what do I do about work if my kids are sent home to quarantine?

A reader writes:

After most of us being remote since March 2020 due to Covid, my office is now bringing everyone back a minimum of three days a week, with a clear preference for us to be there more than that. But I have two school-aged kids and every time they have a potential Covid exposure at school, they’ll be sent home for two weeks. They’re not old enough to stay by themselves, so my partner or I will need to stay home with them every time it happens. And I doubt this will just happen once. We could be looking at this happening regularly all winter.

How are parents of young kids supposed to juggle work and childcare responsibilities with offices opening back up and Covid not yet conquered? It feels like employers expect us to be back to normal when we’re definitely not at that point.

You can read my answer to this letter at New York Magazine today, along with answers to these questions:

  • Is it unprofessional to Zoom from your bedroom?
  • How do you take sick days when you work from home?
  • Can you tell job candidates your company doesn’t take Covid seriously?

{ 244 comments… read them below }

  1. So not getting paid*

    Our kid’s school is operating like the employers; we don’t even get notified of confirmed exposures anymore, much less any campus/district COVID numbers.

      1. So not getting paid*

        And IF you find out about an exposure and want to quarantine your kid, the absences are excused, HOWEVER, if the child misses 10% or more of class days, excused or not, the kid repeats the grade. Texas is fabulous./sarcasm.

        1. middle name danger*

          I’ve been chronically ill since childhood, I never would’ve graduated with that stipulation.

        2. Lynn Whitehat*

          I live in Texas too, and I’ve never seen that actually enforced unless there were other major issues. It’s hard to imagine this would be the year they follow it strictly.

          1. American Job Venter*

            Isnt the Texas AG suing schools districts that enact mask mandates? That certainly contributes to a philosophy of “COVID is no reason and no excuse.”

          2. BabyElephantWalk*

            I’m in Canada, and my experience is that most schools have those policies but don’t actually enforce them, unless performance isn’t up to expectations or there are other behavioural issues.

            Anecdotally, I know people who missed 50% of classes with nothing but a parent’s note off, and still progressed/passed because grades were in the 80s/90s.

            It’s more of a rule school boards have to CYA than anything, although I’m sure there are some schools/boards/principals that do enforce them.

        3. TexasTeacher*

          My kids could do Temporary Online Learning when they were exposed, and then isolating. It was kind of a waste, IMO.

    1. I'm that guy*

      That sucks. My daughter’s high school sends out an email every time someone tests positive (5 so far I think) with an additional email if your child has a class with the person.

      1. COHikerGirl*

        My daughter’s school does this as well. They also had, before school started, a meeting (virtual!) about what they’re doing and why. It is an incredibly well thought out and well laid out plan. She is in Alaska, and luckily the majority of people there do take this seriously (since medical help is not the easiest in most places).

      2. Richard Hershberger*

        Hah! My kids’ school sends out those emails, but entirely lacking useful information giving me any indication of how seriously to take it: Was this someone in the building testing positive, someone in the same class, or what? I don’t know. Note also my use of the plural: my kids’ school. Those emails don’t tell me which kid it was. It is pure theater.

      3. The New Wanderer*

        Same with my kids’ schools in the pacific northwest, they are calling/emailing the potentially exposed people ASAP and emailing the rest of the school population at the end of the day. Fortunately the elem school has only had one positive case limited to two people who were exposed. The middle school has had one-two positive cases per week, excluding 25-30 people at a go. My kids haven’t been affected (yet?) and adjusted well to on-line school so wouldn’t be a big factor on my work schedule if they were quarantined. I can’t imagine how challenging it would be with younger kids!

        1. KaciHall*

          Not fun! My kindergartener was quarantined last month. He demanded his desk be right next to mine. He needed me to read him the instructions on every worksheet. There were plenty of days I would get up at six, try to let him sleep in and work as much as possible, take a long break at lunch time, get him set up to watch his favorite TV show in the after noon for a couple hours (he picked the same episode EVERY SINGLE DAY and I could hear it from my desk) and still have to clock out early to deal with him because he was incredibly anxious about not being able to go to school. So I would go back and finish my day after he was asleep.

          The ONLY saving grace in all of that is that when I went home they sent home my desktop from the office, which doesn’t have a working headphone jack, and not my phone. So I couldn’t access my work phone to make calls. The handful of times I used my cell my kid demanded all of my attention. (Those were all internal calls, at least.)

          I have not requested to get the headphone jack fixed on my computer. Nor will I, in case I get sent home again. I liked not having to answer the phone at all!

      4. NotAnotherManager!*

        We get a similar notification (three so far this year, not bad for a school of 1100, I guess), and the county health department contract tracer calls you directly if your child was identified as a “close contact”. The school system also has a COVID dashboard where you can see case counts at the individual schools.

    2. Vanilla Bean*

      My son’s high school has a bar graph with school year-to-date confirmed cases. It’s only helpful for understanding trends if you look at it routinely and watch how the numbers change. It’s not an accident that it doesn’t have much meaning.

  2. twocents*

    Re the Zoom background: I haven’t seen anyone gaf if your bed is made or how messy your background is at my company. The only time I’ve seen someone comment on it was when someone was very clearly laying in bed while on a Zoom call, which was a little weird. But even my boss’s boss’s boss has had kids or dogs running through his background on occasion. Life happens, and none of us are in mansions.

    1. drpuma*

      I will admit to feeling a little uncomfortable the first time I saw a teammate’s un-blurred background that was clearly their (clean, tidy) bedroom. I quickly realized that I was uncomfortable because I wouldn’t want my team to see into my own bedroom and that had nothing to do with “Joe.” After that it was straightforward to reframe my outlook to, ” That’s what Joe’s comfortable with and where he does his best work (or has to work).” It was definitely a me thing that had nothing to do with my teammate.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        I wouldn’t either, and your reframe is a good one.

        I decided that when I have my own place again, I’ll get a small desk and make a work corner where no one can walk behind me, and that will be my Zoom area as well.

        1. BubbleTea*

          I attended a video meeting a few days after giving birth (not for work, an important voluntary role) and ended up building a strange sort of desk in the bedroom so that all that could be seen behind me was the wall. Anyone who saw me in person would know I was squatting next to the bed on a cushion, and in the next room was my infant son with my mum but there was no sign of that in the meeting. Clever camera angles can do a lot, but it was not a long term work solution!

          1. MegPie*

            I’m hung up on squatting three days after giving birth. At that point I was really unsure about just walking to the bathroom and back!

      2. TechWorker*

        Even people who do have ‘spare rooms’ may be working in a bedroom. My partner and I are very lucky to have enough rooms that we don’t have to use our living or sleeping space, but as we’re both working from home he is working in the little box room and I’m in our spare bedroom. Which contains a (usually made!) bed. Not much I can do about that.

    2. CBB*

      I find virtual backgrounds usually more distracting than whatever they’re probably obscuring.

      I don’t love the idea of people seeing my disarrayed sofa cushions and coffee table, so I have a folding screen I can prop up behind my chair.

      1. Loulou*

        I agree, virtual backgrounds can be distracting, especially when people move around a lot when they talk (me!) I think blurred backgrounds are a good compromise. My coworker uses one and we don’t even work from home.

        1. sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

          Blurred is best until you can find a good virtual background. But I’ve had lots of calls from people’s bedrooms, kitchens, living rooms, back porches, home offices and yes, also from in their bed because their vertigo was bad that day but they could still take a call!

          I found that an almost black background worked well for a virtual background, like one of a galaxy that I used for months.

          1. Tessie Mae*

            On a recent work assignment, we were all requested that any virtual backgrounds for an upcoming Zoom call with the client be business-appropriate, e.g., not something like Outer Space. Um, I almost felt like they were talking directly to me, ha ha. One of the virtual backgrounds I regularly use is the view through hyperspace from the Millennium Falcon (not used in any business Zoom meetings ever). So I changed my background to that of an office. Easy peasy.

            I do use my various Star Wars backgrounds for my non-business Zoom meetings, though.

        2. Coenobita*

          I’ve had a number of meetings where a cat or kid seems to materialize out of thin air when the blurred or virtual background suddenly recognizes them. I always think it’s funny but it could definitely be distracting…. my blurred background struggles with my hair for some reason, which I discovered last week when I did a TV interview via zoom and intermittently appeared to be bald (!)

          1. Free Meerkats*

            In one recent meeting, Teams decided that the hard hat on a hat stand behind the Lead Operator was the person in the shot and not him. So the top of the hat stand and the hard hat were clear.

            I usually either blur or use the Throne of Swords on a black background behind me.

          2. many bells down*

            There’s a little old lady at my online church who has her OWN SELFIE set as her virtual background. Occasionally, her head will pop out of her own chest. It’s the funniest thing I’ve ever seen.

      2. Richard Hershberger*

        This. I expect there is better and worse quality software, but at least with the badly done ones it is very distracting.

      3. Chris*

        Yup. I find the blurred and virtual backgrounds distracting. The technology isn’t good enough yet. I’d much rather see whatever is happening in someone’s house.

      4. many bells down*

        I hate them. I have curly hair and they make my head weird because they can’t tell where my hair ends and the universe begins.

      5. Cj*

        We have a couple people use zoom backgrounds, and it always makes it look like their hair is moving when its not. And not moving in an attractive way.

    3. Artemesia*

      I know that trying to zoom/work from home is miserable and that people don’ t have dedicated offices. And often two or three people are sharing the same apartment. BUT I truly cannot fathom having an unmade bed as part of the scenery in your zoom/office. I’m betting if rumpled sheets and general yuck had not been the zoom background that no one would have criticized having the corner of a bed in the room. BUT yeah — if possible blur the background or think about ways to angle things differently.

    4. Helen*

      On the topic of blurred Vs. virtual backgrounds – please use a non-moving virtual background. Blurred backgrounds are a pretty common migraine trigger

    5. Rachel in NYC*

      I did comment to my supervisor on why a coworker had blur on when their background was obviously a bookcase.

      What is on the bookcase that he doesn’t want us to see?

      No, honestly, I want to know the answer to this question. It’s a bookcase…what kind of books is he showcasing in his home?

      1. GoryDetails*

        Re blurring the bookcase: that might be a kindness to co-workers who are like me, unable to NOT attempt to read the titles on any books in view. If I were in a Zoom with someone whose bookcase was visible I’d be focusing on the books without even realizing it!

      2. LegallyRed*

        First, you don’t know whether or not he’s showcasing them. The bookcase might be in a bedroom or some other non-public area of his house.

        Second, it’s possible he has a reason to keep the books private, but that doesn’t mean they are of a wholly inappropriate or concerning subject matter. They could be books related to medical conditions that he doesn’t want to share with colleagues. Or self-help psychology books or books about pregnancy/childbirth/adoption or saving his marriage or any number of other personal topics. Or he could have a veritable rainbow of LGBT books* but doesn’t feel comfortable being out at work. Or he’s just self-conscious about what he reads (isn’t this why so many libraries have self-checkouts?!?). Or the bookshelf is messy etc etc etc.

        *I actually have a colleague whose books are arranged like this! It’s so pretty to look at.

      3. AcademiaNut*

        I’d assume that he had his background blurred as the default, and moves the computer around, not that he’s hiding his book collection.

      4. New Jack Karyn*

        Why do you want to know? Could be gay porn. Could be tasteful erotica. Could be trashy novels. Could be My Little Pony books. Could be old college textbooks.
        It’s his home. If he wanted you to know what was on his shelves, he’d unblur it, or bring some into the office.

      5. Eh*

        If you mentioned this to me, and I was your supervisor, I’d be more concerned about you than about your colleague. You are definitely too invested (nosy) in his personal life when you ought to be working, and you’ve leaped to a very strange conclusion on top of that.

        Blurring backgrounds or using virtual backgrounds is something many of us do automatically while working from home. It would never occur to me someone would equate it with something questionable and would make me think you’re a little out of touch with virtual meetings.

      6. JB*

        What a bizarre thing to be concerned about.

        It’s his own home. He can showcase whatever books he wants.

      7. MCMonkeyBean*

        That seems like an extremely odd thing to bring up to your supervisor. And a very overall aggressive stance about an extremely normal Zoom practice! Why would you assume he was actively hiding something?

    6. DiscoCat*

      In the early WFH days I zoomed with a guy whose comb over kept popping in and out of his blurred background. Surprised and distracted me, certainly didn’t help the job interview I had with him…

  3. Spearmint*

    I really hate the common belief that employees should work through sickness if they can work from home. Not only is it crappy for the employee, but I’d argue it’s worse for the business in the long run. Sick employees are less productive and people who work through illness rather than resting will be sick longer. For me, taking 1-2 days to rest with a bad cold is the difference between being sick for 3-4 days and being sick for a week or two.

    1. NewGrad*

      I just started a new job and ended up going to hospital in an ambulance for an allergic reaction in the middle of the night. Messaged my manager and got a response including “just do what you can” and I had to find a polite way to say “nothing will be done today”

      1. MissBaudelaire*

        Right? What I can do is nothing.

        I WFH. I have had massive sinus infections that leave me dizzy and feeling crummy sitting up. No, I didn’t need to drive anywhere or anything, but no, I also cannot sit and stare at the computer for several hours. I need to sleep and do a sinus flush or two.

    2. Laney Boggs*

      Yeahhh I had Covid a few weeks ago, but it was our busy season, it was obviously last minute, and I had a million fires to put out and I wasn’t that sick…. except during my “low grade fever” section I missed the first and third page of a customer’s purchase order and only entered the second page…… Didn’t catch for like 3 weeks, either, until the customer was asking about items I certainly didn’t have on the order. Oops.

      1. It's Growing!*

        Exactly what I was thinking. When you’re sick, you are much more likely to make mistakes and some mistakes have unfortunate consequences.

      2. I've Escaped Cubicle Land*

        This!! If I’m taking Non Drowsy cold meds I will still have such a brain fog that working will do more harm then good. Had Influenza A several years back and the amount of typos and coded wrongs that was found dating from that time was ridiculous. Recently had a (luckily non Covid) respiratory infection. I told my boss to just not expect me at the computer for a few days. Do you really want to pay me to stare off into space blankly for large tracks of time and enter most things wrong?

    3. anonymous73*

      I think it depends on the person. There have been times where I’ve been sick in the past and stayed home to work so as not to infect my co-workers, but I was perfectly able to work without causing myself more harm. I don’t think people should be EXPECTED to work at home while sick, but if they can and are able, there’s no harm in it (unless they work for a company that would then take advantage and expect them to work while on their deathbed).

      1. Elenna*

        Yeah, this. I’ve had a time when I was nauseous whenever I moved around or stood for too long, so I obviously couldn’t spend an hour+ on the bus to get to work, but I was perfectly fine sitting still at a desk at home. And I knew that it would be gone by the next day as long as I went to bed early that night.

        On the other hand, when I had a fever/headache from the Covid vaccine, I could tell it was affecting my concentration, not to mention that looking at a screen made the headache worse. So I took the day off.

        (Incidentally, my boss was perfectly fine with both of these.)

      2. James*

        I get migraines, and have learned to hold certain work aside for those days where things are rough, but not so bad that I can’t do SOME work. There’s always stuff like sorting my files, uploading photos, or the like that needs done–stuff that’s necessary, but low-effort.

        That said, when I get a bad one (a 7 or above on my pain scale) and can’t look at a computer screen for more than two minutes without wanting to scream in agony, yeah, not much gets done.

        The problem is finding that line. And it’s unique to each of us. Some people prefer to work through illness as it helps them get through it; for others, they need more traditional self-care routines. It’s dependent on the individual.

        The other problem is that no one wants to pay to have enough staff to cover absences. If no one’s absent it means that you’re over-staffed. And if you only have people absent 10% of the time, that means you’re overstaffed 90% of the time. That’s a very juicy low-hanging fruit to pluck when you need to increase margin or decrease overhead. It’s disastrously bad in the long-term–it makes your team inherently fragile–but can get you by this quarter.

        1. Cj*

          Hats off to you for being able to work a migraine up still a pain level of 7. And I mean that sincerely.

          As a fellow migraine sufferer, and mine is of the chronic variety which you don’t say whether yours is or not, apparently I am a wimp, because I tap out at about a 5.5.

          I can do back pain at a 7, but a migraine? No way.

    4. Amy Farrah Fowler*

      I really appreciate my company for this. My boss has never once commented on me taking sick time (and I have WFH since 2017) other than to say “Feel better soon – let us know if there’s any coverage needs”. I (personally) feel I have a higher bar for taking sick time when I WFH because often if I can work from my pjs on my couch and not have to get dressed, drive to an office, etc, I am capable of performing work, so even if I would not feel up to those parts of the day if I did work in an office, I will choose not to take a sick day. However, when I have been ill and needed to just sleep/rest the entire day to feel better, my manager and my team make me feel entirely supported.

      1. Here we go again*

        I know I can do a load of laundry and clean up after myself a little when I’m home sick most days but going to work is out of the question.

    5. Teddyduchampssleepingbag*

      Ha I got a WFH job specifically because I am autoimmune compromised. The big boss at my new job had a meeting a week after I started where she “cracked down” on the attendance policy. We’re expected to work when sick even if we are in the hospital. If we call out and it wasn’t a day that was requested off AND approved at least 2 weeks in advance we get points against us. Basically 3 call offs in a 16 week period is grounds for termination. The big boss bragged how she worked from bed with bronchitis on oxygen so there no excuse. Even if we have Covid we are not to call off. Sick kid? Nope. Kid in the hospital? Nope. I’ve seen coworkers write in the teams how their rushing their kid to the ER but will take their laptop and log back in as soon as they get on the hospital wifi. I’ve seen people in labor finish out the work day and go to the hospital as soon as the work day ended. I’ve only been at this job 6 weeks and desperately need it but it’s so so toxic. We have to stay active in team meetings 100% of the day while still doing our work and meeting production. The guidelines and procedures for how we do our work changes sometimes multiple times in one day. I did a week of training being told “this is the exact procedure you will follow when you start processing paperwork next week. Then my first day actually processing they told us 3 big things we were taught all the week before we’re now changed and we were to do the totally opposite way that we were taught. That kind of thing has happened almost daily since I’ve been there. We will be told Monday to NEVER do GQI and then Tuesday get told “NO NO NO you are supposed to ALWAYS do GQI.” I’ve been yelled at for doing something that I was literally just instructed to do. I never know what I’m doing anymore day to day because of how much they change the procedures and the manual and the policy’s. They have also changed the call off number 5 times since I started and changed the number our clients call 3 times. Did I mention it’s a federal government contract job and if I leave I signed a non-compete agreement that IS enforceable that states I cannot work from home for any company for two full years after I quit this one?

      *Someone help me* *I am not okay*

      1. Heather*

        How is a non-compete applicable to the location where you work? There’s no way that could hold up.

      2. Jess*

        “I signed a non-compete agreement that IS enforceable that states I cannot work from home for any company for two full years after I quit this one?”

        I mean, I doubt it is enforceable. Non-competes are often really not as enforceable as companies like to say they are. Don’t stay somewhere because you think you are stuck! What an awful, toxic place. :-(

        1. Cj*

          I agree. That doesn’t seem like its could possibly be enforceable. I mean, any company? Even if they aren’t a competitor?

          And how long is your government job contract? Could it really be enforceable past the end date of your contract? Like if your contract is for 2 years, and you get fired 6 months in, it doesn’t seem like it could go for another full 2 years, just a remainder of your contract time

          I suppose as a contractor there is no such thing as FMLA? I know you’re only 6 weeks in and you would need to be there year to be eligible even as an employee.

          I hope to God you’re non-compete is only if you leave, not if you are terminated, because in this case it sounds like that might be your best option.

          If that is what it comes to, please write to Alison on how to present this to potential future employers. Or send her a preemptive email, just in case.

      3. James*

        I’m curious as to what your role is. I mean, on the face of it a restriction to not work from home for any company is ridiculous–unless the nature of your job requires you to have sensitive information (such as trade secrets) at your work station for some reason. Given the general incompetence you describe I can’t imagine that being the case, and have a strong suspicion that they’re simply lying to you about how enforceable this clause is. The issue is, the clause isn’t really impacting you–it’s attempting to control internal policies for their competitors. You can imagine how likely it is that a court will uphold that clause.

        I remember signing a waver for a Medieval martial arts event, saying I knew the risk and held the organization innocent of any injury I experienced. A lawyer in the group informed us that the waver was pure fiction–it had zero possibility of holding up in court. A lot of non-competes are similar.

      4. Eh*

        This is awful. Please have legal help look at this contract for you, as that doesn’t sound enforceable. Federal or not. Either way I hope you get out of this nightmare soon. It can’t be good for your health.

      5. Hex Libris*

        Some of that sounds actually illegal (understanding that laws vary by company size and location, but still…). I don’t understand how that WFH clause could possibly be enforceable. If you’re in the U.S., consider reaching out to your local Legal Aid society, or try an organization like Workplace Fairness, to look at your contract. Because it sounds like toxic is a massive understatement, and I would expect a place like that to lie and bully for compliance when they really don’t have a leg to stand on.

    6. Rachel in NYC*

      My boss is real clear that if we are home sick, we better not be working. Which used to be tricky for me…somedays, I just couldn’t do the commute but felt well enough to work.

    7. Nanani*

      You’d think the added cost in hours spent redoing what a feverish person mangled would be enough to motivate the almighty bottom line but nooo

    8. nonethefewer*

      I made the mistake of trying to write code during a migraine. Our director called me out (in a 1/1, with amusement) to stop trying to drive when I’m impaired. :D

    9. BabyElephantWalk*

      Maybe this is something that it’s variable though. My husband will easily recouperate from most things with a day of rest. Me, not so much. I get the flu and I’m ill for 7-10 days. Rest doesn’t tend to make a huge difference. Sometimes I’m completely incapable of working that entire timeframe, sometimes I could work some or most days but would be better at home than in office.

  4. Robin*

    It would be nice if we could read the article without being directed to a website that limits how many times you can go there without paying.

  5. Tib*

    Zoom background: Remember that viral video where the kids interrupted their dad’s television interview? He was in a room with a visible bed. But he used a white bedspread and piles of books to make it look like something else. So 1. you might be able to creatively disguise the bed. and 2. I don’t recall anyone saying anything about him broadcasting from a bedroom.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      I use a foam pillow to boost my laptop up when I have to take calls from my bedroom (my “home office” is the kitchen table, and sometimes I get booted out because my family likes to have dinner and stuff). By setting it up higher, the background is my wall and a piece of artwork instead of my bed/headboard. I haven’t made my bed since I was a teenager, but no one sees that. I get started a few minutes early to get the angle/framing right, but the only reason people notice is that the artwork is different than my normal background. (I’ve tried virtual backgrounds and just cannot get mine right with my space/lighting – I ghost and get all fuzzy around the edges.)

    2. Grace Poole*

      Yeah, my “home office” is my spare bedroom with my desk in it. The desk is at the foot of the bed, so my body usually blocks most of it. Early in the pandemic I did try the virtual background, but my computer wasn’t powerful enough to both run the background and the meeting, so people can just deal with getting a glimpse of my guest bedding.

    3. (insert clever name here)*

      My office is also the play room, craft room, music room and it has a bed. The desk is built in so I cannot re-arrange the furniture so that the bed doesn’t show, but I have a second comforter on it that is actually upholstery. It’s not meant to be slept under. And then I put throw pillows on it against the wall. The throw pillows are chosen to look like couch cushions. I’m trying to make it look like a futon. You can tell it’s a bed, not a couch, but it also looks like a spare room bed, not a bedroom.

      I may eventually replace it with an actual futon, but I need something that is comfortable to sleep on because my elderly aunt visits regularly.

    4. MCMonkeyBean*

      I have a twin bed behind me in my office which used to be our guest room, but I’ve set it up like a daybed kind of where I have decorative pillows along the wall that make it sort of more like a sofa than a bed. Still not as professional as like a desk I guess, but it’s at least I think visually clear that I wasn’t like just taking a nap in it before the meeting haha. (And that actually is part of why I have it set up this way, I had to train *myself* to not think of it as a bed that I could just lie down in for a minute…)

      My cat does sleep on it sometimes though, but I don’t think anyone minds seeing that in meetings :)

  6. Elizabeth West*

    Re taking COVID seriously:
    As a job hunter, yes please, OP, say something. In fact, questions about COVID protocols are right up at the top of my list. I absolutely want to know if the company is taking precautions or if they’re like a recent potential employer I spoke to, who breezily answered my inquiry with, “Oh, we haven’t had a problem with it. No masks required. It’s fine.” After the phone screen concluded, I sent her a polite email withdrawing my candidacy.

    Though I can’t speak for anyone else, I would imagine I’m not the only applicant who feels this way. Some people may not feel comfortable asking, but it’s in everyone’s best interest to have transparency around this. The pandemic is not over.

    1. Anon for this*

      I agree with you. But, I feel there has to be some acknowledgement that the OP could face repercussions from her company for being candid. It’s so easy to say, yes, be brave, speak up, do the right thing! And much harder to do, if you’re the one who has to deal with the consequences.

      1. Caramel & Cheddar*

        Yes, I was thinking this too! I feel like a company that is so reckless with their protocols is clearly one that probably isn’t going to take kindly to a staff member being honest about how reckless they are if and when they find out about it.

        Candidates should absolutely be asking about it; it takes the onus off those already at the organization to have to “admit” to things pro-actively. But if the candidate doesn’t ask, I think it’s up to the individual at the organization to assess whether or not they’re in a position to actually say something without ear of reprisal.

      2. NeutralJanet*

        If OP is worried about repercussions, she could present this information in a value-neutral way, or at least try to—for example, “Our immediate team does wear masks whenever we are in an indoor setting, however, other teams do not frequently wear masks. There is no vaccine mandate in place.” If that’s all relayed in a matter-of-fact tone, it would be both entirely unfair and reasonably unlikely for OP to face retaliation.

        1. ShinyPenny*

          Yes, because presumably the company is happy with their own plan, since the company invented that plan. So it’s logical to “brag” about their “excellent” plan– they have to at least pretend to believe it’s an excellent plan– and thus convey the relevent information without a critical word passing your lips. Ie, “on other teams, individual members are free to use their own personal judgement, so there is more variability.” Or similar wording using the type of codewords that a concerned person could pretty easily interpret (and flee from, if they can).

        2. Mints*

          Agreed, I’d say nothing that could get back to the anti mask crowd as negative. I might have a tone that’s easy to see through, but plausible deniability is key. “Our team is all vaccinated and we wear masks, but we’re the outliers as the most risk averse group here”

    2. TIRED*

      oooof. I just want to highlight what a messed up response this was: “Oh, we haven’t had a problem with it. No masks required. It’s fine.”

      *rage* BUT at least they were breezily upfront that they don’t worry about killing people. Glad you found out and were in a position to withdraw.

      I had a phone interview (first stage, likely they would have offered me to come into the office for a second one- if I “passed”) with a company back…. when vaccines had been available to everyone for a while but before anyone had been talking about doing mandates. I asked something vague about “getting people back into the office” to probe their covid attitudes. I didn’t let on that I don’t think that’s safe, didn’t let on that I’m very pro-vax. The more senior person responded VERY aggressively. Not only did they really want to get everyone back in the office, but she voluntarily said they would not be asking people about their vaccine status, and that doing so would be a HIPAA violation. !!! WHAT? I never even said anything about asking about status. For this person to parrot the MAGA talking points was also disturbing. (HIPAA would not apply, not even close.) I didn’t withdraw, but that’s because I could tell they weren’t interested for other reasons.

      So TLDR- ask vaguely about covid to get started and see if these workplaces show their asses.

    3. Mystery Airheads*

      I ended up cancelling an interview I had scheduled for May 2020 because the company I was interviewing with insisted on in-person panel interviews, no phone or video conference substitutions. I decided it just wasn’t worth it because if they were going to make me interview in person during a pandemic (long before vaccines were a thing), who knows what I’d have to endure while working there.

    4. Harried HR*

      We have a vaccination policy and I explain it to candidates during the initial phone screen. Out of 15+ phone screens I have had 1 candidate withdraw everyone else was fully vaccinated.

  7. Michelle*

    When kids are sent home to quarantine, shouldn’t parents quarantine also? Unless one parent can effectively isolate themselves from both the kids and the parent staying home with them, seems to me like it’s sort of missing the point to have kids in quarantine while a parent interacts with them and also goes to work.

    1. So not getting paid*

      No. The parent hasn’t been directly exposed to the COVID positive person, and the CDC says no quarantine for parent would be necessary unless your child begins to show symptoms.

      1. Justme, The OG*

        Especially since young children are still not able to be vaccinated. My kid (fully vaxed) was exposed to someone who tested positive at a summer camp and didn’t have to quarantine unless she showed symptoms.

        1. PT*

          As per the CDC, dated Oct. 4, 2021:

          “People who are fully vaccinated do NOT need to quarantine after contact with someone who had COVID-19 unless they have symptoms. However, fully vaccinated people should get tested 3-5 days after their exposure, even if they don’t have symptoms and wear a mask indoors in public for 14 days following exposure or until their test result is negative.”

    2. Loulou*

      I think that would be true if the child was *isolating* (they tested positive) not *quarantining* (they were exposed someone who tested positive). I am definitely guilty of using the terms interchangeably but the distinction matters here!

      1. BubbleTea*

        Interestingly I would use the terms the other way- isolating for exposure, quarantine for infection.

        1. ThatGirl*

          I don’t mean this in a snarky way, but there are actual definitions of words at work here, and Loulou is correct – quarantine has always meant “possible exposure to a disease, let’s see if it develops”.

          1. Nanani*

            If you’re supposed to be isolating or quarantining for any reason (travel, possible exposure, etc) you should not go to the store. Delivery, getting a third party to do it for you, curbside pickup where store employees only interact with the opposite end of your vehicle, etc, exist. use em.

          2. AcademiaNut*

            Self-health management, at least where I am.

            You can get groceries and do other essential tasks, but need to monitor and report your physical condition, wear a mask at all times outside of your home, and are prohibited from socializing in person with people outside of your immediate household or doing things like going to the gym, visiting museums and so on. It’s the step after quarantine is over, or if you’re a weak contact of a confirmed case.

            And yes, quarantine is after exposure, isolation is when ill.

          3. JB*

            Neither one?

            I am bewildered that we’re in 2021 and there are still people who don’t understand quarantine and isolation procedures. Did you miss the whole point of being told to have two weeks’ worth of food on hand if you’re not able to get contactless delivery?

    3. Me*

      Generally no, that’s not how contact tracing works. You have to be in close contact (6ft 15 minutes +) with someone who is known to have COVID. Unless the children are confirmed to have COVID, the parents do not have to quarantine. You also do not have to quarantine if you are exposed, are fully vaxxed and symptomless although you should get tested at regular intervals and isolate if you do test positive.


      1. ThatGirl*

        I’m surprised if the CDC guidelines haven’t been updated on the “close contact” part – Delta has changed things; it takes much less exposure (esp for unvaccinated people) and that was always just a general guideline anyway.

        1. HigherEdAdminista*

          They seem reluctant to update any guidelines in a way that reflects the reality of Delta, rather than in a way that loosens restrictions. Every change now seems to be about doing less and caring less about who is exposed or potentially infected.

          1. Sandman*

            You stated this so clearly. This really does seem to be the overall cultural tone now; it’s really frustrating.

      2. Thursdaysgeek*

        But can’t the kids, who were exposed, get Covid, become contagious, and not yet show symptoms? In which case, the parents would be exposed, but they wouldn’t yet know it. I can’t imagine not quarantining if you are actively caring for someone who was exposed.

        My daughter got a breakthrough case, and my spouse has been giving her kids a ride to school. We immediately got our work equipment (during off hours) and went into quarantine. Until the kids had time to get it too, and then tested negative because they did not get it, as well as us testing negative, we thought it was safer to not go into work (or stores, etc).

        1. Me*

          That is why there is the testing recommendation if you’ve been exposed and symptomless. Applies to kids too.

          Is it going to catch every case? No. But the guidelines are based on science and the best we have.

    4. Massive Dynamic*

      Where I am (very blue county, California), if one unvaxxed sibling stays home for exposure quarantine, the other unvaxxed siblings can still go to school if symptom-free. The one time we kept our school-ager home b/c someone else was sick, it was marked as an unexcused absence.

      Vaxxed people don’t have to quarantine after any exposure if symptom-free, per the CDC.

    5. LizM*

      You should consult with the CDC – it depends on the parents’ vaccination status and whether they actually had contact with the positive individual, and whether the child tests positive or starts showing symptoms.

      But a child having contact with another person at school that the parent never actually comes in contact with and the child isn’t showing symptoms, there probably isn’t a need for the parents to quarantine.

      1. kevcat*

        Actually, the CDC only makes recommendations, and the states decide how to implement them — if at all. Here in New York, the local county DOH decides who/who isn’t subject to quarantine, usually in concert with the schools. As parents aren’t usually present in classrooms — although they may share exposure at school events, such as sports — they’re not relevant to most school quarantines.

        This is all covered by the rules and regs of public health law, and someone who’s simply a ‘contact of a contact’ has no legal obligation to quarantine.

    6. kevcat*

      You’ve already gotten the correct answers here, but as a contact tracer for the NYSDOH, I hear this question all the time.

      An essential element of contact tracing is checking daily on the contact’s condition, i.e., asking if they have symptoms or a fever. We usually accomplish this via text, but will make a phone call if needed. If a contact becomes symptomatic, they’re told to immediately isolate themselves and are reported to their local DOH, who follow up with testing, monitoring, and guidance. If strictly followed (a big ‘if’, admittedly), these public health practices effectively help to slow the spread.

    7. Ruby*

      My 11 year old tested positive for COVID. Technically, per my employer’s rules, since I’m vaccinated and have no symptoms I can go to the office. I think it’s bananas. Luckily I can work from home.

      1. Maggie*

        I understand why you feel that way- but what your office is doing is in line with the current recommendations from the CDC

    8. Irish girl*

      It depends on if you are vaccinated or had COIVD in the last 90 days. My children were exposed this summer and my oldest had it. Last week we were notified that she was exposed in her pre-school class. The rules say because she and the other child were masked and general kept 3 feet apart, my daughter didn’t have to quarantine if she didn’t have symptoms. We did an at home COVID test before sending her to school the next morning and had her get a PCR test that afternoon and she was negative, Plus she was still within the 90 day window from her prior COVID positive. Neither times were my husband or myself required to quarantine.

  8. many bells down*

    My office is also a guest room. I’ve arranged pillows on the bed to give it the appearance of a daybed or sofa, which I think looks slightly nicer. But half my co-workers Zoom from bedrooms, from a sofa with their kitchen in full view behind them, from parked cars, etc. In fact, I think it actually looks worse when I’m on a Zoom in my at-work office, because I don’t have full control of the space and it’s an untidy background!

  9. Texas*

    Unless Zoom LW is presenting to clients/otherwise in a situation where their digital appearance is part of how others may view the company, why is that person getting so hung up on someone’s background that they’re emailing their boss about it?? Weird. The easiest solution is just to go with the blurring background since you now know someone’s monitoring your Zoom background 0.0

  10. ShowTime*

    Parents are still in an impossible position, because you can’t simultaneously work from home AND supervise young children. My kid is on their second quarantine in 6 weeks due to exposures at school, and there’s simply no way for me to both work and parent consistently. It’s nearly impossible to find childcare for unpredictable, short-term quarantines, and when you add covid safety to that, there are so few choices. Try to juggle it all, do it poorly, and lose your mind but hopefully keep your job seems to be the answer…it’s just brutal.

    1. Pandemic Parenting is Miserable*

      Yes, exactly – do it poorly and lose your mind is the only answer. And then internet rage at people/employers/the patriarchy and write your elected reps angry emails in the middle of the night about how Delta airlines got more pandemic relief funds than the entire childcare industry and dream about moving to Sweden.

      1. SOS*

        This comment made me cackle. So true! I wrote to my governor recently about the absolute wasteland that is daycare in our state right now… with all my impotent rage I felt like I’d at least accomplished some small act of citizenry. (In reality, I’m sure it did nothing.)

    2. NotRealAnonForThis*

      Not only that – but this says it all: “its nearly impossible to find childcare for unpredictable, short term quarantines”. They’re being watched because they’ve been exposed to a known case of the virus in close quarters. That an employer can’t grasp this statement is beyond me.

      1. Pandemic Parenting is Miserable*

        Honestly people just don’t care. That same lack of empathy is why we don’t have paid parental leave, universal healthcare or community supported (subsidized) childcare. Boils down to well I don’t have kids so it’s not my problem!!! Hence why we are back to the 80s in terms of workforce participation for women. 40 years of progress erased in 1.5 years. Just infuriating!

        1. MissBaudelaire*

          “I don’t havek ids so it’s not my problem!”


          “Don’t have kids if you can’t take care of ’em.” Gatekeeping being allowed to start a family, and even still, I knew plenty of people who had things going perfectly until COVID. I don’t know anyone who had over a year and a half of planning for such a disaster, especially when at the beginning everything changed so frequently.

          The hard part now is that some the changes seem to be permanent. My oldest kid’s school ran aftercare… But this year they raised the price and capped the hours, so it ends a half hour earlier, you have to book the days the kid will be there at least two weeks in advance (but they really wanted it at the beginning of the year), and you’re charged if you booked it and your kid doesn’t go.

          I know a half hour doesn’t seem like a lot of time, only thirty minutes, but it was the difference between ‘We can’t use this program at all!’ and “Whew, just barely made it.”

          1. Pandemic Parenting is Miserable*

            Yes I am so effin sick of that line. I mentioned in another comment I paid for full time childcare every single month of this pandemic, to the tune of $1-2500 per month. This is basic licensed in home daycare and preschool for 2 kids, nothing fancy. We paid whether it was closed or our kids were in quarantine or home sick with a non COVID cold. (Which daycare kids get monthly in the winter and coughs can linger 4-6 wks. This winter is gonna be a blast!) My kids were home w me for 6 of the 18 months due to closures and illness. I personally feel that finding and paying for care (not easy, and way less easy after the pandemic decimated early childcare industry with NO POLICY RESPONSE) is me meeting my parental obligations.

          2. NotRealAnonForThis*

            Thirty minutes when dealing with childcare or activities may as well be a full day, I swear.

            My own smaller humans are at a semi-self sufficient age, yet we still run into issues stemming from start/stop times. A practice and time dialed back 15 whole minutes just about kept my younger child from an after-school activity. She must be picked up by 4, where originally it was 4:15. The route of travel to the school is not safely walkable (poorly marked pedestrian crossing at a freeway overpass being the issue; an issue so large that the district will not permit walkers without adult supervision!) otherwise that would be a very valid solution.

        2. A*

          I don’t think people without kids are the driving issue here. The parent vs. childless debate rarely ends well, and in this case there are major system issues that have been highlighted – to act like that isn’t the macro level issue here isn’t doing you any favors.

          Admittedly I have a hard time with these kinds of comments – I’m single and childless and stepped up to be the primary childcare provider for my best friend’s toddled M-F for several months while they got additional babysitters lined up. I watched kiddo during the day, and worked until 1-2am to get my job done. I know there are childless folks out there with nasty attitudes, but that’s also true of those on the other side of the fence.

    3. OhNo*

      “Try to juggle it all, do it poorly, and lose your mind but hopefully keep your job” seems like a pretty good summary of what all the parents I know have been going through in this pandemic so far. From the outside, as a non-parent, it just looks like one impossible situation after another.

    4. Massive Dynamic*

      I think I know what (the BAD) employers expect…. for the other spouse to watch the kids, not the spouse they employ.

    5. Data Analyst*

      “Try to juggle it all, do it poorly, and lose your mind but hopefully keep your job” EXACTLY.

    6. Quinalla*

      Yup, I am so thankful to have kids old enough that I can work from home with them around at about 80-90% effectiveness – with younger kids I would be doing what I was doing last year when school was fully remote and my two youngest had to have someone do school with them the entire time or they got nothing out of it – I worked early in the morning and late into the night as needed, my husband took shifts too so we split as evenly as we could – and it sucked a lot. It was like having 2 full time jobs at once and being the most anxious constantly I’ve ever been in my life.

      I am still FT WFH and my husband is expected to go in twice a month but anyone who has a sick kid, etc. is excused without issue. We are VERY lucky. Far too many employers are acting like everything is back to normal and it is BS and as another poster said, yes they are assuming the spouse they don’t employee will watch the kids. Honestly, this whole situation has been good for my employer realizing just how hard most women have had it forever and being more willing to give grace and flexibility and our teams are much more willing to cover as needed when yet-another-covid-thing happens as it seems to happen nearly everyday to someone now.

      But yeah, if I had young kids, I would have probably considered a leave of absence or going part-time for awhile or moved in with my parents semi-permanently (we did move in with them for 2 months during the beginning of COVID for various reasons).

  11. NewYork*

    Some, but not all, parents have not been able to concentrate on work while working remote. I think it depends on a number of things, including age of kids. I think you have to assume that HR will care about the non-parents too, some of whom feel they have been dumped on.

    1. Texas*

      That’s the company’s fault for dumping more work on nonparents, not the parents fault because they can’t leave their young children at home alone.

        1. Texas*

          This isn’t normal business life. In the US, we’ve been in the middle of a pandemic for 18+ months. If HR considers pushing employees to leave their young children home alone or else caring about non-parents, that HR department needs to figure itself out.

        2. sssssssssssssssssssssssssssssssss*

          Quarantine is a employee issue, not a parent issue. But parents with kids in school or daycare are sometimes harder hit by this.

          I would rather a parent work less efficiently at home for two weeks than that parent take two weeks unpaid and doing nothing while more work is being dumped on you.

          If the work is being unevenly distributed, that’s a management issue, not a parental issue. I would rather the supervisor find ways to make it work for everyone and sort out the work appropriately.

          And it’s not just parents who don’t do well remotely. I had a lovely coworker who was single but had a LOT of personal issues that she was trying to worth thru, while remote. Her work suffered a lot and we didn’t see just how much until later when she quit. She took a lot of mental health days and I took on a lot of her work, while managing my kids and my aging father’s troubles as well.

          It’s not about the parents (but for them, it is, naturally). It’s about how to accommodate all staff who need to quarantine or handle aging parents/children who need to quarantine and still get the work done.

          1. Allonge*

            If the work is being unevenly distributed, that’s a management issue, not a parental issue. I would rather the supervisor find ways to make it work for everyone and sort out the work appropriately.</i?

            How if some of staff cannot work? They need to take care of their children, they cannot work. How? Fire the parents and hire new people, without kids? Is that really better?

            There is no way to create enough redundancy for pandemic-size absences. Yes, normally there should be some possibility to replace one another for the normal smaller emergencies. Yes, you can reprioritise. Not for years on end though.

            There is no easy solution, this is not something a manager can just fix by being smart enough (they might well have kids too, by the way).

    2. Pandemic Parenting is Miserable*

      What are the other “number of things” that the ability to work full time while also caring for young children depends on? (Like, yes, of course caring for my 1 and 5 year old while simultaneously working full time is different than having a tween home with me? I’ve paid for full time childcare every single month of the pandemic, throughout closures and quarantines, and my kids spent 6!! of those months home with me. When they are home with me, 2/3rds of the time it’s because they are sick with a cold and awaiting a COVID PCR test result which takes 1-4 days. What am I supposed to do?)

      1. NeutralJanet*

        I think that what NewYork is saying is that age is not the only reason why some parents are having an easier time than others—for example, it’s true that a parent of two children under 6 is probably having a harder time than a parent of two teenagers, but two parents with kids of the same age might also have very different experiences.

        1. Pandemic Parenting is Miserable*

          I am sincerely asking what other factors the comment is referencing. If there are tips that could make pandemic parenting less miserable I can certainly use them!

          1. Guacamole Bob*

            I can think of many, but they aren’t things a parent can control in the moment. How good a particular kid is at playing independently, how many kids you have, what sort of remote school option your district provides during quarantine (if any), whether the kid likes watching endless amounts of TV or gets bored, whether you have safe outdoor space for them to play unsupervised (for elementary school age), whether your spouse also works from home and can trade off, how much control you have over your work schedule, whether your work can be done in small pieces more easily or whether you really need longer blocks to concentrate, etc.

            My twins were 6 and in kindergarten at the start of the pandemic, and did most of first grade online from home. Talking with parents of other early elementary age kids makes it clear that the range of experiences was pretty broad. Some needed to sit next to their kid for remote learning, and other kids were very independent. Some school districts sent home a lot of “asynchronous learning” worksheets and things that parents had to supervise, while others were on zoom more. Some kids that age would do bodily harm to their siblings if left unsupervised for an hour, and others play very nicely together. Some parents were trying to teach live classes or conduct trainings or take depositions from home, while others were doing jobs that could be more easily interrupted. Some families had both parents working from home, but many did not. And so on.

            There’s probably less of a range with toddlers, in that basically no one is able to work normally with a toddler at home.

            1. Guacamole Bob*

              And by “left unsupervised” I mean “parent is in the bedroom with the door shut on a conference call”, not literally home alone.

          2. doreen*

            I’m not so sure “factors” is the same as “tips” , in that “factors” might be things that you can’t do anything about. I know some people who were in situations where two adults were working from home, but one or both had no restrictions regarding working hours, so that one could take care of the kids while the other worked – I suspect they had an easier time than a single parent who had to work 8-4 every day with little or no flexibility regarding the hours.

          3. This Old House*

            I think the general temperament and abilities of the children is a big thing. I know people with 3yos who would play quietly for long stretches (mine would play loudly for short stretches, if I was lucky). School-aged children whose preferred pastimes are reading and drawing are a different animal than those whose preferred pastimes are wrestling and Ninja Warrior. Preschoolers who could be reliably dumped in front of the TV when you really needed to focus, versus those who have been known to remove all their clothing and let themselves out the front door when left alone in front of the TV (mine again).

            And the logistical things – how was remote schooling structured and how much parental input did it require? Do you have a fenced yard where young kids can get their energy out without being audible on a call, or do you live in a small apartment where you’re never more than 15 feet from your kids? Do you have multiple bedrooms so you can close a door when you’re focusing or on a call, or do you have 2 parents working remotely and 2 kids schooling remotely all in a 2-BR house so that you are by necessity in the same room as other people when working? Do you have older kids who can help take care of the younger ones?

            None of it, unfortunately, are things you can act on to make pandemic parenting easier, unless you happen to be able to afford a new house at the moment.

            1. Pandemic Parenting is Miserable*

              Ah yes this makes sense. I do forget that not all children escape their houses when left minimally attended. (That’s when they went back to daycare, COVID was the lesser risk.)

      2. Daffy Duck*

        The flexibility of your job, the flexibility of spouse’s job, number/availability of extended family and their ability to assist with childcare, the personality of the children (there are elementary-age children who can sit quietly for several hours straight reading/building legos/etc. just as there are plenty who need near-constant movement or interaction with others), size and layout of the house, your financial ability to hire a nanny or other childcare (or pay for them when not using), safe outside spaces for children to play, are just some of the impacting factors on how hard it is for parents to deal with unpredictable school scheduling.
        My heart really goes out to all parents right now, there are so many ways this pandemic impacts them. The uncertainty of when children will be sent home from school and for how long these measures will continue certainly doesn’t help.

    3. Purt's Peas*

      To be clear, when we talk about a parent taking the brunt of pandemic childcare, not being able to ‘concentrate on work,’ and leaving the workforce–we are generally talking about mothers. When we talk about the parents who are able to ‘make it work’ and not dump work on non-parent coworkers–we are generally talking about fathers with stay-at-home female partners. Among the lopsided effects of the pandemic are: women’s jobs are the ones being sacrificed so that one partner can concentrate on work while working remote.

      HR should care about the non-parents, of which I am one, and boy it’s no fun to get extra work loaded on. However, parents have materially–and unavoidably–different life circumstances from me especially in the pandemic, and that demands accommodation and respect.

      1. Database Developer Dude*

        You’re absolutely right, it does demand respect.

        Unfortunately, too many times, the accommodation is “Non-parents, suck it up. This is what it is”. That’s not acceptable, and pushing back against it is NOT anti-parent.

        1. Texas*

          The pushback should be against the management putting that policy in place, not getting angry at coworkers who are stuck between a rock and a hard place. (The pandemic and resulting social/employer reactions are forcing women out of the workforce in droves. Women have lost decades of workplace progress in the last 18+ months. I don’t have kids but I do have empathy)

        2. American Job Venter*

          Who are you pushing back against, though? And what are the proposals in your pushback?

          1. NewYork*

            Non-parents pushing back on having to work longer hours for the same pay is understandable. Why should non-parents have to figure this out? What I think is happening in some places, more likely tech and finance, is that people are saying they cannot get work done short a team member, and they have dealt with enough of this. HR knows this, and knows they are likely to get an email, saying take Susan off my team, we cannot deal with absences. So HR knows after 18 months, non-parents are tired of working longer and will complain if they are forced to carry others. So to paint this picture, well of course HR will want to accommodate parents is looking at the world through rose colored glasses.

            1. American Job Venter*

              Why should non-parents have to figure this out?

              I agree with you here, at least as long as we aren’t saying it’s solely on the parents to figure this out. Management is responsible for figuring this out. However…

              HR knows this, and knows they are likely to get an email, saying take Susan off my team, we cannot deal with absences.

              And so the status of women in the workplace crumbles that bit more, as we slide back towards the days when getting married meant getting fired.

              1. NewYork*

                So tell me what you think should be done? Should parents in effect be paid more than non-parents?

                1. shyster*

                  I think employers should hire enough people to create a little redundancy so that they can comfortably cover the slack in their regular working hours when one of their colleagues needs some extra time off – whether that’s to parent in a pandemic, care for elderly or sick relatives, recharge after a personal illness, or whatever else life throws at us.

                2. American Job Venter*

                  To quote myself, “Management is responsible for figuring this out. ” As shyster pointed out, ultra-lean staffing is part of the problem and easier to correct than other parts.

                  (Framing it as “parents being paid more” is… reductionist at best.)

        3. FridayFriyay*

          Putting the burden of that problem back on parents rather than on employer policies is absolutely anti-parent. Parents aren’t responsible for this situation, bad management is.

  12. ecnaseener*

    That question about sick days is just bonkers. (No offense to you, LW – it’s bonkers that you’ve been led to believe you can’t take a sick day for the sake of your own health! Live to work much?)

    If your boss does seem to need justification for why you can’t work while sick, beyond that being best for your health, definitely go with the “can’t think straight” angle.

  13. Paywalls are how writers get paid*

    Just slipping this in here – paywalls are literally how writers get paid. So thank you Alison for the great article and for continuing to run this site as generously as you do!!!

    1. Ray Garraty*

      Inc doesn’t require us to pay…just saying.
      I think the honest feedback that some of us go to Inc’s page to read Alison’s columns, but skip the ones at New York Magazine might be useful to NYM.

        1. Sam*

          I find it ever so slightly irritating when I’ve just got interested in something and then it’s behind a paywall, but as others have said a) AAM has to make money – it’s her job – I don’t do mine for free and b) there is actually FAR far more provided for free on here. So on balance I am grateful and just have to remind myself of that if I go to irritated too quick before I think properly.

      1. Eden*

        Most people who hit paywalls are nevwr going to pay, I’m sure that’s not surprising to Alison or any publications she writes for :)

    2. Coenobita*

      I bought an online NY Mag subscription so I could keep reading Alison’s column there, and discovered The Cut’s personal finance advice column “My Two Cents” – I really like it and I think it might be of interest to other AAM readers too.

      @Ray Garraty, I think both of those outlets actually have metered paywalls (at least here in the U.S.).

      1. Fieldpoppy*

        I am always confused when people complain about the one piece a week behind a paywall when Alison posts more free pieces than any other blogger around. And GOOD free stuff with a fully accessible archive to boot. Alison I appreciate you so much and I’m always giving my coaching clients links of yours to read. (And I also subbed to NYM to get more Alison)

      2. Fieldpoppy*

        I replied to this with praise and appreciation for Alison and I don’t know which thread it migrated to!

  14. Lunch Eating Mid Manager*

    My large public sector employer, also requiring us to be in at least 3 days/week, basically says parents should use their accruals to care for children sent home from school for a COVID related reason – vacation or our other buckets of leave, except sick leave (which is only supposed to be used if someone is sick). However, in practice, parents ARE using sick leave for this type of coverage and working from home part-time/ad hoc, or using the special bucket of COVID sick leave which is not technically for “my kids are required to quarantine” but nobody here is checking or requiring documentation. Seems to be a “let’s all look the other way while we all muddle through this” attitude and people are mostly pushing at the margins. Everyone has tons of leave because of the special sick leave and not getting to take vacations in 2020, so it hasn’t been a huge issue yet.
    Before the commenters pile on, I’m not saying I endorse this “policy”; just giving a data point of a 10,000+ person organization in the US. We’re also in an area that was rocked by Delta but it’s definitely settled down and masking compliance is high. There were lots of school quarantines at the start of the school year but fewer and fewer now.

    1. Pandemic Parenting is Miserable*

      I think this is a pretty good approach! Recognizes reality, lets people use the leave that is already on the books and thus in the employers budget, and tries to spread the workload around through remote work part time.

    2. Mints*

      I don’t find a moral/ethical difference between “I’m sick so cannot work” versus “My small child is sick so I cannot work” and I feel the same about Covid sick leave. I want to be generous during tough times (even “normal tough” like the age group where kids have constant colds in the winter)

      1. shyster*

        My job is explicit about this: Sick time can be taken to care for sick relatives and that “sick” includes mental health. They even changed the name to “sick/mental health”.

  15. KHB*

    When I’ve Zoomed from my bedroom, I’ve always angled the screen so that all that’s visible in the background is the ceiling and the upper part of the wall behind me. (That’s just the natural screen angle when I’m working on my laptop at my desk, so I guess I prefer a higher chair position than a lot of people?) I was nervous, at first, about whether people would catch glimpses of my (usually unmade) bed, but that’s never even been an issue.

    1. Hit my head Glass Ceiling*

      Yes. I have been creative in where I have put my wfh spot so my background is a neutral closet door or window and is not a bed or cluttered craft corner. I bought a small folding table to use instead of trying to use my personal desk which helped

  16. WulfInTheForest*

    As someone who has had to work through the pandemic on site, in person, and whose child has had multiple covid exposures and quarantines…. I moved jobs because my old employer was inflexible about my childcare difficulties. Florida has been ridiculous in it’s covid response. My kids daycare classroom closed down 8 times last year, and each time my employer acted like it was the worst thing in the world, for me to go back to working from home 2 to 3 days a week so I could split childcare duties with my partner. I ran out of sick leave constantly, and was reluctantly allowed to work from home IF I could find enough to do. It was a living nightmare, worrying about when my kid was going to be sent home next and when I’d be without childcare for the next two weeks.

    My suggestion is, switch jobs if they’re inflexible, that’s the first thing I did and it worked.

  17. Jay Gobbo*

    “And for the record, this is further evidence that we have a deeply dysfunctional culture around both sickness and time off from work.”

    Yeah no kidding. It’s probably only *this year* that I’ve finally started allowing myself to take mental health days without feeling bad about it. I know there are still a *lot* of people in my company who work over 8 hours per day and/or the staff under them work long hours and it’s seen as a point of pride. I know this isn’t unusual, but it makes me feel ill just thinking about it. It’s sick (ha) that this is the work culture we live in.

  18. Liz*

    I totally agree with Allison’s assessment of when to take a sick day. That’s how I gauge it. If I’m not feeling like I can be productive, etc., then I’m not working, home or not. Pre-COVID, i’d sometimes stay home if I felt sort of unwell but not horrible, and work, but if I have a fever, am dizzy, upset stomach, etc., nope. i’m sick and not doing squat.

    I had a former boss who would stay home when sick, even with the flu, and work. And my immediate boss and I kind of got the vibe we should do the same, but I told him, if I’m sick enough NOT to come in, I’m not working.

    1. AvonLady Barksdale*

      Same here. I work from home anyway, so sometimes it’s a tougher call, but if I’m useless, I take a sick day. Shoot– this morning I had a dental procedure and took an Ativan beforehand, and while I thought I would feel OK in an hour or two, I’m no good. Certainly not useful enough to email my clients. So I went back to sleep for a few hours.

      In my current role I have a ton of autonomy so this is easier than it was in my last position. But I am firmly in the camp of take a day if you can’t sit up and be productive.

  19. OyHiOh*

    When I need to do work Zooms from home, I use my studio. I set my laptop on something to elevate it, and tilt the screen so you only see my head/shoulders and the upper part of the wall/ceiling behind me, which is about the only tidy spot in the entire room.

  20. Team of One*

    Re: Covid safety at work…

    For those that are on the job hunt, how do you tell a prospective employer during an interview that one of the reasons for seeking employment elsewhere is that your current company did not respond well during Covid and continues to not respond well? I realize it’s should not be the #1 reason but it’s a pretty huge one.

    1. I should really pick a name*

      I don’t think that you necessarily need to tell them that, just make it clear that taking COVID seriously is important to you.

    2. Momma Bear*

      When the interviewer asks if you have any questions, that might be a good time to just ask how they are handling the pandemic. I gave our applicants the local rundown (when you arrive, you will be expected to do x and y). That gave them 1. insight and 2. a lead-in for any follow up questions about our policies. I would lean toward asking what they do vs negatively commenting on your current employer.

  21. I should really pick a name*

    At home or in the office, I generally call in sick for one of two reasons:

    1. I feel sick enough that it’s affecting my ability to work
    2. It feels like not working will help me recover more quickly.

    Note: If someone vomits even once during a meeting, please suggest that they take the rest of the day off. Their staying in the meeting is normalizing that behaviour.

    1. NotAnotherManager!*

      I will add to your list for in-office:

      3. There is a risk of my infecting other people.

      I can and have sent people home. (And vomiting in a meeting is a log-off-now-take-the-rest-of-the-day-off-immediately sort of thing. Nope.) We provide generous sick leave, and I needed them to go home before they got their teammates sick and we had a mass absence. The whole team being out is worse than one member of the team staying home sick. I also don’t need people refusing to rest/recover and turning a one or two day illness into a hospital stay.

      1. I should really pick a name*

        Good point. Your point 3 tends to overlap for point 1 for me, but that’s not true for everyone.

      2. A*

        Yes! If I am contagious or potentially contagious – I stay home. I have the ability to WFH now, but prior to having that option I would take sick days, PTO, or unpaid days. I find it frustrating when people come into work with a cold etc. because it’s not debilitating – even though it’s still contagious! (does not apply to those not offered reasonable amount of sick time and can’t swing an unpaid day – that’s a systemic issue and I hate the game not the players)

    2. Green great dragon*

      People… do that? Aside from anything else, I do not want to be around vomiting people.

      I suppose it’s harder if it’s ‘morning’ sickness and they can’t take months off, but generally, I would think ‘get someone to send them home immediately’ rather than politely suggest they go.

      1. PT*

        I had someone on my team show up to a mandatory training with food poisoning once. “It’s mandatory and I’m afraid they’ll fire me! I can’t afford to not work!” when I told her to go home.

        She was, obviously, too ill to be at the training: she spent an hour running back and forth to the restroom. So myself and another, more senior, manager teamed up to tell the trainer that we were sending her home.

        The trainer said, “No. She must finish this training. If she does not finish the training I will tell HR she can’t work this month. It’s non negotiable.” AND HANDED HER A BARF BUCKET.

        She quit pretty soon after. So did I.

  22. Heidi*

    Our employer created a zoom background with our company logo and asked everyone to use it on calls with people outside the company. I guess they figure they don’t want to invite distraction from differing backgrounds and why not do some branding while we’re at it.

    1. Bluenotblue*

      My boss did the same, but unfortunately, zoom backgrounds hate me. I have graying hair and light blue eyes, and more often than not these features end up being included in the background filter. And sometimes it’ll flash on and off. Makes for a creepy look, for sure.

  23. maid*

    Make your bed, Zoomer! And consider mounting your webcam in such a way that your personal items can’t be seen. If everything behind you is from shoulder-level up, there won’t be messes on display, only walls.

    1. fran*

      People are so precious. Who cares what is in the background of people’s Zoom calls? Unless it is something sexually explicit or violent, or has rapidly flashing lights that could cause a seizure, seriously, who cares?

    2. Anne Kaffeekanne*

      Bold of you to assume my walls are mess and/or clutter free (I literally don’t have a single angle in my flat which doesn’t have some kind of shelf with personal things in it).

    3. Loredena Frisealach*

      You don’t have dogs? I make my bed in the morning – by end of day I’m remaking it as the dogs wrestle, run, dig, burrow…

      I’m fortunate to have a spare room as my permanent office (I’ve been WFH for years) but all the sympathy for those who don’t have options! And seriously, my office gets cluttered too, just not a bed in sight.

  24. middlemgmt*

    yes, i feel like I’m back in the spring of 2020 in some ways. i’m lucky in that my immediate boss has been understanding so far and is ok with letting me stay home when needed (our office started 3 days a week back in September and like the LW, very much has a preference for people to be in). this is #1’s first time in full-time school and she’s been lucky to have no direct exposures, but i’m just waiting for the first one. #2 in daycare has already had a cold that led to being home for the better part of a week while test results came back. I tried to get as much done as i could around that, but he’s a baby so he can’t really be too alone.

  25. Momma Bear*

    RE: child exposed to COVID – I would frankly address this now with your boss or HR. Secondarily, what are your office’s rules for your own exposure? If they are exposed, then so are you. I would look into that as well. Can you take short term FMLA for those weeks? I would not wait for it to happen. I would want to have a plan.

    So far my child hasn’t been exposed per school contact tracing, but we have had a few. It may just be a matter of time, but I don’t expect them to be in/out of school often through the winter.

    1. kevcat*

      ‘Exposure’ is a specific, public health-related term, meaning that an individual has spent a certain amount of time, within a certain distance, with a positive case, so no, the parent of an exposed kid has not also been exposed.

      Having said that, you’re absolutely right about having a plan, including getting kids vaxxed as soon as humanly possible. Speaking as someone who has called hundreds of parents to quarantine their kids for school exposures, it’s the only way to keep them out of quarantine, and I’m hoping that parents take advantage of it.

    2. Emi*

      As far as I know, FMLA can only be used for a serious health condition, which covid *exposure* isn’t (and even if the kids get sick it’s unlikely to be serious, thank goodness).

  26. Tech writer by day*

    Alison, I just want to say how useful your suggested wordings are, time and time again. I would never have come up with “not in any shape to work today” and it is simply brilliant!

  27. Anon-mama*

    Public facing municipal worker in person full time since last summer. There is no remote work. We did get federal covid leave through September 30, capped at 80 hours. Because I could split childcare duties with my husband and keep my night/weekend scheduled hours, it saw us through a school closure, two quarantines (1 for each kid) and a couple “waiting on PCR to rule out covid” fevers.

    I am now expected to use vacation time, but not sick time at all unless I the employee am ill and can prove it after 3 days of absence. I already used a good amount of vacation for other kids’ illnesses, actual rest and relaxation, and vaccinated travel to a safe spot. There is no switching jobs now that I’ve shoehorned myself into a public service career. There is no going to HR as a group, as there is a union contract that dictates policy, as well as fellow parent coworkers getting to use their relatives, so it’s only ever been my issue. I suppose if exposure or infection hits our house again, it’s the rest of my leave, and then unpaid leave. But how many times with two kids in daycare? It’s a very dispiriting thought.

  28. LizB*

    My workspace at home is a combination office and guest bedroom, so there is a bed in the background of my video calls, although it’s not my primary sleeping bed. I generally keep my background blurred, because said bed will often be occupied by a pile of laundry, a stack of miscellaneous papers, or a sleeping cat. (Or, sometimes, all three on top of each other!)

    1. Rainy Day*

      If I spot a pet in a video call, I can’t resist asking if we can see them and what their name is!
      No one seems to mind, as I make sure to ask at the end of the call instead of interrupting the flow, and everyone I’ve asked has been happy to show them off.

  29. Sam*

    As a disabled person, being able to work from home while sick is a saving grace. Back when I was in an office, I took way too many sick days to be manageable. It’s hard to predict how long a flare-up will last, and often my pain levels ebb and flow, so working from home lets me log on and work when I’m functional and take breaks as needed when I’m in too much pain to work. I don’t see myself ever going back to in-office work again.

    That being said, I’ve learned how important it is to be careful around the messaging of my work when I’m unwell. My boss trusts me fully to manage my time – to take full sick days when needed, and to work partial days and/or take additional breaks as needed. I often disclose to colleagues that it’s a bad day to be up-front (ie: I’m planning to come for the meeting at 1pm, but I don’t think I can handle more than an hour of looking at a computer screen today thanks to a migraine) and I realized that some interpreted it as my boss forcing me to work while miserable!

    The end result is that I disclose more than I probably “should”, because I don’t want people to think it’s normal or expected for a healthy person to work while sick. But disabled life is different, and I don’t want to be taking full sick days when I don’t need to and have work I want to get done. The flexibility and trust that makes my full-time employment possible can look like a hot mess from the outside. It’s important to understand your boss’ expectations, but you don’t have to assume that some people working while sick means it’s expected to work while sick.

  30. Anon-today*

    Oof. This is horrible. At my company, individual managers can decide to let employees wfh if they need to for whatever reason. I had a delivery person who had a half a day window who needed to be let in so I worked from home that day. Similar to OPs company we went back three days in office in September with a strong company preference for more.

    I’ve already had multiple employees need to stay home either for their own quarantine or for their childrens. We work a job that requires coverage and has multiple shifts. Yes it sucks because those employees do their best but are slightly less productive. No one on the team complains because they would want that same grace extended to them if their children or spouse got sick. Plus we are all in this together! Why are people complaining about stuff that is outside of that persons control.

    I can’t imagine how horrible it would be to be forced to use vacation or time for quarantining. Thankful my company leaves this to their management team to decide.

  31. Junebug*

    My employer is really great about work/life balance and respecting sick time. Still, while I like to conserve my PTO (sick and vacation time comes out of the same bucket), I’m so unproductive some days that I call in even though I can literally take my laptop to bed with me all day. So it really depends how often you get sick… For me, presenteeism could seriously impact my reputation if I tried to work through it too often.

    1. kiki*

      Yes, sometimes even though, yes, I can take my laptop into bed with me and technically still be “working,” I’d be slow and not be doing my best work. It’d be better to call it and come back completely refreshed than have a couple days of half-productivity.

  32. Green great dragon*

    There’re definitely days when I feel well enough to work at least part of the day from home but not go into the office* so I wouldn’t say it’s the same bar, but definitely if you’re too ill to work, don’t work! Most of my team seem to compromise by spending a few minutes delegating stuff and putting on their out of office, but then they’re done, for however many days it takes. And then maybe start off with some shorter days as they start to feel better. And to be clear, I’m not advocating prioritising work over everything as you start to get better, just that there is a stage where a trip to the office and a whole days work feels like too much, but a half day from home is very achieveable.

    *I once had severe dizzy spells for 2 weeks but felt fine if I wasn’t moving and I was *so bored*. I would have been much happier working from the sofa. But my laptop was at work and I couldn’t persuade them to bring it to me (and no-one else could bring it because security) and I really wished they’d trusted that I wanted to work rather than trying to protect me from what they thought was over-conscientiousness.

    1. WS*

      +1, I have chronic vertigo (though it’s currently a lot better than it has been in a long time) so getting to work was sometimes impossible. I would have been able to work from home, though, but it wasn’t offered.

  33. Teddyduchampssleepingbag*

    Ha I got a WFH job specifically because I am autoimmune compromised. The big boss at my new job had a meeting a week after I started where she “cracked down” on the attendance policy. We’re expected to work when sick even if we are in the hospital. If we call out and it wasn’t a day that was requested off AND approved at least 2 weeks in advance we get points against us. Basically 3 call offs in a 16 week period is grounds for termination.

    The big boss bragged how she worked from bed with bronchitis on oxygen so there no excuse. Even if we have Covid we are not to call off. Sick kid? Nope. Kid in the hospital? Nope. I’ve seen coworkers write in the teams how their rushing their kid to the ER but will take their laptop and log back in as soon as they get on the hospital wifi. I’ve seen people in labor finish out the work day and go to the hospital as soon as the work day ended.

    I’ve only been at this job 6 weeks and desperately need it but it’s so so toxic. We have to stay active in team meetings 100% of the day while still doing our work and meeting production. The guidelines and procedures for how we do our work changes sometimes multiple times in one day. I did a week of training being told “this is the exact procedure you will follow when you start processing paperwork next week. Then my first day actually processing they told us 3 big things we were taught all the week before we’re now changed and we were to do the totally opposite way that we were taught.

    That kind of thing has happened almost daily since I’ve been there. We will be told Monday to NEVER do GQI and then Tuesday get told “NO NO NO you are supposed to ALWAYS do GQI.” I’ve been yelled at for doing something that I was literally just instructed to do. I never know what I’m doing anymore day to day because of how much they change the procedures and the manual and the policy’s.

    They have also changed the call off number 5 times since I started and changed the number our clients call 3 times. Did I mention it’s a federal government contract job and if I leave I signed a non-compete agreement that IS enforceable that states I cannot work from home for any company for two full years after I quit this one?

    *Someone help me* *I am not okay*

    1. Anon-today*

      Talk to an employment lawyer ASAP. I can’t imagine that non compete would hold up but you should have someone review it.

      I’m so sorry. That sounds like a terrible environment and I hope things get better for you soon.

    2. Sola Lingua Bona Lingua Mortua Est*

      if I leave I signed a non-compete agreement that IS enforceable that states I cannot work from home for any company for two full years after I quit this one?

      That doesn’t sound right. Work-from-home would only compete for employees, and if you’ve left that organization, you’ve already disqualified yourself as a potential employee. If anything, they should want you to take the next remote job that comes along; that’s one less opening they’d have to compete with for their next remote worker.

    3. ecnaseener*

      …Good grief. That’s not just an office full of bees, that’s an office full of murder hornets.

    4. Lunch Eating Mid Manager*

      Just commiserating about working from the ER. Earlier this year our big boss heard from me that my direct report was at the ER with his small child, fearing COVID, and texted him an “urgent” question anyway. I cried with frustration and it was perhaps the first time I started planning an exit.

    5. Baby Fish Mouth*

      Um, so, I am not a lawyer nor a therapist, but this situation sounds like it will cause you severe harm. I highly second the ‘talk to an employment lawyer ASAP.’ Does the noncompete apply if you get fired instead of quit? If I were you, I’d do the job like a normal person to make sure my norms didn’t get warped, get fired per their ridiculous policies, and then collect unemployment. Don’t let this job ruin you. Get help get help get help ASAP.

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

      This is bananas! A non compete cant say that you can not work from home again. It’s supposed to be you cant take clients or business info to a direct competitor. If you are doing something completely different at the new job it shouldn’t matter.

      Talk to an employment lawyer NOW. This is wrong on so many levels and I think could border on illegal (people are in labor and they are still working !!!)

  34. Michelle*

    Re Zooming from your bedroom – can you pull your desk away from the wall a bit and sit with your back to the wall, so that your zoom background is your wall, and not your bed? I work from my bedroom (which is admittedly a large space to start with so I have room to pull the desk out) and that works well for me. I originally moved for better lighting but the side benefit is that my background is the wall, not the room! I had not had anyone complain about the bed, but it feels more private to me so I prefer it this way.

  35. American Job Venter*

    Unless employers are willing to give up on employing parents entirely (or, more likely, mothers — on whom the brunt of child-care work still falls)

    I increasingly worry that this is the solution that our society is settling on, between watching my friends who are struggling to stay employed or have failed to, what I see in the news, and every discussion of the situation I read online (even here!) In addition to the direct fall in social status and resources for mothers, what I’ve seen of history indicates that this could drag down the status of all women.

    1. Paris Geller*

      Yeah, it’s really frustrating.
      I’m childless right now but not necessarily childfree–I’m just not sure if I want children or not. I’ve never been one of those people who KNEW they wanted children or also KNEW that they were staunchly childfree. I’m not against children in the future, but this entire pandemic, seeing how society at all levels has failed children and working parents (particularly moms) definitely makes me lean more toward no.

  36. Esmeralda*

    It is very easy to blur the background, or to find a professional looking background, for zoom. This doesn’t seem like a smart place to expend capital. If your boss doesn’t want your bed or dog crate showing in zoom meetings, then don’t do it. Reasonable request.

    1. fran*

      With respect, it’s a completely unreasonable request. If the boss – or someone else with capital to expend – has a problem with some people’s backgrounds, they need to have a blanket policy: everyone blur their background, or use an image background. Otherwise, it is discriminatory and petty.

      1. agnes*

        I see that differently. we don’t penalize everyone because some people are too far outside the norm. For example, we have discussions and provide some direction to the people who aren’t dressing appropriately for work, but we don’t mandate a specific ‘uniform’ for everybody just because a few people have a problem.

        In a similar vein, I’ve had to tell someone to clean up their office because it was far too messy to have meetings in–and they were expected to have meetings in there for various reasons. But we didn’t require everyone to make their offices look identical.

        I don’t think this is any different. An unmade, rumpled bed in a Zoom background would not fly in my organization either. Just blur your background or use a nice virtual background. It’s not that difficult.

    2. Jennifer Strange*

      I have a Google Chrome. Both Zoom and Google Meet don’t give me the option of blurring or a virtual background, so it’s actually not always that easy.

  37. Anonymous for this*

    Childcare: our professional staff can work from home in such cases. Our admins are expected to be in person Monday thru Friday, 8-5. (Not necessary in terms of getting the work done). We just lost an outstanding admin with an immunocompromised child for just this reason. She had several offers in other depts that were eager to work with her scheduling needs.

    And so now no one is working at her job in person OR virtually. Talk about short sighted as well as cold hearted.

  38. bunniferous*

    I created a number of backgrounds for Zoom for when I had Zoom meetings (I have taken continuing ed that way ) since my home office doubles as both an office and an art room and tends to be cluttered at best. My personal favorite was a Star Wars snow scene complete with tauntaun. In any case a plain uploaded background is what I would do -but I do find it ridiculous companies want to police home backgrounds to start with.

  39. rosaz*

    You said your employer wants 3 days in the office… could you ask if you could come in every day when you’re and ‘save’ your remote days for school quarantines?

  40. Jonquil*

    LW 1, I feel you. I live in a place where we were back in the office 3 days/week for most of last winter. In our family it was also my child’s first year in childcare, so we all got sick (non-COVID, thankfully) several times. With people back in the office for the first time in many months, a higher than usual level of colds circulated around the office as well, despite a good majority of people getting their company-funded annual flu shots

    It really showed up that a blanket “you must be in the office x days/week” rule doesn’t work, especially in regions with serious winters. I was lucky to have an understanding manager who was happy for me to work from home during weeks where my child or I were “too sick to be around people but not so sick I can’t get my work done”, but it isn’t policy. It all comes back to the people making decisions not understanding the lives of their ordinary workforce. Decision makers are often older, with grown kids, or have spouses who take on a greater load at home. They are really causing issues by not including rank-and-file staff in planning these policies from the start.

    1. Jonquil*

      Just to add: for my company (possibly it’s the law here) if you need to go into quarantine because of public health direction to do so you are entitled to leave/wfh/flexibility. I just think as a general principle x days/week has some serious downsides.

  41. fran*

    Bad bosses (and colleagues) like those inflicting themselves upon LWs 1, 2 and 4 make me so angry.

    What the hell is wrong with some people?!

Comments are closed.