client site. But I live in NYC. I’m not buying and storing a car just in case my clients are within driving distance. I worked it out with my projects and I still have never bought a car years later.

          HR policies change, vacation time, PTO balance management (use it or lose it), policies change – and for those who feel that this is the deal breaker, OK – it’s a deal breaker for you. But as we saw with the hospitals, it wasn’t a deal breaker for 99% of the staff.

          1. KHB*

            I’m not sure you’re understanding what I’m saying.

            Suppose you weren’t able to work it out with your employer regarding the rental car policy, and you left the job because of it. You’d consider yourself to have quit, right? You wouldn’t say you were “fired” in those circumstances, because that would be ridiculous.

            1. LKW*

              Well I suppose it’s in how it played out.

              I could quit. Or I could rent a car and be fired for not following policy.

              In the vaccine situation, I can see people trying to fly under the radar. I expect companies will file termination paperwork for people who have not registered their vaccinated status and do not have an approved exemption by whatever deadline they’ve set for their employees.

              1. Nanani*

                Plus like, refusing vaccination is a public health hazard and renting a car isn’t.
                Apples and oranges. Deciding that vaccine refusal is a firing of the worst level but quitting over car rental policies isn’t would entirely fair.

            2. Cercis*

              In my industry (arboriculture) there’s a lot of debate about chainsaw protective clothes. In other countries, tree climbers are required to wear chainsaw protective pants. In the US, only ground workers are required to have either pants or chaps. There are a lot of tree workers who feel strongly that chainsaw protective clothing poses a health risk – they think that it will cause heat stroke. The fact that hotter countries than ours mandates this PPE and workers don’t die from heat stroke isn’t convincing for them.

              If a company says “our climbers must wear chainsaw protective pants in compliance with our company safety standards” and a climber refuses to, saying that s/he thinks it will cause a health issue, are they fired or did they quit when their employment is terminated for not following a company safety standard? For purposes of rehire and unemployment benefits, I’d say they were fired with cause unless they quit the day the policy was announced. They could be said to quit, but they wouldn’t be eligible for unemployment and might or might not be eligible for rehire (it would obviously depend upon how they quit).

              1. Cathy Gale*

                Thanks for educating me and my better half about the existence of chainsaw protective clothes. Not academic, we just paid out a fair amount of money for major work to three live oaks. I read about why and how these protective clothes work – eg that they can potentially mitigate more serious injury by clogging up the sprocket (a real sprocket reference on AAM! amazing!).
                $125 for multi layer chaps seems like a small price to pay versus losing your limbs or a degree of function.
                Seriously, thanks. The next time we look for arborists we will ask whether they mandate chainsaw protective clothes.

        2. Mental Lentil*

          Hard disagree. Companies change policies all the time in response to customer needs as well as internal situations. Jim bumped his head in the warehouse? Now everybody has to wear a hard hat in the warehouse. Bill accidentally paid a fake invoice that arrive in his inbox? Now everybody has to take mandatory email security training.

          Understanding this is part of being an employee (and a grown-up). Digging your heels in about it smacks of privilege and immaturity.

            1. Texas*

              It sounds like they’re disagreeing with your statement “It doesn’t seem right to consider them to be “fired” because the employer changed what was required of them.”

        3. Xantar*

          “ Would you feel the same way if the newly implemented policy was one you disagreed with? If, for example, an employer suddenly required regular drug testing (where they never did that before), and an employee chose to quit rather than comply, would that be a “firing” too?”

          Yes. I believe drug testing requirements are foolish in most professions and should be outlawed in most cases. However in your hypothetical that person is indeed being fired for failure to follow company policy.

          1. James*

            I’ve seen people walk off jobs because they got pegged for a random drug test. They were considered, by the company and the government, to have quit, not to have been fired.

              1. James*

                Refused and quit. Obviously they’d have failed, but since they quit instead the paperwork was easier and they didn’t go to jail.

            1. Recruited Recruiter*

              The FMCSRs consider a refused drug test to be a failed drug test – I would immediately slap the not eligible for rehire label on one of my drivers who refused a drug test. I would also consider them to be a voluntary resignation, and would win if they tried to claim unemployment.

        4. Falling Diphthong*

          In both cases I think that when conditions change you decide if you’re willing to stay with this job, and the company if they’re willing to bend for you if the new rules are a problem.

          I’m thinking of the letter about wanting to pursue a job at the perfect company except that they allow dogs, and if OP was hired the company would have to ban all the dogs.

          1. KHB*

            And if you can’t come to an agreement, is that a firing or a resignation? That’s the question.

              1. NotAnotherManager!*

                I agree with this. Our vaccine requirement came out today, and people have two months to comply. Some people are going to quit over it over the next two months, and that’s a resignation. The ones that wait until the last day and then tell HR they will not comply with the policy will be fired for non-compliance.

                It’s really not that different than people who want to continue to work remotely when their employer does not offer it. They can either quit and find a fully remote job or they can refuse to come back into the office and force HR to fire them for it.

            1. Broadway Duchess*

              It seems like your actual question isn’t being answered, but I’d consider that resignation not firing, based on the fact that you’re not leaving Sue to performance or a policy breach (e.g. a positive drug screen), you’re opting out of a policy on its effective date.

              If you, for example, had an arrangement where you could work from home and never needed to show that childcare was in place, but then the employer changed and required it by a certain date, so you quit, you weren’t fired. What that means for unemployment, I don’t know, but I don’t see where either scenario is a termination.

            2. Librarian of SHIELD*

              I think what makes this such an interesting question is that people are different, and will react to the same scenario in different ways.

              If a company introduces a new policy and some of their employees find it a dealbreaker, some of them will probably quit and others will probably be fired. And in my experience with past employees who choose not to comply with policy despite multiple warnings and multiple opportunities, sometimes whether they quit or are fired will depend on how they behave in their final meeting. Some people just don’t want to follow the policy, but they don’t take the existence of the policy as a personal affront, so they’re willing to go through the resignation process. Other people are going to keep insisting until the last possible second that they should be allowed to keep their job and still not follow the policy, and those people will need to be fired.

            3. Rose*

              It’s a resignation unless the person digs their heels in and insists they’re not leaving and the rules must be bent for them.

            4. Falling Diphthong*

              But it’s not like “fired” and “resigned” are categories that have absolutely no overlap or disagreement. When it matters for legal reasons (collecting unemployment) then different states have different rules (as do different countries), and individual circumstances (someone quits due to a hostile work environment) can shift people between categories.

              Someone gave the example of the category noted, for the employer, depending on how things went in the last week.

            5. Zennish*

              Not a lawyer or anything, but in my experience the line between firing and resignation is generally who ultimately decides to sever the relationship. On the employee’s side that also includes failing to comply with directives or policies where the stated consequences are the severing of the relationship.

        5. DANGER: Gumption Ahead*

          Policies get updated all the damned time. My old workplace didn’t have an explicit policy on sexual harassment until MeToo (I take it they figured a majority female org didn’t need one (??????) back in the day and no one revisited it). Sub out the word “vaccine” for any other topic. Would you think it reasonable for an employer to fire someone for not complying with an updated sexual harrassment/expense tracking/travel policy because the employee didn’t agree with it? Vaccination is no different

          1. Alldogsarepuppies*

            Its not if its reasonable for them to fire someone, it is if they in fact did. I think people SHOULD be fired for refusing the vaccine. But if they QUIT before they are fired BECAUSE of the vaccine it doesn’t mean they were fired.

            Alison tells LWs all the time “you have to decide if this is a condition you are willing to live with”. In all those situations, we aren’t saying “you turn in your resignation and get fired” – the person is leaving the job on their own because of the conditions. That is what KHB is saying.

            Now if a reference checker called me, I think it would be fair to say Fergus resigned after we issued the vaccine mandate. Factual but letting them know he would have been fired. hmm.

            1. KHB*

              “Now if a reference checker called me, I think it would be fair to say Fergus resigned after we issued the vaccine mandate. Factual but letting them know he would have been fired. hmm.”

              I’ll be really curious to see how the norms on this establish themselves in the months and years to come. Usually, as I understand it, these “resign in lieu of being fired” agreements come with an explicit condition of what the employer will or won’t say to future reference checkers. You’re not really “leaving on your own terms” if the employer gets to tell everyone “Well, technically she resigned, but really that’s only because she was about to be fired.” (And again, if you imagine this playing out over a policy change you disagree with, it looks a lot different.)

              1. EPLawyer*

                Resigned in lieu of firing agreements are just that agreements — that are worked out in advance between the specific employee and the employer. If you quit and say I am quitting because I refuse to get vaccinated, then no agreement is in place. The employer can say exactly the reasons the person gave for quitting.

                The company gave a direct order. Failing to follow it is ALWAYS insubordination, whether you agree with the policy or not. So they were fired for insubordination NOT refusing to get the vaccine.

                1. KHB*

                  “The company gave a direct order. Failing to follow it is ALWAYS insubordination”

                  What? So if my company says that my primary job duty is now shining the CEO’s shoes every day, and I say “That doesn’t work for me – here’s my two weeks notice,” you’re saying that makes me insubordinate?

                2. Librarian of SHIELD*

                  @KHB – If the date of the change in your job duties falls after the end of your notice period, no, it wouldn’t be insubordination. But if it’s effective immediately and you refused to abide by it during your notice period, that’s a different ball of wax and your company could probably still fire you for insubordination.

        6. Willis*

          Seems to me like in either scenario if the employee proactively let the employer know they’ll be leaving prior to the date that the policy goes into effect (even if they said their last day would be the day immediately before the vaccine requirement or the first drug test), I’d consider that quitting. If the employee said nothing about it but refused to comply right up to the date the policy goes into effect and the company has to tell them not to come in, I’d consider that being fired for failure to follow a policy. Or at least at that point it’s in the company’s discretion how they categorize it.

        7. Observer*

          It’s a newly implemented policy, though, and in my opinion, that makes a big difference.

          Legally, not at all. The only things an employer cannot do regarding an otherwise legal mandate is to enforce it retroactively and to enforce it in a discriminatory manner.

          Morally, I think that companies should be very careful about new mandates, but they HAVE to be able to change requirements – conditions change and a company needs to be able to change with those conditions. And, wherever possible give people time to think about it and then either become compliant or to at least start looking elsewhere.

          August to December is more than enough time.

          1. KHB*

            Again, I’m a bit confused about what you think you’re disagreeing with out of what I said. Because I am not at all saying that employers should never be able to change their policies.

            1. pancakes*

              I think a lot of people are responding to the first paragraph of your comment, where you said the newness of a policy should be a big factor in determining whether an employee quit or was fired. A lot of people are going to disagree with that because it doesn’t make much sense.

            2. Observer*

              You’re saying that the fact that it’s a new policy changes whether it’s a firing or a quitting, and I’m saying that this fact is not relevant.

        8. marvin the paranoid android*

          Well, it’s a new policy but that’s only because it was made in response to a new situation. It’s still for clear health and safety reasons. If your employer relocates to the side a huge cliff and employees refuse to take the mandatory Not Throwing People off Cliffs training, it would make sense to fire them.

          1. marvin the paranoid android*

            I think the only thing that might make a difference is if you didn’t give employees a reasonable amount of time to comply with the requirement before firing them–that might feel malicious. But I don’t know if it would make a difference legally, it would just make the employer look less reasonable.

        9. Recruited Recruiter*

          This seems pretty clear cut to me. If an employee resigns, and their entire notice period falls prior to the effective date of the new policy, then it’s a true resignation. If part of the employee’s notice period falls after the effective date of the new policy, then the employer will (rightfully or not) fire the employee for insubordination.
          If the employee specifically mentioned that they were quitting because of the new vaccine policy, and completed the notice period prior to the policy effective date, I would likely consider that former employee not eligible for rehire – I wouldn’t want to rehire the employee and in the case of another reasonable safety request, have to fill the spot again.

          I also have an acquaintance who resigned a position on the date their policy went into effect and provided one month notice, explicitly stating that the policy would not be complied with. This acquaintance was fired for cause that day, and proceeded to throw a tantrum to everyone who knew this person.
          I know another person who worked for the same employer. This person amicably resigned, transitioned work, and did not state the reason for leaving. This person is still on good terms with said prior employer.
          Timing and attitude are everything.

        10. Atalanta0jess*

          I completely agree with this, and was surprised to see Allison’s answer. I think it would depend how it plays out, right?

          1) There’s a change to the terms of my employment. I decide that I do not want to continue my employment based on those terms, and so I give notice that I will not be continuing beyond the effective date of that change. I have quit.

          2) There’s a change to the terms of my employment. I decide that I do not want to abide by that change, but I don’t resign…I hope to somehow fly under the radar. The effective date comes, I haven’t complied…I will likely be fired.

        11. fhqwhgads*

          In the case of healthcare professionals, educators, military, and law enforcement: they’ve had various vaccine mandates all along that they’ve already complied with to have the job in the first place. So the whole “newly implemented” argument would just be about this vaccine, and it’s only new in the sense of this vaccine didn’t exist before. So at least in those contexts, I still don’t think this even falls under “newly implemented policy”. Those jobs have always had a “be vaccinated for things” policy.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            “ In the case of healthcare professionals, educators, military, and law enforcement: they’ve had various vaccine mandates all along”

            I’m medical adjacent – in that I do back office billing and records – and there was a whole list of vaccines or Titter Tests I had to have to be hired. I also have to get a flu shot every year. When I’m old enough to qualify I’ll have additional vaccines from a safety standpoint that I’ll need to get. Vaccine requirements in this job are nothing new – it’s just another vaccine being added to the list.

      5. James*

        I’ve seen this happen a few times. Usually the companies will give the person the option to leave voluntarily or get fired. It’s a way for the employee to save face and it’s easier for the company. There’s really no up side to firing people, for either the company or the person being fired; a voluntary resignation is better for everyone. And it’s not like they’re not going to have warning. Last I heard the executive order will require full vaccination by December for federal employees and federal contractors, which means companies can start these discussions around the first of November (I haven’t heard what they’re doing about the third booster shot yet).

        The other thing I’ve seen companies do is say “You need to [insert policy here] for certain roles”, then gradually expand those roles. It’s not that you’re fired–you just can’t work in customer-facing roles, or in the office, or on the factory floor, or go to client meetings, or attend mandatory work events, and golly gee whiz isn’t it just a shock that you’re handing me your resignation. It’s a trick I’ve seen used to get rid of people a manager wants gone, but that HR wouldn’t let be fired.

      6. Gregory S Capozzoli*

        I’m of the stance that the company is saying “you have two choices 1. get the vaccine or 2. quit. if you refused to do either then you are fired.” So it gives you the option to quit but if you dont quit and you dont get the vaccine then it becomes termination.

      7. MCMonkeyBean*

        I think what makes it different is that with something like this you could choose to un-violate the policy at any point. Versus actively doing something that violates a policy which you can’t undo or take back. With this, if they really want to stay, they can choose to get vaccinated at any time to be in compliance. I think that is what makes it more like quitting.

      1. allathian*

        Yeah, possibly. But employers are starting to be more careful about that, given the fake medical certificates some unethical anti-vax doctors have been giving anti-vaxxers. I have some sympathy for genuine medical issues, but none at all for “religious” anti-vax beliefs.

        1. CoveredInBees*

          Same. There’s a teacher in NYC who is doing lots of media interviews claiming a religious exemption for the vaccine because she’s Jewish. There is nothing in Judaism to support this and if anything, Judaism is pro-vaccine. She even admits that Jewish law doesn’t support her position but, nonetheless, she’s claiming religious exemption. Thanks for making us look bad, ma’am. I have no sympathy for you being sad about losing your teaching position.

          Yes, some haredi (aka ultra-Orthodox) have/had some anti-vaxx trends within their communities but not theologically based. The same garden variety anti-vaxx BS you’d find elsewhere plus a few fearing that vaccines are a an anti-Semitic conspiracy to sterilize Jewish children.

          1. Richard Hershberger*

            I am somewhat more sympathetic to the religious exemption argument, but would insist it cross the extremely low bar of demonstrating that said person’s religion forbade vaccination as of two years ago. By “demonstrating” I mean actual datable written documentation, since I also assume that these people will lie about it.

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              Yes; if she got the flu vaccine in 2019 but in 2021 suddenly decided her religion forbids vaccines (even though the official stance of her religion disagrees) I’m gonna give her some serious side-eye.

            2. Mannequin*

              I honestly don’t believe in allowing religious exceptions for vaccines.

              The right for someone to freely practice their religion comes to a screeching halt at the point that those religious practices bring harm to others.

            3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              The university that my sister-in-law teaches at has two questions on their religious exemption form: 1) have you received any other vaccines? 2) what makes the Covid vaccine different from any other vaccines you have received?

              She said they were auto-disqualifying any exemption forms that left either question blank.

          2. doreen*

            Is that the one who’s mad that a letter from clergy is required and since she doesn’t attend temple she can’t get a letter from a rabbi but it’s unfair to not give her a religious exemption juts because she says so?

            1. ecnaseener*

              Even if she did attend a temple, 99% odds her rabbi would say “you have a moral obligation to get the vaccine, what on earth are you talking about”

          3. LKW*

            Yeah – no sympathy here. I’ve yet to hear of any major or minor religion whose leadership has said the vaccine is a no-go. Even the JWs and Christian Scientists are pro-vaccine.

            When measles cases started to rise and the early anti-vaxxers were ranting I defined my position on vaccines: If you choose not to believe in vaccines, that’s fine. You choose to not believe in science. OK, but you have to give up ALL science. Walk away from your engineered house, your electrical appliances, your computer, your phone, your car and your clothing made in factories and go to the mountains and live there.

            1. American Job Venter*

              And no O2 tanks in the mountains!

              *makes a note of this for when I rule the world*

          4. Moof*

            I think they’re starting to try to crack down on religious exemptions because of this; used to be you could just say “it’s against my religion” and the answer would be “ok, will make an exception”. Now it might be like “okay, give us a note from your religious leader saying this” (similar to a doctor’s note for a medical exemption). Because “I don’t like science” is not actually a religion.

            1. Pennyworth*

              I don’t believe in religions exemption at all. Vaccines didn’t exist when religions were invented.

              1. ecnaseener*

                I don’t think that logic really tracks. Religions aren’t frozen in time, their moral frameworks have always been used to guide decisions about new things. (And actual clergy are overwhelmingly pro-vaccine, so if religion was removed from the question we might see lower vaccination rates, not higher.)

        2. gyratory_circus*

          The corporation I work for has created a vetting process for vaccine exemption requests where you have to apply for a medical or religious waiver, submit documentation, and then it will be reviewed for validity and either accepted or rejected. None of this “have a random chiropractor rubber stamp a medical exemption letter” BS.

          There are differing deadlines right now – people who work in customer facing jobs and in certain medical positions have the first deadline, then people who work in the office and who will be going back in soon, and then eventually it will be everyone. And if you have a position that is currently WAH but wasn’t/isn’t intended to remain WAH you will not be allowed to just skip vaccinated and WAH permanently without an approved exemption. They also just made vaccine compliance a requirement for applying for an internal promotion or transfer.

        3. lilsheba*

          anti vaxx drs are giving fake certificates? jeeeesus that’s insane. What about people who get fake vaccine cards? It blows my mind that people are willing to PAY for a fake vaccine record (real one is free) and run the risk of going to jail and paying a fine, when they could just go get the shot. As for religious exemptions I’m against that too, it is not a valid reason to endanger public health.

          1. Amaranth*

            Rather than a fake card I wonder why they don’t just write a note that says “Plumbago has a medical condition that exempts from the vaccine.” At least it wouldn’t be falsifying documents even if the “medical condition” is …probably rude to say.

            1. DJ Abbott*

              Some music and event venues are requiring vaccine cards to get in. That’s probably why they want fake vaccine cards. :(

      2. Artemesia*

        There are almost no genuine medical issues where a person can’t vax; the HR evaluation of that should be rigorous. Most of the medical exemptions have been bogus. (SOME are legit of course — just not most)

        1. Cait*

          My company let people know that if they refuse to be vaccinated by X date, that would be considered their “voluntary resignation.” And if someone supplied the company with a letter from their doctor or religious leader for exemption it would be reviewed by the company’s lawyers (so no trying to trick the system). Even if you were approved for exemption, your job title or location might change (same pay) to help keep you isolated and you would be required to get a negative test every week (which you pay for yourself) and wear a mask. If it would be impossible to have you interact with fewer or no people (for example, you work in guest services) then you might be put on leave without pay.

        2. The Rafters*

          There are more people unable to be vaccinated for medical reasons than you think. I am one of them. I only recently recovered enough that a vaccination will not be totally wasted on me and have now been vaccinated.

        3. NotAnotherManager!*

          I have an excellent HR department, but none of them are medical professionals and should not be the ones assessing the validity of “medical reasons” or digging into someone’s medical information. What are we asking them to look for? Some sort of typo on a fake card? WebMDing whether or not a particular condition contraindicates vaccination? Or are they hiring a doctor to vet those (and does that come out of my 100% vaccinated-staff’s bonus pool)?

          My MIL’s doctor advised her against vaccination because she’s had a raft of new and unexplained allergies in recent years. I think he’s full of crap based on past “medical advice” she’s received, but my three credits of barely-passed HS/college biology probably don’t qualify me to make that determination in any official capacity.

          1. New Jack Karyn*

            They might be doing something like a web search of the doctor’s name. Has this doctor been vocally anti-vaxx? Have there been a raft of forms from this doctor claiming medical exemption? Is the doctor licensed to practice in the state? There’s a few ways to check validity without trying to parse the diagnosis.

            1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

              I know the medical exemption portion on my company’s form had a fairly extensive section for the doctor to complete about themselves. I remember speciality, years in practice, and whether a temporary or permanent medical exemption was being recommended were among the things to be filled out. And they also requested supporting medical documentation – that was all going directly to Employee Health for evaluation.

      3. Bagpuss*

        I would be interested to know whether, if someone were to be fired for not getting vaccinated when they did have a genuine medical reason not to do so, this would amount to illegal discrimination? (I don’t think it would here in the UK, because of the way in which disability is defied for the purpose of establishing whether someone is in the protected class) .
        (although it might still potentially be an unfair dismissal)

        In general, it seems to me that if someone were to resign rather than getting the vaccine then it should be seen as a resignation, if they refuse to get the vaccine and are fired as a result then it looks like fired for cause to me – they are refusing to comply with a reasonable instruction from their employer (unless they are genuinely medically exempt, in which case the instruction is not reasonable, in which case I would take the view that it should be treated more as someone who is no longer able to carry out the work.

        Does it make a difference? I thought from what I’d read hear that someone was fired for cause they would not normally be eligible for unemployment, so other than when giving a reason for leaving, on their next job application, would it matter?

        1. ses*

          not a lawyer, but iirc the equality act defines disability as a condition that persists for longer than a specific time period (i think six months) and substantially impairs your life. i think an inability to be vaccinated, with the accompanying health risks, might count. suspect it would have to go to court, though.

    1. Green great dragon*

      Seems up to the individual to a large extent? They can say ‘I won”t do it – I resign’ or they can say ‘I won’t do it – go ahead and fire me’.

      1. Carlie*

        That’s kind of what I thought. If they are refusing vaccination AND refusing to resign, they are being fired because they are forcing the company to take the action rather than taking responsibility for the consequence of their decision. But I would also expect them to be turned down for unemployment, since they knowingly committed a fireable offense?

      2. hbc*

        I agree, and I imagine it would be similar for lots of things you’re asked to do in the workplace. I think the only question would be if the employer considers this your effective resignation (same as if you just stopped coming into work) and could successfully fight an unemployment claim.

      3. Littorally*

        Yeah, this is my thought too. I don’t see how it’s different for vaccinations than for anything else.

        “I’m not going to comply with this policy, so I quit” = voluntary resignation
        “I’m not going to comply with this policy, and I’m going to sit and collect a paycheck til you fire me” = fired

    2. Just delurking to say...*

      I read that as a hypothetical question asked out of curiosity, rather than one actually reflecting the LW’s stance.

    3. Perfectly Particular*

      Yes, I agree. To me, it’s the same as people not wanting to return to work in person, so they resign.

    4. Lacey*

      That’s what I thought as well. If the company says, “Now we require everyone to work Saturdays” and I quit, I haven’t been fired. I’ve quit over a new condition of employment, yes, but I’ve still quit.

      1. Joielle*

        But if you just fail to show up the first Saturday you’re scheduled, you’d be fired. That’s the difference – either you quit in advance of the new requirement, or you’re fired for refusing to comply once the requirement is effective. I think it’s probably gone both ways with the vaccine requirement, depending on how the anti-vax employee handles it.

        1. Lacey*

          Yeah, but no one’s talking about just not showing up.

          Presumably companies are giving people a deadline to get vaccinated by and not just firing everyone who hasn’t done it at the time they make the decision. If people quit before the deadline, they’ve just quit. If they refuse to get vaccinated and lose their job they’re fired.

      2. Kathlynn (Canada)*

        This could be seen as constructive dismissal though, with schedule changes. But otherwise I agree.

        1. Office Pantomime*

          In Canada at least, a new requirement to work on Saturdays on its own wouldn’t legally rise to the level of constructive dismissal.

    5. AthenaC*

      It may vary – for those situations where a person says they want to continue working but they won’t get the vaccine, then the company probably has fired them. But I’m sure there’s other situations where the person is very explicit that “I quit!” … and that’s probably a voluntary resignation.

    6. Pocket Mouse*

      Depends on who takes the action. If an employer says it has a mandate but it’s not enforced, an unvaccinated employee can either quit or keep working there. If the mandate is enforced, that’s the employer deciding to terminate the business relationship by firing the employee.

    7. anonymous73*

      I’ve heard of some quitting before they’re fired because they don’t want to be vaccinated. But others might push to the deadline and try to call the company’s bluff – in that case they would be fired. It completely depends on timing IMO.

      I’m on a contract for the government and we’re required to be vaccinated. We keep getting emails about deadlines because of the federal mandate, but I find it interesting that not one of those emails lays out the consequences of not getting vaccinated. I assume firing, but would think they have to spell it out in writing to avoid law suits.

      1. Cassie*

        I think many places (esp public agencies) are still figuring out “what” the consequences are. If there are collective bargaining agreements, they need to have discussions w/ the unions first before deciding what actually will happen to an employee who doesn’t comply.

        For example, medical workers in the state of CA are required to be vaccinated (no testing alternative, except for approved religious/med exemptions). One county public health dept has been “re-assigning” the un-vaccinated med workers to other (non-med) jobs, so that the dept doesn’t violate the state mandate. Soon, though, that county’s own mandate (ALL employees) will go into effect so those un-vaccinated employees basically only have a temporary reprieve from whatever eventual consequence they’ll face.

        In the townhall mtgs I’ve listened to, the question keeps popping up about “what” will happen to the employees that don’t comply w/ the mandates and there’s never a clear answer aside from “well, they’ll be out of compliance”. Employees keep asking, the management keep hedging. I haven’t heard any mention about firing yet but I suspect everyone knows that that will probably be the end result.

    8. noahwynn*

      I work for an airline. HR told all of us that manage employees that they will be given the opportunity to resign and will be fired if they continue to refuse to be vaccinated and won’t resign. However, they have also said they won’t fight any unemployment claims either.

      1. Observer*

        However, they have also said they won’t fight any unemployment claims either.

        Smart move. Fighting unemployment claims can be an expensive undertaking. In some states, they wouldn’t need to – just stating that the person quit or were fired over the vaccine mandate would make them ineligible (unless they claim that they were fired for a different reason). In other states, stating that would probably make the person eligible and nothing the employer says will make a difference. So why even go there?

    9. R*

      They would rather collect unemployment than us honest people who want to work. I can’t believe how lazy some people are.

    10. Girasol*

      Seems like it’s a matter of timing. If the boss says, “You have until Friday to get vaccinated,” then if the person leaves Monday-Thursday it’s “I quit” and on or after Friday, it’s “You’re fired.”

    11. Ursula*

      This is how my organization is handling it, though I suspect that’s because of negotiations with the unions. We have a policy against rehiring people who were fired outside their probationary period, so this allows people to be rehired later if they ever actually get the vaccine.

      That said, I could really see it going either way. It’s not like you’ll be able to get unemployment if you’re being fired for a major policy violation anyway, so considering it a resignation is the kinder path.

    12. MCMonkeyBean*

      I agree, I think if someone is actively choosing not to comply with the requirements to stay at the job they are effectively quitting.

  2. Czhorat*

    For OP 3, a recruiter is a sales person. You shouldn’t go behind their back for a job that they brought to your attention, but otherwise they work for the hiring companies, not for you.

    Working with a recruiter can be a mixed bag – they do want to fill the position, but it doesn’t need to be with you. Remember that someone who found you randomly on LinkedIn isn’t adding much value; it’s fine for your to work with them, but there’s no reason for an employer to take you more seriously coming through them

    1. Artemesia*

      So this. This is not a friendly person who wants to help you get a job and who has wonderful contacts that will increase your odds of that job. THIS is a sales person who wants to make money from you. IF they have a job they bring to you then that may benefit you. If you see a job and bring it to them then you reduce your chances of getting that job. Why would a company recruiting with their own system want to pay a huge fee to a recruiter they didn’t hire in order to hire you? Unless you are a golden unicorn, you are just more expensive if you do that.

      1. Loredena Frisealach*

        I got bit a few times this past job hunt – a recruiter would reach out to me about a job and ask me to apply implying that they were working for the employer. Only to realize that actually the job was posted, and they were essentially front-running, and effectively sunk my likelihood of an interview.

        My best results have been with recruiters directly employed by the company, which does mean working with many different ones!

        1. Kuddel Daddeldu*

          Same here. I got my current job through a recruiter hired by the company to head-hunt for very specific talent. I did not write a cover letter; I just brought two cue cards to the first interview (my updated CV and the questions I wanted to ask). I only sent an application, letters of recommendation etc. (common practice here) after the first, two-hour interview with the recruiter. The second interview was with the hiring manager (managing director) and that was it.
          The recruiter earned their fee by finding me and conducting the first interview, so the company effectively participated in the process only in the final stages. This is not uncommon for executive or fairly senior positions; often the company does not want their search to become public knowledge as it may hint at new research, product or service plans.

    2. Aquawoman*

      I don’t know much about recruiters but the thing about going through them for jobs the job-seeker found themselves seems pretty sketchy. I wonder if that’s a widespread practice and if not, I don’t think I’d want to work with people who did that.

      1. ecnaseener*

        It’s not widespread, for the reasons Alison gave. But I’m sure plenty of recruiters try to get naive job-seekers to do it.

      2. tamarack and fireweed*

        Yup, that was my reaction too. It may be something that’s done in some industries and geographic regions/countries, but the way this was told, it sounds ballsy to me for a recruiter to ask a candidate to go through them for jobs they found listed independently. Basically, the recruiter asked the LW to do their own marketing for them, with no benefit to the LW/job seeker.

        So I’d say, if the recruiter comes back to the LW with a good option they should take it (and I found my entry into the software industry via a recruiter that was serving a niche that I filled – good experiences on my part!). But there is no need for gratitude or loyalty in any shape or form.

    3. Betteauroan*

      Where do you live? I lived in Alaska for a few hears and lots of people live in the outskirts of Fairbanks voluntarily off-grid, some even with no running water and other essentials most of us can’t imagine living without. Some people just like living that way.

      1. tamarack and fireweed*

        Hey, I’m in interior Alaska, and my home office is in a dry cabin off the main house (which has the normal mod cons). Not sure what this is in response to though.

    4. Nicotena*

      Personally I’m glad my field rarely uses recruiters. It doesn’t seem to add a lot of value to the process from the perspective of the employee and it introduces more opportunity for confusion. I’m guessing there’s an advantage to the employer if they truly see less resumes and more targeted ones, but from what I hear on this site, that’s not always guaranteed either. When I see senior level jobs that are using a third-party to screen I rarely apply (and the one time I did I got on some terrible lists for things like coaching and fee services I didn’t want).

      1. Lenora Rose*

        It all depends. I wouldn’t particularly want it, but my husband has been dealing with mental health issues – ironically, helped when he is working in a non-toxic environment – that make even applying a huge block, but his field is one where recruiters aren’t unusual, and having them calling him with suitable work opportunities to apply for has been a godsend.

      2. NotAnotherManager!*

        We only use recruiters for hard-to-fill positions, and we have a very limited pool of external recruiters that we were with because of how many bad ones there are.

        The ones we work are sent the job description and do a follow-up call to make sure everyone’s on the same page of what a good candidate looks like. The recruiter will find people via networking, LinkedIn, professional organizations, etc. and has the whole job description, pay range, etc. for someone to determine if it’s of interest to them. On our end, we have two internal recruiters for a a staff of 200+, so the extra help, especially in niche or hard-to-fill areas is critical. At one point this year, we had 20 *different* positions (more if you count multiples) open due to departures and exponential growth in some departments – that’s too much for two people.

        A GOOD recruiter will not waste the candidate’s time and can take some of the administrative side of the process of their plate. They can also get candidate feedback more easily than the actual candidate can. The problem is that there are a lot of bad recruiters that add no value to either side.

      3. tamarack and fireweed*

        It helped me when I was in a professional slump and needed to find entry into a new field – and had no connections, or knowledge how this field recruited in the first place. I saw ads from a recruitment firm that specialized in filling tech industry jobs that required speaking more than one European language – which was my case.

        Later, when I was on the hiring side, it was sometimes hard to convey to recruiters the specifics of the profiles I needed. (For example, we were hiring tech support engineers for our own product, and recruiters tried to send us people who had done in-office tech support. Turns out, just because you’re good at installing printers and helping people with malfunctioning PCs doesn’t mean you’re cut out to be client-facing in a software-as-a-service position — at all.) But it was worth figuring out how to effectively communicate with them because they did help building a viable pipeline of candidates. Later my employer hired the recruiter that had connected me to the job as an in-house recruiter…

  3. MJ*

    My hospital was firing people for cause if they refused the vaccine mandate (without a valid exemption). I assume it’ll hold up in unemployment challenges.

    1. Bilateralrope*

      I saw an article today about how a lot of employers in my country are worried about the legal uncertainty around requiring vaccination. They worry that firing a worker for refusing vaccination opens them up to unjustified dismissal charges, while not firing workers who refuse vaccination opens them up to health and safety charges by making vaccinated (or those with medical exemptions) working alongside people who had refused vaccination.

      I wonder how many countries have the law being unclear in a similar way.

      1. WS*

        I’m very glad that the law in my state has been made very clear, rather than leaving it to the employers – if you work in a large number of essential industries including mine, you have to have your first dose by 15th October and your second by 15th December. Unless you have a medical exemption, which is rare, your employer can either find you non-contact work, if possible, or fire you. Other non-essential industries that have customer contact have a later date, but still a vaccine mandate. A substitute teacher is currently challenging the law on a number of grounds (including the Nuremberg Code!) but nobody thinks she’ll be successful.

      2. Bagpuss*

        YEs, where I am (UK) the consensus seems to be that it would be legal for employers to make it a requirement for any new employees to be vaccinated (subject to having accommodations for anyone with a genuine medical reason not to be), because it can be part of the job requirements / contract at the outset, but that (except for certain health workers where they’ve brought in a specific law) you can’t require it of existing employees.

        there are also issues about asking employees about their vaccine status as while that is not illegal, because medical information is seen as particularly sensitive the rules about data handling and protection are more stringent, so employers may be less confident about requesting the information, to avoid potential issues with data protection.

        1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

          … That feels like insanely unequal treatment. You can require a thing of new employees, but not require the same thing of all current ones? Can you imagine the chaos if that applied to new ethics rules, or continuing education requirements, or literally anything else?

          I’m assuming it will turn out to be based on the contract nature of most UK employment, and the theory is that you can’t change the terms of the contract after you’ve agreed to it. If so, it would imply that most employment contracts are ridiculously poorly written, since they would appear to lack an amendment/renegotiation clause.

          Or that the employers are being giant fools, and just not invoking them.

          1. Esmeralda*

            “That feels like insanely unequal treatment. You can require a thing of new employees, but not require the same thing of all current ones? Can you imagine the chaos if that applied to new ethics rules, or continuing education requirements, or literally anything else?

            Sure. I am a state employee, working at a state university. I get free health insurance when I retire; new hires do not. I can flex my hours; many new employees cannot. I have colleagues who do not have the degree that is now required for new hires in that same or equivalent position, and nobody is planning to fire or reassign those colleagues. In fact, no one with the specific work experience I brought when I was hired has been hired in donkey’s years — the postings require a very different work experience. They ain’t firing me any time soon.

            People get waivered all the time for not meeting current requirements, and new employees don’t get certain perks (that new employees used to get) or are expected to comply with rules that don’t apply to current employees. Or, the current employees are given more time to get in compliance, or to show that they are working on getting into compliance, whereas new employees are expected to be in compliance on day 1.

            1. Rusty Shackelford*

              While I agree (and am in similar circumstances), being vaccinated isn’t a perk, nor is it a change in job qualifications to the point that a degree is now required for current employees are grandfathered in. It’s a safety issue that impacts everyone, so it should apply to everyone. A better analogy would be saying “no one hired before Oct 1 has to wear a hard hat, but all new employees must wear one.”

              1. Esmeralda*

                Oh yeah, I agree. There are some rules and expectations that everyone has to comply with and this is definitely one of them.

                I was addressing the larger idea that all employees do not have to always and everywhere follow the same rules. I can see that I wasn’t clear about that!!

          2. banoffee pie*

            I think it’s quite common here (UK) for people who already have contracts to get something more (better salary, perks etc) than new employees, if the new employee signed a less generous contract at a later date. I’m no expert, though, so don’t quote me :) It’s not like America where apparently employment contracts are rare. Which I only found out about from this website! I just assumed you guys were the same as us.

            1. londonedit*

              Yes – I work with a few people who have more holiday entitlement than I do, because they’ve been at the company for many years and signed a contract with terms that had changed by the time I joined. There’s nothing the company can do about those people’s 28 days’ holiday, but everyone who’s joined the company for about the last 10 years gets 25. I can absolutely see it being the case that a company could require vaccination as part of a new employee’s contract, but they wouldn’t necessarily require it of existing staff who hadn’t signed that contract. However they can always update the terms of your contract – if I get a new job title or a pay rise I get a letter outlining the details which says something along the lines of ‘this constitutes an addendum to the agreement signed on 19/08/2017’ or whatever. And in that case you’d have the option to reject the updated terms and resign.

          3. Loulou*

            I think it’s extremely common for new employees to have different things in their contracts than pre-existing ones. Especially in a union environment. You can add a new requirement for working for you much easier than you can add a new condition on your existing employees’ employment. The latter requires negotiating/bargaining.

        2. LKW*

          I feel that’s a naive position. There are enough examples through history, smallpox, polio, where a vaccine didn’t exist and then it did. Allowing staff to be grandfathered into the list of known vaccines at the time of hiring is ridiculous.

          I suppose they could make everyone reapply to their jobs. They could potentially “fire” everyone and then rehire everyone at their same level of pay and seniority, but require the new vaccine policies be applied across the staff.

          1. MsSolo (UK)*

            Fire and rehire is a big favourite of employers in the UK when they want to change conditions across the board – usually to reduce holidays or pay, sometimes in lieu of a more formal redundancy process. I don’t know if you hear about it more in more heavily unioned sectors (like transport – rail and bus companies have both come under fire for doing this to drivers recently) because the unions have the media clout to make a big deal of it, or if it actually happens more there as a way of avoiding engaging with the union. It’s a terrible practice, and funnily enough no one ever insists it’s the only way to give people better conditions, but the Tories aren’t interested in banning it.


          2. Bagpuss*

            Well, except firing people unless you have good reason to gets very expensive, very fast, since you generally have to have a valid reason to fire someone, we don’t have ‘at will’ employment except within the first 2 years of a job.

            And yes, it’s because we have employment contracts, and both parties to a contract have to agree any changes.
            It’s very common for people to have different terms on their contracts depending on when they joined.

            It’s also possible for terms to be varied but the employer doesn’t have carte blanche to make any changes they want, the change needs to be agreed. (An employer can give notice that something his going to change and if the employee doesn’t actively object, then by continuing to show up for work they can be deemed to have accepted, if they don’t expressly say they have not)

            A an example, last time I had unemployment contract, it gave me a fixed number of days of holiday and of sick leave. Employees with older contracts had more sick leave and some also had provisions which meant they got extra days of holiday after certain periods of service. Our employer couldn’t just unilaterally change their contracts to the new format.

            a few years after I joined, we merged with another firm so there were different contracts depending on who you originally worked for.

            A bit later efforts were made to try to move everyone onto the same terms – employees agreed to sign new contracts with more consistent terms (and mostly, it was part of a wider negotiation where people ended up getting more pay, but less sick leave – historically one of the two firms had tended to pay very well but have fairly standard provision for sick pay and holidays, the other paid below normal market rates but had very generous sick leave policies and slightly better than average holiday)

            “Can you imagine the chaos if that applied to new ethics rules, or continuing education requirements, or literally anything else”
            Well, we seem to manage pretty well. Employment contracts are generally broad enough to cover normal charges like those
            For instance, I am a lawyer. My employment contract (when I had one) explicitly required me to comply with all professional requirements so covered things like continuing education, training etc. Our regulatory body has changed the requirements from time to time, but that’s already factored in to the employment contract.

            And most employment contracts say what your key job is but include boilerplate about such other duties as assigned, so normally if your employer tells you to do something, then it’s a lawful instruction and part of your ‘other duties as assigned’

            The contract itself is generally fairly short and other things are contained in employee handbooks and policies, which are updated, but introducing a vaccine requirement would be a more fundamental change.

            Part of the issue is that (except in specialized situations like healthcare ) vaccination hasn’t previously been something you’d have in an employment contract or conditions, so there isn’t anything to amend, and getting vaccinated is sufficiently different to anything that it would normally have been expected that an employer might require of you to make it hard to enforce, since it would be extremely unusual to be in a position where an employer can require you to get a medical procedure (however minor) so it would be a very significant change in the contract.

            So: If the government made laws requiring vaccination (which they have done for health care staff) then the employer is in the clear because it is fair to dismiss someone if they cannot legally do their job (the classic example would be someone who was banned from driving being dismissed from their job as a driver)

  4. learnedthehardway*

    OP#3 – you should specify to the recruiter that you DO NOT want your resume sent to companies without you first being informed/asked if you’re interested in the opportunity. And you should ask what their relationship is with the company – are they putting you forward because they have a contract with the organization to find candidates for a specific role? Or are they using your resume for business development?

    The very last thing you need or want is a recruiter sending your resume off to companies on spec, in hopes that the company will be interested in you. When I worked in-house for a major company, we had a standing policy that we would not deal with recruiters unless the company already had a contract signed with the recruitment agency. In some cases, while we might have the candidate’s resume in our database already, or be able to find it easily on a career’s site, the company refused to even consider candidates put forward unsolicited by recruitment agencies, just because the company did not want to end up in an argument over whether they owed a recruiter a fee when they had not gone through the process of determining that it was necessary to commission a search for a candidate. Used to drive hiring managers nuts, because they’d get approached by agencies with resumes, and then HR would tell them they couldn’t hire the person, but it was to prevent the company from being on the hook for agency recruitment fees that the company didn’t need to pay. (Also, it made the hiring managers involve HR in the recruitment process, which should be a no-brainer, but was surprisingly difficult to get hiring managers to realize.)

    You certainly do not (and should not) consider yourself to be “represented” by a recruitment agency, and you do not owe them any loyalty to work only with them. Their clients are the companies that are hiring them to find candidates. Anyone who tells you differently is lying – the client is the person/company that pays the bills. (You should NEVER pay a company to market you as a candidate – not unless you have sports, music, or acting career and have an agent in that kind of context – that’s a completely difference situation from the average job seeker.)

    1. Czhorat*

      All good points.

      Another way to think about it is to honestly assess your relationship with the recruiter and what they know as your value.

      Did they work with you? Are the results of your work? Have strong referrals from people who are well respected and in a position to make them?

      Or did they find you from a keyword search on LinkedIn? If the latter, b they aren’t offering the company much service in “finding” you aside from an initial phone screen

    2. pcake*

      In my experience, you can tell people you have any relationship, business or personal, not to do something, but expect them at some time to forget and do it anyway. That happens all the time. And if it’s important that people in your industry – your boss, for example – not know you’re looking for work, it’s safer not to give a random person your blessing to send out your resume.

    3. voluptuousfire*

      In my old job, I’d see people apply for a role but the email and phone number were for a contingency/agency recruiter and it was a really odd way to try to get business. None of the people they had “apply” were qualified, as it turned out.

      One of my recruiters reached out to one of these “candidates”, not realizing it was an agency recruiter, and had to hang up on them since they were trying to blitz her to sign a contract.

  5. august*

    Please do apply again. As much as good interviews go, the hiring manager might have interviewed a lot of people and one good interview in a bunch might not stand out enough for them to pinpoint to a certain candidate. They might have thought of it but most of the times not enough to reach out. Also they don’t know if you’ve found a job within the period of your previous application and the new job hiring and if you’re interested in this new one.

    1. Artemesia*

      Absolutely apply again and drop an email to the person you interviewed with if you were a finalist for the last job indicating your interest and that you have applied for the X job you just saw posted.

    2. Betteauroan*

      Definitely keep applying to any position you’re qualified for as the positions are probably being filled by different people. Most places will only consider candidates who apply for their open position specifically. And make a nice, new cover letter for each one. You can leave in the things that match the job, but make sure each one is tailored for each specific position. That way if the same person happens to see your resume twice, they will see you put the effort in and you are qualified for both positions, if applicable.

    3. Smithy*

      In addition to all of this, jobs that may seem similar may have hiring managers that don’t necessarily interact a lot. And depending on how their HR is structured, your resume may truly not be super visible to the hiring manager/HR staff member engaged with the current recruitment. However, applying again not only let’s you have the chance to start fresh with new people, but also for them to reach out to the people who may have previously interviewed you.

      Another feature that can be at play with larger companies is where hiring has a huge amount of gatekeeping through HR. At my old job if I just hired someone, and then know someone hiring for a similar role and think that maybe someone we interviewed a few months would be good – I’d to a) know they were hiring, b) flag we had some good candidates who didn’t make it c) go back through my assigned HR staff member who might not be the current HR staff member on this current task, and d) then have HR reach out to those candidates and ask they reapply. Certainly that occasionally happens, but if it doesn’t it’s not he same as them not liking you – it’s just potentially a lot of bureaucracy inter-department dynamics that lots of people aren’t excited for.

  6. Uldi*

    LW #2

    I’m curious what the laws of 12 year old volunteers are. It might be that legally a parent or legal guardian must be present on-site.

    1. Rara Avis*

      My daughter (now 13; started at 10) volunteer together; she is not allowed to fly solo until 16 or 18, and I have to be an active volunteer as well, not just bring her and sit back. Very few organizations in our area even allow children under 16.

      1. H2*

        Yeah, this is my experience. My son is in his middle school beta club, and they’re required to have some thing like 30 volunteer hours a year. It’s a complete nightmare because it’s very hard to find anyone who wants to take middle school or’s, and when they do they always, always want a parent.

        On the other hand, I have worked with middle school volunteers, and they generally require so much supervision that their net contribution is small. I’m sure there are exceptions to that! But unless they have a parent to supervise them or are just super dedicated to the task, it’s probably not a super meaningful from a workload perspective.

      2. The Rural Juror*

        I volunteered for a while at a dog shelter walking the dogs. There were plenty of jobs teens could do, but they weren’t allowed to be on premises without a parent or guardian if they were under 16. They had to be at least 12 to volunteer at all, but they had special events for kids under 12 about once a month. I always saw a lot of kids and their parents volunteering together during evenings and weekends. I don’t believe they were allowed to take the dogs out of their kennels on their own, but there was always a need for laundry, washing dog bowls, refilling Kongs with peanut butter/water mixture that was frozen for hot days, etc.

      3. Butterfly Counter*

        For a moment, I thought she literally wasn’t allowed to fly alone until she was 16 or 18 and I wondered what country you were in that put age limits on travelling by air!

    2. Londoner*

      Exactly! I’ve never heard of 12 year olds doing voluntary work. Is that even legal? What work could they possibly be doing? What safeguarding measures are in place?

      I’d be interested in hearing more from the letter writer as the setup puzzles me so much.

        1. Czhorat*

          Yeah, and 12 is old enough that she should be able to work without a parent hovering around the office.

          1. Stitch*

            It really depends on the 12 year old. There’s a big range in maturity levels at that age. It’s just a brain development thing, compare how some kids just don’t hit their growth spurts until later in their teens where some kids get tall sooner, a similar thing happens inside the brain (the two don’t necessarily correlate).

            1. Richard Hershberger*

              Yeah, my thirteen year old I would have no qualms about sending off alone. My twelve year old who is on the spectrum? If she had total buy-in, sure: She would be obsessively focused. But if not? It would be a terrible idea.

            2. Mental Lentil*

              I’ve worked with both children and adults; there is a big range in maturity levels at all ages.

            3. Eldritch Office Worker*

              Yeah I was babysitting the neighbor’s kids when I was ten, but I know people now with ten year olds who (rightfully) still need them to be babysat themselves. Varies.

          2. Run mad; don't faint*

            Sometimes it’s just organizational policy that parents volunteer with kids under a particular age. I volunteered with my daughters at a local animal shelter for that reason. But it sounds like LW’s facility doesn’t have this policy because otherwise, the mother would have assigned duties and wouldn’t be shadowing the employee.

            1. cat servant*

              sometimes the organizational policy is there because of insurance. The animal shelter i volunteer with requires anyone under 16 have an active volunteer parent working with them and monitoring and makes it very clear our insurance does not cover kids under 16. If anything were to happen i’m not sure that would hold up in court but thats why we require parents.

              1. Betteauroan*

                I’m not sure that would hold up in court, either. Sounds awfully risky to me. I am the founder and executive director of a non-profit and I know my board. They would say a big fat N O to a 12 year old volunteering without their parent also being a volunteer.

          3. kittymommy*

            I would think this is going to be very dependent on the office/organization. I used to volunteer at the local humane society (as an adult). They had an age restriction of 15 (or 16) for volunteering solo. I used to take my friend’s daughter when she was 13 so she could volunteer as well.

            I’d assume it’s not so much legality as it is liability for the company.

            1. Clorinda*

              My daughter volunteered at the local humane society starting at age 13, which was the youngest age allowed. Different tasks were assigned to different ages; she couldn’t walk dogs until the age of 16, for example.

              1. PT*

                I worked at a nonprofit and we did not accept volunteers under age 13. We had youth programs, and children 12 and under were considered children who required direct childcare-level supervision, like an elementary school. Age 13 was when our “teen” programming kicked in, and teens had a lower level of supervision, more like a high school.

          4. A*

            Absolutely. I volunteered at that age, and the day I turned 13 I got my working papers from town hall and got an afterschool job at the local pet store. Why would it be ok for a 13 year old to have a paid job, but a 12 year old can’t volunteer (without parental supervision)?

            I’m sure there are kids that age that maybe would not be able to handle that, but that’s a different ballgame because they wouldn’t be volunteering/working.

        2. Londoner*

          Thank you for answering. I’ll put this down to cultural differences. I’m in the UK and I’ve never heard of instances of such young children volunteering (other than maybe within their school context).

          1. allathian*

            Yeah, agreed. I’m in Finland, and children as young as 10 can and do volunteer through their schools with things like picking trash (gloves, plastic bags, and trash hooks provided) or planting trees while supervised by staff, or through extracurricular activities such as sports teams or the scouts.

            1. Stitch*

              I think it depends. 12 is right at the age where I think it’s really kid dependent. A kid volunteering with something like a scouting troop or a team is different because you’d still have adults whose primary job is to watch the kids (and places that allow kid volunteers often have rules about kid/suoervisory adult ratios). A place like a school or library is more middle ground because it’s not anyone’s job necessarily to watch the tween volunteer but those are also jobs that interact with a lot of children and so the employees will be more used to kids and their quirks.

              I don’t know what kind of non-profit LW works at but it depends on the organization, how public facing the role is, and how closely the kid is being watched.

            2. bamcheeks*

              Volunteering through school or another organisation that works with children like libraries, brownies, etc would be fine, because they will have safeguarding procedures and officials, everyone will be DBS-checked, that kind of stuff. If it’s more like a normal office which isn’t set up for looking after young people, it would be extremely high risk to have a young person volunteering without a parent or carer present.

              1. boxfish*

                I wouldn’t necessarily assume that to be the case – my local public library does not DBS check its staff, and I used to volunteer at a school where they didn’t DBS check volunteers at all. Seems bizarre to me, but I assume it’s a money-saving thing.

            3. tamarack and fireweed*

              In Germany, for example the Federal Agency for Technical Relief (civil protection, emergency help etc.), which relies heavily on volunteers, has a youth program that starts at age 6. And of course churches and sports clubs have sometimes very young participants that will do volunteering roles around events.

              Real formal volunteer training usually starts around age 14 though. But there are exception. For example in most Länder you can start training as a youth umpire in team sports at age 12.

              (In Germany, 14 is a pretty important age – start of criminal responsibility, usually allowed to make some medical decisions, allowed to choose your own religion etc.)

              1. tamarack and fireweed*

                To add something that may be more relevant to the point of the LW: In well organized volunteering organizations (like the federal one I mentioned) parents couldn’t just “hang about” – not without a background check and a role! Child protection alone would dictate that non-vetted adults would be kept at bay while children are volunteering.

          2. No one*

            I’m in the UK and I volunteered with Rainbows (girlguiding section aged 5-7, similar to Girl Scout daisies in the US) from the age of 12, and I know plenty of my friends volunteered in various different ways from 13, including in charity shops and animal rescue centres. It really wasn’t that unusual!

          3. Storm in a teacup*

            I’m UK based and I used to volunteer at a care home at 13. It was organised through my school so I don’t think it’s that unusual. There were strict guidelines on how many hours we could do though – we generally spent 2-3 hours one afternoon each week.

          4. Bagpuss*

            I’m also in the UK and I think it’s fairly common – perhaps more so where the voluntary work is being done through a school or another organisation such as Guides or Scouts – the main issues tend to be safeguarding (whether the adults are all DBS checked, whether there is a safeguarding officer etc) and insurance – I recall at one time out office insurance covered under-16s if they were visitors to the premises (e.g. coming with a client) but not if they were employees (which would include volunteers)

            I do think however that a lot of organisations may have safeguarding policies which mean they wouldn’t accept a child unless accompanied by a parent or other responsible adult, particularly if the organisation isn’t one where they are routinely dealing with children or vulnerable adults

          5. CoveredInBees*

            My middle school “required” a certain number of volunteer hours to graduate 8th grade (ages 13-14) and I definitely volunteered with programs that specifically placed kids our age in volunteering.

            I used quotation marks because I seriously doubt they would have held back anyone over this, but it was presented as required.

          6. Loredena Frisealach*

            It varies a lot! At 12 I joined the junior friends of the library. Mostly that meant I helped shelve books, helped with the book sale, and could check my books out myself. As a teenager my brother was a soccer ref which was also volunteer (and usually a parent I think). In both cases I don’t actually remember many other teens doing the same.

        3. Rachel 2: Electric Boogaloo*

          I did too! It was very common for 12 year olds to help out with things for the younger kids’ summer reading programs.

          1. Amaranth*

            Same here, though I was ten and started helping with the summer reading/writing programs and shelving books. When my own daughter wanted to volunteer though, the minimum age had been raised to…I think?…16 for liability reasons.

            1. SweetFancyPancakes*

              My previous (big city) library system had an age requirement of 16 for volunteers because of liability, but at my now (tiny rural town) library I would take a mature 12-year old because we are a lot slower and I would have more time/ability to supervise.

        4. Another Colette*

          My son did lots of volunteer work as part of his bar mitzvah preparation, starting when he was 11 – preparing and serving food at shelters, weeding and cultivating at a community farm, and peer tutoring at a nearby school. All of it was under adult supervision, but not parental supervision. He moved from one volunteer stint to another, but there were other kids who put in a year or more of regular work at one place, which looked a lot like having a job. It’s definitely legal here (California).

        5. Percysowner*

          It’s probably more organization specific than legal requirement. I worked with an animal rescue and it required volunteers under age 18 had to have parental consent and under 16 had to be accompanied by an adult when volunteering. I suspect this is a liability issue, since animals can be unpredictable and so can kids. Area hospitals had no such requirement for volunteering, at least pre-pandemic.

        6. RB*

          I was a candystriper (yes, back when they were still called candystripers) and I started that at around 13 or 14. This was in California. I also did it in Oregon, but I was 16 by then so I don’t know if the state laws would have allowed me to do it earlier.

      1. Analytical Tree Hugger*

        In the US, I’d be surprised if there were laws AGAINST a younger kid doing volunteer work, as long as there was some adult supervision (not necessarily a parent or guardian). While I know it’s not quite the same, this “are kids allowed to do that without a parent?” question makes me think of things like afterschool non-school clubs, sports leagues, or church events. I would find it deeply odd and unworkable if there was an requirement for each child’s parent/guardian to be present.

        As for work a kid could do, some ideas off the top of my head:
        *Socializing shelter animals (i.e., walking the dogs, playing with the cats)
        *Weeding, watering, and harvesting a community garden or helping with the compost pile.
        *Park/beach clean-up days
        *Making posters/fliers
        *Assembling food and other supply packs for food banks
        *Mentoring other, younger kids in educational activities

        Kids are way more capable than many adults want to give them credit for, something I try to remind myself.

        1. bamcheeks*

          In the UK, all those organisations which work with children and young people will have safeguarding policies, meaning that everyone will have had criminal record checks, training on what to do if a young person discloses abuse or neglect, and you’ll have someone who is responsible for overseeing all of that and knowing how/when/where to report any problems. (My dad’s partner is the safeguarding official for her church.) If that is in place, there’d be no problem with having a 12yo volunteering, but if you don’t have that it would be very dodgy.

          1. bamcheeks*

            (Some of this was in place in the mid-90s when I volunteered as a 16yo– I got a talk about what to do if one of the six-year-olds in Beaver Scouts disclosed abuse– but it has got WAY stricter and more official over the last 25 years. The Soham murders were a big turning point in moving to everyone who had contact with children needing to be CRS/DBS checked, but it’s also got much stricter since then too.)

            1. UKDancer*

              Definitely. The rules are a lot stricter now. At least 2 of my dance teachers won’t take under 16s because they don’t want to go through all of the paperwork and take that level of responsibility for young people. I can understand why this might be a deal breaker.

              I’m interested by how many people seem to be volunteering quite young. It’s not something I ever did, I guess being busy with piano lessons, school choir and brownies.

              1. banoffee pie*

                I knew someone who volunteered as a brownie leader at about 13 years old, but her mum was there too as the real leader, so I’m not sure how official it was. I don’t think she was left alone with the brownies anyway. Yeah I’m in the UK too and I didn’t realise people were voluteeering so young but maybe I’ve missed the trend.

              2. Esmeralda*

                I volunteered at age 12, back in the dark ages (1970s). All of those were as part of a group, though, with adult supervision, and associated with a nonprofit organization or a church. I was a candy-striper when I was 14 (maybe 15? I couldn’t drive at the time so I couldn’t have been older)

                When I was 16 I and my best friend volunteered on our own at a local nursing home (socializing with the residents). No one supervised us, I don’t think they had enough staff for that.

                Not the same thing, but…I was babysitting when I was 12 (and I had a lot of friends who did too). I had a weekly gig with a family of FOUR children. LOL. I was exceptionally responsible and my mom was always ready to help if needed, and it was the 1970s. For sure I did not hire any 12 year olds to babysit my kid. I stuck to college kids.

                1. banoffee pie*

                  The babysitters club books had a lot to answer for lol. If I had kids there’s no way I’d be leaving them with a 12 year old

                2. 12-year-old babysitter*

                  I babysat at 11 and 12, back in the early 90s. It was for the kids of a few friends of my parents, and the kids were never very small, and the houses were all just around the corner from my own house and my parents were a phone call away. It was fairly normal in 90s Canada, at least where I grew up. You could do a course in babysitting and first aid organised by the city (I think) at twelve and it was a known thing that you could babysit from twelve. I should ask my siblings who have kids if it’s still the same in our city. I imagine not!

                3. Esmeralda*

                  Haha, when I started those kids were 2, 4, 6, and 8. That was my largest group. They were incredibly obedient and well behaved children, though. I babysat for a lot of families, mostly one or two kids. (I even fired a few, where the parents were supposed to come home at midnight and showed up at 2 am, or where they didn’t pay me…My mom showed up at one lady’s office since she was “never home”, to demand my money.)

                  When I was 15 I got a job at the mall, that was the end of babysitting except as a personal favor.

                4. Bamcheeks*

                  @banoffee pie — haha, I literally just asked my friend if her 12/13 year old would be ok to babysit in a couple of weeks! But they live two doors down from us, we’re only to be two streets away at a mutual friend’s house, and she won’t come over until the children are already asleep, so it’s more of a case of “phone us if they wake up”.

            2. banoffee pie*

              I remember it being too ad hoc in the mid-90’s with not enough safeguarding. And there was an attitude that all kids had to obey all adults. I’m glad that has gone and kids only feel that they have to obey their own parents, not everybody else’s as well!

              1. banoffee pie*

                lol @bamcheeks I wasn’t judging anyone :) Some 13 year olds are pretty responsible. I’m way too cautious about everything anyway

        2. Seeking Second Childhood*

          Ironically the shelter-animal thing is not possible in my state. Minimum age is 14. The state wrote strict rules about animal contact, in a time when exposure to rabies was a death sentence.

        3. Littorally*

          Yeah, as I recall volunteering was required by my middle school in order to pass those grades. You had to rack up so many hours contributing to your community in some way, as a way to build an ethos of citizenship.

          I did my volunteering on the school campus, so supervision was a non-issue, but my understanding is this kind of thing isn’t uncommon, at least in private schools, and would be very weird to be illegal.

      2. Wendy*

        My 13yo’s friends volunteer in an animal shelter, playing with kittens while their parents clean out the litterboxes :-P My kid really really wants to do this too, but a) I’m allergic to cats and b) if I’m gonna have to be there anyway, why do I get the cleaning part?)

      3. Barbara Eyiuche*

        My 10-year-old niece started volunteering at the local animal shelter. She walked the dogs and played with the cats, cleaned up the room where people interacted with animals they were thinking of adopting, and so on. Her parents just dropped her off and picked her up.

        1. KateM*

          I checked recently with a nearby animal shelter for my son – they allow only people 16 and up to walk their dogs (16-17 with parental written permission), and children under 10 are not allowed to participate at all (i.e. if I took a dog of theirs to walk, I would not be allowed to have my 6yo with me). And children or grown-ups, they let you to walk their dogs only after you have attended dog walking class. Maybe the dogs in your shelters have potentially less abusive background than ours…

          1. hbc*

            It’s just a matter of risk tolerance. Some places might have nothing but well-socialized, docile animals and not want to take on any non-adults. My local shelter is required to take any and every animal and has an amazing save rate (i.e.: “bite quarantine” usually leads to foster and training rather than euthanasia) and they have programs starting as young as 11 for volunteers. It’s part of their mission to increase awareness of animals in need, so getting young people involved is worth all the extra hassle.

            1. H2*

              I don’t think it’s only this, though. I have worked in situations where I’ve had middle school aged volunteers, and they take a lot of supervision. Quite frankly, except in specific cases with a specific kid, they require more effort than they contribute.

              1. hbc*

                I guess I’ll say risk vs reward, and it’s certainly not true that the balance is the same for every kid and every program. I know tons of middle schoolers who wouldn’t need more than an hour of orientation in reshelving books or how to give the right kind of socialization to kittens, and after that every day is a win. And as I said, if part of your mission is to raise awareness of something in the community, it’s okay if the job was net slower as long as the kid goes back to school talking about animal welfare, new books at the library, or how there are nice people without homes.

          2. Clisby*

            The main animal shelter where I live won’t take volunteers under 18.

            Both of my kids volunteered earlier than that – my son as an assistant soccer coach through the local rec department, and my daughter at our county museum – mostly cleaning fossils. But, of course, a rec department and a museum are used to dealing with kids.

          3. Kal*

            My local shelter has rules where children are encouraged to join in volunteering so that they can learn from the experience, but they must be supervised by a guardian at all times until they are over the age of 16 and able to do the training and such necessary to be on their own. Cause yeah, even with things like walking a dog or socializing a cat can go very wrong if you don’t know exactly how to interact with animals in all sorts of situations. Shelter environments can cause a whole lot of stress on even really well-adjusted animals, so while the socializing is important to help that, you also can’t expect animals to act like a pet at home would. There were also very specific rules about how to deal with any injury that broke skin or any bites, for both medical followup and so that if a given animal is reacting out of stress from being interacted with by people that they can be taken out of that stress. There were also some pretty serious chemicals that needed to be used to sterilize some of the spaces and toys between animals in the non-public areas, and you had to be at least 18 to even access the separate training to be able to use those spaces because of the chemical handling.

            So basically yeah, what age a kid could actually be involved with socializing animals on their own is quite dependant on the particular shelter’s infrastructure and policies.

          4. Falling Diphthong*

            Just as my New England shelters get almost all their puppies from southern shelters, I think they also have a glut of would-be young dog-walking volunteers and so can be picky about maturity and training.

          5. PT*

            Some shelters offer “animal camp” for kids, too. So they might have a large enough shelter that they can design a guided youth volunteer program that is safe for kids, that lets them do the easy parts of volunteering, because they have ample resources elsewhere to have adults handle the more tricky parts.

            1. The Rural Juror*

              The shelter I volunteered with had something like that. I think it was kind of geared towards understanding animal behavior and being comfortable around dogs. They might get to teach animals to sit or high-five or whatever, but a lot of the program was a fun way for the kids to learn how to treat animals well and be responsible pet owners.

          6. SpaceySteph*

            Specifically with animals, there is a lot you don’t know. My dog is friendly, but he gets excited when he meets another dog on walks and sometimes it ends in them fighting rather than being friends. When that other dog is walked by a young teen, they are frequently not ready to pull their dog back if it turns ugly (or are getting physically pulled along by a strong dog) because of lack of experience or understanding of the situation. After a couple bad encounters we now steer clear of any dogs walked by people who don’t appear to be adults, for everyone’s safety– especially that of our dog.

            With shelter dogs you know very little about them and their temperament, and I wouldn’t trust a 12yo to take a 80lb shelter dog on a walk and be able to keep them out of trouble

      4. JustSomeone*

        I did a ton of volunteering as a kid, starting somewhere around age 10 or 11. I worked for years at my local historical society’s used book shop, shelving and organizing donated books and assisting customers. I hung out with residents of a nursing home and taught little classes related to a couple of my hobbies. I know there was more, but I’m struggling to come up with additional examples. But in all cases, my mom dropped me off and I did my thing more or less independently under the loose supervision of regular employees. This would have been the very late 1990s and early 2000s in the upper Midwest USA.

      5. hbc*

        Lots of kids that age or younger are perfectly capable of contributing. Heck, at 12, I was getting paid work refereeing peewee soccer games. My mom would drop me off before the first game and pick me up 4 hours later.

        Looking at the places I’ve volunteered, kids that age could shelve books, do basic food prep for animals or people, walk/interact with animals that have been pre-screened for suitability, be part of a supervised buddy program at a nursing home, play music at an event, file papers, and help with setup, staffing, and teardown at events. If anything, it’s weird to think that a 12 year old could bike over to the library to hang out all day, but that parents are needed suddenly if they’re putting someone else’s book back on the shelf rather than their own.

      6. Monday Monday*

        Yeah it is legal. My son is a boy scout and they have to get service/volunteer hours to move up in the ranks. Boy scouts starts at around age 11. Same for when they are younger and in cub scouts. They do a lot of volunteer work starting at age 6. But at the cub scout age, other adults are always present.

      7. Falling Diphthong*

        School events.
        Open house: Kids volunteer to guide perplexed wandering parents
        Science fair: Older kids man the tables for games with younger kids

        Anything you can picture scouts doing, like pulling invasive weeds from hiking land on a crew.

        In my district I’m a little more in tune with the 14-and-up because community service was a requirement once you hit high school…. but there are lots of jobs that it would be unremarkable for a 12 year old to help with. Given that 12 is a typical “okay to stay home alone” age. (My cat sitter started coming on her own around age 10, with a parent or older sibling before that–she’s the much younger sib of one of my kid’s friends.)

      8. MK*

        I imagine that it’s changed over the years, but when I was 12 (25 years ago!) I folded laundry at the Human Society. It was organized through my Girl Scout troop.

      9. Simply the best*

        Not only is it legal, it is often required for school children starting in Middle School to have a certain amount of volunteer hours every year.

      10. doreen*

        There’s lots they could be doing – my kids went to a parochial school and they had to do a certain number of volunteer hours per year in seventh grade as part of the religious education program. For the most part, it wasn’t work in an office – they might volunteer to decorate a classroom or help a Scout leader/coach of younger children or they might plant a garden in a public space or clean up or paint the benches at a playground or have a clothing or recycling drive (with adult help in organizing and getting necessary permission)

      11. A*

        I volunteered from ages 11-14 (in the late 90s-early 2000s) watching kids at a local community center while their parents were in AA/NA meetings. I was never alone with the kids – there were 3-4 adults (mix of full time staff + volunteers) also watching the kiddos, but it was never communicated as a ‘rule’.

        They did have my mom come in when I first reached out asking if I could help out to confirm she was on board with it, but that was it. Granted, we never filled out any paperwork or anything so it may have just been an ‘under the table’ kind of arrangement.

      12. Gumby*

        I was 12 or 13 when I became an adult literacy tutor through the library. My mom also volunteered and we did training together but we had separate students after that. Because of my lack of transportation, we mostly tried to schedule our meetings at the same time.

        Plus a ton of things in or through school at that age. I was a volunteer math peer tutor in junior high (7 – 9th grades in my case, so ages 12 – 14). Tutoring took place in a certain classroom at set times. I was also a volunteer teacher’s aide one year mainly because I had a free period. (Funny aside, for a few months had a co-teacher’s aide who looked vaguely familiar even though I didn’t have any classes with her. She moved away and left the school. A week later I realized she was a child actor on a show that I had watched. The title character even…) And I was in a club in junior high that was service-focused so we did various volunteer things at school and in the community; maybe one every month.

        Other than that, my gym required a certain amount of volunteering. Mostly running and flashing when we hosted meets. (Running = taking the score from one judge to the other one, or to the head table. Is now accomplished via computer. Flashing = showing the score for a routine, still done by hand for the most part. It was always kind of a kick to be able to do it at the nearby college meets if you could too.) These were rare-ish events, maybe 2 or 3 a year, but most gymnasts on the competitive teams participated. Maybe not the youngest, but definitely by age 10 or so.

    3. turquoisecow*

      I had a volunteer job in a hospital when I was 13. I wasn’t left alone with the patients or anything but my parents were definitely not present. We had to do volunteering as part of our preparation for confirmation; many of my classmates volunteered in libraries or at school.

      1. Amey*

        Oh, I just remembered that I did something like this too! When I was 13, I volunteered to read to elderly people in a nursing home.

      2. TexasTeacher*

        Yep, I was a candy striper one summer, I think when I was 13 or 14, worked in the medical records office for the most part. Filing, running errands. It was fun and educational.
        I think in the effort to protect against liability we have made it more difficult for children to do as many independent things as they could do in the past. Heck, our museum doesn’t even like kids walking around on their own until they appear to be old enough to drive themselves there.

        1. Texas*

          I think that restrictions that don’t allow places to employ children are ultimately good and beneficial for kids.

      3. ThatGirl*

        I was a library volunteer in middle school (so, 12-13-14 ish?) and a candy striper circa age 15. I did things like wipe down charts, but I did interact with patients – one of my daily duties was to give everyone ice water; the hospital gave patients those large insulated plastic mugs and I went around with ice and washed their mugs out and refilled them. I also ran to the cafeteria for food for patients as needed.

    4. WS*

      I had a number of volunteer jobs from age 10 onwards, but laws have since changed here in Australia – if you have kids under 15 onsite, every adult has to have a Working With Children certificate, which involves a police check. Probably not an issue for public librarians, but it meant that we could no longer have kids as volunteer gift wrappers for charity at my workplace coming up to Christmas.

    5. OtterB*

      The LW said the 12-year-old was doing great, so presumably 12 isn’t too young for this role.

      I wondered if the mom was hanging around in order to drive her daughter home after the volunteer gig was over rather than go home and come back. In that case the “set her up in the conference room” might work. I had a similar issue for a while with my 14-15 year old. She had a volunteer gig she loved, but it was a distance from home and not accessible by public transit, so until she could drive herself I took her and tried to hang out out of the way.

      1. Clisby*

        I wondered the same – when my son volunteered as an assistant soccer coach (I think he was 15) I always stayed, because it would have been ridiculous to drive home and then have to be back at the soccer field in an hour and a half. Sometimes I watched the games; sometimes I read a book in the car.

      2. Betteauroan*

        I’m not sure that would hold up in court, either. Sounds awfully risky to me. I am the founder and executive director of a non-profit and I know my board. They would say a big fat N O to a 12 year old volunteering without their parent also being a volunteer.

        1. Falling Diphthong*

          What court?

          You can decide your volunteers will be over 18. But that’s not a hard requirement for volunteering or paid work, as lots of examples here attest.

      3. Falling Diphthong*

        I suspect this arose out of needing to give the kid a ride there and back. One day she realized she knew an employee and stopped to chat.

        Possible boost to this–I recall during the pandemic pre-vaccine often thinking “And if I need to fill an hour I can just go to a coffee shop or library…. oh wait, no I can’t.”

    6. Nethwen*

      Volunteer work for a 12-year-old sounds like a public library or a thrift shop associated with a religious institution.

      In the public library context, it makes a lot of sense that the mom is hanging around. People hang out at libraries; it’s just what they do. Especially since many people live in areas where there’s no place to go after you drop off the child and it would take over 30 minutes to go home, it makes a lot of sense that the parent would hang out at the place their child is volunteering.

      Add to that the reality that part of a public library staffer’s job is to be friendly to users, mix in the politics of this particular user being the mom of a volunteer, and I can see where the staffer would be having difficulty knowing how to shut down socializing or even realizing when it’s become a problem. This is definitely a management and training issue and in my experience, few library workers are explicitly taught how to be friendly, accommodate social situations brought on by local politics, and still tell people to leave them alone so that they can do ALL of their job, not just the “make the community feel good about the library” part of it.

      1. pancakes*

        I think you’re overstating this a bit. Most employees and volunteers don’t need special training to understand that they’re not meant to spend their time at work chatting with someone who’s hanging out and watching videos on their phones.

        1. Nethwen*

          It probably depends on the institution. When you get told often enough that your paycheck depends on the public being happy and add that to the normal human difficulty of being “rude” by breaking off conversation with someone you like, I’ve seen it result in plenty of staff over socializing and management not knowing how to address it because “we have to keep the public happy and make them feel welcome.”

      2. tamarack and fireweed*

        I think you’re making a good point here. I thought of a more semi-public place (sports club, retirement home…) rather than a fully public one. I said above that having random adults hang around when children are volunteering seems not ok to me, but that’s of course different in a place where random adults are supposed to be hanging out.

        If it’s something like that, where the staff member’s loyalties are split between the public service mission and the workplace expectations (and not just beyond the latter and their personal preference of chatting with the parent), I think it’s the manager’s role to play, as politely as possible, the role of “bad guy” in separating the parent away from the staff member.

    7. I'm just here for the cats!*

      I found it odd that just the child is volunteering and not the parent. I could see if its something like kids reading to animals in a shelter or visiting with people who are in a nursing home. It’s weird that the parent doesn’t want to help too.

      1. Tiffany Aching's imaginary friend*

        “Reading to animals in a shelter”! Oh, thank you for the laugh. (And it sparked a memory of the scene from MASH when Col. Potter is reading *very dramatically* to a pair of Korean children … from a weapons assembly manual or similar.)

        1. Frank Doyle*

          I mean, it’s a cute picture, but it’s definitely a real thing! Reading to animals helps calm them, and it also helps the kids with their reading skills — reading out loud is helpful, and it can be easier to read to a dog who won’t correct or criticize them.

          1. Where’s the Orchestra?*

            I did this in High School in the cat room at my local animal shelter. The point was to get the cats used to happy human voices as part of the socialization process. I brought whatever my English classes had me reading at that point – so lots of Shakespeare, Dunn, Dickens, and other Literary Giants.
            (Why not kill two birds with one stone – homework and volunteer hours at the same time.)

      2. tamarack and fireweed*

        Well, there are programs in which parents and children volunteer together (or rather, children get introduced to volunteering by tagging along with parents), such as in religious institutions. And there are volunteer programs that are designed for children, in which parents would have no role. The third kind is volunteering opportunities that are in theory open to all ages, where a child gets involved because of their inclination, without their parents’ prior involvement. In which case the normal thing would be to let the kid do their own steps and not hover over them or take over!

    8. BritChick*

      I was curious that Alison assumed this was taking place in an office, when LW doesn’t mention an office (unless there was more to the letter that was edited). A charity that uses child volunteers doesn’t, to me, suggest an office environment.

      I feel like there’s some context missing.

  7. Giant Bike*

    #5 I bike an hour to work and back most days. I always take a shower the night before bed if I know I will be biking to work. I keep my work clothes nicely folded in my bike bag. After I arrive at work, I go to the bathroom and use Japanese body and face wipes, put on deodorant, and change clothes. Amazon sells all types of deodorant wipes. You have to find a brand that works best for you. I hate the ice-type ones, as I can’t stand the cold feeling, even during the summer. Gatsby unscented is my favorite. If I feel my hair is sweaty or dirty, I will use a dry spray shampoo. I keep all these grooming products in my desk. I used to pack on heavy cologne, but one of the secretaries found it offensive, so I just stick to unscented products. I do have a bottle of light cologne if I need to head somewhere after work or don’t feel fresh toward the end of the day.

    On days I need to wear a jacket, I have a jacket and slacks at the office. If I have to wear a full suit and tie, that is usually a no bike day for me. Our office has a shared pump we can use. Keep your bike light charged or have fresh batteries so your light doesn’t go out at night halfway through your ride home at night. This includes the back light. Even better if you can add a light that hangs from the top tube — can’t be too safe! And always wear a helmet.

    If you will be commuting on a bike, I would recommend talking to your manager about it. It might not be suitable for all work environments. Also, prepare for the very rare days when you get a flat or your chain breaks. If you have to call in late for that, your manager is more likely to believe you. I am lucky to live in a fairly safe city with bike lanes and motorists who don’t harass bicyclists. I would be hesitant to bike if I didn’t.

  8. Caroline Bowman*

    OP5 something my husband who used to run to work would do is, ahead of time, leave a couple of shirts (ironed, on hangers) and trousers (they had a policy of open neck button down shirts and khakis or chinos, so not ”formal”, but neat and businesslike) at the office, he’d bring them in maybe once a week or once a fortnight when it didn’t suit him to run in, in a suit bag. Then when he’d run in, he’d employ a wash cloth / soap and aim to get there a bit early for work, but no more than about 10 minutes, just to be able to ”stop sweating” and have some water, before cleaning up and changing into freshly laundered, hung-up clothes that were already there. the running clothes were definitely smelly by the time they got home, but he’d put them on after work and then throw them in the wash at home, with his used work shirt, so it was never an issue.

    Quite a bit hangs on what sort of facilities there are at your office. At one place he worked at, there was a very basic shower stall, so that made things a lot easier, but elsewhere, it was washcloth / wipes/ bathroom stall.

  9. Bluesboy*

    I’d like to add for OP4 that you aren’t talking about the same position being reposted, you’re talking about “another job I’m qualified for”.

    They don’t know you’re looking, because they don’t know if you have found another job since then, or only applied for the first job because it was EXACTLY what you were looking for. They don’t know if you might be interested in the newly posted job. I think it’s pretty rare for a hiring manager who is already getting CVs to reach out to people who might possibly be interested.

    I would definitely apply. You got to the final round before, so you could have a good chance, it’s not like you’re applying for something unrealistic!

  10. Tam*

    #1 That makes no sense. If you choose to leave rather than take the vaccine, you are not fired. You are only fired if you are asked to leave.

    Unless America has some other weird definition of being fired

    1. Kate*

      You are being asked to leave because you are t following policy. And the type of separation can impact things like unemployment benefits.

    2. ecnaseener*

      Choosing to leave and being asked to leave aren’t mutually exclusive though. You don’t have to be dragged out by security for it to count as a firing ;D

      In all seriousness, it probably depends on whether you formally resign in advance. If you just keep working up until the day the rule kicks in, and then you stop showing up because you know they won’t let you keep working, I would say that’s being fired.

      1. Oodles of Noodles*

        Yeah you aren’t required to give a reason when you quit, but if you put in your notice and give a little lie as to why (you/spouse found another job!), that wouldn’t necessarily be a firing.

    3. hbc*

      Seems like a technicality more than anything. “She quit with no notice because she didn’t want to follow a new policy.” “We fired her because she refused to follow a new policy.” “Her employment was terminated when we wouldn’t let her in the building because she wasn’t following a new policy.” None of these make me have a better or worse opinion of the former employee.

        1. doreen*

          Depends on the state- it my state ( NY) it wouldn’t matter.
          You quit because you refused to be vaccinated and didn’t have a valid medical reason- no unemployment.
          You were fired because you refused to follow the new policy and get vaccinated and you didn’t have a valid medical reason – no unemployment.
          You were fired because you refused to follow the policy and could not be allowed in the building – no unemployment. The only thing that might make a difference is if someone has a valid medical reason not to be vaccinated- otherwise you will not be eligible for unemployment whether you quit or are fired.

    4. LKW*

      It’s a matter of interpretation and I’ve no doubt that some people will try to sue. But in short, the company defines the policy and says if you don’t comply, you will no longer be employed here. The person doesn’t comply, but doesn’t resign – they’d like to keep working. But the company will no longer allow the person to work there. The company locks their network access, files the paperwork to finalize payroll, healthcare, etc.

      To me that sounds like a firing.

      I’m all for mandatory vaccinations – my company has given people what I think is an excessive time to get vaccinated or get out. I’m hoping that they are strict with exemptions.

    5. anonymous73*

      I think it depends on timing. Some are leaving prior to the deadline – in that case they quit. If they pushed to the deadline and provided no proof, they would be fired for cause.

    6. Observer*

      Legally, it can be a bit tricky. There is, for instance, something called “constructive dismissal”. That’s a situation where someone quits in that they tell their employer that they are done and will no longer work for the company, but it’s because the company created a situation where a person really couldn’t continue to work.

      Is “managing someone out” bu making their lives miserable firing them? It depends on what you are asking about. For the purposes of unemployment insurance, it might be looked at as a firing, but in the company paperwork, it will probably be recorded as quitting.

      That’s really the question here.

  11. Tam*

    Furthermore, I think that’s really bad advice to be giving out when you run this blog. What if someone says their employee was fired when they were not because they read it here?!

      1. Tam*

        I am fully vaxxed thanks – I just think choosing to leave a job to avoid complying with a policy and being fired are not the same thing

        1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

          You are correct, they aren’t.

          Choosing to leave because you won’t get vaccinated would look like the employee coming over and saying “I can’t/won’t comply with your new policy, so I am leaving my employment.”

          Being fired for not getting vaccinated would look like the employee showing up after the cutoff date and saying “I won’t comply with your new policy, and you can’t make me.”

          The answer to the second one is “But I don’t have to employ you, so here’s your last paycheck, get out.”

          1. Nope.*

            Agreed. Seems likes a pretty cut and dry distinction to me. I think the only place it could get hairy is if someone was trying to argue that it was a constructive dismissal.

            1. Nope.*

              (Which, to be clear, I don’t think that it qualifies, but I could see someone trying to argue it does.)

        2. anonymous73*

          They aren’t the same thing. And to your initial comment, it’s an ADVICE blog. Alison is offering her POV to a hypothetical question. If anyone is using this blog as “proof” (especially when she clearly states “it’s not clear cut”), they’ll be laughed out of HR. It’s no different than asking a friend’s opinion.

        3. Where’s the Orchestra?*

          It’s honestly all about timing. If you leave the job before X day then you have resigned. If you keep going to work after X day and boss says today is your last day, then you were fired.

    1. Alice*

      Nobody would read this post and think “hmm Sally resigned last week because she doesn’t want the vaccine, better change that to a firing”!
      It’s about employees who don’t want the vaccine but are not resigning of their own will.

    2. Aquawoman*

      This is a little silly. Alison is well versed in workplace practice and laws in the U.S. where it sounds like you’re not from the U.S. and are going by nothing but your own feeling.

    3. Valancy Snaith*

      So what if they do? If someone is stupid enough to fire someone without first consulting their area’s laws and their company’s regulations, and then claim “I read it on the internet so it’s ok,” they deserve whatever happens to them.

    4. Seeking Second Childhood*

      Tam, in most situations the termination paperwork will make it clear. Of course people can resign instead of comply with a new policy. But if they refuse to comply past the cutoff point, they can be fired.
      It’s like when a small company is bought by a larger one. Some manufacturing staff start wearing steel-toed safety shoes to comply with new rules. Some resign. Some get escorted out if they don’t comply by the cutoff date.

    5. pancakes*

      “What if someone who isn’t a lucid thinker misunderstands what they’ve read?” isn’t quite the gotcha you seem to think it is. Yes, there are people who need a lot of help to make sense of things they’ve read, and people who won’t understand even with considerable help. No, the rest of us aren’t therefore obliged to center discussion around the least intelligent readers imaginable.

    6. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      What if someone says their employee was fired when they were not because they read it here?!

      Employers can claim whatever they want. So, too, can applicants. Most of the time, any discrepancy won’t be worth the effort to resolve and the hiring manager will simply move onto the next candidate in my experience.

      1. Falling Diphthong*

        This right here. It’s not like “What if I frame my end of employment one way and my employer frames it another way on the reference check?!!!!” is some new thing that arose just in the past month.

    7. Observer*

      What if someone says their employee was fired when they were not because they read it here?!\

      That person should get fired.

  12. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

    OP1: not from the US but here’s my opinion:

    If the company you work for says you have to be vaccinated by date X and you resign/quit in protest then you’ve not been fired. You’re not likely to get a good reference and probably not eligible for unemployment.

    If the company you work for says you have to be vaccinated by date X and you refuse (and don’t have a documented medical reason) but don’t resign then they can fire you for refusing to comply with safety standards. That makes even more unlikely you’ll get a reference. I’m not sure at all what that means about unemployment benefits though.

    Bottom line though, I’m glad to hear that companies are starting to take this seriously.

    1. Myrin*

      Yeah, reading the question and answer, I actually felt like I must be missing something because the situation seems entirely obvious to me since there are really only two possible ways this could go down which are the two you describe.

      I didn’t quite unterstand the question because someone “who leave[s] their job[…] after refusing to take the vaccine” would of course count as someone who resigned because that’s what they actually did!

      Likewise, I didn’t quite understand the answer because someone who is simply “refusing to comply with a condition of the job” without actually quitting is, well, just a person refusing to comply with a condition of their job so long as the company doesn’t do anything about it. And if the company does do something about it, that means they’re firing the person in question which, again, of course means they count as someone who has been fired because that’s what actually happened!

      Is there, as seems to be happening lately, a language or cultural barrier that’s hindering me from completely getting this?

      1. JustSomeone*

        I think this feels particularly complicated because we just aren’t used to large-scale alterations of the terms of employment that would make significant numbers of people ineligible for the jobs they’re currently performing. (To be transparent, I am fully and enthusiastically in favor of vaccine mandates.)

        It becomes a game of semantics and who blinks first. While that may lead to technically correct assessments of who quit versus who was fired, it also means disparate outcomes for people who all became unemployed at the same time for the same reason, which feels ridiculous. And what about a scenario where the boss says “you need to be fully vaccinated in order to be allowed in the building tomorrow” and the employee says “I can’t do that” and doesn’t come to work the next day? Are they fired for not showing up? Did their statement constitute a resignation? It gets messy.

        1. banoffee pie*

          If you resign in disgust before you’re fired I would think the paperwork would be different? So you can say you resigned, not that you were fired. The problem is, if you resign because you won’t get the vaccine they might not want you at the next job lol

        2. Cthulhu's Librarian*

          It shouldn’t actually lead to disparate outcomes – in most cases, someone terminated for not complying with health/safety policies will be ineligible for unemployment (and many states are already making that clear to the public).

          The employee who doesn’t show up would be considered to have abandoned their job at the start of the shift.

          1. banoffee pie*

            I forgot about umemployment. Oops! I think (could be wrong) in the UK you get benefits (what you would call unemployment) even if you’re fired, but they can make you look for another job. I don’t think they can withold benefits just because you were fired from your last job. Am willing to be proved wrong though!

            1. doreen*

              You can often get unemployment in the US if you are fired depending on the reason. In my state, you will be eligible for unemployment if you are fired for poor performance but not if you are fired for misconduct (which includes not following policies) . If a teller or cashier is fired for the till coming up short they will get benefits if they are just bad at the job – but they will not be eligible if the employer can prove they stole the missing money.

          2. Smithy*

            I think the disparate outcomes likely has more to do with the implications across sectors and professions. You may have a large number of people dismissed from healthcare – but it may be that some of them perform support functions like IT or accounting.

            Regardless of how the termination looks, I would imagine people with those skills will be able to begin job searches within their professional sector. Whereas for direct healthcare providers, again – regardless of how the termination is phrased – that’s going to be a far different kind of job search. There’s also a not insignificant number of military discharges coming, and again – what that will ultimately mean is at this time unclear.

        3. Keymaster of Gozer (she/her)*

          Fired for job abandonment in my opinion.

          There’s been a few people at our place (which is a large company) who’ve complained on the forums that if the company requires vaccines by a set date they’re going to sue the place for constructive dismissal if they’re fired. The ‘reasoning’ goes that they’re not refusing, they just want to ‘wait a few years for more testing results’ and thus the firm can’t actually fire them legally.

          It’s all bunk of course. We’re really heavily unionised here and the unions are basically backing vaccine mandates if they come in.

      2. Bamcheeks*

        I think this might be the difference between contract work and no contracts. If you walk off a contract job, your employer has to take steps to terminate the contract. You’ve only resigned if there is a written record saying. “I am resigning from my job”.

      3. Gan Ainm*

        My company has said it’s your choice whether you want to get vaccinated and stay, or not and leave, but you can’t refuse and stay. So if you refuse to get vaccinated and you don’t resign, you’re forcing them to fire you on the deadline date and you will be considered ineligible for rehire. Alternately you may resign before the deadline and you will be eligible for rehire, provided you get vaccinated before returning.

        Alison, I don’t know if you’ll see this, but do you have any idea how the religious / medical exemption process would work? We have a waiver process whereby any employees can submit a form citing the reason they wish to be exempted, and I am very curious as to how this will work in practice. I tried calling our exemption hotline to ask and they just said it’s case by case. I think they genuinely don’t know and are working through the details themselves. We are a very large company, with a majority conservative workforce, and at the lower levels many of the staff are very loudly objecting, and submitting a ton of waiver requests (80% of my team is). It seems like it would be a challenge to objectively and fairly evaluate the requests. How do you decide what’s valid and what’s not? We also have a lot of folks who are citing political anti-vaccine talking point as their “religious” reason (ie, it makes you magnetic, or there’s tracking chips in it, or it’s all a conspiracy to kill most of the worlds population – all things my employees have actually said to me)…. but how do you say that’s not a sincerely held religious belief? Seems like it may end up being very large loophole, and like they might just have to essentially approve everyone’s request, in which case what’s the point of the mandate?

        Also, if the waiver is granted, is it legal for this to impact their future prospects? Ie our company rules state that unvaccinated people aren’t allowed to travel for business or be on site at our company or partners, even masked, even with an exemption. All the exemption does is allow them to keep their job, if they already WFH (I don’t think they’re exempting factory workers who must be on site). So they would never again be able to visit a vendor, or host an in-person meeting, which are job requirements at all levels, just much less frequent at lower levels and therefore easier to be work around… so in theory I might be able to work around it, but someone has to do the travel, even if infrequent, so do my vaccinated employees have to pick up the (higher risk, traveling) slack for the unvaccinated ones? That’s a recipe for disaster.

        Lastly, I’m so interested to see how this plays out and how these accommodations are worked out, but Im not hearing anything from our HR. As a result I’m having to plan on the assumption that most of my staff will resign or be let go by the deadline, so I’m actively hiring, without knowing for sure what’s going to happen with these roles. We’ll find a spot for everyone we hire, so no worries about the folks getting job offers, but it’s creating a ton of work on my end – I understand why HR is being tight lipped, but is there an alternative / better approach?

        1. banoffee pie*

          I don’t see how worrying about magnets/microchips in vaccines can count as a religious objection. That type of thing isn’t mentioned in any major (or minor?) religion. Wouldn’t that be a political objection?

          1. SnappinTerrapin*

            I agree that many of the objections we hear are ludicrous.

            But the number of followers doesn’t define whether a religion is real, or whether it is “sincerely held,” which is the standard for most religious exemptions (e.g., conscientious objection from armed military service) or religious discrimination.

            Most of the large religions started with a small group and a charismatic leader. All three of the Abrahamic religions did.

      4. Chilipepper attitude*

        @ Myrin – it depends on the way the company stated the rules.

        If the company says follow the rule or resign, and the employee does not get vaccinated, the company can say, by our rules, you just resigned.
        Or a company can say, follow the rules or we will fire you.

  13. Bookworm*

    #4: There’s no harm in applying. I’ve occasionally been encouraged to apply to something else or have had my resume passed along when the first thing didn’t work out. The worst is that they won’t call you back.

    I will say it has never worked for me (once I’ve been rejected, it’s usually best for me to write-off the organization and move on) but I’ve heard it does for others.

  14. Forgot My Name Again*

    #4 – “Usually I feel like I did pretty well in the interview, so probably someone else was just a better fit. (Not that I’ll ever really know.)”

    Slightly off-topic but I often find out that I was second choice (or at least “a strong candidate”) through asking for feedback after the interview. Hopefully you are doing this!

    Definitely apply for other positions in the same place. I get automated emails from some places I interviewed at when they’ve got other jobs that come up, in case I’m interested in applying. Seems to me it’s broadly similar, just from the other direction.

    1. Aquawoman*

      +100. I do a lot of the interviewing at my workplace and we sometimes have more people we’d love to hire than we have positions to fill.

  15. Hiring Mgr*

    Is the vax question different than say if you’re working in New York and for one reason or another the job now requires relocation to LA. If you don’t move, are you fired or did you quit?

    1. J.B.*

      If the job requires relocation I believe you are quitting but still qualify for unemployment if you turn it down.

    2. Doc in a Box*

      Key difference there is that your refusal to move to LA doesn’t harm your co-workers.

      A better analogy would be a company that institutes a tobacco-free policy but someone continues to smoke on company grounds/in the building. That’s a clear violation of company policy that has health and safety implications for coworkers. (Still an imperfect analogy, though, because smoking would be actively committing the violation whereas not getting vaxxed is a “sin of omission.” Some ethicists draw a distinction between the two.)

    3. ecnaseener*

      That almost feels like a layoff to me…there’s no longer a job for you in NY. But I don’t have experience with this so I could be completely wrong

      1. Be kind, rewind*

        Right. And since it’s the company’s choice to no longer work in NY, they should do more than just say, “now you don’t have a job, sorry!” whether that means severance or relocation assistance, etc.

        1. Clisby*

          But the issue could be that the employer is perfectly willing to relocate the employee to the new location, but the employee just doesn’t want to move there. That seems more like quitting to me, but not sure how unemployment insurance looks at it. This happened to my husband when his Atlanta-based company was moving to New Jersey. He was one of the people they wanted to keep, but he said no thanks, and at some point the job was just … over. He got unemployment, but it might be the company didn’t contest it.

      1. pancakes*

        There’s no shortage of reputable sources that have addressed the question, “Can You Collect Unemployment if Your Employer Relocates?”

    4. anonymous73*

      I would equate that to being laid off. Your position is no longer available. Not everyone is able to uproot their lives and move across the country, but most everyone can get a vaccine – apples and oranges.

    5. Sunflower*

      I think all of this is a matter of ‘who blinks first’. If you say that and stop showing up to work or don’t show up in LA, you’ve resigned. If you continue to show up to work in NY and work the hours, then you have not resigned and they will need to fire you/ask you no longer show up.

      Also keep in mind that as long as you aren’t breaking any legal/ethical rules in the reason why you’re leaving, employers are going to work with on your exit. As mentioned in a comment upthread, I think this mostly is important in terms of if you can or can’t apply for unemployment (which I believe was established upthread when it comes to the vax, you are not eligible)

  16. J.B.*

    I was thinking the other day that while some (mostly small) employers might consider those who didn’t get vaccinated based on their political beliefs, refusing a vaccine would lock you into a really small pool with possibly more bad bosses than others.

    1. banoffee pie*

      Yeah I would rather stick to the employers who want you to be vaccinated. Probably a safer group!

    2. Oodles of Noodles*

      Not necessarily, about half of all Americans work for small businesses, and there’s only so many Federal contractors out there. That avoids government mandates. Employer mandates are a whole other thing, but with hiring being tough right now who knows how many small businesses are going to come up with their own mandates?

      1. Oodles of Noodles*

        Of course, then again, I work at a small business and while I went and got vaccinated 6 months ago, our CEO (that I report directly to) is incredibly anti-vax, and she really is a terrible person to work for. So you may be right there, J.B.

        1. not a doctor*

          I think that was their real point: small businesses can be full of bees to begin with, and a lot of anti-vaxxers have been demonstrating certain personality traits that wouldn’t be very desirable in a boss.

      2. PT*

        There was just an article yesterday (somewhere, I forget) that said that while small business make up the majority of employers because there are a lot of small business, the majority of employees work for businesses that are large enough to be subject to the vaccine mandate.

        1. Frank Doyle*

          It’s a very small majority though, something like 48% of jobs in the US are working for small businesses.

          1. doreen*

            I think that depends on what we consider a small business – the sites I found that said around 48% of US employees work for small businesses defined a small business as one with fewer than 500 employees. I don’t think a business with 500 employees is a small business – I’m not even sure about a business with 100 employees – but I found a site that says that about 47% of workers worked for a business with fewer than 500 employees , and about 33% worked at a business with fewer than 100 employees. So the vaccine or test mandate that has been discussed will apply to about 67% of workers

    3. Betteauroan*

      I would just get the dang shot. It is nt worth losing a good job over. I know it’s a hot button issue for many people, but I have never had a reason to question my doctors and they strongly recommended it to me because I am immunocompromised.

  17. Nivea*

    Regarding #1, it will likely depend on if the person was capable of performing their job remotely, and the employer was pointlessly trying to force the worker back into the office by pushing the vaccine mandate. Time will tell.

    1. Cthulhu's Librarian*

      That’s a novel theory.

      In almost all cases, it seems to have been held that your employer is freely able to decide where you do the work they are paying you for. You not wanting to comply with a policy and saying “I can be elsewhere and then it doesn’t impact anyone if I don’t comply” doesn’t create any obligation on the employer’s part to agree that your job can be done from elsewhere.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Yes, the federal vaccine mandate that’s been in place for awhile by executive order applies to remote employees as well as in-person. They can make it a blanket policy.

        1. Oodles of Noodles*

          OSHA hasn’t applied it to the private employers with over 100 employees yet. So that bit is still up in the air, but who knows how that will shake out. From the Psaki press briefings, it sounds like 100% remote employees won’t have to, but nothing’s been decided yet.

          1. Observer*

            The Federal mandate for contractors is different than the OSHA rules. Because the contractor mandate can be as broad or as narrow as the government wants (as long is it’s not discriminatory). OSHA is constrained by the fact that they can only set regulations affecting safety. That means that if a person is not in the workplace, OSHA cannot mandate that they are vaxxed as it doesn’t present a workplace hazard.

      2. Red Reader the Adulting Fairy*

        Yup. Remote work is not an exception to our policy, because our remote work policy specifies that you may be required to come onsite for meetings, trainings etc, and the vaccine policy specifies that employees must be vaccinated before they can come into any of our facilities for work purposes.

    2. not a doctor*

      It’s only pointless (from a business perspective) if you can guarantee, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that you will never physically interact with another person as a part of your job. Even WFH employees sometimes go to an office or do other company business outside the home.

    3. Observer*

      Highly unlikely.

      There could be other legal issues in such a scenario, but it doesn’t change whether this would be considered a firing vs a quitting.

  18. Ali*

    I thought the comments would be full of bikers!

    I sometimes bike to work, if I don’t have to carry too many things (though you can carry a lot on a bike.) When I lived in Illinois, where it was flat, I could just wear my work clothes and sail into work without really breaking a sweat. Now that I live in a very hilly part of New England, I pack a separate work outfit and change at work. I just use a paper towel to blot my face, but I do like the previous commenter’s suggestion about finding good wipes. Depending on your setup at work, you can also leave things like a blazer, shoes, etc. so you don’t have to pack them.

    I think biking to work is incredibly good for my mental health, and I strongly recommend you do it! I live in a very un-bike-friendly city, but just take a weekend to experiment with finding some good routes, make sure you have good bike lights and bright clothes to bike in, and go for it!

    1. Betteauroan*

      I thought there were a ton of biker comments. Tons of good advice. OP has all the pointers she needs now.

  19. Chris*

    For LW2, I think Alison’s recommendation of starting with a conversation with the staff member about socializing less is spot-on. After you do that, one way to approach this with the mother would be to frame it as hanging out less would be helping the staff member keep from being distracted by socializing. That way it’s not something she’s been doing wrong by hanging out, but something that she can do to help out her friend.

  20. Mechinita*

    My bike commute is only 15 minutes. So I just leave dress shoes at work, bike in something more practical and wear my work clothes. I get there 10 minutes early so I’m not sweating anymore when anyone sees me. My husband’s bike commute is 25 minutes and he takes his work clothes in his back pack.

  21. Sporty Yoda*

    Question 1 reminds me of a Lemony Snicket passage about being fired vs quitting vs leaving by mutual agreement… it culminated in Count Olaf trying to fire his girlfriend, she trying to quit, and eventually the two coming to the consensus that she’s leaving by mutual agreement.

  22. anonymous73*

    #2 – your employee is being less productive because she’s socializing. It would be no different than if she were socializing with another employee, or spending half her day on FB. You need to talk to her. I would also have a chat with mom – yes it might be awkward, but it would be more awkward if employee throws you under the bus by the way she phrases the change to mom. Be matter of fact with her. Your employee is on the clock while she’s in the office. A quick 5 minute chat isn’t a big deal, but it’s hindering her ability to do her job.

    1. ecnaseener*

      I actually think that’s fine for the employee to throw LW under the bus. (Not making LW sound terrible or anything, just “ugh sorry my boss says I’m spending too much time chatting, I have to get to work.”)
      That’s probably the easiest way to achieve the goal here.

      1. Eldritch Office Worker*

        Agreed. I’ve always encouraged my employees to throw me under the bus in an awkward situation if it makes it easier for them to navigate.

      2. not a doctor*

        I’d even argue that’s partly LW’s role as an authority figure. Sometimes you gotta be the bad guy!

      3. Librarian of SHIELD*

        Exactly. I’ve told my staff that they’re welcome to use me as the bad guy if they need an escape hatch with a chatty customer. “My boss is really strict, I’d better get back to work.”

      4. anonymous73*

        Yes, I agree that she can mention OP as the reasoning behind the change. I equate “throwing under the bus” to making OP sound like a mean ogre, and considering this woman’s 12 year old is volunteering, it would go a long way for OP to speak to her directly as well to make sure they aren’t any hard feelings or misunderstandings.

    2. Actual Vampire*

      Also, LW decided to accept a 12-year-old volunteer, so she should be the one accommodating the volunteer and her mom. It shouldn’t be up to a random coworker to keep Mom entertained/find somewhere for Mom to sit/tell Mom she needs to wait outside.

  23. Quality Girl*

    #1: The healthcare system I work for is calling them “voluntary terminations” and these employees will be eligible for rehire if they choose to get vaccinated in the future. We are desperate for staff.

  24. Nicki Name*

    #3, it’s important to not let two different recruiters submit you for the same job, and sometimes a recruiter will ask if they can be the only one who represents you to a specific large company (you can say “no”; I’ve said “yes” in one case because it wasn’t a company I was very interested in). But definitely, as Alison says, it’s totally normal to be talking to multiple recruiters at once.

  25. Spcepickle*

    I work for Washington State, if you are not vaccinated on the 18th you will be “separated from service” for no longer being able to compile with an essential job function. The understanding is you are not eligible for unemployment.

  26. vs*

    Lots of great advice for the cyclist here. I’m just chiming in to add – if/when you can afford to treat yourself to good rain/snow/cold weather gear definitely do so. I’m definitely not a gear head, but having outerwear that is breathable and waterproof makes all the difference in how I look (and smell :)) upon arrival.

  27. Emilia Bedelia*

    I am not a biker, but I often run/work out at work either before work or during lunch – some tips for “refreshing” –

    – There is nothing more embarrassing than realizing you can smell your own gross clothes under your desk. Make sure to bring a bag for sweaty stuff that can control the aroma – use odor absorbers as well, to keep it from getting stinky over time. Ideally, find some place other than your desk where you can leave your stuff. If it’s wet from rain, you’ll definitely want to hang it up somewhere to dry.
    – Okay, the second most embarrassing thing is realizing that you forgot to bring a key wardrobe component (for example: pants, a normal bra, a sports bra, underwear… I’ve left it all :) ). Now I keep a set of extras in my desk, just in case. Packing everything the night before really helps.
    – If you wear makeup, I wouldn’t put it on until you get to work. I don’t like dry shampoo and I don’t find it helpful, but I do like to dry my hair with a hair dryer/hand dryer if it’s particularly damp.
    – Instead of disposable wipes, I like to bring real cloth washcloths (1 wet, 1 to dry with) to wipe down. I put these with my sweaty clothes and just dump it all in the wash as soon as I get home. You can also get something called a “bikini bag” that’s basically a waterproof pouch. Obviously it’s intended to be used for wet swimsuits, but I use mine all the time for wet clothes/towels.
    – Consider the clothes you intend to wear after getting all sweaty – putting on tight pants or a heavy sweater after working up a sweat is not comfortable. Layers are great for this. I prefer wearing a loose dress/blouse, or wearing a lighter layer or short sleeves and then putting on a cardigan later when I have cooled down.
    – If you are packing up wet/sweaty clothes, you really need to be diligent about taking them out and washing/airing out as soon as you get home. If you do forget to unpack after a particularly sweaty day, consider just tossing it all out, because the trauma of opening a bag of 3 day old July running gear is just not worth it.

  28. HelenofWhat*

    LW4: I got my last job when I applied to a company for one position, was rejected when it became clear the position wasn’t one I was quite qualified for, then I applied for a second a few months later and got the offer. The first position had a recruiter screen resumes but the second was screened by the hiring manager so she didn’t even know about my previous application!

  29. Cassie*

    I think many places (esp public agencies) are still figuring out “what” the consequences are. If there are collective bargaining agreements, they need to have discussions w/ the unions first before deciding what actually will happen to an employee who doesn’t comply.

    For example, medical workers in the state of CA are required to be vaccinated (no testing alternative, except for approved religious/med exemptions). One county public health dept has been “re-assigning” the un-vaccinated med workers to other (non-med) jobs, so that the dept doesn’t violate the state mandate. Soon, though, that county’s own mandate (ALL employees) will go into effect so those un-vaccinated employees basically only have a temporary reprieve from whatever eventual consequence they’ll face.

    In the townhall mtgs I’ve listened to, the question keeps popping up about “what” will happen to the employees that don’t comply w/ the mandates and there’s never a clear answer aside from “well, they’ll be out of compliance”. Employees keep asking, the management keep hedging. I haven’t heard any mention about firing yet but I suspect everyone knows that that will probably be the end result.

  30. Sarah*

    20 year bike commuter here! My current commute is about an hour in the morning, and I don’t find it to be a problem at all. I really don’t feel like I arrive *all* that sweaty, more like glistening in the face that clears pretty quickly. I’m biking at 6:30-7 in the morning, which helps- it’s just not hot. I get super-sweaty on the way home, but that doesn’t matter to me.

    You should absolutely consider getting a saddlebag/pannier. Most people who complain about arriving to work sweaty are using a backpack, and having your things off your back makes a huuge difference in terms of comfort and sweatiness.

    Plan to arrive at work 10-15 minutes before your official start time, to give time to catch your breath, change if you need, fix your hair and pat sweat off your face. You really don’t want to be doing official work the second you step off your bike.

    Sometimes I will do a full change into work clothes, but a nice compromise is to bike in your work pants/shoes with an athletic top or whatever you are comfortable biking in (wool helps w/ temperature regulation and you’ll sweat/stink less), and then only change your top when you get in. This is much easier to do in a public bathroom than changing pants is. If you need to dress more professionally, keep a blazer or two hanging at work (and dress shoes maybe), and then you potentially only have to pack a shirt or shell each day to change into.

    Another helpful trick is to keep a few basic toiletries at work in a bag or drawer- basic make up for touch up, deoderant, etc.

    And finally, a trick I’ve learned in reducing helmet hair: The moment you get off your bike, even when you’re still outside, take off your helmet, flip you head upside down and vigorously rub your fingers through your hair along your scalp. It might sound silly, but if you don’t catch your hair before the sweat dries in your hair, you’ll be stuck with that dent in your hair all day.

  31. raida7*

    5. Looking fresh after biking to work
    Why do you doubt they’ll have showers? Ask. Tell them that you intend to stay healthy, have a shorter commute, and be pumped every morning for work by cycling inn. Ask if they have an End Of Trip Facility, and if not is there a cycle centre nearby? A pool? A gym?
    Realistically a shower is best, if you have to shower off-site then you have 3 sets of clothes: bike clothes (sweaty), clean airy clothes to walk to office in that are crushed into the backback, and nice work clothes that you have neatly folded at your desk/in some sort of storage on-site.
    Aim for the gold standard, and then work your way through options.
    If you really do end up with no shower and no storage for clothes then you look at more inventive options for dealing with sweat on body and hair, airing out bike clothes, etc

  32. Jbo*

    LW 4, definitely apply! We just hired someone like that. They applied last year and were edged out by a narrow bit. Applied for another dept this year, were recommended by them for a third open job back in our dept, and just at that moment the original job came open again and we hired them for it

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